The days are long, the years are short. I have thought that to myself many times since my youngest child left for college two years ago. If I had a dollar for every time I muttered under my breath, “Will you just grow up” to one or both of my offspring, I’d be sipping a mojito on my yacht off the Florida Keys right now rather than writing in my dank, sunless kitchen.
Yet, now that the endless piles of laundry have diminished and the kids’ bedrooms remain pristine and my vacation need not revolve around the school calendar and there’s no last minute, “Uh, Mom … I need a panda costume by tomorrow morning for our extinct animal presentation,” I miss those days. Perhaps what J.D. Salinger wrote in Catcher in the Rye is true: “Mothers are all slightly insane.”
Slightly insane or not, moms everywhere will be fêted this Sunday with flowers, brunches, homemade cards, and hugs and kisses. The sleepless nights, the worry, the stretch marks, and the frustration will fade into the background for a few precious hours.
I always thought that juggling two children of each gender, five years apart in age, was challenging enough for me. Except for a couple of elementary school years, they were always in different schools and schedules. How, I wondered, did women with large families handle the daily, unrelenting chores of motherhood?
West Hartford resident Cara Moylan knows firsthand the juggling act of raising many children under one roof. Moylan, who left a career in law to become a stay-at-home mother, has five children ranging in age from 14 years to 18 months old.
With the four oldest active in lacrosse and soccer, and one still in diapers, Moylan’s days are a carefully choreographed dance of shuttling back and forth, homework, feedings and, finally, bedtime for all. She spoke with Patch about the challenges of raising many children and the parenting wisdom that comes with it.
“I have learned over the years that you definitely don’t sweat the small things,“ says Moylan. “The hardest was the first baby because you realize that you don’t have control over everything. Now I’ve learned that the schedule is what it is.”
The schedule definitely becomes more flexible with each child as Moylan notes that the older ones determine the routine. “When my oldest was in first grade, he was in bed at eight o’clock and now that I have kids coming home at eight o’clock and having dinner at that time, that means that everybody, including the younger ones, get pushed back. That’s just the nature of what happens.”
Yet Moylan notes that that’s not always a bad thing. “That’s why the younger ones are definitely more flexible and can go with the flow. My kids help out a ton with the younger ones. Maybe they have had to grow up faster but, in the end, I think they are better people for it.”
Does the prospect of an orderly home become only a dream with many children? Moylan says not necessarily. “My house has always been pretty neat and I think you have to set a standard. When they make a mess they have to pick it up. I do like order but I guess you would say that I have orderly chaos.”
It helps tremendously that each child has household responsibilities because, Moylan states, taking care of everyone is too much for her to handle alone. Each child is responsible for such chores as cleaning dishes, packing his or her lunch, putting clothes away, doing the laundry and mowing the grass. They must get themselves organized for sports, making sure that they have all of their equipment.
Homework struggles are kept to a minimum because they all know that it must be done before they go to a practice or play, or go to a friend’s house.
The best part about being a mother for Moylan? “The love and the sense of accomplishment. I can be so proud of them and I feel that it is worth it. My husband, thankfully, is a huge help and so appreciates what I do.”
There are days when Moylan wrestles with the “home vs. career” conundrum so many women frequently ponder. “I wake up and I think they are going to be gone and is it going to be too hard for me to go back to work, but I do feel that I am doing the most important job.”
In the end, it is obvious that there is more than enough love to go around no matter how many children are in a family. At the same time, Moylan says that there is an important lesson that children from big families must comprehend. “They don’t get everything they want when they want it. They just can’t get your full attention all of the time. I have a friend, a doctor, who just had her third child and she told me that she doesn’t have enough time. I told her the best gift you can give them is a sibling. The best gift is to have each other. For me, when I see them all together playing and having fun, that makes up for the times that someone is crying, hurt and upset.”
Happy Mother’s Day!