A common question that January and I often get asked is “How do you do it with six kids?” Every single time, for a split second, I try to come up with an enlightening and/or witty answer to raise eyebrows and/or draw a laugh. Instead, I usually resort to the following answer.
“I don’t know.”
As a parent of six kids at 36 years of age, I look back at my 24-year-old, one-child-parent self and think (often) about what a whiny moron I was. Seriously. How did I remember to breathe? For example, on the day our oldest was born, January packed her bags expecting to have a c-section that day. When the doctor confirmed her gut feeling by suggesting we go for it that day and January agreed, I might as well have been a deer in the headlights. My counterargument to having the baby that day? “I didn’t sleep well last night!” Yep. Poor me. I remember that weekend in the hospital following the c-section as a horribly tortuous experience, mainly because I didn’t sleep well that weekend.
When our oldest got to be about four to five months old and often woke up at 4am, I would wallow in self pity for being up so early in the morning, dreading the coming day and wondering how I would survive until the evening. Now I love being up that early because it means I’m the only one up and I can do what I want! Booyah!
Babies/children two, three, four, and five all came with different sets of parenting challenges that don’t need to be listed out. Through it all, the answer has always been the same. When I was in chiropractic school and my single and/or childless classmates asked me how I was getting through school with a family, it was always “I don’t know.”
For the longest time that was true. However, in recent years I have discovered how I do it, yet I still tell people “I don’t know.” Yep. It’s true. I’m a fibber.
I DO know how I do it. I’ll tell you how.
(I know I’m a little out of order from what the title says… Don’t worry, “Sex” is on its way.)
When January and I are on the same page in our marriage, raising six kids is simple. Not easier, mind you. Definitely not easy. Hell-to-the-no on that. The afternoon/early evening from about 3-7pm when the kids transform into needy, hovering imps who enjoy nagging, screaming, fighting, and whining with anyone within a 100 foot radius is all the proof any parent needs of that. But when the marriage is strong, when there is unity between the two partners, the imps lose their power.
The best way to cultivate that strength is through selflessness. I am a very selfish person by nature. As a kid, teenager, and young adult my attitude was very much “I like to do what I want to do when I want to do it and I don’t want anybody to do it with me or for me or near me unless I say they can and I won’t say they can so go away and leave me alone.” Getting married softened that attitude up a little (not much), but having kids—having a lot of kids—really helped bury that useless mindset for me. Don’t get me wrong, if January and I are having a conversation and each child interrupts us to ask us the same question the previous child just asked, and this is taking place in 30 second intervals, Pre-Parent Brandon will rear his ugly head with a finger pointing out of the room, accompanied by an “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”
It can be tough. Putting our own needs to the side in favor of raising good, productive human beings is incredibly difficult and mentally taxing. Sometimes the video games or the weekend hunting/fishing trips or a weekend of binge watching the new season of Orange is the New Black need to go on the back burner. (On a side note, I still haven’t seen this show, but it IS on my list of shows to watch). It took me until about the age of 35 to figure all this out, so don’t feel bad if you’re not quite there yet.
This is not to say you shouldn’t have any time to yourself. Six days a week I throw on the headphones, damage my eardrums with overly loud heavy metal and hit the weights or go for a run. Once or twice a week I’ll save my eardrums and do yoga. Either way, exercise keeps my sanity intact. It’s my meditation. For someone else it might be reading, or sewing/knitting, or going on walks, or having a cup of coffee watching the sun rise every morning. Whatever it is that recharges you, do it. You can’t fill the cup of others if your own cup is empty. And believe me, six kids asking to have their cup filled every five minutes taps you out fast.
And don’t forget your spouse/partner. This seems obvious, but sometimes the insanity of parenthood can get in the way. Remember, you had kids in the first place because you loved your partner a little too much. But then the kids show up and that can be easy to forget.
(I use “we” in general terms, but believe me, I DO NOT forget about having a little too much fun. Ever. Never ever. And speaking of, this qualifies as the “Sex” part of the article. It’s probably not the excitement you were expecting, but then again, the title was meant as click bait. *evil laugh*)
Having a date night once a week can be a lifesaver. Taking a few hours each week for dinner and a movie or whatever it is you enjoy doing as a couple fills your cup greatly. Getting the kids to bed at a decent hour can do the same. January and I are sticklers about the kids getting enough sleep (partly for them, mostly for us), so the absolute latest our kids stay up on average is 8:45-9pm during the summer. During school, they’re all in bed by 8pm. That gives us between two and four hours together depending on how late we stay up (It’s usually closer to four hours and then we pay for it in the morning… but hey, there’s always cold brew COFFAY to drink!).
There are ways to navigate a relationship through the stormy waters of parenthood, and like anything worth having in life, it will take some work.
So you see, I do know how I do it as a parent to six kids. However, I think I’ll just stick to answering “I don’t know” as I chuckle with exasperation. It’s a lot less to explain.
Plus, if I’m having a bad day, other people’s pity is appreciated.