Here are some ways I’ve found to both engage and love on my kids while getting done the things around the house that can’t be ignored:
1) I try to spend at least an hour—not necessarily all at one time—where I’m focusing just on my kids and not doing any work. I used to feel badly that I wasn’t spending oneonone time with Bunny every day once Baby Bear was born, but now I realize that it’s okay if I spend this time playing with both of them together (though we throw in mommydaughter dates as often as possible). Both my kids love music and my daughter loves to dance so I lay him in the middle of his bedroom on a blanket and take out the guitar and play and sing for them while my daughter dances, or plays along with a tambourine or a xylophone. It’s great fun for all of us!
2) I fold laundry while Baby Bear is getting blanket time. His sister and I are with him, talking with each other and to him and he seems to feel that his social needs are met. Bunny has the opportunity to feel important by helping me fold easy things such as napkins, towels, and Daddy’s boxers and some days she even earns a little money doing so.
3) I invite Bunny to join in my chores. She especially loves to help me cook and bake, but she also helps with dishes, folding, sweeping, wiping down surfaces, and playing with her little brother.
4) When I’m exhausted, I find no shame in just snuggling down with a movie. No, that’s a lie, I’m a little ashamed of it, but I realize that it’s necessary sometimes. I nurse my son, my daughter watches a movie, and we’re all relaxed and getting the rest we need.
5) Nursing one child provides a great opportunity to engage with the other (at least until the nursling starts doing acrobatics). Bunny and I work on reading and her penmanship workbooks while Baby Bear nurses. Sometimes, I just read our chapter book to her at this time. She also likes to play doctor or hairdresser and allowing her to do that while I nurse is a great way to help her feel included.
6) I find that if I can carry on a conversation with one or both kids while doing my housework, my they are infinitely more pleased with life. Bunny likes it especially when I narrate what she is doing for her little brother. It makes her feel so important!
7) Babywear. You can do almost anything while babywearing. Even nurse discreetly while grocery shopping.
8) When I have lots of work to do in the kitchen, Bunny likes to sit at the counter and either eat her breakfast/lunch, or color while singing to me or telling me stories. Baby Bear is still young for long, selfsustained play, but he will sit in the high chair with a variety of teething toys on the tray and be quite pleased with himself for 515 minutes.
9) Naptime is the best time to get chores done, but it’s also a perfect time for napping so I have to prioritize based on how I’m feeling. In my house, we have naps until kindergarten even if the child no longer naps, at which point it becomes quiet time. It’s just better for everyone that the house has 12 hours of quiet, alone time each day.
10) It’s okay to make them wait sometimes, but not every time. No matter how big, important, or urgent your “to do” list, if your kids have been waiting for your attention all day and you haven’t been able to give it, it’s time to drop everything and just be with them. They just want to know they are special and loved. They don’t care if the house is clean. When I have lots of work to do and Bunny needs my attention, we’ve tried the timer approach. Instead of saying “Just a minute, honey” and then losing track of time, I’ll say “I’ll take a break and play with you in 5 minutes” and then I set the timer. When it goes off, I stop everything and play with her. Once she gets used to this, she stops bugging me because she knows I have to stop what I’m
11) Take advantage of your hubby! When my husband is home, I ask him to watch the kids for a couple of hours so I can catch up on work uninterrupted. And he does the same thing with me. But we also work hard to drop everything and invest in each other. If you are married, the most important thing in your family’s wellbeing is a healthy relationship with your spouse. If you don’t take care of that, you won’t be as emotionally healthy as you should be and your children will feel it. Kids feel safer when their parents get along.
12) Wake up early or go to bed late. I get up a full two hours before I need to leave for work so I can get all my ducks in a row before the kids need me. My husband is on call during this time so that if they awaken, he’s the one who will take care of them.
13) Now that Bunny is four years old, it’s nice that I can begin to delegate some things to her. She’s learned to clean her room and she’s great at putting Baby Bear’s toys away too! Her favorite chore is opening a new package of toilet paper and stacking the rolls in the bathroom closet. The more things she can help me with, the more time I have to spend with her and the more important she feels. Besides, it teaches her a much needed lesson in responsibility and working together It’s a winwin situation.
14) Sometimes, you just have to let things go. I’m not a “let things go” kind of person. I like things organized and my house clean, but I’m learning which things can wait and which can’t. A sink full of dishes can definitely wait on a day I’m serving leftovers and a basket full of clean laundry can wait to be folded until I have several more baskets. Cleaning up the toys should only be done once a day, rather than all day long and sometimes it’s best if beds look “sleptin.”
Like I said, I’m not great at this—letting cobwebs be and dust sleep while rocking my babies, I mean. I work hard and struggle every day to find a balance between my task oriented nature and putting my relationships with my babies and my husband first. Some days are great because the house is clean and my children are happy and I feel like I was a good mom. Other days, not so much because I raised my voice or said “just a minute, honey” one too many times. But as long as they feel loved and supported, kids are easy to forgive your downfalls. The other day, Bear was having a ridiculous fit of fussy crying and my nerves were shot so I decided we’d go on a drive. I asked Bunny to get her shoes and she went into her room, turned on her music, and started dancing instead while I ran around trying to gather everything while the baby screamed. Frazzled and shoeless myself, I found her in there having made no progress and I lost it. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING???” I yelled, “YOU NEED TO GET YOUR SHOES ON NOW!!! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT WHEN YOU’RE BROTHER IS CRYING AND WE HAVE TO LEAVE?!?!” And her face fell as she shamefacedly did what I asked while I stomped around getting ready. When we were in the car and both of us had calmed down, I apologized. “Bunny, I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have screamed at you. I wish you would have obeyed me more quickly, but it was wrong of me to yell at you. Do you forgive me?” She did, of course, without hesitation. I, however, couldn’t forgive myself and not ten minutes later, worried about her little heart and how badly I’d scarred it, apologized again. “Mommy!” she said in an exaggerated tone, “You already said that!” I smiled to myself, thankful at her eagerness to forgive my indiscretion and move on with life and I tried hard to forgive myself. Then, we continued our lovely drive, pointing out Christmas light displays and singing songs together while Baby Bear slept, easily lulled to sleep by the motion of the car. Being a mom is tough, but with some multitasking strategies, organization, and a good dose of forgiveness, it’s not impossible.