Juggling 3 kids, 3 and under is not easy. You have good days and bad days, the latter unfortunately outweighing the former. So how do you reduce the number of those bad days? How do you get through the inevitable groundhog days that come with having kids? Here’s how I do it (or at least try to):
1. Stick to a routine
I’m a firm believer in setting routines early for kids – even for newborns. A book called “Save Our Sleep” by Tizzie Hall was a lifesaver for me. The book sets out a whole set of routines according to the age of your baby or toddler. The great thing about the routines is that you can plan your day around them. You can even adjust them to suit your current routine if you have to. They take a lot of the guesswork out of what you should be doing, when you should be doing it. You should even be able to carve out some down time for yourself during the day and get the kids down for the night at 7pm so you can get that all important “Mummy Time”.
2. Be prepared
Preparation is key. If you’re going out, make sure that the night before, you lay out all your kids’ clothes, pack their lunch box and/or their school bag and prepare the pram. Its not just about preparing for your kids though. You also need to prepare yourself. Have your shower the night before when your kids are sleeping. Pack whatever you’re going to need in the pram for the next day. If you’re breastfeeding, pump some milk after your shower and get the bottle ready for your baby. Even if you don’t use this milk the next day, you can freeze it for later.
Multi-tasking is another key. I’m lucky enough to have my washer and clothes line in my eat-in kitchen (ooh lucky me!) so I often hang the washing out or fold it when I’m feeding the kids (I can’t believe I just wrote that – sigh – I never thought that I’d sound like such a housewife). I also use the opportunity to clean the kitchen while I’m in there too. Sometimes I’ll leave the kids in the kitchen while I bathe the baby. Its a bit tricky as I have to check in on them from time to time (not while the baby is in the bath of course!) but it works. Also, if like me, you get a lot of emails or you need to do admin on your iphone, I find breastfeeding or bath time with the older 2 girls a perfect time to do it.
4. Be vigilant
With 3 kids, 3 and under, if you’re not vigilant, you’ll never be able to stay on top of things. You have to be fairly strict with yourself. When my kids are awake and I’m in the house, when I’m not entertaining them, I’m doing housework. With 3 young kids there is no point trying to rest when they are up and about so don’t even try, you’ll just get frustrated. Don’t worry, you’ll get your Mummy Time…
5. Have Mummy Time
Time out for yourself is essential. It keeps you sane, which not only you will appreciate, but your kids and husband too. You will be more patient and tolerant with your kids and even your husband! You’ll just be happier for having escaped groundhog day. I’m lucky enough to belong to a gym where I can put my youngest 2 in a great creche for 2 hours, 4 times per week! I get to have a shower, have a workout, check my emails, catch up with friends, knowing that my daughters are having a great time painting, singing nursery rhymes, and mucking about with their little friends (or in the case of my baby, having her morning sleep). Even if you aren’t as lucky as me and can’t go to a gym with a creche, you too can make the time, especially if you have a routine in place. I get to take more Mummy Time when my younger 2 are asleep during the day. I also get Mummy Time when my kids go to bed for the night. What can I say, “happy wife, happy life” 🙂
6. Have Date Nights
Its easy to forget your partner when you are inundated with children, especially when there is a little one stuck to your boob most of the time. As my mum would say, I am just “a boob with a head on it”. And that’s probably the way your partner sees you most of the time. It doesn’t exactly promote intimacy (or maybe it does for some). In any case, having fun with your partner and going on the occasional date night is just as important as your Mummy Time. It reminds you both of why you had your kids in the first place and why you fell in love. It all gets lost in the groundhog days and its important to the whole family that you remember. If your relationship is strong and you’re both happy you will find the juggling act a whole lot easier.
7. Pursue other interests
This of course ties in with Mummy Time. The point I want to make here is that you should not let yourself be consumed by your kids. Its all too easy to lose yourself. This isn’t good for you, or for your kids, as much as you convince yourself otherwise. If you can’t convince yourself otherwise, then think about the kind of role model you are going to be to your kids, especially to your daughters. If you don’t have any interests outside mothering them, what are you going to teach them? Don’t give up your old interests when you become a mother – pursue them, make time for them. They define you (if you believe what you do defines you), and you will be a happier person. (Of course, I’m talking about healthy interests here that will complement you as a mother – your raving days are over!)
8. When you can, go to bed early
This is a simple one. You can’t keep the balls up in the air if you’re exhausted. You’re bound to drop one. So when you can, make sure you get enough sleep.
9. Share the pain
As they say, misery loves company 🙂 Oh, its not that bad! Looking after kids can be isolating. Don’t hole up at home with the kids – get out to your local playgroup and spend some time with other mums. You’ll enjoy their company and some adult conversation and your kids will get to play with other kids. Mothers groups are fabulous supports, especially to expats who don’t have family support. I don’t know what I would have done without Maida Vale Mums: http://www.maidavalemums.com/
10. Go easy on yourself
With motherhood comes guilt. The guilt worsens with each child you have. But you have to get over it. You can’t do everything and be everything to everyone. You just have to do your best. Don’t feel guilty about all the things that you think you should be doing, its just a waste of time. Love your kids, love your life, and the rest will fall into place.