If I Had Four More Arms and One More Brain

“If I had four more arms and one more brain, I might be able to help you.”  This phrase is uttered a lot around my house lately. With five children demanding my attention and help throughout the day, the playing field is very lopsided. I often feel like there is just not enough of me to go around. Daily life is full of lessons and laundry, homework and housekeeping, friends and family and laughter and love. My home is a place I love to be. However, I still struggle to find balance with the responsibilities that face me each day. There are a few phrases I find myself saying or reading frequently that seem to help me navigate the busy and joyful chaos of my family life.

I frequently remind my children, “I am only one person and can’t help everyone at the same time.” Patience is a virtue, right? And, in a family of five kids, we’re all going to have to learn how to take turns. That’s just the way it is. Patience is valuable, not only for my children, but for myself as well. When it comes to balancing children, outside work, community service and individual pursuits among other obligations, patience becomes a necessity. I have learned to be reconciled with the fact that I can’t do it all, all the time. Sometimes things are going to have to wait. It might be the dirty kitchen floor or someone crying while someone else’s needs are taken care of first. The truth is, balance is found when patiently setting priorities and taking care of things one at a time.

“Kids CAN clean bathrooms.” This reminder is written on a post-it note stuck on my kitchen cabinet. It reminds me that my children can be quite useful when it comes to balancing many of the chores that need to be accomplished in the course of a week. The older ones are quite capable of wiping down and tidying up the bathroom. This is especially true when stocked with Clorox wipes and a fancy toilet bowl cleaner. The older kids can also help the younger kids with reading and homework every once in a while. Not only does this help me, but it helps them forge a stronger relationship with each other as they work together. The younger kids can sing songs or play Peek-a-Boo with the baby while I finish mopping the floors. Yes, my children can actually be quite useful when I remember to include them in the running of the house. Letting the kids help me by helping each other is a great resource in balancing my responsibilities.

Another phrase I use often is, “I’m not going to do for you what you can do for yourself.” Teaching my children to be independent and responsible is an important part of my mothering. One of my goals as a mother is to work myself out of a job. That means I teach my kids how to do things. Getting a jacket, a drink, clearing the table or making their bed are all things they can do for themselves. Generally, it takes a lot longer than if I did it for them. But, the more they do things, the more efficient they will become. It’s easy to get caught up in housework and I soon find myself bogged down doing things that my kids can do for themselves. Turning that responsibility over to them frees up some of my own time and teaches the kids independence.

Life still feels like a three-ring circus sometimes, and everyone is looking around for the Ring Master. While I know that job falls on my shoulders, most of the time I feel like I’m a juggler, center-stage, trying to balance too many plates on too many tall, fragile poles. However, when I’m able to remind myself that I’m doing my best and spreading responsibility to my capable children, I feel like the balancing act is a little more doable. Of course, four more arms and one more brain wouldn’t hurt either!

QUESTION: What are the phrases or tactics that help you find balance?

CHALLENGE: Determine one or two new responsibilities you can turn over to your children.


Image provided by Karin Brown


  1. Anne says

    Thanks for this. Those phrases are great! And this gives me hope for when my children are a bit older. It was also a good reminder that I need to encourage my 3yo’s indepence.

  2. says

    Thanks so much for the comments, ladies.

    Cheryl – an extra arm and a few more brain cells would be nice.

    Anne – my favorite thing that my 3yo does is putting away the silverware every morning.

    Hilary – we are hanging in there. Summer adds a whole new dimension to balancing, doesn’t it?

  3. says

    Thank you so much for the new mantras. I could certainly use them — especially “Kids can clean bathrooms”! :)

    This post reminded me of how my four-year-old occasionally says, “But I only have two hands!” when I ask him to do something. It always makes me laugh. I’m not sure where he learned that ….

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