Parenting is hard. And anyone who tells you differently, is either lying or doesn’t have kids! Having 4 kids myself, including a set of twins, I’m always happy to share any tricks that I have learned along the way.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Join a gym with childcare. It was a lifesaver after I had the twins! Sure there was baby weight to lose, but the real reason I joined was that I got two full hours of no one calling my name. I would slow walk on the treadmill, watch The Hills reruns, and play Candy Crush. Some days I just sat and read a magazine. I “worked out” on the upper deck where all the elderly people congregated. There was no loud music blaring, it was nice and warm, and I never felt self-conscious about my postpartum body. Plus, it was always somebody’s birthday or anniversary so there was plenty of post-workout cake!
- When your kids are too old to take a nap but not old enough to make good decisions when left alone, showering during the day can be dangerous. There were a few years when I would walk out of the shower holding my breath, waiting to see what disaster I would encounter. Because of this, I developed a showering technique called, “Hitting the High Notes.” Abbreviated showers did not leave enough time for shaving my legs so I picked up the habit of using an electric razor in the car and shaving at red lights. It added no time to my daily schedule, I was able to shave while my kids were securely buckled in their car seats, and my legs were hairless by the time I got to the gym! This may be the most TMI trick…
- You know all those dinky toys your kids get from birthday parties or Chuck E. Cheese? I used to throw them away while they were at school (my own OCD magic trick) until I realized that they made great filler for “busy boxes.” I filled up plastic shoe box containers with toys and when I needed to cook dinner, take a phone call, or help another kid with homework, I busted out a busy box and those cheap toys actually kept my kids occupied!
- Speaking of toys, I decided when we first started having kids that I did not want to live in a house overrun by toys. In addition to using storage furniture to hide toys in, I also separated toy sets into plastic bins. I kept the bins in a spare closet and would allow each kid to go get one bin to play with at a time. When they were finished, they had to clean it up before getting another one. If I wanted to reward good behavior, I would let that kid go pick first. I hit up garage sales and local resale sites to get a stockpile of fun toys so there was enough variety and they wouldn’t get bored.
- Kids cry. A lot. And when you have 4 kids, there is always somebody crying at your house. Usually it’s for a reason that is not on the “Ok to Cry About” list (because I definitely have one of those)! So here’s the trick: anytime my toddler was pitching a fit and could not be redirected or my preschooler would not talk in her “Big Girl Voice,” I vacuumed. It’s loud enough to drown out the wails, and when you have kids, it’s a chore that always needs to be done. I did it enough to where eventually, they would just walk off because they knew I wasn’t feeding into the drama!
- I have never been one to carry a diaper bag. They are bulky, full of stuff that you will probably never need, and typically I was either wearing or carrying one of the kids, so the last thing I needed was something else to weigh me down! Instead, I got a plastic bin for my trunk and filled it with necessities that I might need while I was out: diapers, wipes, extra underwear, extra clothes, small toys, and snacks. Added trick: make sure you pack shoes–you would be surprised how many times we would get somewhere and a kid would realize they forgot to put on shoes. As I’ve gotten older, there has been less in the box but it is so much easier than carrying everything around with me.
- My kids loved bath time! Trick 1: sometimes we would take baths just to break up the monotony on days we were stuck in the house. Trick 2: I also never seemed to have time to clean, so I would use bathtime as a time to clean the bathroom. That way I was still watching whoever was in the tub but I was able to get much-needed cleaning done as well!
- When the twins were toddlers, the frequent trips to the grocery were my nightmare. They would cry, climb out of the carts, and throw the food out on the floor. This was even more difficult because I had to shop with two carts since there were two kids that needed to be strapped in. A friend of mine (who has 5 kids herself) suggested that I use grocery shopping time as lunchtime. It worked perfectly! I brought a little backpack with PB&J, pirate’s booty, juice boxes, squeeze applesauces, etc. and would feed them their lunch one item at a time while I shopped. When I got home, I was able to put them down for a nap rather than try to fix lunch for fussy toddlers while I was also trying to put groceries away! This is the ULTIMATE trick!
- Momlife never stops. And as wonderful as it sounds to me to have nothing to do, there was apparently nothing worse to my kids than being bored! They loved following me around and whining about being bored while I was doing laundry or trying to prepare dinner. I know there are moms out there who are great at creating special games for their kids to do, but I’m not trying to be anyone’s Fun Captain while I am scrubbing skid marks from their underwear or searching for perfectly-intact crackers because they “don’t eat broken food.” One day, I was wiping down the baseboards with a baby wipe (bonus trick: you really can use those for everything) when the older 3 came running around the corner telling me how bored they were. From that day on, I started giving them a baby wipe whenever they said that. They had to take the wipe to clean something dusty or dirty in the house and they could not stop until they brought it back to me completely filthy. And this technique can be applied to any negative behavior you are trying to extinguish. My house never looked so clean!
- Babies and toddlers seem to constantly be sick but hate having their noses suctioned out (so much so that I have been known to keep a bulb syringe next to me as a deterrent so my toddler will give me a few minutes to myself). But of course it is important to suction them so they eat and sleep better. As they get older, it becomes more difficult to do because they start to fight you. This is where proper positioning is key: sit on the floor with your legs in a V, your baby will lie on the floor face up and head toward you, and their arms go underneath your legs. That way you can keep their head still and do what you need to do, and they are also not able to kick you or hurt themselves. This position also works for eye drops, inhalers, brushing teeth, etc. I might have even done this with one of mine who didn’t want his fluoride treatment at the dentist. He’ll thank me one day when he doesn’t have cavities!
So there you go! You may already be implementing a few of these, but hopefully there are some new tricks on this list that can help make parenting just a little easier. I think other parents are the greatest resource that we have and we will get through this child-raising together. After all, it takes a village!