Once there was a very organized little girl who grew up in small town Oklahoma. She loved structure, even as a child, and even gave herself a bedtime and a curfew! She was very excited whenever her mother asked her to do things like organize the pantry. She grew up to be a wife and mother and, as you can imagine, she brought this same desire for structure and order to these grown-up roles.
In this second in my series of interviews with young mothers, I’d like you to meet Katie Dodson. Katie and her husband Jon live in Oklahoma City with their four children, (two girls and two boys) ranging in age from 1 to 6. Katie first shared a little about her background; in addition to what you read in the paragraph above, Katie said that her mother was a nurse and her father was in management. Even though Katie had two older siblings, the age difference between her and the older two was so great that she was essentially brought up as an only child. Read on to learn more about Katie, and her outlook on life and childrearing!
Did you feel prepared for being a mother? What was most helpful in preparing you, and what could have helped you feel more prepared?
KD: I grew up babysitting often, but didn’t really know what to expect when we brought Jack home from the hospital. My mom had died when I was 22, just months before my wedding, so I didn’t have her as a resource as I became a new wife, and then four years later as a mother myself. Jon and I were also the first of our circle of friends to be parents, so we had a lot of learning to do. I remember when Jack was only a few days old and I needed some serious answers as to why he wouldn’t sleep for more than 3 hour stretches (I had a lot to learn!) and when to let him cry, or when to hold him for what seemed to be all night.
With your mother gone, and no close friends with experience, where did you go for help?
KD: Fortunately we attended a church in which we were surrounded by many young families. I picked three women that had been through this several times before and seemed to have figured out this mothering thing, grabbed my notebook and called them with all my questions, and took notes. I also had plenty of nursing sessions for what seemed to be hours and hours on end, and with only one child, I was able to use that time to read. I would have 5 or 6 books piled next to the boppy while I nursed and read. I read every book I could get my hands on for breastfeeding, sleep practices, and parenting.
What came as the biggest surprise to you in the area of mothering in general, and child-training in particular?
KD: I don’t think that I ever really knew how selfish I was until I became a mother. I felt like I was in constant demand, and simple things like eating and sleeping were so hard to come by those first few months. Taking a shower and getting ready before we went somewhere became luxuries. Some people say that having their second or third child really threw them for a loop, but for me going from no children to one was a huge adjustment. I was not prepared for the sacrifices that were required of me.
From what you’ve said, you clearly value order and structure. What is the most helpful thing you’ve learned through the years about keeping your home clean and in order?
KD: If I can have beds made, somehow my day seems a bit more ordered. I also like to have the kitchen in good shape. I clean as I go throughout the day because it helps me feel like there can be a bit of order in the midst of chaos. I’ve also learned that I do need help in some areas, and we have someone come twice a month to do some serious deep cleaning, which has been a blessing far beyond what I could ever imagine. However, I also want my house to feel like a home to the four little bodies that live in it, so I try to be accommodating to the forts that are built, lego creations scattered about, artwork lying around and the usual crumbs on the floor. It is work for me to be comfortable with all that.
Do your children have set chores?
KD: In the summer we have chore charts for the older two who were 5 & 6 this past summer, but during the school year I give them jobs in helping me with daily tasks as time allows, like setting the dinner table and unloading the dishwasher. Making beds and keeping a tidy room are a given every day. Lily, who is 3, is learning to make her bed and can even help set the table (and so far she does it joyfully!) I think it makes her feel like a big girl, but I’m not sure how long that will last.
What about paying for chores?
KD: We haven’t paid our children for chores. I have wanted them to learn that it takes all of us to make this house function, and that many hands make light work. We will, however, give them extra jobs like cleaning the garage or working in the yard and pay them accordingly if they want to save up for something.
How do you handle bickering?
KD: I will remind them that they are best friends and they need to work through this on their own. They are to protect, encourage, and respect one another. They typically need a little input, and a lot of times the bickering comes from one correcting another who doesn’t want to be corrected, or one finding joy in irritating another. We have to go back to their motive, and if what they did was honoring to God. They are reminded to choose love and forgiveness even though it is hard.
Managing a home and bringing up four children is a very demanding job. What is your strategy for maintaining your sanity?
KD: Starting my day before the kids get up is vital for me. That time is so valuable! Just having the opportunity to get out of the house and run, pray, read my Bible and think before everyone gets up makes me feel like I’ve got a head start on the day.
What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of your job?
KD: The most difficult for me is when I have a new baby and am suffering from lack of sleep, feeling isolated because I just can’t get out as much, and physically and emotionally exhausted. Everything seems magnified when I’m tired so it’s always good to remember that it’s a short phase and will soon pass. I feel called to do what I do as a mom. I often joke with Jon about the differences in our days, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Where do you go when you encounter a child-rearing issue you aren’t sure how to handle?
KD: We have a collection of parenting books that we have pulled from over the years ranging from Douglas and Nancy Wilson, Ginger Plowman, Sally Clarkson, Tedd Tripp, James Dobson, and several others. I also have a few older women, including my mother-in-law, who are kind enough to offer me a cup of tea and some advice when needed. In addition, I have been blessed with a husband who cares very much about the hearts of our children and is a great resource in helping us to think biblically about issues.
What do you find most gratifying about your job?
KD: I find joy in making our house a home. I love everything about it. I love watching my children grow up. I delight in having conversations with them and I enjoy watching their friendship with each other grow.
Do you and your husband have a “vision” for your children? Would you share it?
KD: We want to raise up virtuous children. Our vision is to have our children grow into adults that have a heart for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful for the benefit of man and for the glory of Jesus Christ. More simply put, that they would always be followers of Christ, and grow to be men and women of integrity.
What advice would you give to a young mother?
KD: Seek counsel from those wiser than you, ask for help when you need it (still a struggle for me), spend time with your husband, do not compare yourself to anyone else, and be quick to seek forgiveness when you have sinned against your children. And remember that there is no formula that will ever be perfect enough–apart from Christ and His work and grace, we have no hope.
I’m very grateful to Katie for her willingness to share with the rest of us from her own experience, and I’m confident that she’s been an encouragement to many.
Thank you, Katie!