I received an excellent reader question lately, and she gave permission for me to share it with you:
I am a homeschooling mom of 8. Our oldest child is 18 and no longer at home, but the others are 10, 8, 8, 6, 4 (with Asperger’s), 2, and newborn.
1. How do you prioritize your relationship with your husband when you have lots of kids and no money or anyone around for babysitting?
2. How do you spend one-on-one time with your kids? Mine want one-on-one time with me and with my husband, but it is rare for us to be able to do it.
3. I also should have asked first how you prioritize your relationship with God, since it should always come first. I am exhausted, and the go from the time my feet hit the floor, and I know my priorities have been out of whack. I do best when I have outside structure put on me (such as participating in a Bible study with other people), but the season I have been in has made that pretty much impossible.
My first response was to think, “Wow! This is tough. My situation is definitely easier than hers.” My kids are currently ages 19, 16, 15, 12, 10, 7, and 5. It’s getting to the point where I don’t remember what it’s like to have so many young children.
So I also wrote to my good friend Katie Hirn, a blogger and a mother of 15 children, to see if she had any advice. She said,
“Wow, you are asking the right questions. I remember a time in my life when I had six kids under six (and often a couple extra foster kids). I was so tired and even became sick, and I often felt very alone. Like you, I wanted to be all God had created me to be, and to serve Him, my husband, and children to my fullest. Most of the time back then, I felt like I was failing at just everything. I found myself crying out to God to help me.”
Here is a collection of ideas we came up with.
Time with God
- If I were you, I’d spend time with God in two ways, which won’t take extra time. First, do your Bible reading and prayer time with your kids. You don’t necessarily have to do it on your own time in addition. Remember that in the times of the early church, the women would have heard the Scriptures read publicly once a week, with no Bible at home. And they had to sit separate from their husbands, while keeping their little ones with them. So we have a huge advantage in our time! But I think the Spirit can work in your heart and convict you and teach you, all at the same time you teach your kids and read the Bible to them. So no early mornings required!
- Stick some Bible audios on an mp3 player. You can probably find some free ones by doing a search online. I have the book of Proverbs on my mp3 player right now, purchased for a dollar at Dollar Tree. Bible Gateways offers some here.
“I would suggest starting your day in prayer, before you even leave your bedroom in the morning.
Also, plan some activities that will remind you to pray each time you do them. For example, every time I take a shower I pray about my attitude and self. Every time I stand and wash dishes, I praise God for my blessings. Every time I fold a basket of laundry I pray for the people who wear them. It sounds a little silly, but it has made a huge difference in my life. Again, it takes practice.
Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to be in the Word alone as much as you would like. Just when you do get a chance to hear or read the Word, take it all in.
Also, hang scripture around the house. I have scripture all over our house, some in nice frames, others on poster paper. As I see it, I read it to myself or sometimes out loud to the kids. It is a great way to encourage yourself and them. You can find a lot of great, free printable verses online.”
Time with Your Husband
You’re probably too tired to do much “dating,” plus it’s expensive, and you have a lot of little ones. And even if your 18yo could babysit sometimes, you’d probably fall asleep over dinner! 🙂
- I’ve never had it as hard as you. My first thoughts are to really lighten up on the homeschooling, and to do everything you can to lighten up everything else in your life for at least a season. And I hope that doesn’t sound impossible! (Pray for wisdom!)
- Work on keeping your relationship with your husband happy and at least give lots of hugs, in front of the kids, as much as you can. Even when you’re too tired.
- Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, authors of Growing Kids God’s Way, recommend having “couch time” together each day, as soon as your husband returns home from work, a time when you can cuddle on the couch and reconnect, talk, share, and make your marriage a priority.
About loving your husband when you are exhausted, Katie wrote:
You are wise to realize this needs to be a priority, and that you need to be intentional about it. I don’t know what your husband’s day is like. But, unlike Anne’s husband, my husband works a nine-to-five, outside-the-home job. So, he is gone during the day.
Here are somethings I do to keep my focus on being His Good Wife. When I wake up, before my feet hit the floor each day, I lay in bed and ask God to remind me of my calling. I ask God to keep my focus on serving Him, my husband, and children. This sounds really simple, but it make a huge difference in my day because as I serve my children all day and clean house and prepare meals and pay bills and make appointments, etc., I see these things as acts of service to God and my husband.
I plan our family’s day so that when my husband gets home, the focus shifts from kids and cleaning to him. We clean the house every day, right before dad comes home. Every kid, even my one year old, has a “Daddy-Come-Home Job.” This helps them get excited for daddy, too.
When he arrives home, we welcome him like he has been gone for weeks. This makes him feel loved. (This is not always easy on my part, if it has been a long day with a kid being disobedient, or if a car brakes down, or some other situation, I want to just throw it all on him. For instance, right now I am very tired (due to pregnancy and a one year old with some health issues), so by the time he gets home, I just want to go to bed and let him take over, and some days I do have to have him do that. But, I have found that if I make it a priority to greet him and have supper ready, then he is more eager to help with the kids and serve me.
So, in the evenings we have a schedule that focuses on daddy interacting with us. Here is our evening weekly schedule:
5 pm – Daddy-Come-Home Job.
6 pm – Supper and family prayer time.
7 pm – Monday – Thursday is family work out (this is just fun for the little ones), Friday is family movie night (dad plans this each week, we watch the movie and discuss it).
7:30 pm – Monday is mom-led Bible study, Tuesday is Missionary or character building story time, Wednesday and Thursday is dad-led Bible study.
8 pm – Dad puts little ones to bed (except on Wednesday when everyone has to go to bed on their own, see below).
9 pm – Big kids go to their rooms (sometimes we stop in their rooms and pray with them or visit with them).
10 pm – Lights out.
We started having our kids put themselves to bed one night a week a few years ago, when we realized we needed some time together. It took some time for them to get used to it (and some discipline). But, we usually have no problem now. I even try and get the baby to bed by 8 pm on Wednesday. This allows my husband and me to visit with each other, pray together, read a book together, talk about what we are reading in the Bible together, etc. (One of my favorite activities is to read a book together, usually a book on growing in our faith or Christian relationships.) By having this planned each week, I can make an effort to be more awake and ready to focus my attention on my husband during that time. During the day on Wednesday, I try to remind myself of how much I truly love my husband, what a good man he is, why I married him, etc. By doing that all day long, it makes me more eager to have that one-on-one time with him.
Time with Your Children
- Katie wrote, “First, I didn’t have to do it all. God would fill in the gaps. I felt so much pressure to school the right way, and have my kids be up with other kids their age. My mom made homeschooling look so easy, and I thought I needed to be able to do it like her. Never mind that she only had one or two kids at home schooling at a time. This was impossible for me. (My two oldest children both have learning disabilities: my son has a genetic language-based learning disability and asperger’s, and my daughter is dyslexic (like me). Instead of enjoying schooling and life, it became a chore and no fun for anyone (that year). When I finally confided in my mom that I thought I was going to have to keep schooling through summer, because the kids just weren’t getting it, she suggested I take the summer off and see what happened. She said to enjoy the summer and let them do the same. It was the best advice ever. Everything I had been trying to force the kids to learn just started to sink in over the summer. It wasn’t really magic; it was that I relaxed and so did the kids. We enjoyed our time together, and learning happened naturally. This taught me that I don’t have to worry about the books and school as much as I think.”
- Katie continued, “I let my little ones, until about age 10, just learn naturally. Most of them have learned to read and do basic math naturally, by just listening to the Bible and other books being read, by following along in the Bible and other books as it is read to them. We love to play the grocery game, and see who guess the total bill right. So they learn to add numbers in their heads playing this game. I am not saying that my kids don’t do any schooling. I am just saying I have learned to not stress over it. I firmly believe a child (even a child with disabilities) that is taught to seek God, will seek to learn and grow, if they see this in their parents’ lives.”
About one-on-one time with each child, Katie wrote,
If you don’t need to take a nap everyday, then this is a good one for one-on-one time. We have a rest time every day at our house at 1:00 to 2:00. So when my kids were younger, I would spend half an hour of that rest time with one of them once a week, on a rotating schedule. (Now, I would not spend time with a child under age 2, because as we know, a child under two usually gets plenty of our one-on-one time during feeding and other activities, and also they need their nap.)
Now that our kids are older and can watch each other, we (my husband and I) take one child out each week for some special time. It may be a visit at Wendy’s over a Frosty or a walk downtown — nothing fancy, just time together. Our kids always know when their day is coming, and they plan on it! This is great, because it allows them to share with us things they have been wanting to tell us for a while, and it makes them feel special.
If you are in a church family, small group, homeschool group, or something like that, here is an idea for getting out once in a while alone. This was hard for me to do, but once I did it, I was so glad. Not only did my husband and I get out once in a while, but I built some great friendships and so did my kids.
Here’s how: Ask anyone and everyone if they would like to trade watching kids. You watch their kids one night, and then when you go out, they watch yours. One of the friends I did this with watched our kids (all nine at that time) for five days at our house while we went to California to adopt a son. We watched her two sons for a week while she and her husband went on an anniversary getaway. We built a relationship together so that we both trusted each other with our kids.
If anyone in your church offers to watch your kids, take them up on it. Don’t be stubborn. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. If you’re not sure if the older woman who offers will be able to handle it, then the first time she comes over, only go out for an hour. Believe me, you will never know until you trust God with your kids.
- Check out my posts on homeschooling with preschoolers for some ideas.
- Check out my e-books, Time Management for Tired Women and The Four Foundations of Lifelong Learning for ideas on scheduling your day when you feel overwhelmed.
I’m praying for you, and I know God will give strength and wisdom and encouragement,