I have always wanted a large family. I have 3 boys right now age 4 years, 2 years and 3 weeks. I can't even fathom how I am going to take care of them all by myself. DH and i always talked about having 5 - but right now I just can't see how I could take care of them. How do you guys find time for all your children? How do you keep them safe and out of trouble. Do you have any tips for entertaining a 4 year old and 2 year old while nursing a newborn? I'd love any advice and would welcome those of you with large families to share their experiences. Thanks!
Kristin - Mom to 3 little boys and one baby girl
Hmmm, I'm sleepy and nursing right now so I'm just going to answer your questions and then I'll try and edit this into coherency later.
You try and carve out little moments. Using "helpers" sometimes takes more time, but it gives me time with that particular kid. They get bigger and it gets easier and it gets harder. As they develop interests of their own, you take the time to encourage them. It also makes your schedule much much crazier. I've decided car time counts. It's my favorite time to chat with the bigger ones.
And as they get older, they get more independent. My oldest son, and my niece will either try and help a sibling, or will run and get me if there's a problem. Also, the only things left in my house are either indestructible, or kid related. I'll decorate when they're older. :P
For nursing (or pregnancy downtime/sick sibling cuddiling/babies naptime), we have quiet time, and toy baskets. We only keep one basket of toys each in the play room right now. So when I need a little extra distraction, I'll let them pick a basket from down in the garage to bring up. This way we're keeping clutter down, and everything seems new again. Also art supplies. I usually use the real stuff, but that color wonder stuff is a dream come true sometimes.
Once your second kid hits 3 years old, you'll notice a huge difference. They'll be able to entertain each other, and you won't feel nearly so stretched. . In the meantime, don't feel guilty about using an electronic babysitter from time to time. I love having a large family, and I find it easier, because the older ones help out. Maybe you just need to take a break for awhile and let the kids you have get a little older. Having the kids spread out in clusters is nice, because the older ones can help out with and entertain the younger ones.
Deb ................. DH Norm
DS Caleb, 13 ...... DS Patrick, 12
DS Isaiah, 8 ......... DS Thomas, 7
DD Cherish, 6....... DD Emily, 7\18\13 ....... Ripple, 17
William, 14 weeks, 4/11/12
Having an energetic DH who can be counted on to help at regular times and for certain activities is a huge help. Also, going to the park or outside for walks or errands means everyone gets exercise, gets tired and goes to bed early! If DH can watch the children at a specific time, you could perhaps organize some major cooking then so that meals are frozen for later on.
Sometimes a playmate enjoys time with one of the children and that can be a big help. You might be able to have a regular playtime exchange and see if that eases things for you.
Also, lowering your tidiness standards a bit helps!
Leo (3 1/2) with Malcolm the cat
I very quickly discovered that having a playmate over for the older ones was generally less work than if it was just me. Would that help?
We don't have an electronic babysitter, but always having snacks available has also decreased the amount of neediness for everyone. They all play quite well together (DSS13), DD(3) and DS(21mo), so it's not that hard right now. In fact, for the first time in ages, DH and I regularly have time with just the two of us after 8pm, and it's wonderful that we can regularly count on that. It really allows for a wonderful break in the evenings, and some relaxation time. In fact, for the first time in years, I've been able to take a course and read books for fun! I know it will only be until August when our next little one will arrive, but it really reminds me that the toughest part (so far), is under 1yo and nursing. Maybe I've been lucky so far, but Ivy even says to her friend who was saying that Ivy was his best friend that "No, Leo (DS) is my best friend". They are always doing things together. I hope it stays that way considering they are 16mo apart.
Definitely lowering your tidiness standards helps in the short term, realising that once things sttle down and baby is less needy, things will settle down.
I've also heard from various sources that the biggest change for most people is from 2-3 children, though for some it's 1-2. It all depends on your family and personalities - and definitly on how much help you can get in those first several months.
Maybe some of those with more children can help you out with their experiences, but I find that at around 3mo (less frequent nursing), around 6mo (some self feeding), crawling, sitting, and walking are some big phase changes each of which allows a bit more independence from a caregiver, and a longer break for mom.
As for "entertaining" the kids, I feel that that's not my job at all. That's their job. They need to entertain themselves, and discover activities that they find interesting and fun. Yes, it's important to have time to spend with each child independently, but there's many ways to do that. For example, We got a shovel and rakes for Ivy and Leo, and they have their planters that they can dig and play in. Ivy helps water the vegetable garden, and we periodically set up forts with blankets and tables and chairs. She can entertain herself for hours with blankets, her own clothes, stuffed animals, etc... She will sit for an hour ane "read" books to herself too. She just turned 3 a month and a bit ago. A small bit of attention and help at the beginning of an activity sets her up for a long period of independent and constructive play, usually with her younger brother.
Lastly, getting into a schedule (not too rigid) helps everyone. Knowing that dinner needs to be as soon as everyone gets home from work (5pm ish) to keep tempers and emotions flaring is very important, Knowing that 7:30ish (give or take) is book time (bedtime) for the little ones helps them know that it's time to settle down, plus they each get their own time there because they can each pick 2 kids books yo be read. DSS knows it's time for him to get time alone with Dad ( or step-mom) at that point too, whether doing homework or playing a game. The tough part is figuring out a schedule that is structured enough, yet flexible enough, to work for everyone. Then it takes a little while to get it in place consistently. After that, I've found it hacn't been too bad... but then, #4 will be in August!
Skyler Dylan 22 April 1999
Reed Aslan 17 June 2007 ~ 8 September 2008
Ivy Rayne 3 May 2009
Leo Spencer 2 Sept 2010
Forrest Reed 15 Aug 2012
I agree that as they get older it will get easier. I had almost four years between my second and third and number three was definitely my easiest transition because my girls were fairly I dependant. With the closer age gap between number three and four again I am noticing it being harder again. This time around I really feel maxed out, like every minute I am awake I am doing something for someone or eating lol. But I'm sure in a few years it'll be easier again.
DD1- July 2004
DD2- April 2006
DS1- December 2009
DS2- August 2011
big boy 12.8.07 @ 39+2 7lbs 8oz, 20.5" BFed for 13 months
middle boy 8.12.09 @ 39+4 7lbs 9oz, 21" BFed for 13.5 months
little boy 4.26.11 @ 38+4 6lbs 14oz, 19.5" BFed until 26mo and restarted at 30mo!
baby boy 10.25.13 @ 41+0 8lbs 15oz, 21.5"
8.16.12 & 12.16.12