"When's her naptime?" the other mom questioned. She was referring to my baby. I gave her a blank stare as my three-year-old tugged on my shirt and my six-year-old called from monkey bars. Thoughts began to swirl through my head: "Am I a bad mom because I don't have an answer?" "She kind of just naps on the go..." "Wait...what time is it?" "Am I late getting Emelyn from school?"
With four children, nap time in our house is sporadic at best. In fact, I consider it a good day if the baby sneaks a stroller nap during our walk (I'll even settle for a few minutes in the car on the way to school pick-up).
Oh, how I remember the days with my first - rushing home before noon to hit that sweet nap slot. If someone had asked me what time her nap time was, I would have easily responded: "twelve sharp!"
If only the mom I was then could see the mom I am today. A lot has changed - and my eyes have opened to an entirely new reality. A reality where I balance life as a mom of four with very full hands. A reality where I try my very best to meet everyone's needs in a short 24-hour window. A reality that has taught me "doing it all" is impossible.
...truthfully, nap time is the last of my worries when it comes to caring for multiple children in various stages.
The mom I am today is a mom who lets things slide—especially things like nap time. But truthfully, nap time is the last of my worries when it comes to caring for multiple children in various stages. I have school drop off and park play dates, dinner prep and appointments, school pick up and extracurriculars. Make that no extracurriculars...the baby eventually needs to sleep. We have a bedtime and another bedtime, and finally, one last bedtime. But it doesn't end there. It continues after the kids go to sleep. I make lunches and tidy the house (so we can sort of function in the morning's chaos), and finally, when I go to sleep, I'm woken minutes later by - you guessed it - a crying baby.
While it may seem like I'm the only one making the sacrifices for our family (career and sleep, to be specific), everyone makes some sacrifice when you have multiple children.
Sure, I miss the days when my entire focus was playing on the floor with my three-year-old. Of course, I dream of investing in my eldest's love of skating and gymnastics for my six-year-old. I see my older two patiently waiting for me to try to calm my toddler's tantrum and finish my baby's feeding so we can start our game of Uno. Sacrifices are being made by everyone in our family, every single day.
Somehow, we've created an environment my children love growing up in. Somehow, amid the busyness, my husband and I live slower than before.
And yet, I don't believe any one of us would ever trade what we have. Our laughter, chatter, and togetherness are possible because we have each other. The dynamics are ever-changing and ever-evolving. Our house is loud, we navigate arguments and forgiveness daily, and eventually, hugs overcome tears. I potty train one daughter while I talk about failing friendships with another. I begin the process of weaning a baby while also making sure I have all the school supplies for a grade two art project. I listen to Track and Field Day stories while tending to cries simultaneously. And we end it all cuddling on the couch with board books, picture books, and chapter books (all at the same time).
Somehow, we've created an environment my children love growing up in. Somehow, amid the busyness, my husband and I live slower than before. We make pancakes, put away laundry, and take walks to the park on Saturdays. Days end with our oldest helping the youngest make a tower out of blocks. Our middle two make a riot playing a game of pretend. It becomes the most beautiful scene a mama could lay her eyes on. And it's such a joy to learn to work together out of pure love for one another.
If only I could tell my former self how little nap times truly mattered and how beautiful a busy reality is. If only I could tell her it was okay to let nap time slide if she yearned to spend a few more minutes living in the moment. And while I think I have that lesson down pact, there are still moments I'm learning to give myself grace.
...Maybe it will take a few more babies.
Esther Vandersluis is a stay-at-home mom, living in a sea of pink and sparkles, with her four daughters ages one to seven years, and her husband of eleven years. She is often found making more coffee, taking her girls on adventures, engaging in meaningful conversations, finding new ways to be creative in motherhood, or working on her next writing project. Her greatest joys are connecting her girls, finding community outside her four walls, and pointing others to truth and love.