Julie Lyles Carr: Engulfed

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a family with a bunch of little kids. The mom spent a fair amount of time researching how to best run a big family. She made beautiful color-coded schedules and cooked meals for the month ahead of time. Things ran by the clock and routines were established. Daily life was somewhat predictable and all the charts and schedules and color-coded everything seemed successful.

And then...

More little kids were born. And there were a couple of crazy moves to new cities. And the mom started working more.

And those kids started growing and growing and having all kinds of things on their personal schedules.

The mom looked up one day. She smiled at the dim memory of those carefully drawn charts from earlier motherhood. Nay, she snickered. Guffawed.

And then grew somber.

'Cuz life in this present day house was multiple parts crazy.

I realize this is a subtle tale and all, but the mom in the story is me. And that household is mine.

Motherhood is a job that never changes and is always changing. I've been a mom a long time and facets of it always remain the same. I work at being available to my kids. I feel strong pressure to keep our home life operating as smoothly as possible. But it's always changing in that, as the kids grow, my 'control' over everyone's schedules becomes more faint. When the majority of the kids were little, there were definitely seasons that seemed overwhelming. But for the most part, we were basically all doing the same things at the same time each day.

Not anymore.

I love my work. Love, love, love. Don't want to stop, don't plan on stopping. 1 of 8 is still camping out in our home but spends the bulk of her days at the campus and at work. Her schedule varies day to day; sometimes she comes home in the late afternoon to closet herself upstairs to study. Other days,she doesn't arrive home until well after midnight. 2 of 8 is about to graduate and is working, working, working at all things dance. Her days vary. The girls share one car between them and there is always a scramble to make sure everyone can get where they need to go. 3 and 4 of 8 are continuing their homeschooling and are very involved in volunteering at church and in babysitting across the neighborhood. 5 and 6 of 8 spend their days schooling and dancing.

And the twins spend a lot of time in the car, helping me shuttle their siblings all across town.

It's not the childhood their oldest siblings had.

Somehow, at the end of the week, it's all managed to work.

But I'm not sure there's a way to capture on a timeline or a spreadsheet how it happens. There's some invisible grace going on there.

And the thing is, there are not a lot of resources out there for equipping moms to run families of this size when everyone goes in all different directions. I suppose if we had insisted the kids all engage in the same activities and if we had made a smooth daily schedule the priority, the chaos that marks our weeks would not be the norm.

Right or wrong, we just don't parent like that. We want each of them to explore what they were individually created to do. And that doesn't always fall within a manageable group-think style.


We need to find some kind of happy medium. As I write, the house is beyond a wreck. Beyond. There are only a few apples and a couple bags of pasta left in the pantry. Clean laundry lays in mountainous piles across my bedroom floor, destined to be washed again if I can't figure out where the line of demarcation of clean vs. dirty is.

And there's an odd mommyhood battle for me. I am still beyond thrilled to be the mom to these kids. I love them filling our home. I love the conversation, the laughter, the times we work through issues and come out the other side more bonded.

But there's a fatigue that sets in when it comes to mothering little people for this long. Fatigue in having cleaned the same messes for twenty-two years. Fatigue that the Little Fisher Price people are still under the sofa cushions. Not a bad thing, just a little hard to get my motivation up. Because in my observation, Little Fisher Price people seem to always make their way back to the couch cushions.

So I'm just confessing, I suppose. I'm really thinking on this thing. How to mother a house, not filled with just little kids, but with adult children and teenagers, crazy schedules and multiple drivers sharing a smaller pool of vehicles. What are the things on our calendars that are most important? And what are things that we should let go?

And how do I lead by example in that, since I tend to want to do it all?

Maybe it's time to break out the planning sheets and color-coded tabs. And maybe not.

Maybe I should start with the laundry piles on the bedroom floor and then work my way up to a grand unified theory on large family management.


That seems appropriate.

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