As a mother of a large family, I have been asked a lot of questions.
People wonder if I cook all the meals in one big pot, which I don’t. They ask about laundry, if we have multiple washers and dryers, but no, just the one set. They wonder if we have a huge house, and we do. And they ask how I manage. “How do you do it? I only have two and I go crazy!”
I am not Supermom. One thing people often say to me is, “You must be so organized!” This is so far from the truth, it’s hilarious. I forget appointments and my house is often a mess. “To have so many kids, you must have a system,” they exclaim. I have worked hard to keep things under control. We have had chore charts, and cleaning binges, and the panic cleaning before guests arrive. But things don’t always go smoothly, and life happens.
So how do I “manage?”
The most important thing in life is thankfulness. Thankfulness and misery cannot coexist. One thing I have been extremely thankful for is that God knows exactly what I need so I can see my own. When everything around me is chaotic, for example, God can reveal to me that it is the sin inside of me that makes me irritated, not the chaos. The noise and the children may bring out my irritation, but it was inside of me all along. Without a situation that provokes it, I may never even have known irritation was there. But then, when I do see it, I can humble myself and refuse to let the thoughts of irritation remain. Through fighting against my own sin, I attain peace. Peace in the midst of chaos. It’s not what’s happening in the house that determines my happiness, but whether or not I can let go of my own demands.
Acknowledging my need
I firmly believe that God causes all things to work together for my good. (Romans 8:28) This belief is tested for moms, during sleepless nights and busy days, cleaning up endless messes and refereeing sibling fights. I come to the end of my own natural goodness, and I have to ask God for patience, for guidance and for help. When I pray to Him, He strengthens me to obey His Word, rather than giving into impatience or irritation. Then I can be patient and kind where I otherwise wouldn’t have managed it. I would not be able to “manage” without the help I receive from Him every day!
Use the opportunity to bless!
With such a large family, there is no end of things to take care of. Besides the usual housekeeping, cooking, and shopping, the kids need rides, and there are dentist appointments, doctor visits, and school-related activities.
One thing that is certain to bring happiness in life is to use each and every opportunity to bless and do good. If I am resentful that I have to give one of the kids a ride somewhere when I have things to do at home, I am wasting a chance to use that car ride to build a better heart connection with that child.
Each child is different, and what works with one won’t work with another. It’s important to acknowledge to myself that I don’t really know what to do, to pray for help, and to be flexible.
Trust in God
Worrying about tomorrow is also a huge waste of time, and it goes completely against God’s will, as it is written in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow… Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Today has enough cares of its own. I have often been encouraged in difficult situations that I never have to worry. I can just be faithful moment by moment, and God will give grace.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. God gives wisdom and strength when we seek Him. Having a large family has provided me with countless opportunities to seek wisdom! Even the tired, busy days are filled with treasure when we seek Him. These “treasures” are the opportunities I have to find my own sin, acknowledge it, and pray to God for power to overcome. When I choose to go against my own sin, and deny my own will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I become more and more free from the way I am by nature!
These small daily opportunities come to everyone and they are extremely valuable. For me, they may come in the midst of caring for children. For others, they may be in the long line, the encounter with an irritable co-worker, or the embarrassing mistake. These little situations that make up the day can seem so difficult in the moment. But in the big scheme of things, they are only opportunities to be liberated from the sin that makes life heavy and difficult. When I choose to make use of these opportunities and go against my own sinful tendencies, then I am free to serve God and the others around me with joy!