My life is a triage. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of triage is: the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors
I don’t like the whole “maximizing the number of survivors” part. I mean, I hate to think that if I make the wrong choice in attending to my children, some may not survive. That’s pretty extreme. But really, this is how I feel most days. I can’t help one with their homework, get a snack for another, drive another to their ball game, help another find their shoes, get medicine for yet another, and help the last one get the carrot out of his nose all at the same time. I feel like I’m always trying to figure out who needs the most attention immediately and who can wait a bit. Then I reassess and make sure I haven’t shoved the same kid on the back burner too many times. I want to make sure I ignore each kid equally.
I usually do pretty well taking care of the kids who need it the most while delegating tasks to the others, and for the most part, I’ve been able to banish the accompanying guilt. I know that I may not make it to every single game my kids play because two or three of them often have games on the same night. But, I get to at least one of their games every night and I arrange rides so each child can get to where they need to be even if I can’t drive them.
I may not be able to help each child with their homework, but I make sure one of the older kids can give the younger ones a hand. And it almost never has anything to do with the fact that I don’t understand the little ones’ math homework.
I may not be able to complete the laundry, make dinner, wash the dishes, and sweep the floor every day, but I can assign chores to the kids and/or let it slide now and then.
And I don’t carry around the guilt (too much) because my inability to be everywhere at once/do everything for everyone has taught my kids responsibility. They’re learning how to care for themselves and one another. They know that families help each other. Learning these skills and becoming self-sufficient is a necessity in a large family. It’s not a bad thing when older siblings help care for younger ones. It’s not a bad thing when kids learn how to get along and compromise and help each other. It’s not bad to learn the value of work. And this fact was driven home the other day when I went to Jackson’s conference at school. I talked to his life skills (home ec) teacher and got the report that Jackson already knows what she’s teaching. I remember when Austin and Savannah were in that same class a couple years ago. They both came home from school, incredulous that their classmates didn’t know how to do laundry, or make cookies or bagel pizzas, or sew on a button.
So I’m hereby giving you permission to drop the guilt of not being able to do everything. Instead, feel good that you’re teaching your kids to be self-sufficient. (Otherwise I’ll have to feel guilty and I’m tired of feeling guilty about everything.)
Want to read more from Dawn? Whether you’re thinking about having kids, you’re pregnant now, or you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll love her popular, You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth)!