MegaMom Interviews: How do you make sure each child gets enough attention?
I’m delighted to share another installment of my email interviews with moms of big families. Today I have answers from two “MegaMoms”. Ouiz of Chez Ouiz is currently pregnant with baby number seven, and Hope of Mothers of Many Saints is a mom of eight.
Today’s question is one of the ones that most perplexes me. I am an only child and even an only grandchild on one side of the family, so one thing I was particularly curious about is:
Q: A frequent concern for those of us who grew up in and around small families is getting to spend enough quality time with each child. What is your philosophy on that, and do you feel like you’re able to spend enough one-on-one time with each child?
I will always worry that I’m somehow short-changing someone in the attention department. With 6 little ones, it’s very hard to give everyone the same amount of attention as everyone else. That’s just life.
I try to look at it this way: the Lord knew that child X would be the middle child in a large family…or whatever…and will give him the grace he needs to be in that role. On days when I’m beating myself up agonizing over whether I’ve spent enough time with each child, I remind myself that He loves them even more than I do, and will take care of them and supply what they need when I’ve fallen short.
Over the course of a week, I try to make sure I’ve done SOMETHING with each of them — asking them to help me cook, or taking a few minutes to have a cup of tea with them while they tell me a story, or reading a special story to “just the boys”, etc. One of the best things I can do is make sure I give them my attention when they are talking to me…a small thing that sometimes is one of the biggest sacrifices I can make, but let’s them know that they are important enough for me to stop and listen to.
Where I am unable to give each child substantial chunks of time, their siblings jump right in. My children usually “pair up” and play with each other quite contentedly, so no child is ever “alone” unless he or she has specifically sought it out. There is ALWAYS someone to applaud their efforts, see the big tower they just built, or read them a story. There is a WHOLE LOT of laughter in this little house, so I must assume that they are growing up contentedly and happy.
I think this is a concern for every mom in some regard, and is the root of the “mommy guilt” that is popularly referred to so often in the media. All loving mothers wonder if they are doing enough. The question is, though, what is enough, and then, enough of what? It comes down to determining what kids really need and then making sure that that is what they get. It’s all about priorities. On the flipside, smothering children is not good for them either.
What my kids don’t get because I don’t have time: sun screen slathered on them every time they step out the door, their shoes and socks and coats all put on by mom (they figure it out), and hypervigilance over every bite at every meal (they learn, if you’re hungry eat, if you don’t eat, you’ll be hungry), or fussing over every sniffle.
Sometimes I feel guilty, but I have learned how competent even little children can be at caring for themselves, and how this acquired competence can lead to confident independence. I am also so glad I don’t worry over every little thing I hear some other mothers worrying over, I’d drive myself (and my children) crazy!
What my children do get because I make time: clean clothes (that they fold and put away), nutritious and homemade meals, a neat and organized home, a good education, lots of spirituality, and breastfed as babies.
One book I read that really helped me out was How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell. He writes that it is important to give your children three things — focused attention, eye contact, and physical affection. I really try to make sure that each kid get some of this every day, and it’s easy to do, simply by giving some attention to the story of a bad dream they had or an interaction with a friend, looking them in the eye when they walk in a room and giving a smile, or offering little back rubs or running my fingers through their hair as I walk by.
I may not be at every soccer game, but I am at every bedside every night. I spend a few minutes with each child talking and praying and giving back scratches, eye contact and blessings. Even when I’d rather be done with it, I am committed to this time with my kids.
Another consideration is homeschooling. Homeschooling affords me hours and hours a day to be with my kids. If I were working and they were in daycare or school, I don’t know how I’d give even a couple of children they attention they need. Sometimes I wonder at what people are thinking, as it is often the same people who question about quality time in big families who have their kids in a classroom all day with 20 kids and 1 teacher. My adult/child ratio is much better than that!
Additionally, I have learned that it’s not all about me. It is not all about the attention I give my kids because they give a lot of attention to each other. Mothers are irreplaceable, but so is a house full of siblings who love you.
Two fabulous responses, and another book to add to my Wish List. Huge thanks to Ouiz and Hope! For more great insights be sure to check out their blogs Chez Ouiz (Ouiz) and Mothers of Many Saints (Hope).