I posted a blog once about some of the humility I gained as I became mother to more and more children (I have four children). I received more good feedback on that post than I had on any other I had ever made.
Of course, with the good comes the bad. I also really offended some moms of one child. Normally I am not bothered by a little negative feedback. Truthfully, I am amazed that anybody reads me, considering I am just a ranting small town girl with a computer.
For some reason though, this got to me. Maybe it was because how they read it was so different from how I meant it. Of course, I never intended to insult women who choose or can only have one child. As I read through some of the things they said about me on a "mom of one" forum I was also kind of amazed at how ostracized these mom's felt from other moms who had many kids, but also how they looked down on bigger families.
In my post I poked fun at myself and my bad moments and some of the chaos that accompanies the addition of each new child. There were lots of comments about how much preferable it was to have one child and avoid the crazy moments and some even mentioned that they were glad they were not crazy moms but could really devote time to their one child and care for them and never forget their name.
(For the record, in the post I said that I was a great mom when I only had one. That was a lie.....or a joke. I have never been a great mom. I was never a great person BEFORE I had kids. And guess what, as I have more I am still.....HUMAN! I don't know if having more kids has made me more crazy and less patient. It has just made me more ME. And I, much like most other people, am flawed. Flawed people end up being flawed parents, no matter how many kids they have or don't have.)
I don't think there is anything wrong with having one child. I also remember what it was like to have one (believe it or not) since even though I have more now, I started with one. I remember being worried to add another child. I wondered how I could give them the attention that I was able to give my first. Could I care for them enough? Would I be calm and kind and loving? It was the scariest part of adding a child for me, wondering if I could give what I needed to, and also wondering what it would take away from my first and dearly loved baby.
So, despite the fact that it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks, and I shouldn't care anyway, I can not help but note some of the benefits I find for my family as we add more children. Maybe there are times when I poke fun at the chaos, the emotions and the craziness that is being a mother. That does not mean I don't love it. (This was also pointed out, that I focused on all the negative aspects of mothering more children). So, here are some of the things I notice that I LOVE about having children. (Note- again, not condemning you if you choose to have none or one- seriously, not my business! I have never met you! And of course, you can give your kids all of this with just one.)
Do you give them enough care?
I am sure it depends on your birth spacing, but I found that for me, I did parent my second child differently than my first. Personally I don't think that is a bad thing. I have heard women worry about this a lot. To me though, if you treat every child the same, you are not only not learning anything, you are also not honoring the differences in those children.
Yes, my second child did not get picked up every time she rolled over and whimpered. My first did. I remember the first time I really heard him cry. He was a few weeks old. The ONLY reason he cried like that was because he was in a car seat. I was the first time I couldn't pick him up at the first noise. He was horrified, red and screaming. As was I. I think I was pretty close to a panic attack and considered swearing off outings for the rest of his life.
My second did not get picked up at the first noise. I was literally sometimes cleaning up toddler poop when she was awakened slightly. I found, much to my amazement, that sometimes by the time I got to her, she was soundly asleep again. (Mind you this did not go on into screaming fits or last long, it was just that sometimes babies make a noise, and fall back asleep.) I honestly did not know this was possible with my first.
So- yes, I gave my kids different things. I met their needs differently. They had different needs because they were different children and because the situation was different. That is OK in my book.
Do you give your kids the attention they need?
Some mom's find that though love never runs out, sometimes time does. More children can sometimes mean less one on one time with each one. I have found though that though I can't give as much of myself to each child, I am so glad that I can give them each other.
My kids love each other. I have been so grateful on so many occasions that I have been able to give them sibling relationships. They LOVE having new babies. They ask for another one every time we get a new one. I do not see any jealously of the new one, only love. This is not to say that there is no acting out or desire for baby attention or regression. Some of those things happen. But the kids love each other.
I can not imagine not having my siblings and I am grateful that my kids will have each other after I am gone. The sibling relationship is usually the longest relationship that most people have in their lifetime. I have no regrets about my kids being able to have that.
Yes, but do they get to be KIDS? Don't kids get responsibility piled on them too early when there are lots of siblings?
I have met people from big families who choose to have no children or only one because they felt like they had to raise their siblings. I only have a few kids so I don't feel like this is an issue. And of course, I make an effort not to do this to my kids.
I will say though that when a new baby comes into the family, I do expect some things from the other kids. I will ask a toddler to help get a diaper or a glass of water or a baby toy. I might notice that since I am not doing everything for the other child, surprise surprise, they start to do it themselves!
Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Kids love to help and it makes them feel great about themselves. (Just like it makes adults feel good to serve.) Letting a child do things on their own, is also not a burden, but a blessing.
Could you do this with one child- of course. Could you wait on 5 or 6 kids hand and foot- yes (seen that too). But, as I have more I expect more and I realize they are capable of more than I thought they were. There is nothing wrong with children learning that a family takes work and that they are an important part of that work.
But you can't afford your kids....
It is edging towards Christmas once again in our house. I am sure that someday money will not be a point of stress and contention. Unfortunately, that day is not here yet. I will admit, that I would love to have gobs of cash. Really, I would love it.
That being said, my kids only notice what we don't have if I point it out. Do they want lots of things? Yes. They do. And as their mom, I naturally want to give them these things. When I have more, I give more (monetarily speaking).
I notice though that the more I give them in materials, the less I care for how grateful they are. It is hard to go without. But I don't know if it is a bad thing for kids to learn that they don't get everything they want. Having less money to go around forces you to say no sometimes and it forces children to learn that stuff is not always necessary.
In the end
I am grateful that anybody reads the things I write. I am sorry that anybody was offended. I do not however take back anything I said. Plus, it boggles my mind just a little that three or more children is now considered a big family and totally unwieldy. When did that happen?!
I poke fun at myself. I make fun of the hard moments. I admit that they happen. It makes me feel better to be honest about my life. You know what else? I think it makes other mothers feel better too. So much of the time we are just trying to look like we have got it together, to make our social media expression of life appear worthy of Pinterest. But if everybody looks perfect and put together, you sure feel lonely when you are not that way. If I can do anything from my little wooden chair I would love to make other mothers feel less alone. You are not alone. None of us are perfect.
Can having more than one child be crazy and hard? Yes. I don't know if it is any crazier or harder than having one though. LIFE is just crazy and hard. That is part of it. We can learn from it and laugh at it and be honest about it, or we can cry in our rooms alone.
I choose to laugh.
(This article originally appeared on the Mama Birth blog.)
Photo credit: More Good Foundation / Foter / CC BY-NC