Realizing that I am out of the hardest of the little years has set me thinking about motherhood. I have noticed that there is a certain “settling in” that happens when you’ve had your third or fourth baby.
In the early years of having babies, with a toddler and a newborn (or maybe a preschooler, toddler and newborn), life is pretty overwhelming. Most days, there are very few moments without somebody crying for your attention, and between that neediness in your home and the overwhelming amount of laundry those little people produce, along with the fact that they want to eat every few hours, it is very tempting to want to throw in the towel. In fact, I’m sure many of young moms, like me, tell their husbands on a regular basis that they’re ready to throw in the towel. It’s just too much. The demands on your patience, perseverance, sleep, physical space, and general sanity are just too high.
But by the time your third or fourth baby arrives, a lightswitch in your life will have flipped on. I can’t even say precisely what that light bulb is, but that it flips on. You settle into your life. The fact that there are now more children clamboring for your attention somehow doesn’t phase you the way it used to. The endless cycle of making food, feeding babies, and cleaning the kitchen ceases to bother you the way it used to. Reading the same toddler book, over and over again, instead of being drudgery, is now pure joy (or, mostly joy). Even the wee hours with an infant are not as odious as they used to be; they have changed to times to sweet, quiet bonding with your little one.
I don’t know why or how this happens. I’d like to think that it’s an example of sanctification in process. God has given us hard things to do, and over the years He has conditioned us to do them. Maybe we are reaping a tiny bit of the joy that comes with a job well done. Maybe it’s just a matter of practice: we’ve had several years of practice with the whole baby-and-toddler-thing, and, just like piano playing, the basics now come much easier to us. It’s probably a combination of all of these. God uses the physical circumstances in our lives to bring about the spiritual reality of sanctification.
And, as silly as this sounds, coming from somebody who’s 32 years old, I also wonder if this isn’t preparation for being a grandma. The more I settle into this job of permanent servanthood to little people, the more joy I will have performing these tasks for my children’s children. And I can’t even tell you how exciting that thought is to me.
If you are in these early years, keep pressing on. Keep practicing the getting-dressed routine, the lunch routine, the bedtime routine. With practice, they will get easier and more joyful.