Life with little ones…help!
By Jill Savage
(written 12 years ago when our youngest was born)
In the past six months I have had more people ask me, “So how is life with four children?” My reply has consistently been, “Life with four is not a problem, it’s that infant stage again that throws you into a tailspin!”
No matter what anyone says, when you have children newborn through two years it is the most demanding season of parenthood. The physical demands of getting up at night, having a child attached to your hip or leg during the day, feeding yourself and baby at the same time all play into the physically exhausting season of life with an infant or toddler. So what can we do to survive this season of motherhood? Well, I’d like to offer some proven tips that can make this season an enjoyable one.
*Lower the expectations: We simply cannot accomplish as much as we think we can when it comes to housework. I may get two loads of laundry done but if I expected to get five loads done, I’m going to be frustrated. If my goal is to get “some” laundry done, I’ll feel good about whatever I get done. Instead of trying to clean the whole house in one day, make the goal one or two rooms a day. There will be a day (in another season of motherhood) that we can clean the whole house in one day.
*Take time for me: On a daily basis it is important to take time for ourselves. When the baby takes a nap, rather than rushing around trying to do all the things you have wanted to get done, allow for a portion of the naptime to do something that fills you up. If you have been up at night, take a nap. If you feel you need to use your brain, read a book. If you need some adult conversation, call a friend. So often we get one hour to ourselves and we are rushing around trying to get a hundred things accomplished and are just as exhausted when the little one gets back up. I know for myself, I need some sort of order in my home before I can relax. So I set the timer for 15 minutes to get things picked up. When it rings I stop where I’m at and take some time for me. After all, if I’m tired and crabby what kind of a mom am I when they are awake?
*Rest Time: When the toddler outgrows taking a nap, continue to have a rest time daily. In the summer, when all four kids are home, we still do rest time. My 12 year old daughter loves to use rest time to read. My 9 year old son uses it to build Lego inventions. Our 6 year old daughter uses it to play quietly with her dolls. The baby still naps. I tell them rest time is for mommy (they’ve learned mommy is so much more fun when she’s had a rest time) but I also have seen that they get along so much better when they’ve had time apart. We began rest time when they gave up naps (as early as 18 months) and it has been a lifesaver.
*Allow more time: With young children, we need to double our preparation time. It takes twice as long to leave to go somewhere. We have to not only get ourselves ready but we have to get them ready, too. It takes more time. If you are not a morning person (like me) learning to get out of bed before the baby awakes will make a big difference. Decide on breakfast food and clothes the night before. Allow for extra time getting out the door. Expect Junior to fill his diaper after you get his coat on him. Then you won’t be surprised and frustrated when he does.
*Get out once a week: Arrange with a friend or your husband for an afternoon or evening out once a week. Nobody is going to give it to us, we have to ask for it and make the arrangements to make it happen.
*Use the Playpen: When my first children were babies I used the playpen for a travel crib. Wow, was I missing out! The playpen provides for a safe place for the baby when we need to run to a different level of the house, have some privacy in the bathroom (is it possible, really??), or take a shower. If we start using it early enough (5-6 months), they can begin to get used to it and look upon it as a fun place to be for a limited amount of time each day. Leaving a few toys in the playpen that they can play with only while in it can help make it attractive.
*Dealing with colic: We dealt with colic six years ago when our third child was born. I will never forget the emotional and physical drain of that time. The most important lesson I learned was to let friends and family help. At first I hated leaving a screaming baby with someone else, but then I realized that she would be screaming with or without me. My friend or family member could deal with that for two hours or so while I took some time to regroup or become reacquainted with my husband. After even a short break, I was able to return ready to tackle the days ahead.
*Keep the marriage first: When the baby comes along it becomes so easy to become child-focused. Our marriages get put on the back burner. Even one or two hours out once a week can keep us focused in the right direction. This keeps our relationship from becoming stale and unattended.
*Pray: Being home with an infant or toddler can be a very lonely season of motherhood. During the winter months, it can be days before you see another adult besides your husband. Developing a relationship with the Creator of the Universe can be the best friendship you will ever pursue. He won’t leave you, will always challenge your thinking, and will be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What more could we want in a Friend?
So how did I get this written with a 7 month old? Well, I started three days ago, expected to get only one paragraph finished each time I sat down at the computer, dealt with multiple interruptions, prayed all the way through it, and finally finished it after everyone was in bed! Oh the joys of those infant days! I wouldn’t trade them for the world!
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I love your honesty and genuineness! Your tips are always so real and I know you are speaking from experience. Thank you for sharing so much to encourage fellow women of God. Keep up the good work! 😉
oh, these are such good pieces of advice. i have a friend who just had her third baby…she now has 3 under 3! she’s overwhelmed and tired…i’m going to point he to this post. such realistic acvice! i’ll surely try to remember these things when i have my next one.
playpens are great! i’m glad you mentioned that one! how else would i have gotten dinner ready????
Great tips!! I have 4 under 6 years and my current mantra is – when can I sleep. lol! I know this season will pass, I’m just trying to enjoy it as I survive.
Jill, I appreciate your ideas and insight. If I may, I would like to add another tip to your list for the precious infant-toddler years:
That is, begin with the proposition that God meant for two parents to raise each child. So divide all elements involved in half – half the time, half the feeding, half the rocking, half the playtime, half the changes, half the baths, half of every second and every action. Schedule your lives so each parent does half the work, and gets half the time. Then, because no one has a perfect life that would allow such an equal division, trade times and duties back and forth, always trying to keep some sort of equilibrium. Otherwise, one parent will do more of the work, and get more of the rewards, than the other – and I do not believe that is good for either parent OR for the child, or for the marriage. One of the promises made in Scripture about the coming Messiah was that “he would turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children.” I think a good place to start is with 50/50 first. It forces everyone to really think about what is valuable, important, necessary, and possible. Don’t fall into the trap that one parent must trade money for time with a child. Thanks! Blessings!