Four Moms Q and A

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Q. I received a request to address the very hard issue of how to respond to abuse in a home, either as the abused person or a friend.

A. I wish I had adequate words to address this, but I’ll try.  First, thanks for the reminder and the chance to address this important topic again.  I wish it wasn’t so important.  I wish it never happened so we never needed to know anything about it at all.  I also wish no baby ever died and that cancer was only a constellation of stars or a geographical landmark. But we live in a fallen world.

As I said,  I have written about it before, and I’d like to share these two posts in the hope that they will be of use others, whether those others be somebody in these circumstances, or a friend of somebody in them.  In fact, I am going to ask that you read them even if you think it will never happen to you or that you do not know anybody who could possibly be dealing with this. You might be shocked to know what some of your friends endure :  (read the comments, too, because some women who have been there also weigh in)

Q. Do you teach character? What curriculum do you use?

A. As Cindy at Ordo Amoris taught me, avoid ‘character-training’ programs. You really just need Proverbs and a good understanding of history.  Read lots of biographies.

Proverbs should be part of your family’s warp and woof.
Read through Proverbs over and over. An easy way to do this is to read through the Proverbs chapter that matches the day’s date. You can do this for years and it never gets old.

You can also add a specific assignment- as they read, have them keep notes on a sheet of notebook paper divided in half vertically. At the top of the left side of the page write down the heading ‘Fools’ and at the top of the right side of the page write down the heading “The wise”. As they read each day’s chapter have them make a list of any of the marks of a fool or the wise beneath the appropriate heading.  (this is an excerpt from here)

Q. how do you know how much food to make to feed everyone?

A.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!  I am laughing because I am famous in our circles for cooking more food than an army could eat.     I hate the thought of somebody leaving my table hungry.  So we usually have leftovers for lunches.  More seriously, you just sort of by guess and by golly it, watching your eaters.  An you have to continue to be observant, because eating habits will change.  That said, when the budget is tight, and when is it not, it’s worked for me to plan a minimum number of servings of the most expensive part of the meal or the main dish, and then have enough side dishes (sliced fruit) or a decent amount of an inexpensive filler on the side, so nobody leaves hungry, but neither are they filling themselves to the gills with the highest priced items on the table.  In addition to the usual basic rice, noodles, bread, and mashed potatoes, you could try stuff like:

Make a first course of soup to take the edge off.
Fan-cut baked potatoes
Caraway seed bread (both a soaked grain and a regular version)
turnip slaw
Roasted winter vegetables (if you have leftovers of this, they go nicely in a pot pie or in soup the following day)
Quinoa pilaf
Make your own batch of biscuit mix and you can set out extra biscuits (or cheesey biscuits) in a jiffy.

Q. How do you talk about abstinence and preparing your children for that time when they marry.

We talked a bit about that in a discussion of The Birds and the Bees, and then I had a follow up  post.

Q. Have any of you had difficulty getting pregnant?

There is a six year gap between our second and third biological children (we filled the gap with adoption, but that was later).  There is another six year gap after that.  And our baby is 14 and he’s not the baby because we made that choice.  None of those gaps were my choice. One of them…. well, let’s look to the next question:

Q. Has your husband ever wanted to stop having kids before you were ready?

A. I think about two years of the first 6 year ga between babies was my husband’s choice.  He did not want more children. We are not allowed to discuss this history much because it hurts him.  Anyway, my husband is a reasonable man and when I said, “Since I want more kids and you don’t, is it really fair to make me be the one responsible for preventing it?”  And his eyes widened and he said, “Oh.  Duh, of course that’s not right.  I will be responsible.  And after about six months of that, he said, ‘forget that, let’s make a baby,’ and there was great rejoicing- only…. we still did not make a baby.  Because….

The goal is to glorify God and to trust Him, in our case, with both fertility and family size.  That means you may have no children or one, or ten.  Or twenty.  That means you may have multiple miscarriages. That means you might adopt one, two, a dozen, or some other number.  It might mean secondary infertility, late term miscarriages, and years of no babies when you are so baby hungry every monthly cycle or phone call from a newly expectant friend might end with you huddled in a corner of the bathroom sobbing over your empty arms.  It has meant  all of those things at some point in our lives.

These are our convictions for our family.  Obviously, we think they are good, right, and true, or we would not hold these convictions.

However, we are not in the habit of counting other people’s children and coming to a conclusion about whether they had or have enough or whether they trust God or not.

Q. And a questions that may be hard for you to answer, but i get comments about the fact that I have only one (kinda like your comments about too many) and I don’t want to explain all the above, but the comments are hurtful. Any great response. I usually say that she is all God blessed us with, but I still feel hurt in the end.

A. I am so sorry.  Human beings are just so very thoughtless far too often.  I have been there, or close to there, when we were asked if were ‘done yet’ when I really wanted so much NOT to be ‘done.’  And then when our son turned out to be our last baby and first boy and folks would say, “OHHHH, so you FINALLY got your BOY and now you’ve quit,” and I was not ready to quit, I wanted another baby, and no, we were not trying for a boy, but who would believe me?  Ugh.

Anyway- nothing really takes the sting away all together.  These are things I found sometimes made it a little better, depending on my mood.  Um… I should say that some of these things I only imagined doing, I never actually did them, but thinking about ‘what if I really answered this way…” made me feel better. You can guess which are real and which are imagined:

I reminded myself of the dumb and hurtful comments I have inadvertently made before.

I say, “it’s a little complicated, and if you don’t mind, I’m not comfortable discussing it,” and change the subject.

I say in a sweet conversational tone, “You know, Miss Manners always says to answer those sorts of awkward questions with an astonished frozen smile, and perhaps a chilly, “I beg your pardon,” but I’ve never had the nerve to do that. What do you think about her advice?”

I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom, sobbing, “It’s too painful to talk about.”

I said things like, “Oh, no, he’s not our only boy.  He’s just the first one we liked enough to let out of the basement.”

When asked if I was ‘done’ yet, I would sniff the air and say, “Why, did the oven timer ring?”

I changed the subject without answering.

Q. How did you emotionally prepare for number two? I know this was several babies ago for everyone! I’m specifically wondering about loving #2 as much as #1, having babies in such drastically different stages and with such different needs (#1 is walking and learning to talk, verses a newborn who will want to nurse constantly – if past experience holds true), and any suggestions for making the transition easier.

A. I worried about all the same things you are worrying about and the worry about loving the second as much as the first evaporated quicker than water on a hot skillet the second I saw my baby.  Love is not divided in a large family, it multiplies.  You will be tired and frazzled for a while, but then you won’t remember much about that stage so it’s okay.  And you will figure out what works for you and how to muddle through the rest.

What do you do for lodging on long trips? Are there other options besides two hotel rooms?

A. We found out about the two hotel room thing when we went from three to five children overnight – my husband would go to the hotel and say, “We have seven/eight/nine of us, including a special needs child, and I am not paying for two rooms.  They usually gave us a room.  We slept like a litter of puppies all over the beds that were available, and we brought sleeping bags and slept on the floor.  Half the world sleeps on the floor as a matter of course.

We brought a tent and pitched it every night and took it down every morning (9 of us made the circuit of the Olympic peninsula that way)

We are an ex military family and we have lived in half the country and where we haven’t been, we have friends from there. We stay with a huge network of friends, church family, and even, sometimes, families we have first met only on the internet.

How do you teach your children to not make messes

I never did.  I learned (mostly) to sto making comparisons.

I learned about daily CLUTTER PATROLS!

Other ideas here.

I also stressed more “When you make a mess, you clean the mess” than I cared about not making the mess in the first place.  Messes to me are vital to the creative workings of the brain.


Don’t miss what the other four moms have to say:
Smockity Frocks,

and ME, at the Common Room


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  1. Heidi Miller
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    You are fortunate to find motels that allow you to all sleep in one room. We usually encounter, “Sorry, fire code will not allow us to put more than 5 in a room”. Ugh!

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      We did sometimes hear this. Maybe it’s just my husband, but more often than not we heard, “Well, we usually won’t do this, but okay….” Once the friendly hotel worker said, “I really can’t let you stay here, but here’s a motel that will” and he sent us to another one that did let us in.

      We never make reservations in advance, either. My husband asks at the desk when he signs in. It may also just be his personality. people either love him instantly or are intimidated by him instantly.

  2. Posted March 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I say in a sweet conversational tone, “You know, Miss Manners always says to answer those sorts of awkward questions with an astonished frozen smile, and perhaps a chilly, “I beg your pardon,” but I’ve never had the nerve to do that. What do you think about her advice?”

    I’ve tried this and it often goes over their heads and they just ask the questions louder and usually in more obnoxious terms, unfortunately. Most of the time, I just smile and pretend not to hear and go on.

    For our travel and the 2 hotel rooms, we finally purchased a bumper pull RV. At the most restrictive RV parks, we don’t need to be taking our children to them anyway. The only other limits have been at the TX state parks where the limit is 8 per site. However, as the kids grow and we add more, it’s nicer to have 2 campsites and it’s still cheaper than 2 hotel rooms.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I knew one lady who wanted to know none of your bizness questions about our adoptions. I told her our daughter did not like me to share those details with others. That horrible woman then went to the child she thought was adopted and tried to ask HER. The child was about 8 years old (and she got the wrong child, which seasoned my Mama Rage with a healthy dose of amusement).

      • Tamara
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        I tried to click the “like” button for this. 🙂

  3. LMS
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I am the mom of 6 ages 4 to 14. For travel, we have found larger suites with kitchenettes work fairly well but not always if all 8 of us are traveling. The problem is when those ‘suites’ only have one bathroom! And more and more absolutely won’t budge on the fire code regulations. Some are only 4 to a room even as room size has shrunk. In that case, and absolutely for more than 1-2 nights, renting a condo/house is so much better and usually cheaper. Off peak travel is best too for a deal.

    As for camping, even with the campsite limits of 8 people, every state park we have used allow more as long as all the same family. HTH

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      We did stay in a suite a handful of times, I’d forgotten. Since we lived for 3 years with nine of us in a house with one bathroom, we didn’t find that an issue.

  4. TeaCat
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    “I said things like, ‘Oh, no, he’s not our only boy. He’s just the first one we liked enough to let out of the basement.'”

    It’s a very good thing that I wasn’t (for once) drinking tea when I read that. If I have a girl someday, I may have to steal that line. Amended, obviously, but…

    Oh, and I love your point about having them help clean messes versus worrying about them being made in the first place. That’s been my working theory with the Wee Goon. He’s learning to handle real cups instead of sippy cups, which (invariably) leads to spills. We don’t make a fuss over it (it usually bothers his OCD toddler tendencies more than ours!), but gently inform him to “go get a towel” from the front of our oven, and then help him with the motions of cleaning it up, so that he learns the cause and effect. 🙂

  5. K
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your hurting homes post-its great that you mentioned the possibility of domestic abuse against men, as its often so ignored. My uncle was abused by his ex wife, she threatened him with a knife and once hit him with a frying pan.

    My advice for anyone who is dealing with an abusive partner, is to leave. Abusers often dont change, and it is never your fault. I know someone who was in an abusive relationship, and nothing she could do could stop what he was doing. She tried standing up for herself, she tried being extra submissive and doing everything he said, tried talking it out and they went to councelling for a bit but none of it worked. Because it was not her fault, he just got enjoyment from hitting her. Sure, at first it is hard, and its easy to blame yourself for what happened, but dont go back. It gets better.She left him 4 years ago, and couldnt be happier.

    If you have a friend who you suspect might be being abused, its important to be there for them. They might be in denial at first, abusers are like that, manipulating their victims into believing its their fault and that they deserve it, but just be there for them. You can also help them if they are going to leave, by looking up local organisations that help with people who have been abused, so they have a place to go when they leave. Other things you can do to help is maybe offer to look after belongings of theirs, if they can get them out of the house without their partner knowing, as often when people leave, they have to leave with nothing, and thats hard-my friend lost all of her children’s baby pictures. What I also did for my friend when she left was sent her my old cell phone, she left hers at home and couldnt get it back, and it provided her the ability to contact her family and close friends and let them know that she was okay.

  6. Posted March 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    i love so many of the things you said here. i love your honesty about you and your husbands hearts when it came to having more children. and i love how you point out that accepting God’s will means accepting that it may NOT be a lot of children.

  7. abba12
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to decide whether to post this annonymously or not. I don’t think I have anything to fear from your readers, and we should not have to hide or be ashamed of what was done to us.

    Thank you for your hurting homes post. This is exactly the reason I will not associate myself with the labels of quiverful or patriarchy, even though they fit my situation pretty well. Far FAR too much is simply accepted from the men, while abused women are further destroyed emotionally, being told to be more submissive, more ‘sweet’, talking to him about what you can do, and other advice that really does nothing but make the abuser more powerful, and even giving him permission to do as he’s doing. There is a HUGE different between submission and abuse. It’s not a fine line at all.

    There is a group of ladies at a website called no longer quivering, essentially they all came from the abusive situations you spoke about, but blame the patriarchy/quiverful/homeschooling movement instead of their evil, abusive ex-husbands. I wish I could reach out to them, tell them that not all patriarchal relationships work that way (I tried to talk to some of them about how submission works in my marriage, as I was at one point a regular disagreeing reader who actually treated them with respect, so was able to get into some conversations. They ended up telling me that they considered my marriage to be egalitarian! Because I wasn’t being abused, I wasn’t being submissive by biblical standards. How their minds have been so twisted against the word of God through horrible men simply looking for victims!) I wish I could tell them those men simply used whatever outlet they could find to get the power they wanted. I wish I could tell them those of us within these ‘movements’ are aware of the issues and trying to fight them, but are being blocked out by just those same men, and a lot of misinformation in the church.

    I was a victim of something very complicated as a child, I don’t really have a label for it, but I relate to so much of what you said, and you are spot on. The church desperately needs to sort itself out in this area. Abused women need to know the church is with them, not with their husbands. They need to be protected, not told to submit more, or given a list of things to not do, to add to the list they already have from their husbands and within themselves. They’re trapped in a system that’s broken. And your advice for recognizing and reaching out to them is so true. Don’t tell me to just leave, I’ll push you away. Stand by me and guide me slowly and gently, and I might just follow.

    And to those that have been abused, submission does not need to be abusive. The situation I grew up in required an extreme level of ‘submission’. To give just one extreme example to illustrate, I would even be instructed to punish myself for perceived wrongs, some as small as sitting ‘incorrectly’, and those punishments already laid out for me to hurt myself with were extreme. This served to submit even my thoughts to those over me. Only by the Lords hand am I not dead. Of course most women are not in this extreme a situation, but the point I want to make is, if anyone had a reason to fear and rebel against any form of submission, I did. How I ended up with my husband, only a year or so after leaving that life, is only Gods working. He clearly told me at the start that he believed in patriarchy and I told him, basically, ‘no way’ though in much more colourful terms. Yet marry we did, and as time went on I have become that submissive wife, and you know what? It makes me feel SAFER. Once I worked through the triggers and pain, I love being able to sit protected under him. But I am absolutely not a doormat. I would never let myself be walked over like that again. He knows what I think and he knows when I disagree, but when his decision is final, I do my best to make it work, and sometimes I’m even pleasantly surprised. He has never seen me as being beneath him, and while he is by no means perfect, he has all the right intentions. Submission is not the problem, it was never the problem in the first place. The person submitted to was. Women need to know that their abuse had nothing to do with their submission, it was not their fault, and furthermore, if they still hold the same beliefs or have moved to these beliefs, they needn’t be afraid that submitting will cause the situation again. Submitting can be a wonderful thing, a form of protection, though it’s hard to imagine it when all it’s even done is prevent protection.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted April 4, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for sharing. I hope your words can comfort and encourage somebody who needs it. It’s so sad how much damage those who abuse their role do to those they should protect, and how that harm ripples out to others.

      • abba12
        Posted April 5, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

        I just realised this was two weeks old! I’m not sure how I ended up here, I thought I clicked the link from connie’s blog which brought me to this post! Sorry to comment on something old 🙂 I suppose it wont be seen by anyone, but that was the cause for the delayed comment at any rate. I’ll check the dates next time

        • Headmistress, zookeeper
          Posted April 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          Several readers subscribed to teh comments here so they received a notification when there was a new comment. This post gets seen by more readers than you might realize.=)

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