“Help” for a M.O.M. (Mama of Many)

Disclaimer: This is some pure Rachaelology here folks. If you can’t hang, (read: take it with a grain of salt and smile) you might want to move along to a different blog.

“Do you need help?” I glanced to my right before walking into the post office this afternoon to see who had addressed me. My first thought was, “Dear goodness, I hope not.” I thanked the poor dear kindly and assured him I had it under control. I held the door for him and he hobbled on inside. I had to mentally shake my head and laugh. The man was kind indeed to offer help to me. He used a cane and from all appearances had just come back from serving a 50 year prison sentence in Azkaban. I was carrying my 3.5 month old in the infant carseat on one arm. (I’m trying to learn Babywearing but it’s proving tricky in this in-between stage.) Over the other shoulder I had my bag and package of cloth diapers that I was mailing. (The resale value of used diapers is something I am still amazed by.) The thing is… I only had one child with me. One very small child. Ha! If he had seen me with the rest of my beautiful brood he would have assumed I needed help.
I do not consider myself to actually be a Mama of Many. I only have four children. When I hear “large family” I usually think of a family with 6 or more children. However, I am grouped together with M.O.Ms because my children are closely spaced. Society calls us a large family. So for purposes of this discussion, that’s how I will refer to us.
In American culture today, people with more than the standard 2.3 children are seen as anomalies. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been looked at askance in the grocery store and badgered with questions such as “Are they ALL yours?” (That is one of the nicer questions, actually.) For a long time, I thought people must be misunderstanding me. Perhaps they thought I had 14 children. Surely four wouldn’t cause this big of a fuss would it? But that’s a different topic for a different day.
I would like to illustrate some of the ways that others have tried to “help” me. And maybe bring to light some of the ways one might actually help a M.O.M.
1. Laundry. There are literal mountains of laundry piled up in various stages of the washing/drying/folding process in a large family’s home on any given day.
Honestly, this is not the first place I would direct any help. I love laundry. It soothes me. But since we are laying it all out there… I will say it plainly.
Grabbing up the first pile of clothing you see and stuffing it into my washer with the wrong detergent is NOT helping. You have just made a mess. And quite possibly taken life out of those clothes that I work very hard to preserve. God help you if you mixed up my piles. Some things can be dried in the dryer. Some cannot. One example: Dirty diapers that have been rinsed only (not washed yet) should definitely NOT be put into the dryer. Doing this will result in a urine scented home. Yummy.
Want to help with laundry? Fold clean clothes. Don’t try to put them up. The end.
2. Newborn baby. This is where I get the most requests to “help.” Helping when I have a newborn baby involves cooking for the family and scrubbing bathrooms. Also changing sheets is acceptable. Taking my older children out to play is the best way to help. Reading to them and making them feel special too is the greatest way to help. Coming to snuggle a soft newborn while the M.O.M drags her exhausted tail around trying to carry on normal duties is not considered helping. Either show up with a story book or a toilet brush my friend. Or else we will see you in 6-8 months.
3. In public. There are very few ways in which you can help large families while they are on an outing. The best rule of thumb I can give you is, “Unless a child is in immediate danger of falling off something or getting run over in the street, please just give a friendly smile and be on your merry way.” Don’t stare at the family like you’ve never seen people before. Do not question them about their birth control methods if you aren’t prepared to answer questions about yours. If you can’t smile and say something polite, please act like we are invisible. Also, if you happen around a quiet corner and a woman is doing her best to feed her baby discreetly, again, pretend she is invisible. She is not out to embarrass you. It is not always possible to get back to the vehicle to feed a screaming baby. Opening doors, making POLITE small talk, anything you would normally do for anyone else is perfectly acceptable. Asking in front of them if they all have the same Daddy is not.
3. The kitchen. Here is where I will accept happy helpers in any capacity. My mother, grandmother, and great-aunt all help me in the kitchen. And I am SO grateful. After they have played with the children, they immediately start loading my dishwasher, washing the pots or cleaning the stovetop. Do I expect my visitors to do this? Never. It is a giant gift to me every time. That chore that would take me 2 solid hours to finish is being done so that I can tend to other things or small people. Cooking is also always welcome. Invite a large family over for supper at your house. Not many people do! This is a real blessing. Don’t worry, we will always bring a dish if you want.
4. Deep cleaning. There are actually two ways to help in this category. You can either mop, dust and wash windows or take the kids out to play so I can do it myself. Either way is fine with me. And I don’t care how you do it. I’m not picky a bit! (Do see the note on laundry, though. Pretty please. I’m begging you.)
There are certain people in my life that are always a blessing to me and my family. I do my best to bless them back. After all, our true HELP comes from the Lord. It is from Him we should draw strength. Let’s all make an extra effort this weekend to treat others the way we want to be treated and to esteem others better than ourselves. And if you are TRULY interested in families that are different from your own, then by all means, ask. Polite, respectful questions will be answered in kind. Most of us would love to give you our testimony.

Know Him and make Him known,

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