divided and conquered

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I  recently arrived at a rather scary conclusion. I was in fact born to be a mother to many.

As I tiptoe past exasperated eyerolls from a tweenager and a teenager and a threenager, as I valiantly attempt to potty-train twins and not stress about my newborn’s sleep habits, I realize that I’ve been divided and conquered. My kids have absolutely obliterated my perception of motherhood. Their very presence exposes the lies I believed about the kind of mother I swore I’d be, and the lifestyle I planned to lead when I reached this season. Their sweet, sticky faces have stared at mine and spoken to those lies. This is real life.  Stepsons, twins, a surprise pregnancy. It all happened and I couldn’t press pause to regroup. I couldn’t pretend this was two kids and a dog and a white picket fence. It wasn’t, so why use that filter? I had to throw away the playbook and start over.

I’m so outnumbered, I don’t have time or energy to spend fussing over my kids the way my flesh would like to. It only hit me recently how much of a blessing this is. It is such a good thing, for my personality to be spread between multiple children. My kids would probably tell you they get enough of me as it is. I feel like they have strength in numbers, in a way. The large family dynamic acts as a buffer to my inclinations towards unrealistic expectations. It’s simply not possible for me to keep up with all of the things, all of the time. Dirt and leaves track in on my carpets, especially just after I get around to vacuuming. Sometimes, we’re late to events because the getting-out-of-the-house process is not unlike herding cats. Also, hair bows get lost easily, and it’s even more frustrating when there’s a twin still wearing hers. My world literally stops for a few minutes when I lose a hair bow.

I’ve been divided and conquered, and yet what’s left of me is so much better. I’m softer. I’m sweeter. I’m a better listener, and I’m a better snuggler. Mothering kids in so many different forms, ages, and seasons has made the important things stand out and the trivial things fade to the background. I’m learning to bargain without compromising my values. I’ve begun to actually use the whole “count to ten” thing before I respond to tense situations, and it actually works. I’m figuring out when to push and when to wait. I know how to laugh and let live, when interesting music selections are made and shoes go onto the wrong feet.

When my children see me choose to stop struggling and let something go, they learn to do it too. When they see me adapt and grow and stay vulnerable, they learn to do it too. When they see me ask for forgiveness and give grace and mercy freely, they learn to do it too. When they see me laugh at myself, they learn to do it too. When they see me speak life, they learn to do it too.  And where do they start? Where do they get all of their practice? On each other. They’re so young, and they’re already getting it. They’re loving each other so well, and it’s mesmerizing to watch. I’m happy to be in this place, divided and conquered.

4 thoughts on “divided and conquered”

  1. This is exactly how I think a large family might be good for me and could be good for a lot of people It would force me to let go. Hopefully i wouldn’t just lose it ;) I have had multiple conversations lately where people say they will stop at two because they will be man to man vs zone. But parents aren’t a defense, we are all in it together as a family, all on the same side.

  2. I hear you on this. I have had an opposite experience in terms of the “numbers” in family…but very much the same feeling of being divided and conquered. I didn’t plan it…in fact, it was the very last thing I wanted…but I became a single-mother to my precious daughter when she was just turning three. It was very painful. I was convinced that having and growing a family were in my stars for me since I was old enough to play house and hold my dollies. Waking up to the realization that I was abandoned and would be venturing out alone as a single mother was a very difficult thing to accept. It blew me apart physically and emotionally and I had no where else to go but to my Savior. Sometimes, I have to see the larger plan and trust that there is one who is in control and has the divine plan and that is not me. I have been divided and conquered in every way. Sometimes, I still catch myself wrestling and struggling with this life. Just me and my daughter, Lord? Really? Are you sure? This is some of the crazy questions I still can ask when giving in to the pressure and forgetting to trust, like the human I am.
    Thank you for your post. It validates what I have been going through these past years. My girl is now 9. And over the years, I’ve been moved to open my heart more and more through various channels. Did I picture my life like this? No, I did not. Am I eternally grateful? Yes! But I do need to be reminded often. Again, I appreciate your words. -Cynthia

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