Is juggling it all the only way? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
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What to title this huh? I feel so overwhelmed with unschooling at times. This is one of them. :)


There are things I want for my kids. I want to give them enough time to try and try again at mastering something they want, to give them my attention if they want it, to give them any opportunity I can to explore an interest they have, I want to give them my patience as they try new things.


But I'm not succeeding and I want to find some peace and calm in the chaos, because that's how things feel, chaotic. definitly part of it is caused by my own desires and needs, but I have a right to those too. :)


They do sports, martial art, more sports, park days, chill out get togethers with friends, swimming . . then at home they seek art time, want to play instruments, video games, cards, chess, lego . . . it is so awesome and great and I want to be right there suporting them however they need it.


but there are three of them, and dishes after each meal, and laundry, and cat litter, and composting, and oh crap we're late for aikido and I don't have any snacks ready for all our special diets, where is your uniform?


 I feel that way most days.


I want us to cook together, eat together, have enough time to get to bed in a happy way, read if they want it, we sing in bed sometimes . . . but we come in from aikido and haul off to soccer within the hour, and then they're tired and need bed but we're home late from soccer so just crawl in, no time to read or sing cause I need to go attack the dishes, or heavens think about knitting or sewing or writing (never happens).



I know mine is not a unique situation. But the only thing I ever run to when I feel overwhelmed is that I should be more organised, we need a routine, we need schdules, there is peace in inking us all into a 12 hour routine.


But we're unschoolers! Maybe I missed the workshop on how to actually get everyone's needs met, they're not asking for the moon (or are we?). We do not want to say 'now it's art time' and 'everybody get up now, it's 7am!' but otherwise, now do you get it all in there? Between the 5 of us someone has a regular class/activity 5 nights a week, and 5 afternoons a week.


I don't want to deny an interest, of theirs or mine or dh's. but after 10 years of this juggling thing, I'm not getting better at it, or it doesn't feel like it. Are you better at it? Is there a psychological secret you can share? I'm thinking it's a matter of perspective and that mine is off. All I know is youngest will wake up and ask to paint and then have a bath (who could deny her that) but I know we need to be gone in an hour (cause they slept in) for a class/park date/play thing that we all want to go to. And after that we need food, then a class, or laundry, and it'll be 3 days and she never got to paint.


How do you do it, how does your house flow?  We love our activities, we'd do more if there was more money and time. Yet still, there is so much we cannot fit in that I think is so important. Do we cut back? Do we say no to an interest? Being out of school and unschooled, to me, was about time, having enough, being able to immerse yourself in something. We have nooooo time for immersion.


So maybe it is just that I need to see things differently, and be a little bit more organised? We are not schedule folks, I do not plan our meals, the kids don't sit to do X at a certain time . . .  and the idea of that really puts me off because I'll get cranky makin everyone adhere to it. But maybe there's a middle groun and my struggling Libra can only see the extremes?


How do you manage unschooling lots of kids, as well as yourself and partner?

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#2 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 08:36 AM
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In my own family (four unschooled kids) I've found that we can either have plenty of that kind of peaceful intentional home life or we can have lots of outside activities, but we can't have both. My kids are limited to two activities, preferably common activities (like, two kids in the same choir, or three kids doing skiing) and we also give priority to activities that can happen in blocks on the same day. We've discovered this is the balance that allows us to have a little of both. My kids prefer this balance and although it's sometimes tough to maintain this has been our consensual decision, one we revisit and re-evaluate frequently. 


From my perspective I'd say you need to cut back on outside activities if you want to have the gentle rhythm at home that you currently don't.



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#3 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 10:14 AM
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How old are they all?  Being from a big family, I imagine it gets easier as they get older.  Older kids can prep their own snacks and keep track of their own uniforms and gear.  You can facilitate that by organizing and having places for things.  I'm enjoying seeing friends and family with 11 yos who are so independent, baking bread and muffins themselves, etc.    


Even if I had more than one kid, I'd probably strive for a schedule where we were home every other day.  Or maybe have activities M/T/Th/F with a break on Wednesdays and the weekend.  Ds would fall apart with the back to back activities some of his friends have.  We never do more than one thing a day.  Usually it is something that lasts for hours, though.  I've been focusing on finding things closer to home lately.  Not so much activities since ds doesn't do many, but things like doctors, dentists, optometrists.  I had noticed the places we went were migrating farther and farther from home, sometimes because I asked for recommendations from friends, sometimes because the office moved.  I remember as a kid, my mom picking a dentist that was within walking distance (just around the block) so she could just send us older ones over on our own.


In addition to having kids in the same activities, there is the possibility of having kids in ones with friends and carpooling.


Do you have a dishwasher?  It's been a godsend having a portable one (the kind that connects to the kitchen faucet).  Worth the investment if you are doing dishes by hand.  I load and dh unloads.  Ds will unload the silverware.  

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#4 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 10:54 AM
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How do the kids feel about it?  I would discuss it with them and perhaps think about doing less activities all at one time or maybe skipping something from time to time.  If you're stressed from all the running they're probably stressed too.  Everyone's needs have to be met so work out some compromises to make everyone's life more enjoyable.

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#5 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 01:38 PM
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We don't do outside activities and my days are still like you described. My dc are all quite young yet, though, and we live rurally, so we really couldn't do nearly as much out of the home, as your family does. We do have the constant homelife chaos though. And I feel a lot like you do- that I need a rhythm, a peaceful atmosphere, and in my case, a lot of downtime to be healthy, and none of that is my reality- so far. I've begun to return to some more consensual living, and that is very helpful to all of us (I'm that way naturally, but dp is really, really not, though he is beginning- again- to see the value in it, and try).


I'm interested in responses from others as well.

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#6 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 04:29 PM
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Back from all day at the ski hill my three youngest kids and wanted to add ...


We use family meetings to problem solve our way through the issues you are describing. There are five questions that we always discuss at our family meeting (and other stuff that comes up too), and here are two of them: "How are we doing with the balance of out-of-home vs. in-home activities?" and "How are we doing at sharing the housework?" 


It sounds like from your perspective maybe your family doesn't seem to be finding the optimal balance. It's hard to tell from your post how your kids feel about these issues, but if you have concerns I think it's worth raising them with your kids and seeing what their response is. I'm always suprised how rational and responsive my kids are. They usually recognize the same issues I do, even if the issues aren't as much of a problem for them as they are for me. And I'm also impressed with the variety of creative strategies we come up with together to try to correct any imbalances. We don't always hit a good or sustainable solution the first or second or even third meeting, but it helps even just knowing we're all working together to find something that works a little better, and each time we discuss things we seem to make some gains. 


For instance, my kids were keeping really late hours recently and not getting up until late in the day, and it was starting to create a number of different problems. Their solution? I should cook them breakfast at a specific hour and get them up for it. I was skeptical -- it sounded like they were just putting additional work and responsibility on me. But in exchange they said they would do all the dishes afterwards. And they'd make sure the kitchen was pristine in the evening after supper, so that I'd have a clean space to work in in the mornings. Well, it's actually working really well. I'm liking the time alone in a clean kitchen, baking muffins and frying eggs. And we're all enjoying having "family breakfast hour" together. And they're getting to bed about three hours earlier.


We're a family that doesn't tend to gravitate to rhythms and routines. But when we seem to need something, working collaboratively through family meetings seems to help us find our groove ... at least for a while. And even if things fall apart again, we have the wisdom of experience to help us out the next time we grapple with these issues. 



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#7 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 06:16 PM
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I agree with having a family meeting. 


Around here I try to make sure we have at least 2, preferably 3 days each week to do nothing, with nothing scheduled. One of those days allows me to catch up on housework, the others are for doing whatever we feel like, helping kids with projects, going to playdates and park days, etc. So we limit outside activities, try to arrange them for similar time slots, etc. There have been times we've gotten carried away with the scheduled stuff and really regretted it later (thankfully we don't usually commit to anything for more than a few weeks, lol). So my suggestion is to talk with the kids, see if there is anything they would be willing to drop or alternate between terms with something else. 

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#8 of 19 Old 01-26-2011, 07:35 PM
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Wow great advice here. We are just starting our journey and my DC are only small, but this is great food for thought.


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#9 of 19 Old 01-27-2011, 05:35 AM
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If you don't want to dictate a schedule to the kids, I understand.  But you are entitled to stake your own claim to one for yourself and you also have a right to keep them from doing things that make work for you.


For example ... you might decide that you are going to be free from distractions to do housework from 11am-2pm.  If it bleeds it leads but otherwise they need to mind themselves.


I know some would think this is not the way to parent but my kids try to interrupt me with "can you change this battery, can you x" and I say to them I am working.  You cannot let your play interfere with my work.  If you can't figure out how to do it yourselves, play something else and I will do that later.


Also if a child has a history of not being able to put something away or making a mess with something, I don't let them use it when I don't have room in my own personal schedule to help clean it up.  They will have to wait until I have more free time.  That is just a natural consequence of his past choices and age limitations.


Basically, the way I handle about 30 child-hours of sports / arts / activities a week without stress is by not being my child's playmate very much.  Nobody can be / have it all.

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#10 of 19 Old 01-27-2011, 07:22 AM
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Is it that you are overschedueled or is it something else?


If it is overschedueled - chop away.  Wait til the kids are finished what they are doing, then let them know that the running around is exhausting and you want them to pick 2 outside the home activities each.  Try that on and see how it goes.  Tweek if necessary. Group activities when possible.  My own btdt is I like to do a little less that the scheduel can manage - that way if something fun comes along (one day workshop, community event, etc) you have space to do it without feeling overwhelmed.


We are night owls, so I have learned to try to avoid schedueling regularly recurring events for early in the day.  We also like things to be close by.  As a general rule, everyone in my family finds the hassle of getting to things that are early or far away not worth it.  There are occasional exception, but we think hard about far away and early events before committing.








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#11 of 19 Old 01-27-2011, 07:29 AM
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We are not unschoolers, but I aim for at least 2 days a week where we have no activities out of the home. We might decide on a whim to go to the Y and swim, or go to the playground, but it's a chance for us to get things in order at home and have rest and relaxation. I find it more important to have at home days rather than the overall number of activities. (Like our Thursdays normally have 3-4 activities, so they're busy, but Wednesday we are always home). 

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#12 of 19 Old 01-31-2011, 05:13 PM
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We unschool two of our kiddos and home school the other two kiddos (long story, but works for us).  I had a new baby in December and DH works five nights a weeks from 3-11.  

We use to have a rhythm and I had a great system to keep everything on track and organized.  Since I had the baby, I'm lucky to the younger kiddos in clean clothes and order take out for dinner.  Today is the first day I cooked dinner from scratch in almost two weeks.  


One of our sons has an activity every day, this the only way to keep everyone sane.  If he isn't constantly engaged and busy, he will dismantled washing machine, drive his older sister to tears, fight in with his brothers, and follow me around asking endless questions. Then he would cry for hours, filled with remorse and guilt for the way he acted. DH's contribution to our home schooling is to ferry our youngest son to all his activities every day.  We try to bundle activities, so my 8 year old goes to the same swim class on one day.  Another day, DH drops our daughter off for art classes and picks her up on way back from our youngest son's martial arts class.  Another day, our oldest son and his friend go to the skate board park near youngest son's other martial arts class.  Our two younger sons are in the same cub scout pack.  Youngest son has a few drop off classes and DH uses that time to go grocery shopping, do the banking and run errands.  It's a bit crazy and does require some creative timing and a very saintly husband.  He's willing to do it as long as I do park days and indoor game days so he doesn't have to chat with anyone.


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#13 of 19 Old 02-01-2011, 05:36 PM
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The phrase that comes to mind is, "Many hands make light work."  When you have your family meeting, emphasize this to everyone.  If you need six snacks, one of the kids can be in charge of this.  If your son needs his uniform, he needs to keep track of it.  If it is not found by x time, the activity is cancelled.  I know that sound harsh, & you will help him look for it, but I believe that is part of the reality of being a part of a large family.  If akido is that important to you, you will make sure your stuff is together.  I also think, while I wouldn't want to force my kids to do chores, a great gift to them is to teach them just how much work goes into managing a family.  I know that some of my friends were gobsmacked when their babies came along just how much work they had to do to keep the house running, & that is w/ only one or two kids.  A preteen can do laundry, a younger kid can fold diapers, children can put their own clothes away, get a dishwasher ;)


It totally stinks to see your younger kid(s) have to miss out on stuff they want b/c of the older ones, doesn't it?  I only have two littles right now & I can already see that the baby gets shlepped around whether she wants to or not.  We need to figure out how to honor the desires of our youngest children, too.  What do the older ones think of that?  How do they think it can be accomplished?


I do believe that part of having kids, esp unschooling kids, is that I take on most of the responsibility of managing the house, cleaning up after them, caring for them, etc.  But there is only so much I can do & if I need help doing it, you'd better believe that I will be asking my kids to help me.  Also, I am not great at time management myself so I am always working to get better.  One tip is to say to your kids, "Okay, we have akido at three o'clock.  That means that in one hour we all need to be in the car, ready to go.  What do we need to do to make that happen?"  The kids, or you, will list things & then everyone does something to make sure it is all done!


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#14 of 19 Old 02-01-2011, 07:11 PM
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I've got 2 homeschoolers and I'm a single mom and I work from home. Since becoming a single parent and then starting to HS on top of that (our faboo unschool-ey charter school closed 2 years ago), I realized that I had to find peace, because I could not survive otherwise; I've got nobody to pick up the slack so I must make sure that momma can function well. So, I started looking at any thing and any time that I got stressed out and started making changes. One thing I've stayed very committed to is we only do activities that both kids can do at the same time, same place - so they might be in different classes but we only go one place and it has to be for a certain number of hours to allow me to be home alone to work for a decent amount of time before heading back out to pick them up (I also live in L.A. so commuting time is a consideration for everything)


Because my life doesn't have much wiggle room, I must look at needs above desires. My oldest is very extroverted, so we need to get to weekly park day (which also gives me the adult conversation that I really need) and we need to have a group activity at least every other day. That's more than I'd do naturally but everyone is miserable if it doesn't happen (we've all been sick at various times over the last 2 months and this area has really been neglected). My little one is introverted so we must make sure that there is down time to hang out at home. I work really hard to get various areas of the house organized so that we can easily do activities (I have a natural aversion to messy projects which makes me want to say no to every one they come up with which doesn't work well for my kids, so I try to have the space to say yes). I let a lot of things go, and catch up when I can. My kids help around the house a lot (though the 6 year old makes more messes than he really helps with but it's getting better as he gets older)


I started by thinking of just a few things that stressed me out the most and figuring out how to alter those situations to make them not stressful. It's become a habit now, and made a huge difference for all of us. No, we don't get to do all the fabulous things I wish we could, but we get a bit more space to add those in as time goes on and we have a life that we can fairly happily live and maintain NOW, and I've found that matters more

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#15 of 19 Old 02-02-2011, 07:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. It really helps to hear from others, (hence my love for this forum!). It is definitly a combination of things as you hinted at kathyM. I am actually a very organised person. When I lived alone everything ran smoothly. but in our family, if I tried to maintain that same order, I become the boss, the CEO, and that is just not what I want. up until recently I have done it all for them/everyone. it was just so much easier/faster to do things myself, and I have little to no patience for standing back and letting them do it themselves (everything from zipping your coat to folding your laundry. Just go watch a movie and I'll get it done!). Plus, my achilles heel seems to be fearing one of them thinks I don't love them, and if I said 'well where did you put your uniform" or that they could make their own toast, I felt like what they heard was suddenly "I don't care enough about you to bother". This is still the case. DS asks for toast and I say "sure, the bread's on the counter" "can't you make it for me?" "well yes, but I think you can handle it". He'll choose not to have toast then, walking away with his head hanging low. Break my heart. my only goal there was to encourage some self-sufficiancy. So my own issues around how they see me plays a role here. Telling them I'm unavailable at X time fits here too.


I've spent years trying to better organise the house to suit our needs, but it doesn't help much. We have a teeny house, things are always changing, it just doesn't work. And again, it puts me in control because I'm the one who is overwhelmed and thus gives a darn. every year I declutter, move stuff, plan things out. It never sticks nor makes a big lasting change that matters.


Right now I'm trying to give some time to the youngest, and ask for help with things from evryone. We've had some great meals lately, where everyone has helped make them. and then one night, too busy with activities, we had a crap meal no one liked, and I pointed out how being rushed equals crappy meals, that we need time.


It's also what I think a healthy family is like versus reality. For example, through 'taking time for me' last night, everyone was still up at 10 when I headed to bed. now they'll sleep in until 9. (last year waking at 10 or 11 was the norm, which I'm just not alright with.) and I keep thinking no they must be up when dh leaves for wrk, we must eat together. but that's ust like the being organised thing, that I can push it and push it, but if I stop for just a minute we revert back to how we 'naturally' are. So maybe I just need to make my peace with that. (while I love that unschooling forces me to think and grow, I also loathe it at times. :) ) but the fear is that we'll slowly drift later and later, eventually sleeping most of the morning. My kid-free time is when they go to bed, but if I don't *make* them go, I get cranky about my time. So I need to find a better solution to that. (for example today I got up at 6 (!!!!) to get some time before they get up. )


I appreciate this fustration and stress I think because it will push me to change things, in myself, and think hard about what I fear and how I think about things in our family. I'm sure many of you have dealt with this too. Care to share?




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#16 of 19 Old 02-05-2011, 07:34 AM
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Subbing. I only have two young children but I feel this dilemma already. DD 4.5 wants to do lots of things outside the home, yet she also wants to do lots of things at home and when we're out all the time (or even half the time) she doesn't get to do any of the "home" things.

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#17 of 19 Old 02-06-2011, 12:35 PM
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I have started getting up early in the mornigns (okay, at 8 or so) to get the alone time I miss out on at night when the kids are up late. (I have three, one falls asleep around 9:30, the 2 year old anywhere b/w 8-midnight depending on naps, and the 7 yr old at about 11 or 12.) Our thing is that they all still want me to lay with them to put them to sleep. 


But, for what it's worth, although I would generally like to get up later, I enjoy the time in the morning, and find it to be my centering/getting ready for the day time. It is when I get a few quiet minutes to myself, or if one child is awake, we get some one on one time, which is also really great. 


My life feels chaotic most of the time too, and we only have one activity out of the house each week for each kid (plus homeschool swiming as a family, church, etc.) Maybe one playdate a week.


Here are things I've tried as of late to help on the days where I feel like life is too crazy.


We now have the kids clear their own dishes. They also wipe the table and put away condiments, etc. They don't mind helping, and supper clean up goes much quicker when there are 5 of us helping. Dishes do not HAVE to be done three times a day. Maybe breakfast and lunch dishes soak in the sink (or at least the parts that will harden get rinsed) and then you do the dishes once a day, at supper. That's half an hour saved right there.


I have stopped sweeping my floor every day. Now I sweep every 2-3 day. The floor gets a bit dirtier, but I have less stress about feeling like I'm cleaning all the time.


For awhile, I threw in a load of laundry every morning, before breakfast and put away a load at the same time. I sort, the kids throw their clothes in baskets (we don't waste time folding around here....:) ), and we're done. No heaping, overwhelming laundry pile to feel bad about.


There are ways to make meals, snacks, etc easier too. Perhaps you keep a container of snacks in your vehicle all the time. No need to pack individual snacks for every outing, you just have a selection of dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc in your vehicle for when you need them. Refill it once every couple weeks.


Maybe you could enlist the kids help in making meals, snacks in a way that wouldn't feel like a rejection to them. Not in the moment "I don't have time to make you toast" but .... "I made a shelf on the fridge of foods you can help yourself too." Dig into their desires to be in control of their own bodies, and you might find that they appreciate the autonomy. Waiting until your boy is really hungry and then asking him to make his own snack might just be more than he can handle at the moment, but if he knows it's available anytime, he can choose accordingly. 


Do your kids feel hectic and overwhelmed, or are they happy? Perhaps they also feel that it's all too much and would willingly do less. It is also okay to take a break from all of the activity for awhile. I have a friend who decided with her kids to take a sabbatical year and for a year they didn't sign up for classes, lessons, or anything else. At the end of the year they were ready to re-integrate into life outside of their own family and home. 


Do you have a partner that could take some kids to some activities? We have found that splitting up helps sometimes, so I take DD to Sparks and hubby stays home with the other two. I then take the time she's in Sparks (1 hour) to play piano. This is recharge for me, but fills her need to have me stay in the same building. Could you carpool with another parent who lives close by?


And, in the end, I really also believe that having three kids feels like a lot of juggling, a lot of the time. It's the reality of having a big family, especially an unschooling family where you are actively, intentionally trying to fill everyones desires for learning. 





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#18 of 19 Old 02-06-2011, 05:32 PM
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We're currently on break from swim lessons because something needed to go to help make our week calmer. For almost a year, the 10yo and 7yo had swim lessons on Thursday night and the 5yo had one Saturday morning. My 10yo started asking for a break, so at the end of the last session, we decided to skip this session. It's nice to have that time back.


What I'm saying is that it's ok to take a break from an activity, even one that they enjoy, to get more family time (or housework time). It doesn't mean you won't go back to it.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds   10yo dd  8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds  
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#19 of 19 Old 02-09-2011, 11:25 PM
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OP, I really, really relate.


Although my kids are younger, and it isn't so much about us being busy with outside fact, I feel like we should be getting my older son out into the world MORE.


My kids are 7 and 19months old.  And, I work part time as a homebirth midwife.  I feel like all I do most days is clean (And barely scratch the surface with my baby wandering behind me undoing the cleaning), cook, laundry, dishes, and drive the prenatal appointments.  My husband works a very full time job, and all he really has time for is watching the kids when I am gone.  It's hard.  :(


I'm hoping when my little one is older, and the constant mess lessens a little things will get easier.  It sure would help if my older son helped out with housework, but that still hasn't happened.  I really want to have more time to have FUN with him and to go explore different things in our area.  One day, I suppose..........

Mama to ds#1 (7) and a ds#2 (1 1/2)
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