insidevoice and Linda, I needed both of those bits of advice right now too. Thanks. This hard phase will end. This terrible mountain of work will be dealt with. Coping by instituting a lot of structure really is the right choice. That's the only way to meet everyone's needs. Right. Ok. Off to think about how to do that.
I hate what our family has become - Page 2
I'll try not to ramble, but I have a whole host of thoughts after reading your post, along with a headache that is trying to come to the front of my mind.
So, first, I just wanted to say that I also have 3 boys, and definitely could have written your post. And, frankly, there are probably posts somewhere of mine that sound pretty close at another place I've been before.
Anyway, to me, it seems as though you kind of need some triage. Which really is a way to stop the chaos that is making you feel like your title..... which, btw, I've felt like before too. It helped when I actually stopped and thought what it was I thought my family was supposed to be, and decided that there was no way we could be that way since we already had 3 children and none of them were calm, quiet and mild tempered. It also helped to accept that we were destined for a different level of noise, activity, fighting, yelling, etc., than most everyone else we know because we have 3 boys..... not two, or two quiet boys, or a boy and a girl, or two girls...... or even the perfect only child (I think those are like the Holy Grail!).
As for advice, I have some, and hopefully it is helpful, I wouldn't be offended if you didn't use it however, and just had really needed more of a place to vent.
So here goes.......
..... biggest thing..... a schedule!
If I was going to try and get through your day, I would get a schedule together as quick as I could. My grasp of how I'd do yours is to start with doing a basic one that will mimic as close to what your day is going to be when the kids start school.
Get up, get dressed. Let the 4 & 8 year olds dress themselves (if they already don't). If it comes close to weather appropriate, then it works. Then breakfast. If there is simple food, with accessibility to them, let them make it, supervised by you, and get it to the table. I am not above toast, cereal, granola bars, and even pop tarts. I'd still be the one giving cups of water.... but only, maybe, 1/3 full so that if they spill it isn't that much to clean up.
Next, they can bus their plates, wash hands, go to the bathroom and brush teeth. Then, back to the kitchen to make their lunches, put in a lunch box, to wait for later.
And, then it would be off for practicing the walk to the bus, then a drive to preschool. They could bring 1 toy for the ride in the car. If your baby hates the car, this gives you a few weeks to slowly build up to the full drive if you have to start out with 5 minutes on the first day.
Have snack time around 10/10:30..... lunch at noon.... I am so on board with quiet time after lunch (which remember is already made by them!).... then play time for awhile (1:30-3)...... 3:00 snack time again..... I'd do computers/video games 3:30-4:30.... then play until 5, and they can help with making dinner (I know... sort of..... right?!). After dinner, I wouldn't be above a short video if necessary.... reading is always better.... but, you do what you can. And, I know, I know, if they like Mommy better for bedtime, then do it. I hate to say it, but, maybe Daddy could be after dinner game time?
Of course, in the midst of all of this, my tips for things here and there.... and did I mention baby wearing? I used, and still do (with my almost 3 year old who is 40 lbs), a hiking back pack and an ergo. Get out the stroller, and as I'm hoping you could make a circle around your house inside, or at least have a long hallway, you could let the kids take turns pushing the baby (safely and slowly) during some of those in between times, or while you are doing various things... like making snack, or sitting down for a minute, or getting playdoh out (which was & still is a godsend).
And lastly, with the food, picky eaters..... we always tell the kids, when they complain, whine, ask what else there is, that there are apples in the fridge, or they can have a banana (we try to have those on hand all the time.... no good to say it if they aren't there). As a stand by, I've got little apple sauce cups in the pantry if we just haven't made it to the store. There are even times when we let them have a bowl of cereal. But mostly, we give the kids a portion for dinner, that is appropriate for their age, if they eat it then good, if not there is the next meal. The caveat is though, that in my own triage for our home, we have pretty kid friendly food. It is easy, fast, and not very sophisticated..... yes, I know there would be lots of grumbling about how healthy it is.... but, sometimes you have to stop the flood first!
So, there you have it. I hope it makes sense. I know through it all you've got a baby that screams, and if you think about it too, there are still ways to kind of realize that there is a regularity to that too. If you can work it in, baby wear to minimize it if that works for you, then at least what works for me is to break up the day...... starting by using breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid morning snack, afternoon snack.... close to what their school schedule will be. Then fit an activity or two in the middle of each of those meals. And some of those activities you don't have to think up.... they are rest/nap/reading...... computers/video...... video/tv/reading/calming down with Daddy...... bedtime with Mommy. Add in some playdoh, duplo, lego, water play (like a water sand table outside), coloring, anything with tape, chalk outside, or whatever else is a favorite thing to play for your kids.
Oh.... wait.... and the mess. Do what you can, but you know what, it will still be there. I have buckets galore for just scooping up and dumping the kids toys in. The rest of the house, well, it can be perfect when the kids are grown, and either I'll be happy to finally not be picking up dirty socks off the living room floor or I'll miss having to move shoes out of the middle of the hallway.
Hang in there!
You have gotten great advice from some people who have BTDT with multiple kids. I have one kid, a small apartment in the city near everything, and unfortunately, no prospect of more children.
But I did pick out one thing in your posts in this thread that I think might help. You are having issues with your husband that are making everything a lot more complicated.
I think you need to negotiate with your husband around mealtimes and bedtimes, and set some ground rules with him. If I were you, I would delegate bedtime to him--let him cope with it and stay out of it. That is, if he's willing. You might still have to do the baby's bedtime, but maybe he can do the big boys? I believe he will learn to stop yelling at them to go to sleep because...that won't work. I would get him to let you be in charge of mealtimes and to stop fighting the children about the food. You promise they won't starve, and then handle it how you like. If you give him one problem time and take the other, then he won't feel like you're just shutting him down as a parent. (And you will get a break at a crucial time!)
On the issue of spanking, I think one persuasive argument is, "monkey-see, monkey do." If he spanks, the boys, who want to be like him, are more likely to hit, too. He might just have slipped up the one time and not have any intention to do it again. Seeing one kid hurt another is something that brings out the polar bear in a dad or mom. If he says it was a one-time spanking, let it go.
You have to stick up for yourself with everyone in this situation. It's rotten to be so far out that you can't easily send your boys to camp or preschool or take them for playdates so that you can have time alone (and time with them individually!) I think your situation is going to get a lot easier when school starts.
I forgot something big.... and I realize this may really get a lot of differing opinions..... and I said I'd never do it when I had kids......but....
.... we have a computer in our dining room which we stream cartoons over for the kids during many meal times. I can't believe I forgot it last night, but, I have to put it because we were struggling during meals. Like you, it was just torture. And, sorry to say, we just did it. Typically a cartoon will run 20-30 minutes which is just long enough to get through a meal. It gets the kids to sit down, maybe eat a few bites, and be calm and not fighting with each other. Also, DH and I get a couple minutes to talk to each other and check in about our day..... before it is already too late, after bedtime, and we are ready to drop and sleep, not talk about the day.
And, about meals.... it is vastly different from the rules when I grew up. When the kids are done, if they want to get up and go, they do. But they bus their plate, wash their hands, and can't fight with each other (those are at least the rules we shoot for).
Also, when thinking about mess..... our kitchen is always a mess, but the thing that annoys me most is piling dishes. Which we have. I try to at least cut down on that visual chaos by having less to clean or pile up. So, parchement paper and aluminum foil for lining pans, that hold anything in the oven that I can (chicken nuggets, fries, etc), so that instead of having a pan to look forward to cleaning at the end of a long day, I put the paper in green waste or foil in recycle, and the pan goes back in the oven (where we store it).
BTW, I have hopes one day of eventually eating more grown up food with my kids, having civil conversations about world events over meals, and the like.... which every once in awhile happens if the stars and moons align just so..... for now, though, it is about calming the chaos, making some bit of order, because every now and again it makes it so I can appreciate my kids instead of yelling at them. I can see those little bits of their personalities that I love, instead of ruing the day I gave birth to them. And, it even allows me to enjoy some of the craziness that actually is what our family is, and know that I might miss it if they all just sat still, were quiet, and didn't run around like wild children, getting dirty, climbing our trees, and really living like the little kids that they are, making our house a home, not a just a house. Nobody can walk through our doors and not know we really, really, L.I.V.E., here! Dirty shoes on the front door step included!