We moved to another country and we got pregnant with our third child. Types so easily but boy, that meant quite an adventure for our not-so-little family in a span of one and half years.
Our immigration journey began in mid-2017 with the intent for me to go back to school to study abroad. But God had other plans and we ended up in another country altogether and since then, my life has been full-time Mommahood and full-time homeschooling.
We have been homeschooling even in the Philippines, but with the move and the baby, of course it took awhile to get our homeschooling back on track and even longer to find a groove. Just when we thought we were easing back into some semblance of a routine, the new baby or our middle child’s constant tantrums would just throw a wrench into the wheel. It was a constant struggle to adjust to having three children, and very difficult facing our middle child’s adjustment troubles.
Having to share Mommy with a new baby especially since she is still breastfeeding was no easy feat for her. And especially heartbreaking was Mommy was cranky to her L I felt so all touched-out during and after my pregnancy that I refused her so many times. I still reel in guilt whenever I think about that. All my little girl wanted, needed, was Mommy but I was too preoccupied with all that I have to do and all I have to be all day, everyday. It was HARD. That was my all-time low Momma moment and what eggs me to do Mommahood better everyday. I’m my children’s only mom but they deserve a better me.
And so, there I was (and sometimes still am), feeling like a brand-new mom once again badly outnumbered by three kiddos and overwhelmed by house tasks and having to homeschool the kids too.
I am very passionate about homeschooling our children, as my husband is too. I relish the learning process with my kids and being there to witness their “aha!” moments when they learn or discover something new or interesting. I love spending time with them and going to the zoos, libraries and doing life with them.
But for the first time, I was ready to throw in the towel with homeschooling. Not only did I question my capability, but I questioned the time available. It just seemed physically impossible!
Yet, today, we are completing a full-scale curriculum for my firstborn that covers History, Language Arts, Reading, Social Studies, Science, Math, Writing and he attends Hands-On Science, Art, Basketball , Drum and Voice classes outside the home with other students (both homeschooled and public-schooled). We have started on a new curriculum our three year old and we try to read everyday. And our baby is now ten months old and thankfully, very well-fed so I feel like I’m not so badly “lacking” with her yet (haha!). But how things have worked out for us against our “best, most well laid-out plans” can only come from Someone who obviously knows better. It does not escape me that the mere fact the family is fed and clothed everyday is nothing short of a miracle. How every mother can do what she needs to do really does require divine intervention for it seriously requires superhuman strength.
Grace. So much grace. This should have been the title of this post. For I may have been lacking in wisdom, strength and patience these past two years, but that one certainly wasn’t. And the lessons were flowing abundantly too. Let me share some that resonated the most to me as a mother. I write these perhaps to help another Momma, but it really is for me, to remind me again and again through the seasons—both the easy and difficult ones.
Lesson 1: Nothing in permanent.
There were so many difficult moments when I almost slid down towards despondency because I felt it would always be “like this” and there’s nothing better to look forward to. But nothing could be further from the truth. Especially with young kids where nothing, not even the days, are the same! Tell me I’m wrong, Momma. In parenthood, we get thrown into the strangest, newest experiences a lot of the time and we’re caught off guard. Sometimes, it’s really difficult, but sometimes, it’s just new and needs some learning and adjusting to. This was my epiphany in dealing with my daughter’s constant tantrums. She would act up whenever she would need my attention and not get it or worse, when I would get angry instead (I know, so so so bad). She was picking up all the negative feelings I was harboring. And as I was too busy to listen to her, she screamed louder and ransacked the house to get my attention. Oh yeah, I learned. I’ve learned to grow so weary with tantrums that my own self chose to calm itself down and have a burst of energy to carry her and give her my undivided attention. Suddenly, my impatient self knew how to be patient. See? Nothing is permanent.
Lesson 2: Caregiving is trust-building.
Being my children’s caregiver 24/7 is no easy feat, but there is no doubt in my mind that I can only do this, and homeschooling, because they trust me. And that is something I’m trying to cultivate in our home too—that we should be able to trust them too. Lately, I have been talking to our three-year old directly whenever I ask her to do something: “Emma, I need your help in packing away so we can finish right away. I’ll do the clean-up inside the room, you can do the one on your playmat. Can I trust you to obey Mommy?” I found that she responds to this better, especially if I’m talking in an even tone and always warm with her. Many balk at the idea that a mom, especially a college graduate, can just be a stay-at-home mom taking care of the house and kids, but I don’t know of a better job. I’m taking care of, nourishing, helping shape mindsets, characters, people. And I’m being loved in return. These little children look to me to care for them, to teach them. Yes, no doubt it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world, but its rewards are incomparable. I know I’m right where I want to be. And the trust they have in me—that’s precious. I plan on keeping that trust and making it count.
Lesson 3: Stop counting.
Since all my children are frequent nightwakers and are breastfeeders, I wake up several times a night. I’ve done so since our firstborn was born seven years ago. I don’t count the number of hours I sleep anymore or the number of times they breastfeed during the day. My mantra is just to give and give. You know why? Because I always found that I had something to give, even when I thought I was all spent and fruitless. God refills me every time even though I didn’t want to anymore (don’t you sometimes just want to find good reason to give up?). When I stopped counting, this is when I saw the difference in my attitude too. I stopped looking at what’s ahead and just focus on what’s in front of me. In this way, I am able to give my best, my all without worry of what to give tomorrow. Tomorrow takes care of itself. And that sometimes mean, I’m exhausted everyday anyway…what’s another nursing session? At least I get to lay down and snuggle with my baby J This lesson also applies to marriage, where it sometimes seems more justifiable to count what you do against what your husband does (?). Don’t fall for the temptation. That can only lead to the worst in attitude and a polluted heart. These days, I just have enough energy to try to keep faithful. Just faithfully taking care of the kids, taking care of the home, homeschooling them, loving my husband gracefully, and trying to take care of myself by eating more healthily. I leave the results of all of that to the Lord. He knows better.
Lesson 4: Try not to be pissed off at your kids.
Sa pagiging magulang, ang pikon talo (In parenting, the one who easily gets pissed off loses out). Toddlerhood can be savagery. All-out self-centeredness that is demanding and relentless in a cute but screaming package. Do you think you deserve this? Maybe. But not after a sleepless night nursing her and a baby. So you get pissed. I know I have countless times. It took awhile for me to understand and accept one thing everybody’s been saying: She’s just a kid. And whatever impatience and anger I give in to, there’s going to be hell to pay. Diffusing the tantrum is just the easy part. But mending a little child’s broken heart that you caused…that one will get to you and stay with you for a long time. Not to mention, it makes disciplining harder and your relationship invariably affected. So next time you’re at your wits’ end, take a deep breath, forgive and kiss the little rascal.