Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Colleen Martin of Martin Family Moments

20 August 2014

A big welcome to my friend Colleen who is doing this installment of Before I Had a Seven Year Old, a series where I ask women about their early experience of motherhood. 

Colleen blogs about family life over at Martin Family Moments. I knew I would ask Colleen to contribute to this series because of this little post she wrote about Mother's Day back in May. I'm so excited to have her here today.
 
How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have six kiddos, John-Paul is 11, Andrew is 9, Eamon is 7, Maggie is 6, Alexander is almost 3, and Declan is 3 months.

What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
I just need to start out by saying that the most difficult "season" of being a mother so far was when I had all little ones.  When my fourth baby was born, my oldest was only 4 years old. They all needed so much from me! When my 6th baby was born, my oldest was 11, and actually the oldest four kids are all at very easy ages. They are independent enough that they don't rely on me for everything, but not too old that I'm worried about a whole new set of parenting issues. They are in that sweet spot, which for me is the elementary school age group. When we leave the house, everyone can get themselves dressed and shoes on, help me carry a diaper bag, or hold the toddler's hand. They can all climb in the car and buckle themselves up. My main job now is to take care of the baby and shout out orders :)

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
The grocery bills!!! Haha, they eat so much now, and we're not even in the teenage years yet! I think I also miss that they were all so very excited about anything we did - be it a trip to the playground, the library, Target. Everything was new and exciting and fun. Now, when I have to go run errands, I get a few moans and groans. When they are little, they don't talk back!


What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
Breastfeeding.  I used to worry about how much milk I was making and would feed my firstborn on a schedule instead of on demand. I would always separate myself from a group to go feed the baby, and felt like I was missing out on fun parties and meals because of it. With the first baby, we had to supplement a bottle of formula at night because he was a teeny little one, and that stressed me out because "breast is best" and all that jazz. Now I'm just like, whatever, I breastfeed as long as everyone is happy, and give formula whenever it's needed. A happy and healthy baby AND mommy AND other family members are the goal.
Have you ever (metaphorically...or literally) locked yourself in the bathroom to stay sane? I want to hear about that moment.
When things get rough, I exercise to stay sane. It's my alone time and my mental health boost. I didn't discover how much I needed it until after my 4th baby was born, and once I made it a priority, everything in life felt easier. I used to have my sneakers on and as soon as my husband would get home from work, I would hand him the baby and jet out the door for a quick run. Sometimes I give myself timeouts when I can tell I'm especially grumpy or angry and go take a shower or lay down in bed for 15 minutes, thanking God for all the blessings I have. Because a thankful heart is a happy heart, some wise VeggieTales told me.

As a new mother, how did you find time for yourself?
Yeah, I didn't do too hot on that. I think most new moms devote themselves to the kids and forget to make some time for themselves for their mental and physical health. My breaks back then were in the form of grocery shopping sans kids once my husband returned home from work. Once I realized I could join a gym that offered childcare, my breaks were working out for an hour in the morning while the kids played. I can't emphasize the importance of finding some exercise time to moms.

How did you find time to encourage your marriage?
I'll let you in on a little secret of marital success - put the kids to bed early!! Phil and I have about 2 hours every night that we are awake and by ourselves, and it's awesome. We try to get all our household chores and work done before 8 pm and can watch tv together, talk, eat something fancier than normal, whatever. Of course, all that alone time is probably why we have so many kids :)

How did you build community for yourself and for your family?
This is something that has taken us years and years to do. We are so lucky that many of our friends are people who work with us or go to our parish. We purposely chose jobs and a parish that allowed for that. Back when I started having babies and didn't know a lot of people, I joined a Moms Club and did activities with them, which really helped alleviate that lonely feeling you get being a SAHM. Then we started having Sunday night football parties during football season, which morphed into Sunday night game nights when football was over. Those times were really wonderful because most of the people who came didn't have kids, so we could just put our kids to bed and not worry about a babysitter but still have social time. Once we joined our current parish, we met some lovely families that have become friends, and anytime we've been involved in a group (like a Men's Prayer Group, or my bookclub) we have the opportunity to make new friends. You can't make friends by isolating yourself in your house all day. Even though sometimes I would like too :)

What's one specific thing you're glad that you've taught your older children?
That children are a blessing.  See their reaction when we told them we were expecting baby #6 :)
What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
The hardest was going from 2 to 3 kids for many reasons. One, your two oldest are not very old and still need a lot of help. Two, your hands are outnumbered by your kids and going anywhhere becomes a safety and logistical nightmare. And three, our third baby was colicky and definitely my most difficult baby.  

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
Everything is a passing phase. When you're going through it, it fells like forever, but it doesn't last. That goes for all the good and bad things associated with being a parent. Also, it gets easier as they get older. Pinky swear.

Thanks for reading and thank you so much to Colleen! And if you veteran moms are interested in sharing your own stories from the early years be sure to link up here.



12 comments :

  1. Haha we put our kids to bed early and have about 2 hours to ourselves and our friends always joke that that's why we have so many! Thanks for sharing this Colleen, it gives me hope since I have four and my oldest are 4 year old twins!

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  2. I love this series. So interesting to get insight into other moms' lives and to see how they made it work.

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  3. thank you Colleen. My two year old won't stay in his bed and I need to remember this too is a passing phase. As I fall asleep in my coffee!

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  4. Love the new look on the blog! Also, jealous that y'all went to the bluebell factory. Tillamook is almost as good. But only almost....

    I am kinda terrified when people say 2 to 3 is the hardest! I just keep telling myself that Claire and Maggie will be playing so well together and never fighting at all that they'll entertain themselves all day. Right??

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  5. New to your blog. Love love love love love this series! I keep reading the segments over and over for peace of mind, Ha! My kiddos are 3 and 1.

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  6. This is such a great series. :)

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