three is the new six


“Wow, you have your hands full.” From a librarian.
“I’ll move, you have enough to do.” When our carts were on a path to colliding in Target.

Since when did three kids become a large family? “Are they all yours?” asks someone in the checkout line. What do you mean, “all”? There are only three of them! (In his defense, in the checkout line it always seems like my children mysteriously multiply their powers until I am trying to keep track of at least nine of them.) (And what is it with people issuing family commentary in Target? Seriously it’s almost enough to make me a Walmart shopper.)

The thing is, I would like to believe that three is a huge family because then feeling overwhelmed at the thought of adding a fourth would seem justified. The sense of how very blessed I am and the sense of being totally overwhelmed by those blessings are my two dominant feelings these days. (After nausea.) The how-am-I-ever-going-to-manage-it-all feelings aren’t new to me: I’ve felt like this every time our family has grown (or moved) since my first one. I look back and think, Am I just weak? I follow the same pattern every time, like an episode of Dora the Explorer. One, two, three. Baby coming, hooray. Baby’s getting closer, hmmmm. Baby arrives, holy cow.

I think maybe the reason I have the same feelings every time (instead of arriving at some calmer, more triumphant phase of seasoned motherhood) is because it’s true every time. I can’t do this and my first mistake is the underlying, deeply-rooted assumption that I can’t seem to shake that I not only can but that it should be easy for me. This assumption makes no sense–the world is overfull right now of those crazy lists of how many hours moms work and what the conditions are and the various bodily fluids we must encounter on the job and how many roles we fill and how great we are to do it all (and those lists usually leave out working mothers, who have it even harder). It isn’t easy at all, and if perfection is our goal it isn’t even possible.

It’s true that I’ve been overwhelmed over and over because, each time adding to the family was a big challenge to who I was at the time. But God gives grace, children are a blessing from the Lord, and–don’t miss it–the abilities he gives each of us to care for them are blessings from him too. He helps us learn to balance it all as we go. There is that one relevant question Dora never forgets to ask, “Who do we ask for help when we don’t know which way to go?” (If your brain is shouting “The MAP!” right now you have my wholehearted sympathy.) We ask God, who, according to Jesus’ younger half-brother James, “gives {wisdom} generously to all without reproach and it will be given him” (James 1:5).



One of the things I enjoy about blogging is that sometimes people write to discuss mommy stuff: it gives this lonely move-around girl the illusion that we’re living life together. Lately the questions “How is three different than two?” and “How do you make dinner?” seem to be repeatedly appearing in my inbox. For my take on these fascinating topics, stay tuned.

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12 Responses to three is the new six

  1. therigneys says:

    I really appreciated the part about those lists that make stay-at-home mothers out to be the savior of the world. They are always a bit much for me- like one big pat-yourself-on-the-back session. (And I always wonder what the reaction would be if men began writing about all the things they do as fathers- I can’t imagine that going over near as well 😉 Oh, and this part: “Baby arrives, holy cow.” I chuckled out loud remembering our many talks about postpartum and I will *forever* have you to thank for being the one friend who was truly honest with me about how hard postpartum can actually be! And leave Target for Walmart? Can we at least discuss this? Feeling a little betrayed. 😉

  2. Jenna says:

    Oh how I love this! I have gone through this entire process in the last 8 months as I’ve gone thru all sorts of stages in this pregnancy facing “THE 4TH CHILD” and wondering half the time who thought I was up for this! But I like what you said that God promises to give us the wisdom (I cling desperately to this!) and he graciously teaches us to handle more than we thought possible (while making billions of mistakes in the process and praying that some day our kids will forgive us!) our due date is June 9th. It’s coming soon 😉
    Now, I have been crazy busy with company and projects lately- so did I miss it? Are you prego again?
    Love your writing so much friend!

    • betsy says:

      Congratulations on #4! Prepare to leave zillions of comments with practical tips, I need you. And yes, praise God, we’re having a baby–due December 7. Thank you for the lovely and encouraging comment!

  3. Sarah says:

    Wow, timely post. Just what I’ve been needing to read. I wish I could express how much your writing has encouraged me since I discovered your blog as well as you have so often articulated what I feel God trying to teach me but I can’t quite figure out. We are very much alike in personality, Betsy, and I do feel like I have a kindred spirit with whom to live life together, if only through the internet. Thank you for offering up your friendship through your blog. I’m glad I am not the only one who feels inclined to ask you how you do things, the dinner question for sure! Your tips and musings on moving and Home have stuck in my mind and I intend to re-read some of those posts as we undertake that adventure soon. (Moving 2.7 miles in June, but in a year or so, a bigger and more uncertain change awaits–practical packing and home-making tips very much needed!) And if you’re taking requests, could you share how you do your Bible study/devotions/daily seeking of grace and wisdom?

    • betsy says:

      Hi Sarah, thank you so much for your encouraging comment! I wish we DID know each other. I wanted to respond to your last question, that one is a complicated one to write publicly about for lots of reasons–but it’s a really important one so I shouldn’t shy away from it. I’ll have a think, as the English say. Love your phrase–“daily seeking of grace and wisdom”–let’s keep doing that!

  4. Ashlea says:

    Congrats on #4, Betsy and family! We started just one year ahead of you, but we are on the same track. What if you have a boy this time? We will be just alike– 2 girls followed by 2 boys. Boy or girl though… how delightful!

    You know we added our 4th 8 months ago. I will say that to me many people made a big “to do” about the transition between 2 to 3 kids, and acted like any more after that is no big deal. Well, I think any time you add a child, it is a transition. Think of how it felt going from 0 to 1! Remember how overwhelmed you felt? Now I want to giggle at the ease of just one. Going from 2 to 3 does add a level of chaos, after all you only have 2 parents or better yet 2 hands when flying solo. So, the chaos already exists prior to #4, but adding a 4th adds one MORE mouth to feed, body to clean, laundry to do, etc– whatever you have had to do with the other 3, you will have to do with one more. It’s simple math. 🙂 But, you also get one MORE little smile to fill your heart, one more little set of eyes looking soulfully at you, one more tiny hand to hold, one more life to snuggle, cherish and teach. What an honor! I have been blessed to have many friends around me with 4 kids, but I also know that many of us talk about how we were not so heartily congratulated on #4 (and perhaps with our congrats came the question… “So, are you done now?”). Well, to you I say, CONGRATS!!! And again I say, “CONGRATS!” No, it’s not easy being a mother period– and four has it’s own challenges and chaos– but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it also brings great joy! My how I love these little blessings.

    And yes, we get all of the stranger stares. You can feel the looks sometimes as they watch the circus enter. One of the funniest comments I’ve heard from strangers of late as they watch us trying to get all of our kids going in or out of places is: “It’s like herding cats.” And you know what? IT IS! They are so right. And I don’t care a bit. It’s funny. We struggle. I laugh sometimes watching other people struggle when they take care of my children for me, perhaps because I have been there a million times (or maybe because I have a sick sense of humor? Ha!). We are a circus, but sometimes we are a very fun circus. The strangers often think these little ones cute, even if they think simultaneously that we are crazy. The people who know our children LOVE them and tell us often how very precious they are. I am sure you hear the same, because children really are a gift from the Lord. Enjoy! You know, we all need to say this simple quick prayer multiple times a day… “Lord, have mercy!” Oh how I need this in many areas of my life, but most definitely as a mother. I fail, but I also apologize, try again, love, and hope. 🙂

  5. Cara says:

    Excellent and Amen! I am right there with you, Betsy. Overwhelmed and grateful. Joe and I have been talking about this idea that service is our glory. Jesus came to serve, and in it he glorified the Father. If there is any glory in me, it is that I humbly serve in the power of Christ. We die 1,000 deaths everyday, but it’s not selflessness that we are seeking. Service is our reward, our benefit, our joy. Somehow. I’m still working this out in my mind and heart, but I think it’s right.
    P.S. I am writing this moments after my little Finn poured an entire cup of water all over my back and the couch, then slipped in the water, hitting his head on the floor and waking up Crosby with his screaming. All the while Ruby and Oliver are fighting over who gets to be which train on the train track. Deaths #246 and #247 for the morning. Lord, have mercy.

  6. Kay Lynn says:

    I am still savoring the line that “I’ve been overwhelmed over and over because, each time adding to the family was a big challenge to who I was at the time.” Well said.

  7. Pingback: keep calm and dog on: we are helped in our duty by a quiet heart | part of the main

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