Life as a young, busy family can be downright tough sometimes.

Here’s a scenario that any couple with small children can probably relate to…and I know we can because it’s a true (and completely typical) story for us from just last weekend.

One Hour, Two Thirty-Somethings, Three Small Children

Bethany and I are standing at the start of Mass at our church, confident that the kids are finally under control.

It’s been a long Sunday filled with lots of playing, cooking, feeding, driving, disciplining, doctoring, explaining, reading, loving, yelling, celebrating, stressing, enjoying and being…together as a family.  We’re certainly ready for some spiritual renewal.

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The first five minutes have been a welcome respite, as the kids were distracted by the church musicians’ practice and were (kinda) quiet.

Then, just as Mass gets underway, comes the shrill, whiney “BRADENNNNN” from the mouth of our 4-year-old daughter Kendall to pierce the relative silence.

Braden has decided at this point in his life that he MUST have a green crayon.  No, unlike his little sister, he is not coloring.  But that green crayon is his or at least he NEEDS it right now.  Right now.

This isn’t our first rodeo, so Braden and Kendall are quickly separated to stand on either side of us.

Kendall gets her crayon back, Braden makes a (loud) appeal for keeping it, while our priest prays and appears to do a good job of ignoring that rude family in the third pew.  Braden relinquishes and is convinced through stern, not-so-quiet whispers from Mommy that this would be an excellent time to be quiet, turn around and respect God by paying attention.

For at least 5 seconds, calm ensued as if by Divine Intervention.  It was heavenly.

Then it was 11-month-old Avery’s turn.  She’s got an ear infection, so she rightfully requires some extra love and attention.

And she’s had plenty of it since I’ve been holding her the entire time with one arm, while policing the previous fight with the other.

Well, apparently being held, pulling my hair, periodically screeching like a rabid monkey, slobbering on me, arching her back away from me so as to maximize stress on my lower back, and kicking me in such a way as to discourage any future siblings isn’t enough.

It’s time to cry!

This is one of those resonating, inconsolable cries that everyone notices.  It even earns a look from our priest, and he’s pretty numb to such interruptions.

It’s at this time that the beads of sweat start to form on my forehead and my ears feel like they’re on fire as I’m sure the 300 people behind me are all staring at me wondering why I’m such a lousy father.

This is also the time that Braden decides it would be a swell idea to crawl under the pew, kicking the back of my knees in the process and nearly causing me to tumble.

As she sees my temper flaring, Bethany motions for the hand-off.

I give her screaming Avery so she can bail to the church foyer and end that madness.  Meanwhile, I wipe my forehead and look down…to see Braden waving a green crayon in Kendall’s face.  Her breath is held tight, mouth turned down and I can practically see the steam coming from her ears.

She’s gonna blow!

And so it goes for the next 50 minutes, off and on, between moments of true joy like genuine hugs and kisses between all of our family members during the Sign of Peace to many more moments of stress, frustration and a bit of physical pain.

It’s just another Sunday afternoon for the Riechmann family. 🙂

It Gets Easier

After Mass is over and we’re gathering up our things, a sweet older lady makes the point of walking up to Bethany and telling her how cute our kids are.

Naturally, it’s hard to accept such kind words at a time when you’re not sure if your children are possessed by demons, but a polite smile and a “thank you” was reciprocated.

But this lady had a bit of wisdom to share.  She smiled very knowingly and said, “Don’t worry, honey.  It’s tough with small children.  But it gets easier.”

Thank God.

It’s All Good

This is just a 10-minute snippet of our life as the parents of three small children.  Am I complaining?  A little.

But would I change it for anything in the world? Not a chance.

Small children are tough to raise, especially when you try so hard to be consistent and firm in your boundaries.  It requires a LOT of energy, patience and encouragement, even when it comes from strangers.

If you’re facing similar stress in your family life, be sure to get a healthy dose of regular date nights away from the kids, time alone with individual children so you can bond more directly, and give your spouse some time to be alone and just focus on taking care of their body.

That’s what we do as much as possible, and it makes all the difference.

We still have lots of struggles, but at the end of the day we are so incredibly thankful for the blessings of our crazy little children, screams and groin kicks and all.

So, for you slightly older families out there, does it really get any easier?


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. I have two boys who are 2 years and 8 months (20 months apart) and it is so fun right now but also hard and exhausting. I have times when I think ” oh it will be so nice when they are older and can play by themselves.” That will be easier, right? Or, “it will be so nice when they are out of car seats and out of diapers, that will be so much easier!!” I think though, that parenting will always have hard moments and easy moments so we have to just focus on where our kids are RIGHT NOW.

    I am curious to hear from others if it DOES get easier though as the kids get older. πŸ™‚

    1. I totally agree with everything you said, Samantha. But it can be difficult to be in the moment and NOT start thinking ahead to hopefully easier times. πŸ™‚

  2. Really needed to read this today – man, can I relate. We just had our third child in four years. I haven’t been brave enough to take them all to Mass at the same time though. I think you guys get extra points just for trying! = )

    1. Wow Elizabeth, three in four years is definitely a challenge. Ours range from 11 months to 6 years, and I *think* the 6 year old is starting to get a little easier…when he’s not tormenting one of his sisters!

  3. “So, for you slightly older families out there, does it really get any easier?”

    That depends, are you planning on having anymore? My wife and I are early 30-somethings and we are expecting number 5 in November. I think especially for the father it get’s consistently harder. Especially while you are still active in the baby stage. As our kids get older I understand that we will encounter other issues, but for now, the diapers, screaming (during stages or teething time) is something I have a hard time with. Will it get easier after the diaper stage? I hope so and I am counting on it!

    1. That’s a great point, Discipleship Guy. Right now, we’re not planning on any more, but of course every new baby sort of “resets the clock” on all those baby-only tasks. At lease the sleeping should get better…at least until they start to drive. πŸ˜‰

  4. Yes, it gets easier. And I used to think that when people in the grocery store, church, restaurant, etc. looked at me when my kids were crying, they were thinking, “What a bad parent!” But now I look at those people with very little ones and what I’m thinking is “Hang in there.” Most parents have these moments, and most other parents are united in their encouragement.

    1. Thanks for this, J! I will try to keep your inner dialogue in mind next time we have a public spectacle. πŸ™‚

  5. Makes me glad we just have one. The worst thing I have had to deal with is people giving me dirty looks when I was drinking a glass of wine while Sky was in her sling. I know they are thinking that it is either not ok to drink while wearing my baby, or that I have no business drinking while nursing. I even had one person tell me I should not drink and nurse at the same time. They don’t know that Sky is adopted and I’m not nursing…so far I have bit my tongue.

    1. That must be tough, Jen. If those folks knew that Sky was adopted, they would probably be thanking you instead of judging you. It just goes to show how easy it is to misjudge a book by its cover.

  6. Yes, Dustin, it does get easier! My children are 18 months apart and my son has both ADHD and Asperger’s. Most of the time I attend Mass without my husband (another story), so it’s just me and the two kids. When they were younger, they’re now 9 & 8, and before my son was diagnosed, we spent many a Mass in the Narthex. I would be thanking God that they had speakers out there! I tried everything: finger food, sippy cups, coloring books, reading books, quiet toys, going through my purse, etc. It wasn’t until I started to learn things I could do to help my son keep it together, that we could go back into a pew. Now that they are older and understand the Mass a little more, it is much easier. It especially helps when they recognize the readings from hearing them at home. Another thing that helped was a subscription to MagnifiKid (I wish I had the number or website for you, but I’d bet you could google it). It’s a great little magazine that has the order of the Mass as well as activities and comics and explanations – worth every penny!

    One funny story… at the children’s first church we had an older woman who would stare (read: glare) at my children during Mass whenever they would get a little loud. One day she had the nerve to come over and tell me that they should have some of the wine because it would help them be quiet. Without skipping a beat, I told her that my children were entitled to make their joyful noise to the Lord just like she was, then I walked away. She never looked at us again.

    As they get older and learn more, it definitely get easier. My recipe: pray, read the readings at home, get MagnifiKid, and pray. We now sit in the 2nd or 3rd pew every week.

    1. Wow, Heather! Thanks so much for sharing your insights. My wife was a special education teacher, so I have some appreciation of the additional care and attention your son must require. Bless you!

      I really like your Church story! πŸ™‚

      And thanks for the tip on MagnifiKid…I hadn’t even heard of that before.

  7. Hi Dustin! Should I look forward or prepare myself for this though I am currently single? πŸ™‚ I’m from a family of 8 so will it be better then? I think I really look forward to it…I think πŸ™‚

  8. I think it does get somewhat easier, especially after they are 5 or 6—BUT–think of the years age 6 to age 12 or 13 as a “Calm before the storm”.

    I’d rather deal with diapers than with 16-20 year olds. They are too big to spank and much harder to deal with emotionally and as a parent in figuring out how to deal with a given issue.

    Bottom-line: toddlers/small kids are EASY when it comes to discipline, motivation, etc and hard physically to care for. Teens are EASY physically, but TOUGH to discipline, motivate, and live with attitude-wise. Little kids–little problems and lotsa’ labor. Big kids–potentially much bigger problems (with long reaching impacts) and lotsa’ prayers and hope. I have 4 kids ranging from 9 to 21. I long for the days when “My Dad is better than your Dad” πŸ™‚

    1. Oh Paul, I was blocking that part out. πŸ˜‰

      I’m sure you are very right about those crazy teenage years. I’m just going to really enjoy the 6-11 years while we can.

      And yes, having the kids fight about which parent is the best or telling their friends why we are awesome is a great thing!

  9. I will say that I don’t believe it gets much easier, just different. My kids are 5 & 8 now, but I don’t foresee any “easiness” until they are grown up and out of the house – at which time it might be easier, but we’re still going to worry, again about different things.

  10. Well, it gets easier in a lot of ways, but it also gets harder when they hit the teen/preteen years. In the midst of the broken-hearted crying and sometimes screaming of a teen, I have honestly looked back to those years as being so much simpler, and I know that my kids are easier than a lot of them. They are all stages. God bless those of you with littles, and God bless those of us with older ones. We all need it!

  11. Hi,

    I had to read this to my wife who is expecting our third son soon. She was not exactly thrilled when she learnt it was another boy. Testosterone levels can run rampant in our house with the boys (4 and 6) always wrestling (read fighing), trampolining on the bed and chairs.
    When I tell people I long for them to get older and “easier” to handle some folks contend that the problems don’t get easier only different – that surely burst my high expectation of an easy life in years to come.

  12. For a second I thought for sure you must have been sitting behind us last Sunday πŸ˜‰ I firmly believe it will get better and that God appreciates that we are really trying, hard, every week. And it is a great accomplishment that we all make it out alive, often in need of a nap! Great article!!

  13. Once a parent always a parent.

    I have an 18 year old and a 15 year old and they ‘need’ me just as much now as when they were babies.

    Ive just moved from hands on parenting to helicopter parenting.

    Still actively involved just more hands off.


  14. Yes, it definitely gets easier.

    Our kids are finally old enough to be left on their own, go on mission trips, etc. So we sometimes get to go out dancing or even have a few days to ourselves.

    OTOH, as others have written with teenagers it gets hard in a different way.

    I also really liked the link below, you might also:

  15. I commend you on attending Mass with three littles! Even though it can seem like an “otter show” with kids in tow, it’s a blessing to those around you to see you struggling through! We have five kids (11, 9, 7, 4, 10 and you might find me in the back of church these days bouncing a baby. We’ve found that those sacred moments at Mass together help our kids know what we call important in our family is the truth. We try to sit up close at Mass so that our kids can see all the gestures and liturgical movements within the Liturgy. Blessings!

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