Navigating the challenges of raising five daughters who are close in age
BY THERESA BELLIOTTI
When I was approached by the Daughters Blog team to write about my method of managing a large family, my first thought was, “What on earth can I say? I have no formal strategy of attack, no neat and tidy five-step plan I can share. Besides, my husband is the writer, not me.” My second thought was that if I do not respond, maybe the request would go away. It did not and I was approached again. After sharing my reasons for hesitation, I was given the opportunity to simply “talk it out.” What I discovered when speaking my heart was that, while my way of doing things may not be a defined strategy, I have been intentional in my approach to raising my five daughters.
Every family has a set of circumstances they have to navigate through; ours is raising five daughters with no more than 2 years between them and three that happen to be triplets. In the space of three years, we had one daughter then went straight to four, and then we jumped to five. We did not have the luxury of building our large family slowly. We did not have the luxury of time to figure things out gradually. We had to “just do it” and make it work while walking through the process.
The girls are amazing young ladies now and we are in the season of loosening the apron strings while still covering them. As I look back, I realize that, even while our lives could be random and unconventional at times, there were certain things my husband and I remained consistent in when raising our daughters. Ideas that influenced every choice we made as parents.
- Togetherness–Do it as a family
- Flexibility is a must!
- Understand your limitations.
The idea of togetherness began with my husband after the triplets were born.
He included our first born, Sasha, in every aspect of caring for the babies. It was very important that she always felt a part of the family. Even after our fifth daughter, Lyndsey, was born, the practice of keeping the girls involved in the caring of their sisters continued. As the girls grew older togetherness was not just something we did, it was also a necessity. It was easier on us to keep the girls involved in activities they could do together. We kept them involved in church and school activities. Rick even had them assisting with the family business. There did come a time when my husband traveled quite a bit for work and I found myself living the life of a single mother. During this season, keeping our daughters active together became a necessity simply because it enabled me to cope with doing a lot of the parenting by myself. But whatever the reason for out “do it as a family” philosophy, it has built a strong family community. My daughters understand the importance of their sister to sister relationships. They are extremely protective of each other and they do not let things fester or come between them.
Flexibility was one of the first things we learned when finding ourselves parents of a large family. Our family is made up of seven people with seven different personalities. At any given time there may be 70 times seven different possible directions we are all going in. A lot of the time—most of the time—things do not go as planned. We certainly did not expect to go from one child to four with only two pregnancies. We had to learn to adapt, to adjust quickly and to “go with the flow”. We learned to make it work no matter what came up. Being flexible is something our children had to learn as well. With five young women all needing something, there is the very real possibility a needed thing may be missed. Something may not be done, or plans may have to change due to unforeseen circumstances. We have taught our daughters to be understanding in those times as we as parents have had to learn that lesson also.
My last point is for all mothers everywhere—know your limitations. Raising five daughters is a big job and I am only one person. And while I try my hardest, I cannot be everywhere, at every moment, for every need. I am learning to give myself grace. Knowing what I can and cannot do is extremely important right now, because my daughters are all teenagers with different interests, activities, and needs. I am now in the position where I must pick and choose the things I do on their behalf. It is a balancing act because I do not want either daughter to think I prefer one over the other. Of course, while I am walking through this process, I must make sure to pass on this energy of understanding to my daughters. The need to recognize my limitations and understand that it does not mean a lack of love. Understanding my limitations also means I do not over extend myself or make promises I cannot keep. This is key to keeping our relationships intact.
My life raising five daughters so close in age is sometimes crazy, totally unpredictable, mind blowing-ly busy, and I would not change it for the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Theresa Belliotti is married to Rick Belliotti (for 21 years) and is mom to five daughters: Sasha (17 years), Mykenzie, Courtney and Gabby (15.5 years) and Lyndsee (14 years)! She was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and lived with her family in Chandler, AZ (18 years) and now San Marcos, CA (3 years). She has a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management and seems to use it daily in her life as a “mostly” stay at home mom/bed and breakfast operator. She began working part time in the church offices 1.5 years ago and is now enjoying the new opportunities it brings. She loves babies, opening their home to others and just about everything in her life. She gives all praise to Jesus for the beautiful and crazy family He has blessed her with!