Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

My grandmother had seven kids in six years (no twins), and as a colonel’s wife, she spent large periods of time raising a big family alone.

Growing up, and even in my early adult years, we would always joke, “Man, I don’t know how Nana did it!” Then all the aunts, uncles, cousins—and even Nana herself—would chuckle and the conversation would move on.

Now that I’m seven-years-deep into raising kids myself (and “only” three of them), I find myself truly asking, wondering, “How did Nana do it?”

I wish she were here to tell me her secrets, to give me the “recipe” she used to raise seven kids into adults that are good people, adults that I adore, but this month marks three years since she passed away.

Instead, I try to think about the Nana I knew for 30 years and what I’ve gleaned from her 383 years of parenting. (Yes, I believe she deserves credit for each year of each kid. After all, there had to be times where it felt like she’d been parenting for 383 years).

1. Say goodbye to shame.

Oh the stories I’ve heard over the years! One uncle’s favorite:

“Remember that time we were running late and Mom was trying to pack our school lunches, screaming, ‘WHERE IS THE SALAMI?!’ The whole time, it was right there in her hand!”

Of course, there was also the time she bought four carts-worth of groceries at the commissary and accidentally drove home without any of them.

Or the time that she inadvertently left one of my aunts at church.

I’m sure she felt terrible about those things at the time—she was a mom, after all—but she didn’t hang onto that feeling. When one of these stories was retold around the table (and one of these stories was always being retold), she would just shrug and laugh.

No one is perfect. The sooner we can get over ourselves and accept our shortcomings—maybe even laugh at them—the better. As the saying goes, the only perfect parents have no children!

2. Give privacy a farewell, too.

Growing up, Nana was always a little too open for many of our comfort. She’d hang her just-washed granny panties from the sink. She’d lift her shirt right up and show you a mole on her stomach. She wouldn’t hesitate to tell a complete stranger about her Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

I remember being rather puzzled (and a tad embarrassed) by these things growing up, but now I understand: privacy goes out the window when you have kids. I regularly entertain bathroom questions with my kids about my stretch marks, my squishy stomach, and where my penis is.

If you have seven kid in six years, well, I’d imagine privacy basically explodes into microscopic smithereens, never to be seen again.

If you’re going to make the most of this parenting gig, it’s best to embrace the constant invasion of your personal space and see it for what it is: a season that will pass.

3. It’s not your place to judge other people. It’s your job to help them.

Mom-shaming is all the rage these days. Do you breastfeed or bottle-feed? Do you sleep train or co-sleep? Are you a helicopter mom or a free range parent? Judging has practically become a main event in the Olympics of Parenthood.

That’s not how Nana rolled.

My Nana witnessed plenty of challenges in her lifetime, in and out of her own family tree—unexpected pregnancies, divorces, addictions, and so many more. Still, to this day, I can only remember her saying something negative about someone one time. What did she say?

“Well . . . I don’t think she’s a very good person . . . “

That’s it! I like to consider myself a kind individual, but I can top a criticism like Nana’s before breakfast.

Growing up, one of my aunts had a boyfriend with no family and nowhere to go. My aunt sneaked him in to stay in a walk-in closet in the basement, under the stairs. Nana came across him one day and let him stay, never telling my grandfather (who was compassionate, sure, but not eighth-teenager-living-under-the-stairs compassionate).

Nana was a living example of unconditional love, always doing for other people. Even at 80, her last year on Earth, she still volunteered “with the elderly” (her words, not mine).

You might be stretched thin, but you can always help someone. Nothing can snap you out of the everyday overwhelm of parenthood like reaching out and offering a hand to someone else.

4. If everyone feels loved, you’ve done enough.

With seven kids so close together, I’m sure there were times when some kids needed more attention, more monitoring, more “intensive parenting.” If you have more than one kid, there’s just no way to parent each of them exactly the same.

We do the very best we can to meet as many of our kids’ needs as possible and we let God handle the rest.

No one is perfect. I’m sure my grandmother made plenty of parenting missteps in her day, but you know what?

No one recalls them.

Sure, everyone speaks kindly of the dead, but in our massive family, I never heard one negative word uttered about my grandmother while she was alive—well, except for her pack rat tendencies and loose relationship with food expiration dates (but I don’t think those count).

This gives me more comfort than anything else.

I am doing the best I can for my kids. Some days, that actually looks like someone’s best.

But other times? Other times my absolute best looks pretty shabby, and that’s OK. If at the end of the day, everyone feels loved, I will have done enough. You will have done enough.

A mother’s love is the greatest gift we can give our children, and it’s a legacy that will last long after we’re gone.

Just look at my Nana.

Originally published on the author’s blog.

You may also like:

10 Awesome Reasons I Love My Big Family

Some of the Best Grandmas Live in Heaven

I Want to be a Perfect Mom—But I’m Not

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Charissa West

Charissa West is a high school classroom teacher turned stay-at-home, work-at-home mother. When she is not busy chasing around her three young sons, she works as an online teacher and freelance writer. She shares her honest, sarcastic, hilarious thoughts on parenting on her blog, The Wild, Wild West, with the goal of helping moms laugh at anything motherhood may throw at them.

Mom, Yours Will Always Be the Voice inside My Head

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother and grown daughter, smiling, color photo

Yours is the voice in my head. For so many years now, I have been watching, listening, gleaning, and learning. Long before I became a mom focused on teaching, guiding, leading, and loving my own children, I was a daughter—a little girl in awe of her mom. Our days then were marked by watching Romper Room together, eating peanut butter and jelly on Ritz crackers, cuddling on the couch during afternoon soap operas, and visiting the pool in the summer. When I was 10, you went back to work, and I watched you navigate the juggling act of continuing to...

Keep Reading

What’s a Mother to Do When Her Kids Are Grown?

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Woman looking out window

“It’s as though I’m facing a forced retirement,” I whispered with a tear-choked voice to my husband while attempting to explain my dilemma—a dilemma I admittedly should have been better prepared to handle. I had known it was coming decades in advance. Naively, I expected to grow into the next phase of life gracefully, with wisdom and a sense of readiness. I didn’t. As time went on and the tint of my rose-colored glasses slowly faded into the clear view of stark reality, I allowed my expectations to fall. I tried rationalizing the thought that it was inconsequential whether or...

Keep Reading

Dear High School Senior, I Can’t Believe We’re Here Already

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom smiling at grad with words "Hi Mom" on graduation cap

I never imagined these days of preparing for graduation, senior prom, senior photos, and you actually moving out would come. A few weeks into your new life, friends gifted you a six-month sleeper. I remember the cuddly white footie pajamas well. But I swore you’d never get big enough to wear it. How could this eight-pound human grow to fit into six-month clothes? Impossible. And then somehow they did fit, and then they didn’t anymore. Just like that. Everyone says the days are long, but the years are short. Everyone, that is, who has had a lot of years. When...

Keep Reading

The Baby I Held is Battling Addiction and I’ll Never Stop Loving Her

In: Grown Children, Living, Motherhood
Woman looking into the distance, back view, black and white photo

A simple text came today: She was arrested in court. Five words that have the power to change a life forever. As her mother, I never wanted this path for her life. I remember holding her as a newborn, breathing in her baby scent, rubbing her brown hair that stuck up in every direction. I’m sure she was the smartest baby ever born, one who quickly grew into a precious toddler. She would sing her ABCs over and over, the first of many things she would memorize, always amazing us. She started school early, again because she was so smart...

Keep Reading

Let the Grandparents Overdo It

In: Grown Children, Living, Motherhood
Grandma and grandpa sitting on bed with grandchild, black-and-white photo

A while ago, a heavy barstool fell on my daughter’s toes. We were up late icing and elevating. I texted my mom a picture of her foot the next morning to get her advice. Two minutes later, my parents were banging my door down. Three of her toes were bruised and swollen pretty badly, but thankfully she was okay. Apparently, she still needed plenty of attention though. They propped her leg up, brought her breakfast in bed, held ice to her toes, and literally spoon-fed my 6-year-old breakfast. It’s moments like these when I would often take a step back...

Keep Reading

Dear Mom, Until We Meet Again

In: Grown Children, Living
Daughter hugs elderly mother from behind outside

Mom, I pray to the stars that someday, somewhere we pick up where we left off. Before the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Before your life, my life, and our family’s life changed forever. If we meet again, will you appear just as I remember you before this awful disease took over? With ebony black hair, vibrant blue eyes, and a gracious smile. Will you look at me and know I am your daughter? Will you refer to me by my beloved childhood nickname? RELATED: The One Thing Alzheimer’s Cannot Take Away Will you embrace me in a warm hug and tell me...

Keep Reading

They’re Amazing Grandparents but They Were Great Parents First

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Grown woman with her parents

My parents are phenomenal grandparents. They are without a doubt my children’s favorite people. They show up to babysit with activities ready. They pick up the kids from daycare and go straight to the ice cream shop. They are the first ones to get on the floor and play cars or dress up when requested. They read the best bedtime stories and spend the extra few minutes tucking in tiny toes and kissing chubby cheeks. They’ve never missed an opportunity to spoil their grandbabies with too many toys and lots of love. But before they were the world’s best grandparents,...

Keep Reading

Mom Showed Me What It Means to Be a Caregiver

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss
Grown woman with her mother smiling, color photo

My mother is an extraordinary woman. She inspires me to be a better person. She has spent seven years selflessly caring for my father after a horrific battle with Stage IV tongue cancer. During this time she would laugh with me, cry with me, and express her fears and frustrations with me. My mother is the definition of strength and courage while surrounded by heartbreak and human suffering. During the time my mother was taking care of my father she had her own health issues. Her colon perforated in 2012 making her critically ill. It’s nothing short of a miracle...

Keep Reading

There’s No Place on Earth More Full of Love than Grandma’s House

In: Grown Children, Living
Grandma helping little girl cook

I have this theory that every grandma’s house has its own smell. For mine, her house always smells like the same perfume she’s worn my whole life. I can’t tell you the name of her perfume, but I can tell you what it looks like and exactly where she keeps it on her bathroom cabinet. Occasionally the smell of freshly baked cookies overpowers the smell of her perfume at my grandma’s house. Knowing her signature recipes, I can tell you within a few seconds of walking in the door just exactly what she has in the oven. I imagine other grandmas’ houses smell...

Keep Reading

What a Blessing It Is to Be Your Other Mother

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother-in-law with daughter-in-law in wedding dress, color photo

I remember the beautiful January day when I first caught a glimpse of you in your white lace dress. You were breathtakingly beautiful as we snapped a quick picture together. My heart swelled with pride, knowing you had trusted me to see your final preparations before walking down the aisle and marrying my son. That day, I gained another daughter, and you a mother. I know you didn’t need another mother; I agree that your own is pretty close to perfect, but I am grateful that you accepted me. Thank you for allowing me to stand beside you that day....

Keep Reading