by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
I am a stay-at-home mother by life circumstance rather than choice.
My original plan was to finish up graduate school while teaching two or three labs a week while my little guy was a baby and toddler. Jack has two grandmothers and one grandfather who could babysit while I was at work. I also imagined bringing Jack with me to school occasionally to show him off to my students, fellow graduate students, and faculty members. Many of my research times involved helping undergraduates work on outdoor agricultural projects so I dreamed of bringing my son with me along with a carrier for when he was awake and a pack-and-play with a canopy for when he needed naps.
Those dreams got placed on a shelf when Jack was born 14 weeks early and developed a long-term lung disorder caused by prematurity. Keeping him healthy by sheltering him from germs and managing his reflux so that he continues to grow – and his lungs continue to heal themselves – became my most important goal.
I’ve taken at least a year off in my graduate program both to give me time to care for my son – but also to give myself time for self-care like exercising and relaxing when my husband or parents can care for my son.
I’ve never idolized being a stay-at-home mother so I’m comfortable stating that being at home with an infant all day can make me more insane than teaching a classroom of risky teenagers. Teenagers can talk! I could ask students questions to figure out what was bothering them. Most importantly, teenagers don’t make sad, whining noises for hours at a time because they are teething. My son adds new oddities to the mix like managing a medical appointment schedule that deserves its own secretary who could also deal with trying to make sure that all of his doctors are sending the correct information to each other. Like every mother ever, I feel like I’m working all the time – but rarely have any concrete outcome to show for my labor.
Thank God my mom stayed at home with a medically challenging infant (my twin sister) and I have plenty of adult women friends who have raised their own families and are completely honest that young children are challenging. The support these women give me keeps me sane.
CP/QF women – especially young women – have grown up expecting that raising a household of young children will be the most rewarding and joyous experience of their lives. I feel sad for these young women; raising my son has been rewarding – but I have had plenty of days where I would get so frustrated with my son’s continual needs that I needed to put him safely in his bassinet (with tubes and cords corralled in a sleep sack) and sit either in the bathroom with the shower running or on the front porch until I calmed down.
Apparently, Mrs. Maxwell has had similar moments in raising her kids.
Let me share a story from my life several years ago. On this day, meekness did not characterize me. I had three school-age children plus a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby. I walked into the bathroom, in the middle of the busy school morning, to discover that the toilet paper had been unrolled all over the floor. Do you know what I did? I sat down on the floor and cried! In frustration, I raised my heart to the Lord, “Lord, there are just too many of them and too few of me!” Of course, the unrolled toilet paper was not the only thing that it happened in our house that morning, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sometimes, as I consider that day, I wonder why it was so terribly monumental. However it was big enough to me then that I can remember it vividly enough to tell you about it today. (pgs. 17-18).
I hear you! Having a good cry in the bathroom is a sane reaction to being at home with six children – three of whom are under the age of five. Mrs. Maxwell’s prayer to God at that moment was honest, true and from the heart.
And you know what? There were too many of them and too few of her! Based on the graduation dates from her blog, she would have been homeschooling a 14 year old son, a 12 year old son, and a 10 year old daughter while managing a 4 year old, a two-year old and a baby. CP/QF parents deny the existence of adolescence and the resulting battles at home – but I have to imagine having two teenage boys, a preteen girl and a mob of little ones under foot all the time would be exhausting.
I can hazard a few guesses on why the unrolled toilet paper was so monumental; it was one more thing to do when she was already pushed to the edge of what she could cope with.
I wish this has been my reaction instead: “Lord, those little guys are at it again. Thank you for giving them to me to love, teach, and train. Please, Lord, give me the energy I need to deal sweetly with them. Also grant me the courage and wisdom to discipline them. I love them so much, Lord!” It would have characterized a meek and quiet spirit despite discouraging circumstances. (pg. 18)
Raising children – really, every form of caregiving – is hard physically and emotionally. Caregivers deserve to be able to admit when they are angry, exhausted, burnt out or simply done. Mrs. Maxwell’s exhortation to immediately reframe the negative sides of caregiving into thanksgiving to God adds another level of stress to people who are already stressed – and that’s unkind.
Mel resides in Michigan with her husband and child on farm. With her years of teaching experience, keen mind and observational skills she always brings a deeper look at the issues of homeschooling, teaching issues, and explains the science behind behind quiverfull beliefs. Mother, wife, teacher and caregiver of a child with health challenges she always brings a measured and reasoned voice to NLQ.
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