A mother wrote into Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert about losing her patience by the day’s end and struggling to tend to both children’s needs. Here is the answer:
My godmother loves to tell me the story about her mother, walking down the sidewalk with her three children under six-years old who were pulling on her, whining, competing with each other, tired, and hungry and as she passed an elderly lady sitting on her porch the neighbor called, “these are the best days of your life.”
I have so much compassion for the situations in your post. Young children have many needs and they tend to communicate them as immediate with impatience. As you accommodate all the requests that come in, it can feel overwhelming even when you have all the love in your heart for your children. Thank you for reaching out and I do hope these tips might integrate into your family’s culture and bring some relief.
1. Your eldest wants time to play with you with out her sister: Special date when dad is available? Perhaps one evening a week you take her out to dinner in a convenient café? Or one weekend (weekly? bi-weekly? monthly?) she gets a mommy-date: library, park, café or a walk? The activity matters less than the action of taking her out and the consistency with which you make this mother-daughter date happen. Over time this extra time will add up and you will be able to reference it when she is wanting more of you while you are tending to both children.
2. Sibling activities: Please read my L.O.V.E. Parenting sibling post as I outline several ideas that promote sibling bonding; perhaps you can integrate one of these activates into the weekly schedule; cooking, gardening, or a walk? Story time by creating your own book together; the eldest narrates the story, both daughters illustrate the story and you do the book-binding. Another shared activity for the ages you describe is a puppet show; taking turns putting on puppet shows for each other.
3. Nap transition affecting bedtime and late afternoon: yes, transitioning off of the nap is often challenging in that 4-6pm zone. You sound very thoughtful in your approach. I would encourage you to resist the media temptation since it’s clear from your words that it isn’t your first choice for your daughters. One idea is to prepare dinner earlier in the day, so that at the challenging time of the evening, all that is required is heating, dressing and plating.
4. Sibling interference: What you described here is a parenting model that has it’s merits, in terms of not spoon feeding your youngest the negative reaction if she is not already feeling it, however, I think it is important to address the negative behavior in your first-born. Pinching, pushing and grabbing are not okay, and if your 17-month old is not reacting now, it is highly likely that she will later and it will be volatile and challenging, or she will learn that these behaviors are acceptable and she will dish the same treatment to your eldest and I would wager a bet that it won’t go over well with her. If you don’t want to make it a bigger deal than your 17-month old is, take your fist born aside when it happens and quietly but clearly reiterate the boundaries in your home and your core family values on how your family keeps bodies safe. At the same time validate your first-born’s frustration, while giving her ides for other outlets for her anger. Please read my L.O.V.E. Parenting MadBag post as it offers a special tool for moving through frustration. As well, please read my “Biting & Kicking & Screaming, Oh My!” post as it deals extensively with this topic and offers many solutions for channeling “aggressive” behavior.
5. What you describe during the younger child’s nap is a common plight for the mother of more than one child! The youngest is finally down and you want to devote yourself to your first-born, and yet the demands of housework, food-prep and grown-up basics pull on you simultaneously! I recommend you split the nap to focus on your first-born daughter and your tasks. You can either split the nap by day; she gets you for the full nap (and you stay up late that night,) and she does a quiet-time activity by herself on the next day’s nap. Or, split the nap itself by using a kitchen timer so the spilt comes from a neutral third party. Please see my post about splitting my third-born’s nap between focused time on my eldest two children and writing an article that was due! Click here and read L.O.V.E. Parenting’s “single-focused time management.”
6. For the general moving through the days together, start each day thinking about something you would like to experience for yourself that day and take your girls with you. Lead with where you like to spend time; a museum? Nature? A momma friend? Another idea is to take your girls to somewhere that offers stimulation where they can be occupied with the sights and sounds and you can have your own mental space; this gives you a little inner-quietude while still sharing space.
7. Also, make sure you are getting your solitude with renewal. I recommend putting one reoccurring time-slot into the schedule, such as Sundays 9-11am, or Saturdays, 10-12pm. Once you have your time-slot, take that time out of the house; a walk on the beach or by the lake, a café by yourself or a hotel lobby with a journal or a book, an art studio painting class, a dance class, a yoga class, or even a spa (please read my post about the $2/day ticket to luxury for self-care.) Make a list of what restores you and what inspires you and take one action to honor something on the list each time your get your time to yourself.
8. You describe a very understandable dynamic when your husband returns home in the evening. You love him so much, you’re grateful for the gift of your family and all he does to support you, and you want to greet him with love, appreciation and calm, but when he walks through the door, you are tired, depleted and your nerves are frayed. Please see my L.O.V.E. Parenting 15-15 technique for a happy marriages; this outlines the idea of giving each other 15-minutes each to reset upon reentry, and then beginning the integrated partnership of parenting.
I hope this proves helpful for you. You sound like a grounded and giving mother with much love and consciousness in your parenting. All the best to you and yours.
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About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today's progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.