Q: Is there a point where it gets difficult to care for the children’s emotional and spiritual health and actually KNOW each of them individually? Our second child is just a year old, so some of my question may be due to our recent/ongoing transition between “I can focus on just you” with our first to keeping up with two little people. Do you have any comment on (1) how to evaluate what the needs (beyond physical) of current (and additional) kids are and (2) practical ways you meet them? How do you keep up with everyone?
A: You are in a short, but difficult season, where you are learning to balance multiple needs and feeling the difference from what existed a year ago- where you were able to solely love and delight in one special little person.
We all are given to self-focus and the desire for someone to fully focus solely on us, but the truth is, that God doesn’t mean for us to be solely at the center of anyone else’s universe. Given their own way, your children will naturally seek to build their own kingdom above God’s. The natural struggle of their life will be to place themselves at the center of everything.
So (in truth) your children are each better off for not having that be a foundation laid for a continual ongoing struggle in their lives, LOL.
Let me encourage you with these thoughts:
#1- Do not make any permanent, absolute decisions about anything regarding children when you are in the throes of stress.
That is the time when we are most likely to feel like, “I AM DONE. D. O. N. E. with this!” But stress is a funny thing. It makes us take strong stances that we often later regret. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard from and talked with that made firm & permanent decisions while in the throes of postpartum depression or life with little ones or hormonal imbalance or a particularly difficult season of sickness or stress, that later regretted that absolute decision, with many tears and much sorrow.So, first, don’t do anything drastic or permanent in regard to limiting your family size based on these fears.
#2- Carefully watch godly moms you know.
Look at how they love their kids. Seek out successful mothers who love and discipline their children well. You will find, I think, that they somehow manage to greatly love their children without making any one child the center of their universe. We are capable of more love than we think, and love multiplies, not divides. The beautiful thing (that I’m still learning) about having more children than average is the way that God gives our children love and wonderful relationships not just through me as their mom but also through their interactions with one another. I’m increasingly convinced that God means for us to learn brother and sister life (that will ultimately serve us well in our lives as members of the Body of Christ) through those early interactions.As you watch them, watch how they love and watch how they evaluate needs of their kids. We don’t all do this the same. Some put great emphasis on meeting social needs, others are focused on education and curiosity of their kids. But the truth is that our kids’ “needs” are few and God gives us the ability to meet those things that are true needs. We also, as we grow as moms, get better and better at meeting those desires and needs for emotional connection, deep love and affection, wise support and counsel, etc. Through our kids, He grows US and helps us to be lovers, counselors, teachers, encouragers, trainers, and blessings TO our children.
#3- Watch your children carefully.
Study their little hearts. Pay attention to the things that thrill them, and the things that set them off in a fury. You’ll see the introversion of one, and be able to help him get that solitude his heart desires in HEALTHY ways rather than by lashing out at a sibling. You’ll notice that another one clamors for praise, and be able to help guide their heart away from craving the praise of man. You’ll see the way certain siblings clash, and be able to counsel their little souls about how God has given them this wonderful opportunity to interact with people who are different from them, so that they will be better equipped to love and live alongside others for the whole of their lives. As you watch your children, God will grow you in wisdom and insight so that you can guide them in the ways they should go.
#4- Keep a careful watch on your heart and do not let the physical overtake the soul-level stuff happening in your home.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the seasonal changing of clothing sizes, or by the laundry pile that never QUITS, or by the tying of shoes and wiping of noses and bathtimes and bedtimes and breastfeeding and ER visits and “dadgum-it-it’s-dinner-time-and-they-want-to-eat-again!” Find ways to deal with these things proactively. Set a laundry routine if you need to… make a simple meal plan that helps you not feel overwhelmed by the 4pm craze. BUT, don’t let those things obscure the soul-level stuff happening in your home. Remind yourself of their need for Christ. Be purposeful to keep refocusing your heart and eyes on PEOPLE rather than STUFF. The children He places in your home is one way God is working in YOU to help “the things of earth to grow strangely dim” in the light of His glory & grace & work in the world.
#5- Keep looking to GOD as the meeter of YOUR needs.
You will increasingly see how He will help you to be the meeter of the needs He has given you to meet. He does not meet all of our wants (although He is gracious and does give us more of those than we deserve!), but He meets our needs, sometimes through Himself, sometimes through others, sometimes through His Word, sometimes through “plenty” and sometimes through “lack.”
One other thought- jumping off that last sentence I just wrote:
#6- God does not expect parents to meet every need of their child’s heart.
There is no way we can do it, no matter how many or how few children we have. You can’t meet every need your child has. I can’t meet every need my children have. There are places only HE can fill, and so we have to trust Him to be faithful to do it, not taking on burdens for ourselves that He never meant for us to carry.
I hope this helps as you sort these things out. If this is too heady and not practical enough, give me some pushback in the comments. and I’ll think through more specifics with you.