As a family with 4 young kids, we get a lot of stares and double takes when we go out. And for people that are a bit bolder, they tend to come up to us and say things like:
"Are they triplets?" --Since the three older E's are pretty close in height these days.
"Are the girls twins? Are they identical?"
"Are (counting the kids) all of them yours?"
"You are so blessed to have the perfect balance of boys and girls!"
BUT the line that I get asked the most is:
"How Do You Do It?"
Most of the time I say something like, "With a lot of prayer and patience!"
Which is totally true because I do pray a lot for patience and wisdom on how to take care of the kids but that's not the only way I get through my day with 4 kids under 5. Today I'll share what I have learned so far on how to deal with 4 kids but please know that I am still learning as well and these are not necessarily the only way or perfect way to do things.
1) Set A Schedule and Stick To It
Kids, especially young kids, tend to function better when they know what to expect. I have found that there is usually less melt downs or tantrums that way. Another major melt down starter is hunger, so one of the times that I make sure I always stick to is meal time. I make sure lunch and dinner is ready at around the same time everyday, give or take maybe 15-20 mins. If you think 1 child having a melt down is bad, try 2 or 3 or even 4 at the same time! There is no easier way to drive a parent up the walls than multiple melt downs. Some things in our day may not happen at exactly the same time of day but I make sure sequences stay the same. For example, we might not always finish our meals at the same time each day but I always brush the kids teeth after lunch and before they go to bed. And we usually try to keep the sequence of who brushes first, second, and last the same. There is usually less resistance to do things that the kids don't particularly like to do, when they know it is about to happen. Does this mean we are never spontaneous? No, there is a block of time in the afternoon after lunch where I pretty much go with the flow of what the kids would like to do.
2) Why I'm Home In The First Place
I find it funny sometimes when I forget why I am staying at home in the first place--to take care of and spend time with my kids! All the work that needs to get done around the house sometimes fogs up my focus. So there are certain things that I make sure I leave till after the kids are sleeping or in school to do, like the laundry, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom. Though these things are important, the most important thing is that I'm spending time with my kids. I make sure I set aside time to read books, do silly exercises, color or draw, and simply play with them. This got to be a bit difficult when E4 was really young because he nursed every 3 hours and had to be put down for naps and I simply didn't have the time or energy to be with the three older children as much as I would like to, but good thing my mom was around to help me during the first 9 months of E4's life!
3) A Slightly Messy and Dirty House is OK
I am definitely a neat freak! Well, my mom might think that my cleaning standards are not quite up to par to hers, but I'm pretty obsessed when it comes to keeping a clean house. But boy is it hard to keep up my standards with a house full of kids! There are spilled milk splashes all over our sofas and chairs. Crumbs are scattered throughout my living room. Toys can be found in some of the most odd nooks and crannies. And the mirror in our powder room (the most used potty room by the kids) is always splattered with stains. Of course, all these things need to be cleaned up but it doesn't have to happen RIGHT AWAY! I used to feel the need to vacuum or sweep up those crumbs as they fell to the floor because I couldn't stand a messy house. I was a bit like Monica from Friends though I never had a vacuum for the small hand held vacuum. For all you Friends fans out there, you know the reference! NOW I have learned to relax and lower my standards of cleanliness. Usually by the end of the day, all toys are mostly picked up, crumbs have been vacuumed, and the sink is cleared BUT if I really just couldn't get to taking care of those crumbs at the end of a long day, I don't beat myself up over it, I can always get to them tomorrow they are not going anywhere =)
4) Don't Take Things Too Personally
I used to get really mad or upset when the kids were disobedient. Then I would get upset at myself for not being able to keep my cool. I knew I wasn't being a good parent to my kids acting that way, I was not setting a good example. Then I realized the main reason I was getting mad or upset was because I was taking each act of disobedience PERSONALLY. Now I understand that kids will be kids and they are disobedient because of their sinful nature. Their disobedience isn't always a reflection of me as a parent. Though I strongly believe that parents have the responsibility to teach their kids right from wrong and how to lead a God-centered life, if I take everything too personally and can't keep my cool, I'm not doing them any good.
5) Kids Learn to Share and Wait Their Turn
This is a good lesson for all kids to learn but is truly important and life saving when there is more than 1 child. Early on in my pregnancy with my twin girls, my husband and I had decided we would not buy them 2 of the same toys so they would always have to learn to share. Now maybe we may have bought 2 of the same elephant teething toys really early on in their life but other than that we have stuck with our rule. Just to clarify, we do dress them in the same outfits at times, it's just so cute and hard to resists as parents of twin girls! But when it comes to toys we do not buy duplicates. It has been a great way for us to teach all the kids how to share their toys and take turns. Also in terms of waiting their turn, E1 learned this especially early in his life. When the girls still required naps, I would tell him that it was time for me to put the girls down for their naps, he had to wait (in a safe place where he could play but I could still hear him if anything were to happen). And when the girls were down for their naps, I would explain to him that we could have some special time together and play some toys or games that we would not be able to play if the girls were around, like things with smaller parts or paper books when they were younger and would just put in their mouths. Now E1, E2, and E3, know that they need to wait when I put E4 down for a nap and they need to try their best to be quiet so that their brother can get some sleep. Don't get my wrong, there are still fights and arguments that happen over toys but it has become easier to mediate those once the kids understand the need to share and take turns.
I could probably go on with more things but I'll stop at these 5 points and hope you find these helpful.
Any good tips to share with me and other readers on how to handle the busy life as a mom? Would love to hear from you!