By Jill Heink
A little over 30 years ago, my husband and I had the unique experience of welcoming triplet daughters to our family, 23 months after our son was born. Having four children under the age of 2 precipitated a lot of life changes, including a change of career for me — I was promoted from conducting lab research to chief operations manager of our family. We didn’t have relatives who lived in town, and we had just moved across town (we needed a bigger house!), but we found great support in our new parish and in our new neighborhood.
I also became an active member of the local mothers of twins and multiples club. In the pre-internet days, information about caring for twins and more was not readily available, so getting together with experienced parents was extremely valuable and a lot of fun. I took the lead on getting grants from organizations such as the March of Dimes so that our local club could print up helpful information and get it out to where expectant parents could find it.
The years have flown by, and we’ve ticked off lots of milestones, including graduations, weddings and, best of all, grandchildren. I’m still active in the parents of multiples group — it’s great when
the new moms tell me that I give them hope for survival. I also get asked a lot for advice. As the humorous saying goes, “Before I had children, I had four theories of child raising; now I have four children and no theories.” But I offer these four simplified thoughts that have helped me over the years.
1. Pray: St. Paul’s advice to “pray without ceasing” comes very naturally once you are a parent. There’s so much to pray for when it comes to your children — their health, their safety, their choices — and it never really ends. Teaching your children to pray and praying with them may seem more challenging, especially as kids add more to their lives as they grow, but as with any other endeavor, the more you practice, the better you become. And remember, attending Mass together every week is a vital part of family prayer.
2. Connect: We need a lot of support on our life journey, and we need to give a lot of support as well. It’s important as a family to reach out, connect and share with the people and families at church, at school, in clubs, in sports teams, in neighborhoods, etc. We know from Jesus’ stories and examples that we also need to connect to and share with the people who are not like us or, sadly, who have hurt us. That makes for some deep family discussions and decisions over the years about how to connect love and forgiveness in our family life.
3. Relax: Systems and scheduling go a very long way in making daily life flow smoothly, but every family will have its own unique approach. Comparing what your family is doing or the trips you’re taking with what you see on social media is a bad idea (and a lot of that isn’t the whole story, anyway). Keeping the kids fed, clothed and safe is the main thing. As Mother Teresa said, “It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.”
4. Enjoy: Focus on at least one funny and positive thing that happened each day, especially on days when things didn’t go so well. Tell and retell family stories that make everyone smile. Keep special family traditions. Being a mom or a dad is hard work, for sure, but just like any other achievement that is hard won, the joy and sense of accomplishment of seeing your children grow are like nothing else and worthy of a great reward in heaven.