what it’s like with four children

People keep asking me, what’s it like having four kids?

I’ll tell you what it’s like.

It’s difficult and it’s delightful. It’s exhausting and energizing. It’s full of ups and downs and an awful lot of middling.

Wait, doesn’t that sound like regular life? You got it.

The infant stage is always rough. Always. Because there’s an infant, not because of how many children you have. I was overwhelmed when I had one, when I had two, when I had three, when I had four. It’s a stage, it’s inescapable. It’s of {comparatively} short duration.

What has been drastically different about having four children (versus three or two or one) is not the amount of laundry (Devo does that), not the amount of food I cook, not the ‘strain’ on our marriage, not the decrease in free time, not the level of craziness, not the amount of money spent.

The biggest difference with having four children is how people treat me.

I had my fourth baby, and suddenly I became polarized.

Maybe you’re familiar with the concept over history of women being either angels or demons. Women were not viewed as a mix of good and bad, they were either good (angels) or bad (demons). Nothing in between.

That’s similar to how the general public apparently thinks of a woman who has four children.

People think of me and interact with me largely from one of two viewpoints. For our purposes, I am going to label them Poor You or You’re SuperMom.

Poor You.
These people look at me with pity. They think having four children is insanely difficult. These people look at me with brows furrowed in concern. Or in slightly disdainful pity.

They say things like It must be really hard. Or, my favorite, I could never do that (with the insinuation that they would never want to do that).

This, of course, gives a nasty feeling. The slight inconveniences of parenting suddenly seem incredibly large and ugly in the presence of these people. Anything less than pure peace and happiness is met with a general attitude of “you asked for it” from the more cynical members of this group.

I don’t like to be pitied for something I happen to cherish.

You’re SuperMom.
These people think that I’ve got it all under control, I have no struggles, everything in my sphere is smooth and idyllic. My children are angels, my house is always clean, I am a source of infallible knowledge.

They tend to use words like Super Mom, Super Woman, amazing.

At first this one feels good. Some positive affirmation, don’t we all love that. But it quickly loses its sheen. Right now I meet it with especial distaste.

SuperMom mentality leaves no room for me to talk about struggles or challenges or bad days with any sort of authenticity.

More significantly, it doesn’t allow me to talk about my successes and joys without feeling like a total bragger. Or, worse, a liar…someone who doesn’t tell the whole truth.

Early after Kiri was born, I remember making an effort to speak authentically about how I was really doing. I wasn’t going to answer a cheery “it’s great!” if it wasn’t. I would speak truthfully, but lightly, about whatever was foremost at the time.

Only to discover (again) that most people just aren’t interested. Generally, I received either blank looks or people telling me that I should not feel the way I do, but I should feel another way. Dislike.

Lesson learned ~ discern who really wants to know.

This phenomenon of Poor You vs. You’re SuperMom was very pronounced in the beginning. It completely took me by surprise. I had thought I’d get the heat for having a large family when I had my third baby, but when it didn’t come, I forgot about it only to have it show up with the fourth baby. Oh.

I felt ostracized. Excluded from the human experience. Unable to speak freely. It took a great deal of thought to be able to speak with any sort of authenticity. Speaking without thought would send me home writhing because it either looked like I was complaining or putting on a false front.

It’s eased off a lot now. Most noticeably among my friends. For the most part, I’m back to just being Leilani, with all of my strengths and foibles. Same as always. With a new baby.

The general public remains about the same and I’m learning to just let it slide by. Luckily I haven’t run into any rudeness. But I love being pleasantly surprised by people who allow me to be a regular human.

Because that’s what I am, a human, a healthy and living mix of strength and weakness. And I’ll thank you forever if you’ll treat me as one.

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8 thoughts on “what it’s like with four children

  1. Very thought-provoking. I’ve always wanted to be authentic in answering the “how are you” question, but you’re right, some people really just want the short version. I like how you said, “SuperMom mentality leaves no room for me to talk about struggles or challenges or bad days with any sort of authenticity.” Reminds me of another article I read a while back. Thank you for writing this, Leilani and may the greater population see past your gaggle and see beautiful you. 🙂

  2. Well said! I thought as I was reading this: that this blog should become a book! I also thought, if you’re experiencing this kind of response with your little family-imagine what it must be like for the Duggers;-O
    Have a great Sabbath!
    Loves, Karen

  3. Well I have always thought of you as superwoman. You just have that quality that makes one feel safe and sure that what ever you touch will turn out well. True that there are struggles along the way but watching you overcome them is a beautiful thing and something I feel you should be proud of yourself for!! You are inspiring even in your not so perfect moments.

  4. Very thought-provoking indeed! Just my two cents, I choose to see the “superwoman/mom” comments as affirmation that I am doing my job well. Perhaps because I don’t often get them. And the purpose of “peachy” is specifically to gage how much people really want to know and what’s just polite.
    You, my friend, are a supermom in every sense of the word because you take your assignment seriously and are always striving to be the best mom you were created to be for your children. This is far more important than trying to be the world’s best woman to all.
    Keep doing what God made you to do! The world will be better off because you raised 4 well-adjusted, God-loving little children.

  5. I only 🙂 have three, but I hear you! We made a very hard move just after #3 was born. I want to be authentic, but the reality is most people just don’t care, or figure I brought it on myself bc we CHOSE to have #3 and we CHOSE to move. Therefore, it is my own fault it is hard. Lovely.

  6. Kimberly, we all appreciate a little compassion over finger-wagging, don’t we? Your experience has reminded me to extend compassion to other people who I figure “chose” their own set of difficulties…thank you!

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