There are pros and cons to having a big family. We have 5 kids, and there’s definitely families out there that have more children than we do. My husband and I always talked about having a big family and even threw out the number 5 back when we were dating. And while I certainly wouldn’t trade my beautiful, messy chaos for anything else, it does leave me to mourn a bit for my youngest, who just turned 1. And here’s why: When I had my first daughter, and she was 1, I was an incredible mom. Like, pretty amazing. Not to brag or anything. Buuuuut I definitely feel like I was a better mom when I had just my first.
- Mom guilt? Nope. I just did’t have any.
I didn’t leave my daughter with anyone. She didn’t attend a PDO program or daycare. We were living states away from the grandparents at the time, so I didn’t even leave her with them. The longest I was away from her was if my husband had 1:1 daughter time or we left her for 30 minutes in the kid care room during the sermon at church. I felt no guilt leaving her anywhere, because I just didn’t.
- She was on an amazing schedule.
She dictated my day. When she woke up, our day started (usually too early for me). She napped at exactly 10:30 every morning until noon. At noon we would eat lunch, play, take walks, snuggle. At exactly 3:30, she’d take her afternoon nap until about 5, when Daddy would waltz through the door for dinner. We ate, we played, I most likely went for a solo run or did some household chores, and voila, 8:00 bedtime would arrive, leaving a nice early evening for just my husband and myself. Now? It’s just a chaos most days.
- She had my full attention.
With 5 kids, I’m literally pulled in 5 different directions. Add in 5 different personalities, and the household can become a land of crazy. But back when I was super mom, I only had eyes for my daughter. We lived in an 800 square ft apartment too, so it wasn’t like she could go anywhere and get lost (her crib was in our living room, it was so tiny!). But I was able to give her my full attention when needed — eating, when she needed changed, teaching her things, actively listening to her cute little babbles. PLUS THERE WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA YET. In fact, the IPhone didn’t even come out until my daughter turned 2. It was easy to focus on what was important. I feel like I’m failing my youngest in this area the most.
- Family dinners were peaceful.
Anyone with lots of kids will tell you meal time is significantly different if you remove even 1 personality. Back in the day, when there was just the 3 of us? Family dinners were so calm. So enjoyable. So fun. My daughter was at the age where she actually tried new food and it was cute watching her try to navigate a spoon of yogurt to her mouth. Today, I’m rarely letting the youngest feed herself–mostly because I just don’t have the time to clean up a giant mess. And the middle kids are arguing about how many bites do we really need to eat? After grocery shopping and cooking, I often have zero umphf and I’m annoyed at myself that I don’t always enjoy families dinners (even when the kids are great and genuinely having conversations).
- I enjoyed teaching her things.
Parenting was new and exciting. As she grew from baby to toddler, it was amazing to witness the milestones she’d hit: crawling, walking, signing, babbling, and eventually talking. It was fun to sit and engage her with stacking blocks or reading board books and repeating 10 thousand times, “A cow says moo!” I loved watching her face light up with she “got” something new. Now? I barely have time to sit and just play with the baby. I’m not saying I don’t do it (I do!), but if I’m being honest, playtime just doesn’t have the same appeal either. I’ve “been there, done that” in a way. In fact, I’ve done it over the last 13 years with 4 other tiny humans. It’s not my baby’s fault that she’s number 5 and Mommy just doesn’t feel like singing Insey Weensy Spider anymore.
I know deep down that our life is actually pretty darn amazing. And our baby is equally blessed by being the last as much as the first was, well, the first. But I do find myself occasionally thinking that I really probably was a better mom when I just had one. Or, then again, maybe not.