The Case for Siblings

As I sit here with a few stolen minutes to give to my keyboard, my newborn daughter napping in my lap and my two young sons playing soccer in the backyard with the teenager I pay to entertain them twice a week, I can’t help but worry that sometimes my children are being short-changed by, well, each other.

When my husband and I got married in the Catholic Church, we vowed “to accept children lovingly from God” and thus far we’ve said yes 3 times in 4.5 years. That’s a whole lot of yeses, and to be honest, some days I feel the weight of how many “no’s” I must say to them each on a daily basis because of it.

No, I can’t read with you right now, I’m doing the laundry…want to help me?

No, I can’t play cars with you, I’m nursing your sister. 

No, we can’t go to the park, the baby is sleeping.

No, I can’t bake cookies with you, I’m too tired to move.

And on and on.

I was thumbing through our city’s rec center summer activity guide, and I sighed as I contemplated the cost and logistics of undertaking pre school swimming lessons for our 3 year old.

It’s just too much right now. Maybe next summer. Heck, I was a lifeguard in high school, maybe we’ll buy a family pass and I’ll teach him myself…while trying to keep his brother and sister alive at the same time.

By our culture’s standards for raising happy and well-adjusted kids, mine are being seriously shortchanged. They wear thrifted clothes and play with garage sale toys. They don’t have iPads. They share a bedroom at night and they share mom three ways by day. Working from home allows me to be more physically present to them, but mentally and emotionally I’m often far away. Even when all the chores are done and the deadlines are met, there is sometimes little left of me by 5 pm other than a docile willingness to be led to the couch for a few mindless repetitions of the Grumpy Ladybug.

We don’t do tons of activities because, quite frankly, taking all three of them somewhere more exciting than Costco is just hard. Right now it feels like it has always been hard, and I wonder whether things will change when they are a little older.

Then there are moments like this morning, when my oldest son looks lovingly at his 2-month old sister kicking her legs in the air on the family room carpet and asks me when she will be big enough to play with him, because “he can’t wait!”

Those moments give me the strength to keep soldiering through these demanding, physically draining days of herding toddlers and nursing babies. We’re in a rebuilding phase, and these are the investment years. I know it, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

This past weekend my younger sister got married to a wonderful man. She is the 3rd of seven kids, and all of us stood at the altar with them and witnessed their vows. We partied late into the evening afterwards, burning it up on the dance floor until we were quite literally the last people to exit the building. When I look at the seven of us together, spanning from middle school to early parenthood, it’s mind blowing to see the beauty and the camaraderie that has emerged from the early years of chaos and sacrifice and never-enough-to-go-around.

There was more than enough, as it turned out. And when I think back on our childhood, all I see are the good things my parents were able to give us because of their “yeses” … all seven of them. I have friendships spanning decades that will last all my life long; in short, my parents made the ultimate estate planning decision, and our inheritance will be rich indeed.

So tonight at bedtime, frazzled and exhausted, I resolve to try to savor the sweet madness of two little boys jumping in and out of each other’s cribs while a fussing baby demands her after-dinner snack. Yes, it’s hard right now…but they’re worth it. We’re investing in generations, after all.

image: Nancy Bauer /

Jenny Uebbing


Jenny Uebbing is a freelance editor and writer for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their growing army of toddlers. She writes about marriage, life issues, politics, sociological trends, and traveling with kids here.

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  • I’m a mother of 4 and the second oldest of 11; this is beautiful and exactly right on. On the bright side, my oldest is now 8 and life is much much easier, if not exactly more peaceful… At least until God blesses us with another. Hang in there mama.

  • Antonia

    Jenny it’s worth it so just keep on trusting in God as you are.

    I had five children and it’s simply wonderful to see them all grown up to be good people now founding their own families: six grandchildren and another on the way. Interestingly the four who are married all married spouses from intact families. My husband and I didn’t think of it at the time, but obviously our fidelity to our vows has been a powerful witness in a godless age. 45th anniversary this May.

    Just enjoy your bairns while they are little. It’s hard work and seems endless but even scripture advises us to know the shortness of our days. Before you know it, you’ll be like me: a grandmother in your sixties.

    Ps. Your children are most definitely NOT being seriously shortchanged by wearing second-hand clothes and playing with garage sale toys. Why waste money on expensive new stuff when the children don’t care?

    As for, “They don’t have iPads.” Good. “They share a bedroom at night”. Even better.

    In short, well done Jenny and David!

  • Claire

    As the mother of one (which was not my choice), I can say that my son wears hand-me-down clothes and plays with garage sale toys, and hears the word “no” more often than I would like. I think kids will keep asking till they hear no! They will take as much as we’re willing/able to give. What you can’t give each child individually, they will get from their siblings.

  • chaco

    From a Heart ON FIRE – Praising our Daddy for Godly women; THANKS Jenny ! I just love when God shares His heart with me; I am experiencing Papa’s rapture for His daughters as I read your testimony & the responses. You might not always realize His loving gaze as you bear your daily givings of self, but rest assured; He is “Radiating Sugar” on your life to “Make Lemonade” out of your “Lemons” (caring for the Crew). [ “My Spirit/ Joy is made perfect through trial.” 2 Cor. 12: 9 ] While on the couch reading mindless repetitions of “Grumpy Ladybug”, take a moment to lay your head back and see if you can feel the “Sugar” radiating from an Adoring Daddy. [ If in addition, you tell Our Lady how much you love Her Son, it will probably be so sweet that your face crinkles.]