The crush of young kids

The crush of young kids

I used to read a magazine designed to help mothers of large families with the typical problems they faced in a day: how to get a toddler into shoes that needed to be tied while a baby crawled over spilled syrup in clean clothes and ants marched in a beeline (ha!) for the last crumb of pancake on the floor while the older two children hunted through the 600 square foot apartment for their math books…again. And, of course, this very common scenario always included an 8 month pregnant belly. The solutions to these ordinary life problems varied from “get shoes without laces” (I did that so well in southern California, my oldest daughter didn’t learn to tie her own shoes until, I kid you not, 10th grade) to never eating pancakes. Having fewer babies? Never floated as a viable option.

My life with five kids has been busy and crazy and messy and disorganized and noisy like that. I’ve noticed that people who have two kids? Their lives are busy and crazy and messy and disorganized too…at least at times. No matter how many kids you have, they fill up your world, taking it over, hijacking its order, demanding your total absorption. There’s no recipe for child-rearing that creates both control and energy. Seems that depletion is part of the gig, no matter whether you follow a schedule or live life without a clock.

I’m suddenly aware that my life has shifted gears. My youngest is turning 13 in the fall (UPDATE: this was written in ’09–she’s now in college!). When I get up at 9:00 in the morning (!), I’m the first one awake and the kitchen is shockingly tidy. I can hear the wind, birds, and cars that drive by. (I’m pretty sure I forgot what those sounded like for about a decade.) The quiet is more distracting than the TV in the background, that’s how good I got at tuning it out so I could work and be in the same room with the kids.

And yes, teens and kids who come home from college generate plenty of sound and mess and energy. But not at 9:00 a.m. And I’m not in charge of it in the same ways any more. They really will hop up and empty the whole dishwasher and then load it just because they know it would help me. They really do know how to clean toilets and tie their own shoes (in time for college) and stir fry their own vegan dinners.

In that magazine I told you about, one young mother with five kids under 7 asked for advice about how to keep the house reasonably tidy. She just wanted to know: Can a mother of five little kids have that satisfying feeling of things being put away and the film of dust and grime wiped down and the laundry folded and in drawers and the children bathed and pajama’ed…all at once, ever, while they still live at home? The answer came from a mother of eight. Her response: “It gets better.” She spent an entire column describing how well her older children helped her run the family. No advice for the mom with all little kids under 7.

I was appalled. No help whatsoever. Only, I didn’t forget her words all these years later. Because each time I got overwhelmed with the chaos of my overly full life, my mind would wander back to the best advice a mother of eight could drum up, even with time and preparation to write an article. The truth: she HAD NO ADVICE. There is no answer. If you have kids under 7 or 8, you will not have a neat house, clean clothes, bathed babies, tied shoes, ant-free kitchens, enough food in the fridge, and easy-to-find homeschool materials all at once, most days. That’s how it is. That’s what normal and routine and, dare I say it, right living look like when you’re solely in charge of nurturing, caring for and cleaning the worlds of small children.

But over time, almost imperceptibly, things do change. Eventually, you won’t be pregnant any more. You really won’t. The older kids do remember their own dental appointments (eventually). Some of them will drive cars and help you with soccer practice runs for the younger kids. One of your children will clean your whole kitchen one night just to surprise you in the morning. Their bedrooms may never match the photos in Pottery Barn’s catalog, but they will be able to do a five minute sweep of the living room before company comes and make it look presentable again.

In the meantime, what I want to say this morning in my deathly quiet house is: enjoy (play with, admire, tickle, feed, cuddle, praise, forgive) your little ones as much as you can, while you can, in spite of the exhaustion. I did, honestly, know to do that. And I don’t regret it for a moment.

In fact, today? I miss it.

Image by Clyde Robinson (cc)

32 Responses to “The crush of young kids”

  1. tracey says:

    Thank you for that this morning! Just as I was beginning to experience some of that change with my daughter turning 13, I went and got pregnant. Now the house is filled with the grunts, shrieks, laughs, pitter-patter, and love of a very enthusiastic little toddler boy. I see the gift so much clearer now that I’m a bit older. Sometimes I think about how my nest would have been emptying in a few short years, had Avery not come along. Sometimes it’s a longing feeling but most times I’m so grateful to have been entrusted with this amazing new little life! Embrace it I will. Blessings on your week.

  2. Kika says:

    I have only three kids and sometimes long for a suburban-full:) Thanks for the reminder to enjoy this messy, noisy, busy season of life. I have grown immensely since the arrival of our third (outrageous) little girl. It is through the challenges that I’ve experienced growth and would never want to go back to who I was before. Family is such an incredible gift.

  3. Brian says:

    For good or for bad, nothing lasts forever. When you’re going through a rough patch, keep in mind that it will pass. When you’re having good times, cherish them because they too will pass.

    I enjoy and cherish every single day with my girls because I know it too soon will be over. Even though Kayla’s starting to act a little like a teenager (oh no!!!), I try to enjoy that, too.


  4. Wonderful post, Julie. I’m feeling a little of the same now that my youngest is nine and my oldest will be starting her final year of high school. You are such an incredible writer with such a transparency and honesty in your work. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us.

    Love to you, Julie, and to your kids.

  5. Katrina says:

    Great post, Julie! As we prepared for Luke’s graduation open house this weekend, I was glad for all the work my kids did to help get things ready. Some helped in the kitchen, some worked in the yard, they helped clean up the house, but I don’t have to “keep track” of anyone anymore. I reminisced a little and even thought about how different things are now than when I had five little ones. But I’m very much enjoying these teen/college years. This stage has its own challenges and adventures. I have loved every stage of their lives . . . except maybe the potty training stage ;).

  6. Anjoo says:

    Thanks Julie, for the reminder. I’m a really slow learner with this, and with 4 kids age 5-15 am just beginning to get the sense that life might get a little less hectic someday. Still tempted too often to squander the freedom of homeschooling and listen to that petty little inner critic. Maybe I just need to cancel my “Real Simple” subscription ~ it lies!

  7. Julie Bogart says:

    Anjoo, or use your subscription the way I do. I look at its simple layouts and enjoy the peace it find THERE (and let that be the satisfaction I can feel for this season). I figure some day I’ll get to live that way. 😉

  8. Ariel Lawhon says:

    Julie: a friend sent me this link and I must say it is the single most encouraging thing I’ve read in 365 days. My boys are 6,4,2, and six months. This was our first year home schooling our oldest and I spent his Kindergarten year pregnant, having a newborn, and nursing. And to top it all off, I am a professional writer and wrote and published three books this year. It’s a chaotic life that most people don’t understand. I just wanted to say thank you for making me feel a little less crazy. And for reminding me that I am not alone.

    Thank you,


  9. Laura says:

    Even though it is summer, or maybe even because it is summer and I “should” have more time to conquer the clutter and craziness (mine are 3-6-9-11),I am feeling a tad discouraged and burdened by this place in time, and the feeling guilty for not savoring them. “So,” I thought to myself, “I think I’ll go read Julie Bogart’s blog. It’s been a while and she has that lovely insight and kindness and humor about it all.” And here you are, here’s this PERFECTLY timed post written just for me, or so it feels. You don’t know how many times you have encouraged me, both in the general sphere of mothering and the specifics of home education. Thanks AGAIN!

  10. Kelly says:

    I giggled a little to myself when I read this this morning. We’re living in both worlds now – the one where I can see the light in the not too distant future, and the one where I’m expecting the eighth in ten years (nine in 13.) It’s an interesting place to be. I can see years past when it was utterly overwhelming and I thought the season would never end. And I am glimpsing the future where roly poly babies and sticky toddler hands won’t always be…… And I think I must be in the most blessed place of my life. The point where the realization makes you appreciate what you have. Nicely written, thank you.

  11. Kina says:

    I loved reading this. Thanks for writing this and showing me that someday it will get easier. I have 4 and 2 yr old boys and a 1 yr old girl and am pregnant with number 4. I try so hard to cherish them while they are young and sometimes get in my own way. This is a great blog to read when you need that little extra bump. thanks again mama.

  12. Carolyn says:

    A friend sent me this link and I LOVED this post. My four boys are 8.5, almost 6, 3.5, and 8 months. Now that our older two are able to be taught things such as loading the dishwasher, folding and putting away cloth diapers, etc. some of the daily tasks do get easier. Of course they are replaced by other harder things! Your article encouraged me to be grateful for the sticky faces, nails banged in my picnic table, markers on the wall, and crayons on the siding. Thank you!

  13. Leah says:

    This is my first time on your site and this blog was truly refreshing and encouraging to me. I have four children from 20 months up to 9 years old. By God’s grace I am learning, slowly but surely, to slow down and enjoy them, embrace them, love them each day a little more. I look forward to reading more and learning more about your Bravewriter program. It’s the heart that really matters.

  14. Monica says:

    These tidbits of wisdom from you ALWAYS come at the right moment, Julie! Just last night I was laying in bed wondering how I was going to handle the chaos and freeflow of the summer AGAIN this year! I went back into my “Mother’s Homeschooling Journey” diary to see if I felt the same way 4 years ago. I wondered why my (just turned) 8 yr old is no longer capable of focusing and cleaning up after herself. And if my now 12 yr old was the same way back then (he seems so much more capable of switching gears and helping out when asked). YUP! The roles have reversed! And I am still in a state of disorder and chaos! But, imperceptibly, it really is getting better. And I would not trade these last 4 years to an institution for ANYTHING IN THE WORLD.

    Now, I just need to breathe and enjoy who they are while they are still here! Your words truly help me remember that!

  15. Cindy says:

    Julie and all,
    I too have been somewhat spooked by the quiet of my house lately despite five kids aged 12-19 currently living here, (Deep sigh of sweet sleep when they are all in “their” beds”).
    A friend with older kids once told me when things were tough for me, “One day you will say to your kids, ‘Go get in the car’, and they will go get in the car.” She meant you didn’t have to tie shoes, zip coats, fasten car seats. I clung to those hopeful words for years. And she was right.
    I do have to admit that helped me though. Her advice to “shine your kitchen sink” helped me to have ONE pristeen place to look at and somehow, with my back to that I could face the melee everywhere else. I had ONE accompllshment under my belt. Before I found Flylady, I used to get the same “accomplishment” feeling from tidying my own dresser top, creating one uncluttered peaceful place that gave me a lift.

  16. Michelle Oliver says:


    You really do inspire me and often. I love and adore you and what you share. I am worried and overwhelmed today, but because of this lift you have shared I am walking away from the house and going down to take pictures of my kids at our church’s sports camp and cheer them on with smiles.

    Thank You…again

  17. Julie Bogart says:

    Welcome newbies and old timers. It’s so great to read your comments and feel your shared enthusiasm for your kids and the rich lives we try to create together in the midst of chaos and energy-drain.

    Love you all. <3


  18. I was fine until I read the words “right living”. Then I surprised myself by getting completely choked up.

    From the constantly frazzled and frustrated mom of a 5 year old, 4 year old, 3 year old and 2 year old, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  19. Lani Siciliano says:


    My friend sent me your post. Love it! As a mom of six children ages 8 months to 10 years, I am living what you described. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy them now as it will all pass by in the blink of an eye.

  20. Jess says:

    Thanks! I have 4 under 5 and although I LOVE my kids and want a million more at least, there are DAYS. And I miss writing. I don’t get much time for that anymore (it has taken ten minutes and two interruptions to get this far, and I am typing while breastfeeding!) I can’t imagine life without a baby anymore and each milestone they reach is bittersweet because it marks the passing of a precious season.

    To thoughts that help me get through the day:

    Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t worry about blisters at the top of Everest, I won’t even remember “those” moments one day!


    Moses and David watched sheep, Saul looked for mules, Gideon threshed wheat. The mundane tasks of life are the tools God uses to shape heroes – so yes I can change another nappy!

  21. Sharon says:

    I was directed to your website from a blog I read daily and what an encouragement this is to a tired mother of three under the age of 5. Thank you.

  22. Andrea says:

    Oh, I can’t wait!

  23. Brandy T. says:

    Thanks so much for this! I hopped over from, and I am so encouraged by this post! I linked to it myself.

    Thanks again!

  24. Brandy T. says:

    Sorry… I actually linked to you from 🙂 Blessings!

  25. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for this article! What a blessing to my day! I’m the mom of a 3 1/2 year old, 22 month old twins and 3 month old twins and I really needed to hear this today!Thanks for the encouragement!

  26. deirdre says:

    this is beautiful. a timely reminder to cherish my baby as much as I possible can.

  27. THANK YOU. That is the best (non)advice I’ve seen for frazzled Moms to young kidddos.

    Mine are 2 and 6 months. 🙂

  28. Jamie says:

    Thank you for this post. Really. I needed this.

  29. Lori says:

    Beautiful description of my very full life with a husband,four kids(15, 13, 8, 3)and a dog.

    Love reading your blog!

  30. Rose says:

    DH and I wanted a houseful – God only blessed us with 2. We have numerous friends in the same situation, and also a number of friends who have attempted to adopt — some successfully, some not.

    Given that we have only a short time in each stage of childhood, we probably cherish it more than most. How we wish that we’d have another 2 or 3 to have as tiny infants, or some day, as teenagers.

    Yes, there are still longs days and trying times, but our perspective is a little different — and we are reminded by a couple who has been waiting to adopt that every moment of our most trying times would be welcomed by people who have never had the blessings of parenthood.

    On a bad day, I try to “offer it up” for these people with longing, aching, empty hearts — that God will see fit to somehow fill their hearts in His own way.

    And we spend a great deal of time with nieces and nephews, but still, I’m slightly envious of you all with big families.

    Wonderful article to remind us all…

  31. KimP says:

    Great post. There’s a country song “You’re Gonna Miss This”. Dh and I sing it to each other on occasion. Just to remind ourselves to enjoy it all while we’ve got it. The good and the frustrating.

    Thanks, Julie.

  32. Sarah W. says:

    Being pregnant, with an almost 2 year old and a 3 year old, this post could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you for taking the time to give us moms of young kids some perspective.