Who are we and how did we get here?

You know that meme that’s going around Facebook statuses, asking “If you and I woke up in jail together, what four words would you say to me?” I sometimes sorta feel like my husband and I just woke up in this house full of children, and are looking at each other going “Can *you* explain this?”

I remember when I was working and “single,”  whiling away my free time helping hedge funds figure out how to borrow even more money, I had a lot of colleagues who would make comments about how a friend of theirs got married and had two kids and just looked awful. “I don’t know if I ever want to have kids,” they’d say, “She only has two, and she hasn’t showered in weeks and she just looks so TIRED.”

And in my endless unmarried wisdom I would say, “Having kids doesn’t have to be that hard. You just have to train them properly from the get-go.” Oh yes, I knew just what to do. And I was sure I’d never be *THAT* homeschooling mom of many – you know, the one whose children show up with mismatched socks or with unkempt hair or who wear their pajamas to church and change in the van when they get there.

For some reason that mentality has stayed with me. It sounds prideful, and it is, but it isn’t simply a personal pride thing. In this backwards day and age, our culture is so anti-life that raising children is seen as a curse, and anyone who has more than one or two children is to be pitied, or perhaps more kindly, gaped at as though they were a ring unto themselves at Barnum & Bailey. I didn’t want to be fodder, as my colleagues’ friends-who-let-themselves-go were, for high-living DINKs to pat themselves on the back knowing they’d made the right decision. “Look honey, that could’ve been us! *shudder*”

So for the first several years (and children) my kids might be running around au natural while at home (and were), and making me all kinds of crazy, but by golly I would never leave the house without having the girls’ hair combed, wearing something pretty that comprised a complete outfit, and having my own hair and face show-worthy. We were ready to be out in public, to be pointed at with “oohs” and “aahs” and approached with “How do you do it?”s.

A few more kids, a little more experience, and you’d think I’d be better at this facade than before. You’d be wrong. I like to tell myself that I’ve simply realized that going barefoot is good for kids, or that I like to pick my battles with the two-and-three crowd and disputing wearing dress-up on top of pj’s to the store is simply not high on the list. But maybe the bare bones fact is that I just can’t keep it all together like I thought I could.

So yes, I am *that* homeschooling mom whose kids last week at the farmers market had to stay in the van digging for any shoes they could find in the upholstery, because they hadn’t worn any out of the house. (They found seven shoes, they needed six; they were able to come out and join the fun eventually.) I am *that* mom whose son makes the local paper with his shirt inside out and backwards. I have to admit I get a lot more “You’ve got your hands full!”s than “How do you do it?”s these days. And on my last trip to the grocery store, while two of my kids jousted with shopping carts and celery, I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of yuppies run, not walk, to the family planning aisle.

My husband likes to say, “The longer I’m a parent, the less advice I give out, because I realize I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing.”

I face this reality every day. And just in case you were fooled by my show-ready appearance, I’m here to tell you that I don’t know how to make kids go to sleep at night, stay out from under my feet while I’m cooking, or do chores consistently. I don’t know how to keep a clean house, keep up with the laundry and ironing, cook three gourmet meals a day, nurse 24/7 and still find time for personal hygiene.  So anything you read from me that has an opinion du jour, please weigh it against this fact: I have no idea what I’m doing.

And I hope someone else can carry that June Cleaver torch, ‘cuz I totally dropped it. The dirt floor of my shoe-house still has the scorch mark.

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20 Responses to Who are we and how did we get here?

  1. Sue Schieman says:

    I love that they weren’t wearing any shoes! That happened to me the other day but luckily I caught it before leaving the driveway. Son #2’s excuse was that he was out of clean socks and therefore couldn’t wear his running shoes. As I grumbled about the fact that this child refuses to hamper dive for previously worn socks in times like these, I managed to find 2 somewhat matching socks and be on our way. I also moved buying summer sandals up on the to-do list.

  2. Dave Hodges says:

    I’m still laughing at this. Søren’s utter cluelessness about clothing makes me laugh just about every day anyway (T-shirt with boxer shorts and knee-high, yellow rain boots is his idea of “ready to go” to Trader Joe’s). But his showing up for a newspaper shoot like that just sends me over the edge.

    There are things that matter, and these things are relatively few in number. I used to chide parents mentally for everything under the sun, from their children’s behaviour, to their dress, to their attitudes, to everything. Now, when I see the same sorts of things going on, I generally just think to myself, “Yeah, I’ve got a few like that,” and try to say a prayer for the parents.

  3. Emily Hilleke says:

    I understand. As our family grows in age and size, I think ”Shouldn’t our years of experience make the work easier?” But years on the job don’t seem to mean much in this business. Every year is more challenging than the one before.

    “You sure have your hands full!” Since the day #1 was born, and it hasn’t changed since. 🙂

  4. Carol Womick says:

    Sarah,
    You are so my hero. Thank you for this timely reminder that we do what we can, and if we get anything else done, it is a freak of nature or an unplanned for generosity on someone else’s part. Learning to accept it and go withb the flow has been the hardest part for me, but hey, I’m learnin’.

  5. Esther says:

    Sarah, I had to take a break midway through reading this because I was laughing so hard. This morning has been ‘one of those mornings’ and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.:)

  6. sheila0405 says:

    What a fantastic post! I was raised in a Protestant household where my mother actually told me she was thankful for the Pill, because she’d had six children and that wouldn’t have been her choice if only she had access to the Pill. I was pondering which one(s) of us she would be happy to see go away! So sad; I grew up thinking that family planning was the recipe for happiness. Then my good friend from high school got married, and she and her husband went on to have eight children. They have their hands full, all right–full of love, laughter and pure joy. I found out way too late in life what a blessing it is to have many children. I only have two. I now not only defend large families, I encourage others to see children as individual gifts from God. The only real legacy we can leave is the kind of adults we raise and let fly out into a world desperately in need of the message about the importance of family. So, you don’t know what you’re doing? I say you know more than you think you do. Thanks again for this very timely post.

  7. Katherine Lauer says:

    Thank you for posting. I’m giving out less and less advice these days and I have only three. I knew so much when I was pregnant with my first!

  8. Rachel says:

    Oh my goodness. I’ve only got three, but I can relate to much of what you’re saying here! I wish we could live closer together, because I think we would get along quite well. Btw, I still think “how does she do it?” when I think of you. Because even if you’re not always polished and perfect, you seem to be the kind of parent I’d like to be (and in many ways, I think I naturally am, too).

  9. Sheila says:

    Yep, I keep swearing I will NEVER judge again, because every time I do, I end up doing the same thing. My kid runs around with no pants half the day and I “let” him do pretty much whatever he wants as long as it’s not dangerous. I realize now how limited a say we have in what our toddlers do. I could “let” him or I could fight him and the results would be the same!

    Personally, I think how laid-back you are and how you follow your kids’ lead is impressive. It kind of takes guts to let your kids have a bit of freedom and then deal with the blowback from others. But it seems to be working out for you, so it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks!

  10. elaine says:

    The other day I went on a walk with two children in mismatched clothing (including an inside out shirt), another child wearing a ballerina outfit, baby naked except for a diaper (but hidden in my sling) and I had forgotten to brush my hair that morning. Sigh.

  11. allie says:

    this is a GREAT post!!! I love your attitude, your insight and your experience as a mom!!

  12. NotWonderMom says:

    Oh sweet heavens! Thank you for this post. My husband and I have 7 littles, 11 and under, and some days we just look at each other like a deer in the headlights. There is a lot of pressure and I HAVE implemented the barefoot-is-best philosophy, just ask Costco, the credit union and the YMCA. Oye, it’s really relieving to read that I am not alone. Because often I feel like I am. Thank you Sarah.

  13. Yay! A woman after my own heart.I have no idea what I am doing either:)My son’s church shoes always seem to be covered in mud/wet/lost, so he ends up going to Mass in his slightly-too-small-wellies, with a reminder to keep his feet hidden under the pew.

  14. Sarah says:

    Reblogged this on Socks on the Line and commented:

    This is still true, I tell ya.

  15. Mary says:

    This brought tears to my eyes and after 23 years of motherhood I feel like your husband. The only answer is that “it” all gets “easier” as the kids get older. They wear their shoes, clean their own laundry, even run to the grocery for you. But of course other “things” get harder, like letting them drive to the grocery and beyond by themselves.
    As long as you, hubby and kids are happy and striving, you have the answers!!
    I love your posts!

  16. Kerri P says:

    Oh my goodness! How I needed to read this! ha, ha! I am sooooo with you on this. That is one “reason” I tell people we keep having children! Because, one day, maybe one day, I might finally ‘get it’ and know what I am doing. Hmmmm, with 8 children under my belt, I STILL don’t know what I am doing, so I suppose I better stop holding my breath and think of a new “reason” we keep having children 🙂

    Blessings,
    Kerri

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly, Kerri! So much to learn with each one. Since I had 2 I have felt like purposely stopping at one or two is sort of a waste of experience, right? I’m going to keep trying until I get one right, dangit! lol

  17. Catrin Edwards says:

    I was going to comment and then I realised I already had. I am still no better organised.I still have no idea how to do it.

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