Dear Little Sister,
I look at you and I feel like you’re living my life all over again.
It seems like I was just where you are now: three small children, husband out all day, and crushed with commitments even when he’s home. You’re working full-time, trying to keep your head above water, trying to keep ahead of the mess and ahead of the bills, but not even trying to keep ahead of the laundry, because as long as everyone has a clean shirt right now, you’re not going to expect more of yourself. And you never use real dishes because:
- Who has time to wash them and
- The kids will break them so
- You put them on a high shelf and
- The children cling to you, hampering your ability to get the stepladder, climb up, and return the stepladder to a place where they won’t find it and injure themselves. And anyway, who has time for all that?
You’re drowning on a hamster wheel, and as someone who has been there, I know that metaphor makes perfect sense.
And then someone says you look tired and you smile and demur, but inside you’re freaking out and thinking, Are you kidding me? I look TIRED? TIRED??? I am more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life and I have to choose between eating or sleeping because there’s not enough time to do both and THERE IS NO END IN SIGHT.
And then they chirp, “You have to look after yourself, you know! You can’t take care of everyone if you don’t take care of yourself!” And then you want to strangle them or alternatively invite them to your house to cook and do laundry so you can “take care of yourself,” which would not involve socializing or relaxing, but would take the form of something much more mundane like eating actual food or taking a shower.
I know, I’ve been there.
In fact you probably think I’m still there. Because now I have six kids and my bills are higher and my husband is busier and the laundry fills an entire room (that’s why it’s called the laundry room).
But here’s what you don’t know:
It gets easier, not harder.
Now you have three kids who need you for everything — eating, sleeping, moving from place to place.
But then a funny thing happens. Slowly they become more independent. Eventually they feed themselves, fall asleep by themselves, and become fully toilet-trained. Eventually they walk and talk on their own.
In a few more years, your oldest will be able to hold the baby for five minutes so you can do urgent things that require two hands, like putting on your socks. And things like pacifier-weaning and sleep-training feel less stressful after you’ve done them a few times.
And as the kids grow and the dynamics change, a team spirit develops, and they become a unit. They play together. The older ones provide entertainment for the younger ones. Thanks to sibs- pressure, the younger ones are willing to try the foods their older siblings eat at mealtimes. The older ones can clear the table, clean their rooms, take out the garbage, and provide actual assistance during Pesach cleaning.
Soon your oldest son will be tall enough to get the dishes down for you from the high shelf. Soon your kids will become your friends.
Soon the family that you’ve subsumed yourself to raise and create will start to carry itself, instead of you carrying them.
But right now they’re all hanging onto you, and you’re reading this article holding it up high out of their reach and you can barely see it and you’re getting a crick in your neck and maybe also tears in your eyes, so it’s good it’s a short article.
I’m not going to tell you these are the best years of your life.
Because I want you to know, it only gets better.
Your Older Sister
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 633)
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