When I had DD1, I felt like SuperMom. We did all of these wonderful things. DD2 came 8 years later and I felt pretty close to good Mom-ness. DD1 adored DD2. DD2 was a treat. Then 2.5 yr later came DD3. She has been working through some health issues that has made her realllly challenging, in addition to just being an incredibly active, strong willed, tough kid. She is now 19 months, DD2 just turned 4 and DD1 is 12.5 yr. I am really struggling about what to do with them on a daily basis. DD2 loves to cook but DD3 is extremely hard to manage in the kitchen. I cant get her to entertain with an age appropriate activity. Everything is climb, climb, climb, near death near death near death. Our Learning Tower is a catalyst to get on everything. I removed things she can climb on and she throws herself down and head bangs on the hard floor. I try to engage her in the cooking process and is it a disaster. Any sit down kind of activity is a disaster. So we go outside and DD2 likes to build, stack, make sticks house for animals, etc....DD3 likes to knock them down (DD1 calls my 4 yr old Lilo and my 1 yr old Stitch, lol). I can redirect and chase DD3 which leaves DD2 to play alone all the time. We do library story time, which is a mess. I can't find anything to focus on with my preteen because of the little one. My DD2 has the same condition as DD3, so both of them are a bit extra work, and DD1 is really self-sufficient, so I feel like she gets the shaft.
I am sure every parent goes through stages where they feel like they cannot meet every kids every need. I have an amazing DH who is an absolutely incredible father. Our two little ones' medical expenses are humongo right now so he is, by is working a lot more than either of us would like to make sure everything stays afloat. And we are expecting our 4th and final in April. :)
So mamas of many o kids.....what do you do, like on a day to day basis, with them? I have never felt so lost with parenting. Often I feel like I need to try and structure our days a little better. A loose layout for things....maybe a short block for music/dancing? Which they both do. Or an art time I can try and engage them both in something different? I just am not doing well at filling the days, and the little one does not just go with the flow as far as engaging in our normal house activities that DD1 and DD2 always did.
We do have some access to one babysitter that is familiar with and great at handling the girls with their health stuff. I have been leaving both girls for a couple hours just to gather my sanity. But mom guilt says I should spend with one or the other.
Any activity advice??? Structuring the day????
I am recently learning that it's just really, really not worth it to fight a lot of these things. Really. I'm not doing very well at remembering this in the moment, but I am working on it. A lot.
Your little wants to climb? Let her. My first is a very "intense" kiddo and also likes to get onto and in to everything. She doesn't see stairs, she sees the opportunity to launch herself off the top step and see how far she can go. I imagine yours is similar. Is there ONE room in the house, or backyard, or even in your community (we have an indoor playground with cheap admission at certain times, for example) where she doesn't need supervision? Does television entertain her for five minutes? Can you keep her off of the kitchen table? I have, for example, hidden all of the chairs in another room and then put an older child on top of the kitchen table, in the middle where he can't be reached, with an activity that is typically thwarted by the younger, crazy child (crafts, building sets, etc). It doesn't turn in to a magical, Norman Rockwell scene because you still have the crazy climbing your body (I need pants with no pockets - finger and toe holds!) and demanding attention, but the older and the activity are safe-ish and you can stop to offer help or interaction while also keeping the little in towers to knock down. I sometimes frantically run around the room with the basket of blocks and build little towers for smashing all over the place so that the child has to get up and move around to knock everything over. It wins you a good extra 90 seconds!
I don't think you should be feeling guilty about getting some alone time. You need it! You're dealing with a lot right now, and it's going to get more chaotic in April! Use all the resources you can!
12.5 is a pretty awesome, and also totally difficult time of life, and your dd1 would probably really benefit from some special time with you. Can a limited amount of your alone time include her? I know it's not alone time anymore in that case, but sitting with a special drink and books or journals at a coffee shop can be enjoyable for you while still giving her some time to just sit and "be" with you. You could talk about important things, or not, either way, she's going to feel grown up and important and who doesn't benefit from that?
It's true that both you and your daughters want and need some one on one time, but they would also get a lot out of one on one time with your husband. Even if it's just once a month with each kid for a couple of hours. The swimming pool is my personal favorite one on one, energy expending activity. One less kid at home with you means one less way to divide your attention! I know he's drowning in work right now, so if dates with dad have to go on the back burner for awhile, so be it, but I still think it's something to work in where you can.
I'm sorry you're having a rough go. This parenting gig is HARD. I constantly feel like I'm failing, but that guilt doesn't serve any of us well. You do the very best you can, you tell your kids you love them, and you go from there. I'm very "zen" today, apparently.
As to structure, what is your current rhythm? Are there any parts that DO work? Music/dancing is great, so is there a space that might fit in to? I find that if I have to radically change the current set up, things do not become part of the routine, but if little tweaks can be made instead, it easily flows with the day. So, for example, when I wanted to work music and movement into our day, I *wanted* it to be this peaceful, fun, activity with ribbon wands and grace and sunshine streaming in through the windows. I'd still like that, actually! But, turning on some fun, danceable music pretty loudly while I do the dishes in the morning? That works for us. I sing along, wiggle in place, and wash dishes, and then take small breaks to scoop up a kiddo or dance like a dork. Sometimes this all gets interrupted by my more intense child having a fit of some sort, but sometimes it doesn't. I don't know, it's not perfect, but it works, and it's ours. I don't think it's very realistic or sustainable to expect massive change to really take hold without making a LOT of baby steps first.
I'm looking forward to reading people's replies - I need some more ideas about this stuff too.
For greater things are yet to come...
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. It helps to know I am not alone, lol. DH is pretty good about getting super quality time with each kid when he is home. We need to carve out sacred time for each of us with each kid though, that doesn't get messed with. We tend to let the rise and fall of the youngest dictate the day. I actually realized something today. My mom was here for a couple hours this morning and I got the house cleaned/laundry finished. I really had the day free to play with the kids. When I devoted all of my focus to playing with them (and literally nothing else) it was MUCH smoother. So I am wondering how I can make my house keeping a bit more streamlined. Maybe even use DH for 2 hrs, 2x a week, to take the kids away, while I clean, or something. I don't know. I'm FAR from a neat freak, but struggle because the two littlest have eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease and have very violent immune reactions to many foods. 4 yr old can't have any form of dairy, soy, egg, wheat/gluten, nut/treenut, fish/shellfish, corn, beef, citrus, etc....and 19 month old can ONLY eat rice, corn, white potato, sweet potato, apple and banana. So if one leaves food or drops food that the other one gets a hold of and is not safe for them, we then lose a day or week to vomiting, stomach and chest pain, etc. So I feel like I am constantly cleaning around them.
But today was really good! 19 month old actually played with some things, lol. I did find a gym down the road that does 4 and under open gym for 90 min on Fridays. Should be pretty padded and safe. ;)
Are you hsing? My age range isn't quite like yours but I've got one turning 9 this week, 5y, 2y, and a 4 month old. My oldest DD1 goes to school 5 days a week and is heavily into sports which is her time away from the mass of younger siblings. The 5y goes to school 3-4 days a week. The younger 3 kids are often together, we do an open gym 1-2 times a week like the one you described. I try to find things that everyone can do which in my area is limited to the pool at the rec center and the science museum. My oldest can swim or rock climb while I wear the baby and chase the other 2 around the wading section of the pool. We do a lot of park time in the summer. It gets more difficult in the winter, I can't exactly take all the kids sledding alone. These last two weeks over winter break, we went to the pool or museum daily, sometimes both in the same day just trying to keep everyone sane and happy!
The more kids I have, the more I use a sitter. Not for going out, but for getting quality time with some of them and that is how DD1 manages to do all her competitive team sports. I couldn't do all the driving and practice times with all the other kids. I'll leave the toddler with the sitter and take the older two girls out to do something where I can't bring the toddler, I just wear the baby and off we go. Or I'll leave the younger ones (except baby, he always comes along) and take the older out for a mommy and her date. The baby doesn't really count to her because he isn't talking or fighting with her so she doesn't mind that he is along.
I have to keep a good routine going with the house in order to even come close to staying on top of it. And sometimes it fails, I always do the basics before going to bed every night, load the dishwasher, any laundry, pick up all toys, and that really helps to get the day off to a good start.
Your one year old sounds like a one year old to me. For a while I was frustrated with my (then 7-9mo) because she was all.over.the.place. and I couldn't get anything done. But, for her, that was the classic "develop my gross motor skills" phase. I was annoyed until I remembered that with my first, I would have just followed her around, helping her here and there. The baby's needs didn't change...mine did because I had more kids. So, that perspective was good.
For my kids, who are 6, 4, 2, and 1, I try to arrange my day so that they have different things to do at different times. I get overwhelmed trying to interact with all of them at once. I do group things with them, but nothing that actually takes much of me. Conversations, more detailed crafts, stories, etc, I do one on one. It's good for them, and much better for me. I use lunchtime to do things with some of them, and each of them gets about 15-30 minutes with me at naptime (I stagger when they go to bed). The youngest still takes a morning nap, so the 2yo gets some time with me then. Frequently the 6yo gets to stay up later, and some days gets the whole naptime with me. My 4yo loves to lay in my bed with me and read books, so when dh comes home, sometimes I sneak off with ds. I also, when I can, only take 1 child with me to run errands.
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."