you'll sleep less, but you'll laugh more!
Hello, Kathleen. I wanted to share with you the mantra that my friend and I made up as we travel this journey called motherhood. Your journey has started abruptly, but you are on your way nonetheless.
I don't know if anyone has said that yet! It may seem a weird thing to say right now. But you are clearly committed to these kids, you have the resources (financial, emotional and spiritual) to help them, and you are going to raise a beautiful family. In several months things will seem a lot more clear and settled. Another thing that I tell myself when life turns upside down, as it has for me now and then, is "trust that the universe is unfolding as it should". Whether you believe in God or not, it is comforting to think that sometimes things happen for a reason.
OK, 'nuff of that touchy-feely stuff! You sound like a very "with-it" woman, which is how lots of people described me before I became a mom.
Somehow, becoming a mother can make all of us feel a lot less "with-it". So, go easy on yourself when you can't manage to get out the door in less than 30 minutes. This is my first piece of concrete advice: allow a LOT more time to do things than you are used to. Did it used to take you 15 minutes to have breakfast in the morning? Count on 45 minutes or an hour now. Could you stop off at the store and pick up a few things, and be in and out in 10 minutes? My minimum time in the store now is 30 minutes. My DD is 4 years old, and my only child!! It just seems that she always wants to help (which I encourage and is easier than arguing about it) or starts asking questions about this or that, or we have to hunt down the bathroom (even though she went JUST before we left home).
The side-effect of this is that you just CANNOT accomplish as much in one day as you used to. I remember being SO frustrated with this when my DD was an infant. There were days when getting the top rack of the dishwasher unloaded was my grand accomplishment for the day. Wooppee! So, what I have learned to do is make lists. Well, I used to do that before I became a mom, but now I do one more step. I put a star next to 3 things on the list for the day. Those are the things I would really like to get done. Then I circle one of those 3 things. That is the ONE thing that I MUST get done that day. If nothing else happens, and only that one thing gets done, it's OK.
One of the big tricks for me has been slowing myself down enough to enjoy being a mama. I'm kind of a 100 MPH type person. You sort of sound that way, too. It will be a big adjustment, but it has tremendous rewards.
I also wanted to give some advice on routines. I like routines, and my DD does not. I tried for YEARS to get her to go to bed early, and at a set bedtime, and she just won't. She is not wired to be the early bird, nor is she consistent from day to day. BUT...we have a bedtime routine, and it helps everyone. So, whether she's going to end up in bed at 9 pm or 11:30 pm, we start the routine about 1.5 hours ahead of time. She and I take a shower together, then put on our jammies. We have a bedtime snack, then brush our teeth. We get into bed and read some stories. Then we turn out the light and snuggle until she falls asleep.
Before we started doing this routine CONSISTENTLY, the evenings were abysmal. She would be tired, I would be tired, and she wanted my attention. I was trying to rush her through the "getting ready for bed" because I really just wanted her "in bed". Once we established the routine, a lot of the clashes in the evening went away, since she knew what to expect and she knew she would get some undivided, unhurried attention.
All of your kids are pretty young, and going through some major upheavals. Transitions can be difficult for toddlers and pre-schoolers. By that I mean transitions of any kind, including:
waking up in the morning
leaving the house
stopping one kind of play to do something else
saying goodbye to you
saying hello to you again
settling down to have a meal
settling down to sleep
And big transitions like
death in the family
new care provider
Most kids (and adults, for that matter!) appreciate a little advance warning when they have to transition. Your kids didn't get any advance warning that their mother was going to go away.
But, you can signal to them that you respect them and their needs by giving them some warning about the day-to-day transitions. I use sort of a countdown with my daughter. I say, "OK, in five minutes we are going to put on our shoes and go outside for a walk." Then she knows it is coming, and can mentally prepare to finish what she is doing right then. If she doesn't seem to be preparing, I give her a "1 minute until we're going outside". Using this approach has drastically cut down on our number of tantrums (when she was Benny's age) and amount of power struggles (now that she's 4 and KNOWS what she wants!).
Well, I better stop blabbering. My two cents has turned into more than that!
But I also wanted to say that I have a sister in the So. Atlanta area who would be willing to lend you a hand if you are interested. She is a member of a great church that could offer some assistance, if you are open to doing the church thing. (I know that I wouldn't be, so I understand if you are not.) Feel free to send me a personal message (PM) if you want her contact info.
Good luck! You are an amazing woman, and an inspiration to many of us here.