Motherhood is tough. I mean really tough. There is no other thing in my life that I question near as much as the decisions I make that involve my children. I probably second-guess myself more now with four children than I did with just one or two. I think it has to do with the fact that they are growing up and Ira is knocking on the door of being a teenager. I want to put a lock on that door and keep him as a little boy. Little boys are made happy with dirt, Legos and food; they aren’t really that hard. Just thinking about him and saying the word teenager sprouts new gray hairs on my head. Some nights when Keith walks in the door, I’m honestly not sure if I can call the day a good one or a bad one. There are days when I get caught in my self-imposed web of deliberation over parenting tactics. It’s a sticky place to be.
    One of the biggest struggles for me, personally, is comparing our family to other families. It is a constant voice in my head that poses questions. Should my kids be in more activities? Am I screwing them up by not pushing sports? Will they be left out because of the friendships that form on the field? Truth be told, I go around and around in my head about this. One second I’m worrying, the next I’m watching them run around outside and know that they are so happy being able to do what they want on the weekends versus running to practices. So far they appear to be well-adjusted socially despite their non-participation. With four children, the very notion of trying to get all my work done, keep a nap schedule, and run around to get children to practices makes my breath quicken. Then there’s the camping phenomenon that seems to be popular with so many of my friends. This past weekend, watching the boys giddy as could be, cruising around on their lawn mowers (another column perhaps) and picking off grackles with a BB gun; I let that worry slide. They are so happy when they can roam and not be rushed.
    There are days when searching for the bright spot in my role as a mom is hard. Not all days, but definitely some of them. If you can’t admit to having these days, I’m not sure I trust you as a parent. It’s not all sunshine and roses, some days its pee pants and muddy feet. There are nights when I turn the radio up as loud as I can, within the safety of little eardrums, and croon like Shania Twain on the way home. I can go at least 5 miles and keep singing while tuning out the backseat wail of “Mommmm.” I just tell them I need to have a concert. I like to use my 10-minute drive to reclaim my stake in being among the sane parents of the world. Some nights this means singing loud, others it means no music and talking to the boys, and then there are the nights when I just struggle to stay awake driving home. There are also days when I hibernate in the bathroom under the guise of having a stomach ache and read in silence for much longer than needed.
    Even if all children were the same it would be a challenging role in life, this motherhood gig. I have a door-slammer and stomper, a corner hider, a thrower and growler, and from what it looks like, Cora will be a thrower and a screamer. There’s still time for her temper to flare in other ways, though. I always take their outbursts as something I must be doing wrong. It usually plays this way in my head: Did he eat decent today? Was last night an especially late night and they are low on sleep? Will they always hate me for forcing them to do chores? Are all these fights over doing chores and helping out worth it? After going through my mental checklist sometimes I do pick up on what could be the causation for the outburst. Other times, I just have to reach down deep and find my patience and hope my calm can outlast their crazy behavior. As far as the fighting over doing chores, the answer is always yes, though sometimes it’s not easy.
    As with most anything in life that comes with its share of struggles, the rewards are much more fulfilling. The moments when Ira or Dane offers to help with chores – instead of coming up with every excuse under the sun as to why they shouldn’t have to do the same thing every night – are wonderful ones. When Henry volunteers to play with Cora, whom he adores, so “you can get your work done, Mom.” It always reminds me that he isn’t always a growler. I’ve learned that my constant questioning can get out of hand in my head and the best way to quiet my internal nay-saying monkey is to search for the high points – the ways that my children seem to be turning out all right. This can be as simple as holding onto the fact that someone said please or thank you without being asked that day. That they saw something that needed done and they did it. They said sorry and it actually seemed genuine. That even after the yelling fit that included the words, “You don’t love me, and you make me do everything,” they still say “I love you” and “Goodnight Mom.” Or when that little toddling, dirt covered monster curls up on my lap and wraps her mud-covered fingers into my hair so she can suck her thumb. I am reminded I am needed, loved and appreciated, even if she doesn’t always have the right words. There are moments, every single day, that still make this job of motherhood the best one I’ve ever had.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (11), Dane (9), Henry (4) and Cora (adventurous crawler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.