“How do you do it?”
I hear a lot of moms point that question to any woman with more than two children. Three, four, five, ten kids, it doesn’t matter—we are amazed by the lady who can juggle a quantity of little people that exceeds her number of hands.
Yet the two-child family is a relatively modern trend. In the 1950s baby boom, women had four kids on average. Before that, pioneer wives delivered as many babes as the good Lord allowed, and by golly she needed all the help she could get on the farm.
My husband’s grandmother had five children within eight years. My goodness. There were moments after my firstborn arrived when I thought just one child would do me in.
What did the earlier generations know that we don’t?
1. They read books. And told stories. And sent the kids outside to play. Sure, we do this too, but we treat it like a checklist item, not a way of life. So many other options are vying for our attention today, from Internet to videos to battery-operated everything. Plus who has time to play outside when there’s basketball practice and karate lessons and science club to attend? These are not bad things in and of themselves, but piled on top of one another they can shrink a family’s margin. Then when we do finally invite our kids to engage in “free” play time, we intentional moms stick our nose in it and manage the enrichment process. No wonder we’re tired. We never give ourselves—or our kids—a break.
How about granting children their own space to imagine and explore? Within safe limits, of course, I mean, Amber Alerts weren’t a thing in Grandma’s day, but we can be watchful without hovering. Try introducing a “technology-free Tuesday” or “schedule-free Saturday” and see how this opens time to enjoy a gentler family life.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29–30)
2. They were all in the same boat. There was no keeping up with the Joneses because everybody was the Joneses—or the Smiths, or the Kuchenbeckers. Single income families were still normal. Dads worked and moms stayed home, and nobody questioned it or pressured women to be a hundred people at once. This is by no means a slam on working or single moms—I’m a working mom of my own variety, and I’m grateful for modern opportunities. What I’m calling for here is contentment. If you’re running yourself crazy trying to be more and acquire more, to the point where your children are a distraction rather than the apple of your eye, is it worth it?
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
3. They had each other. Remember when neighbors weren’t just friendly; they were actually friends? Some of us have only seen that kind of camaraderie in movies. Yet God created us for fellowship, and motherhood is not meant to be journeyed alone. Our grandmothers exchanged recipes—on handwritten cards, delivered in person, not via e-mail. They held weekly bridge clubs and bowling leagues. They had block parties. Remember block parties?
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another . . . (Hebrews 10:25a)
This is not a matter of old-fashioned nostalgia, but rather a refocus on our purpose as parents. Proverbs 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” If parenting has become more stressful than rewarding, maybe it’s time to glean some of Grandma’s bygone wisdom. Then I pray we can all reclaim the joy of motherhood—whether you have one child or ten.