July 26 and 27: Stabilizing


This is going out totally late, but I’ve been SUPER busy the past few days but still wanted to share some highlights:

Thursday, July 26:

  • Woke up to the kids each pattering into my room one by one and landing in my bed.  I love this time with them in the AM.   We ate a great breakfast, played with the chicken (she gave Twin Husky a peck/kiss through the screen door), and Red taught me how to dim the lights.  I never knew the lights could do that here.  She figured it out and taught me how she did it.   We got dressed and out the door.
  • There was no traffic and we talked about food shopping for the day and what kind of food we needed from Trader Joe’s.  Drop off for Big Bro and Red was fine; all kids looked at art from their art show.  I told them I would pick them up super-early – after lunch, but before nap.
  • Twin Crazy and Twin Husky and I hit the town and ran some errands in my old neighborhood.  I bought gas, and then we headed to the Main Library, which was new to us.  I needed to work a bit so the kids “read” some books, played, colored… while I sent out numerous emails for work.   This trip was essentially a disaster.  I know we won’t be going back there again.  They were at first very well-behaved.  And then I’m not sure what happened.  Maybe the snack kicked in, but they were running, scrambling on the seats, and causing a huge scene because they were laughing so hard.  All of this happening of course while I was working.   We (me and Librarian) tried to divert their attention to coloring, which lasted for about 5 minutes, but then there were back on the scrambling seats again but this time with crayons in their hands, running around in circles and drawing on the seats.  I gave them a time-out while I frantically cleaned up the crayon from the cushions.   We then fled.
  • Afterwards, we went shopping at Trader Joe’s.   We talked about the list of what we needed.  I am amazed at the memory of these 2 1/2 year olds.  They recited the entire list and even reminded me of some things I missed!    I had fun shopping with them.
  • We then went to pick up Big Bro and Red.  We headed back in no traffic.
  • At home, me and Red did our fingernails.  All kids played with bubbles.   We then took a stroll around the corner from the house where there are wild blackberries; we picked a bunch but poor Twin Husky kept walking on top of the thorned vines and hurting himself.  After a lot of other complaints it was time to go home.
  • Dinner was uneventful – except that I’m getting the kids to load up on fruits and vegetables.   Do you know that you’re supposed to have that be like 50% of your daily intake of food??!??!!?
  • We experimented with the Twins with spitting out toothpaste.  They both know how to spit so we’re graduating to the flouride-kind used by Big Bro and Red.

Friday, July 27:

  • I had to wake up super-early.  I had a court date for child custody and child support.  Therefore, kids had to be up and ready too, and all of them were going to daycare.  The kids put up a fight at first, but after they got started they were actually in great moods when we got into the car.  The ride was not bad; early enough in the summertime so the traffic was manageable.  We talked about fog.
  • Drop offs were all fine.  I hugged the kids a bit harder that morning.
  • Went off to the courthouse and met up with my new lawyer.  This will be the day that I will see what she is made of.   She had great ideas to protect me in certain areas and we showed up very well prepared.  I presented co-parent with several options that would be acceptable for me for child support decisions.  So essentially it was left to him.  We struck an agreement that is reasonable and fair.   My lawyer is great.  I wish I found her sooner.  I burned up too much money with my old lawyer and all he wanted to do was go to court.  What a waste.
  • I picked up the kids immediately afterwards.  We headed back to my house even though I had to drop the kids off at co-parent’s later that night.  I wanted to be with them and relax at my home.
  • It was hot so we did water-play.  It was fun.  I loved it actually.   I honestly needed to sit back, relax, and feel the sun on my body.  I needed to lay down and hear the kids laugh and play.   I needed to sit and not think.   I felt so much better after just 10 minutes being outside in the warm air.
  • Big Bro was a bit of a “teaser” so I sent him inside.  I then noticed that the blankets were torn off of my bed and the girl’s bed and I talked to Big Bro about it.  He claimed it wasn’t him.  I didn’t believe him since the acts would have required muscle.   I left him alone to sulk inside and was hoping he would just tell me the truth that he was mad at me.  But he wouldn’t.  He kept his story straight the whole time.  So then I asked Twin Crazy and Twin Husky, and they admitted it.  They were a pair acting together and ripped the sheets off the bed.  I felt so bad.  I apologized to Big Bro.  I said that he must have felt so frustrated at me, when he was telling me the truth and I was not listening to him.  I felt so bad for the kid.  He did so good though, staying inside and not putting up a fight with me.  I was actually very proud of him.  He told me his side of the story, and then accepted my apology with grace.
  • The ride back was fine.   Friday’s are good since I know I’m going to see them on Saturday afternoon.

Afterwards, I drove back and went to the Apple store.  I bought a new computer.  I went home.  I proceeded to put together the IKEA desk furniture.  I drank one beer and ate 1/2 box of Life cereal.  I worked until midnight.  I fell into my bed, exhausted but strangely at peace.

There are now quite a bit of the divorce process behind us.   We’ve physically separated, the kids now have two homes, I bought a house and have managed to furnish it and put it together as best I can, we battled on child custody, mediated child custody, and had a child custody evaluation for the next school year.   We mediated child support and came to an agreement.  I had one lawyer, and then another (and am much happier now).   Although it would have been nice to have an extra stream of money over to me, I think the arrangement that we came up with is good.  The money is going to childcare.  And we’re now getting the best childcare for the kids.   And I still get to feel like I’m doing this on my own.  I am fiercely independent and the thought of child support paid over to me honestly felt funny.   I don’t think I like that arrangement.   With this, we each are invented to optimize what we can earn to do the best for the kids.   And I get my autonomy.   And independence.  And ability to work the way I need to, so I can be there for the kids and take care of myself in the process.

Have a great weekend everyone

– Mama K

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December 29: A Day for the Siblings


Today was a day at home with the children. No work. I had all four of them since Big Bro’s public school is still closed, and since Red became VERY upset at the thought of everyone home except for her. So I gladly kept her home from pre-school today as well. You would think – 4 kids – all day – man that woman must be wiped out. Truth is, I’m not. I’m surprisingly very, very relaxed. No tension in my neck. No sadness. No aching. No worrying. I’m just, well, “being”. And it feels wonderful.

We spent the day eating, playing, building legos, playing doll-house, setting up LeapPads, having the kids teach me about their LeapPads, napping, going to the library, cooking….. some fighting, some biting/hitting/yelling. But it was mostly laughing. It was mostly excitement. The kids really enjoyed being together. And playing together. Big kids interacting with the little kids – in a good way and also not-so-good way. But they were together. And they were being kids, being siblings with each other. I loved it.

Some of the highlights that really grabbed me today:

  • Waking up to Red smiling next to my bed. She was in a great mood. Then suddenly, and out of nowhere, she turned crabby. I think it’s because she realized that she was not staying home ALONE with me – that the rest of the kids were going to be there too. So I sat with her. I rocked with her in silence. She needed to calm herself down and I needed to hold her.
  • Big Bro holding Twin Crazy – he asked her and she said “yes”. They were both really having fun – Twin Crazy with a HUGE grin on her face that she was being taken care of by her big brother. He did the same with Twin Husky but it did not grab me in the same way…
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  • It took an amazingly LONG time to get out the door today. I really don’t know why. Red was really a problem this morning. She was taking her time and changing her mind about pants. Pants. I must have touched and retouched 50 pairs of pants. I eventually told her that I was losing my patience and we were close to not going anywhere so she better decide and SOON. I think she needs more of my time but I don’t like giving it to her in this way — its too draining; no fun at all.
  • Walking into the library with my four munchkins in a line; the librarians all know our family. They are patient with us and our noise. Each of the Twins introduced the librarian with their comfort toys (a tiger for Twin Husky, a lovely blanket for Twin Crazy). Twin Crazy and Twin Husky wanted to spend most of their time drinking from the water fountain. They started fighting and I knew it was time to gather the kids quickly when I heard Twin Crazy screaming at the fountain and Twin Husky bending over to bite her. As we were checking out our books, I asked the librarian if she could make our check-out into several “transactions”. She “got it” immediately and was so good with the kids. The kids wanted to check out their own books with the one library card so she rung them each up separately (except for Twin Husky, who was wandering around with his thumb in his mouth, not interested in checking out books).
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  • Grabbing ice cream with the kids at 11 AM. We were the only ones there. Big Bro wanted to go there in daylight so we could eat in the outside courtyard. I usually get little cups for the Twins but they amazed me – they sat there and held their little cones and ate their cones without any major spills or losses of food. They sat on a bench that circled a HUGE tree and were so cute. Afterwards, the sugar started to kick in and they started to play follow-the-leader on top of the bench that encircled the tree. I sat there quietly and watched them. I was taking it all in. I took some movies. I captured how Big Bro was interacting with the little ones and how the little ones were having so much fun doing the same thing the older kids were doing. They are a pack of four now. It is now that REALLY feel like I have four, distinct, separate, individual, and lively children. I am very lucky that they are all happy, healthy, and honestly look out for each other.
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  • While Red was napping, her LeapPad arrived. I thing Big Bro was more excited about it than she was today. Anyway, Big Bro wanted to surprise her so he set it out by her bed so she could see it and be surprised when she woke up from her nap. I love how he can be so sweet. I love how he thinks of his siblings. I love how he just “gets” them. Knows what makes them happy. Knows what they need. He is really amazing.
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  • I wanted Big Bro to rest/nap – but he wanted to put his Lego space shuttle together first. Together we worked to get it finished, quickly. I looked at each instruction page and gathered the pieces needed, and handed them to Big Bro to stick them on. I know he enjoyed me helping him with his Lego set, just the two of us. But I think I enjoyed it more than him.
  • I made a roast today. I am having fun “nesting” with my babes. I sat on the floor and showed Twin Crazy and Twin Husky the peeler and taught them about the skin on the carrots and potato. I showed them how I peel the skin off and they felt the strips and laughed at the ones that went flying over the trash bucket I was using. Both were running to grab the strips and threw them in the trash bucket for me. I had them smell the peeled carrots and the peeled potato and explained that we could really smell the food now that the skins were off. I love spending time like this with them. I know that our daycare provider does not interact with them in this way. I love teaching them new things. And talking about the world around them. After dinner, Red was sitting on my lap and then leaning over, laughing and saying “ouch – mommy – my head is going into the hot lava”, pretending that the floor was a river of lava. She cracks me up.
  • We closed out the night watching a Sponge Bob show about Christmas and Santa. I had Twin Crazy on my lap. I then had Red laying next to me with a blanket. Then Red was on my knee, with a blanket, covering Twin Crazy and putting her arm around her, still on my lap. Then Twin Husky came over and sat on my other knee. So I had three kids in my lap, with my arms around them and talking with them about the show. Too cute.

    I had four kids today, got impatient with them yes, but had a different kind of fun with them. They were all together. I mostly sat back and watched the interaction. I was essentially a person shuffling them between different activities but really stood on the sidelines and just watched them. Watched them talk. Watched them laugh. Watched them care for each other. Watched them share.

    Where I could, I stole one-on-one time. But it was mostly a day for the siblings. And tomorrow will be another such day. I’m looking forward to it.

    It’s amazing how my life has changed — thinking back to my 20s, my 30s — one decade totally selfish while the next totally self-less. And now. How I revel in moments with my children whereas before it was a good dinner out, or dancing with friends, or doing shots in Hoboken, or… … … … I know that these days when my kids are very young will fly by. I’ve heard it soooo many times before. That’s why I’m choosing to be with them now and soak them in now while I have this time. While I can make them laugh. While three can sit in my lap. I’m soaking it in and smiling – knowing that I’m lucky.

    Til tomorrow –
    – Mama K

    Staying Sane: 9 reasons to communicate when something upsets you


    Hi Mamas.

    It’s Sunday night and I spend time on these evenings writing about something that I believe helps me to “stay sane”.  However, I am not the best person to follow such advice and certainly am not an expert.  So these are just my thoughts, take them for what they are.

    I spent years biting my tongue over certain situations.   This has not been healthy for me, or my family.  Years later, my stance is that it’s best to face potential conflict and communicate when something is upsetting, regardless of how awkward or difficult it may be, because [please don’t take me too seriously]:

    1. Issues will just fester and cause greater distress
    2. Relationships will become strained, for those directly and indirectly involved
    3. Over time, the littlest things that happen appear and “feel” to be so much bigger than they are
    4. You have too much to worry about with work and with kids — why add another point of stress in your life?
    5. Keeping things bottled up could affect you physically – think zits, furrowed brows, headaches, grimaces
    6. The people/person may not even know that their behavior has upset you
    7. Communicating will provide an opportunity for future situations to change or the behavior to cease
    8. Communicating over some beers/wine is just another great excuse for some cocktails
    9. It is great to embrace situations where difficult communication is required – this provides great practice and can improve your effectiveness and self-confidence at it over time

    So, let me get to what happened this past weekend.  I had a relatively enjoyable weekend.   The kids shined with great behavior but unfortunately there was other behavior happening in my house that I did not like or appreciate.  My in-laws were here for Hubby’s birthday and their visits always bring me an added sense of anxiety.   There has been a tug-of-war happening between them and I ever since the kiddos arrived.   I understand their need to form a bond between themselves and the kids, and I support this – however, not at the expense of the relationship that Hubby and I each have with the kids, our roles as parents, or at the expense of the children’s overall welfare.

    I know that email communication is not the best.  In fact, I think it’s cowardly given this type of situation.  What I would like to do with the audience tonight is preview a [cowardly] email communication that I would like to send to my in-laws.   Please provide feedback because I would like to send it soon before the situation festers too long for me.  Or, maybe I’ll decide not to send it and just the below in black and white will be therapeutic enough for me.   Or, maybe Hubby will step in and lobby on my behalf.
     
     
     
    *****
     
     

    [In law], [In law],

    Thanks for coming this weekend to celebrate [Hubby’s] birthday and also to babysit on Friday night.   I think [Hubby] had a great weekend.   Also thanks for helping with the fence and cleaning – every bit is appreciated!!!

    I would like to get something off of my chest though, in the spirit of open communication.   There were two situations that happened that appear small, however there are things that underlie the following actions that are very upsetting to me.

    • Big Bro informed me on Sunday that during Saturday’s lunch with [in-law], he had something sweet but he wasn’t supposed to tell me.   He said that Daddy knew, but he was specifically asked by [in-law] not to tell Mommy.
    • On Saturday morning I overheard conversations that [in-law] was having with Big Bro, about how both of you were not going to be here for Christmas this year and how you were not sure if Santa was going to come to Big Bro’s house, but that Santa was definitely coming to your house and that maybe Big Bro should come to your place.   Or, you would maybe save Big Bro a present or two from Santa.

    I’ve talked to [hubby] about it and he agrees that this is not appropriate behavior.  First of all, it completely undermines the role of a parent.  Children, particularly young and vulnerable children, should not be taught that it is OK to keep secrets from their parents.   This is just common sense.   We are there to protect them and in fact we are teaching them the exact opposite — that they should always feel comfortable coming to us at any time, with anything that is on their mind.   We are teaching them that there should be no secrets from Daddy or Mommy.   But what is most upsetting is that it puts a very young child — 5 years old!!!! — completely in the middle of any issues that may exist between you and me, which is not acceptable and not OK.   I understand and respect your need to build a bond with the children and I support that — however certainly not at the expense of my role as a parent OR by putting any of our young children in the middle of a confusing and/or tense situation.

    It honestly is not healthy to do this to the children.   If this was done in humor, I would think the humor to be too complex for just a five-year old, and I do not appreciate it.    As a family you need to understand that [Hubby] and I are the parents to these children and people should respect this.  I also hope that you see how putting the children in the middle can create situations that are awkward for them — hopefully you agree that the health of these children should come first.   Having such conversations with the kids to strengthen your bond makes matters worse for us as a family and impedes creating a healthy environment for our children.

    My parents have always respected [Hubby’s] role as father, our roles as parents, and have NEVER said anything to the contrary in front of the children – I would expect the same treatment from you.

    Hopefully with your maturity you will see how this can negatively impact the kids.  I therefore ask that these types of discussions and insinuations with our children stop immediately.

    Thanks so much – if anything is unclear please let me know.  My intent is not to cause a big issue out of this, but my first priority is to my children and if I think they are being harmed or put in an unhealthy, confusing, or un-necessary situation on purpose,  I need to get myself involved.

    [Mama K]

    ******

    So ladies, am I over-reacting?   Should I bite my tongue?   Are these truly just petty comments and am I a victim of Reason # 3, above?   Have these power-plays happened with you in the past and how have you handled them?  

    Even in separation situations, it is common knowledge that you should NEVER put the children in the middle.  This simply is not fair.   And I’ve been hearing comments like the above for years now.    My father in-law starts the power-play with me all the time and his comments are well thought out and purposeful.   He knows what he’s saying and knows what he’s doing.

    Comments please!!!

    Thanks for listening,

    – Mama K

    Staying Sane: Communication and getting to the root of the problem


    On Sunday nights I usually try to post something in my “Staying Sane” series… and something happened over this past weekend that I wanted to write about. It was about a temper tantrum and a conversation that I had with my eldest son, Big Bro.

    It was Friday night. I had the kids all day and all evening, solo. We had a full day – and at bedtime all kids were pretty much wiped out. Books are a very important thing in our family. We have been very consistent with each child (the Twins got a slow start though, I’m sad to say….) and they really, really, really, look forward to books at bedtime. So much so, that our eldest kids are enjoying reading to the Twins!!!!

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    But I digress. The important thing to note is that our children love book-time at bed. And each child gets to pick out their own book for us to read.

    So it is Friday night. And I read a book to Red (“Handa’s Surprise” by Eileen Browne. I even love it.). Big Bro was busy finishing up teeth brushing so he entered the story halfway. The kids normally get into a routine where they love a book for weeks at a time and then move on to another. Well, I was reading a book that I’ve must have read 100+ times — it was not a new story. It was a story that my kids know well. And even though Big Bro missed several of the first pages he knew the story like the back of his hand.

    There was also a Spiderman book next to me. I mistakingly thought it was HIS choice of books. So I read it. Then I said it was bedtime.

    And that is when the tantrum began.

    We’ve experienced these plenty of times in the past with Big Bro. He is our first and our most spoiled. He throws himself on the ground in fits more often than our toddler Twins.

    Our conversation went like this:

    Me: What is wrong?
    BB: I want you to read that Handa book again, from the beginning. [sob sob, whine whine, cry cry]
    Me: But [Big Bro] sweetie, I said that it was book time and I asked you to sit next to me with the Spiderman book and you didn’t want to. You had your book. I read two books. I’m not going to read another book again.
    BB: NO!!!! [scream, sob, cry, yell] [while I pull him into bed]. I want you to read the book!! I want you to read the book!!!! I want you to read the book!!! From the beginning!!!!
    Me: No sweetie, I’m sorry. I said that I was ready to read you the Spiderman book but you weren’t paying attention. I read the two books for tonight. I will check on you after I take my shower [yes, I revert to this on weekends – no time for my own showers in the morning on weekends].

    So I go and take a nice shower, thinking that by the time I get out all will be well, he would have settled himself out, and things would be wonderful in the world again.

    I was wrong. He was sitting in the middle of his floor, eyes red, looking half asleep, and looking like his version of an “Occupy” standoff.

    I asked him to get back in bed. That is when the REAL tantrum started. I decided there was something more going on here. I decided to get to the root of the problem. There is more here than just a damn book.

    Me: BB, BB, BB, sweetie, please, look at me. [I kneel down and take his face so that I can look at him in his eyes]. Please calm down. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Please. I know that there is something else that’s bothering you. Please I don’t think I have the full story. Please try to calm down and tell me what is really upsetting you. It’s NOT that I didn’t read that Handa book a second time. What is it? Can you find the words to tell me what is making you so upset?
    BB: You read to [Red] but I didn’t get a book to pick out.
    Me: Oh…. you mean to say that you did NOT pick out the Spiderman book?
    BB: No.
    Me: So you didn’t GET a book to pick out for me to read to you tonight?
    BB: No.

    Oh my goodness my heart just melted into pieces. I took for granted that the Spiderman book was his book but he was the one that actually picked out the Handa book. He wanted me to read him that book and start from the beginning since it was his book that he chose and I started reading it without him. He just wanted his full turn and his full time with me.

    So of course I sat him down immediately and we read the book. Red even came over. And his body stance and how she snuggled up to me and how were were interacting and talking about the book was like a 180 degree turnaround. It was like I had whiplash.

    Misunderstandings happen. We know that. It happens all the time with our kids. And the tantrums at night can be easily over-looked as being over-tired. But seeing my child stand-off to me (in an almost peaceful sort of way) even 20 minutes later told me that I wasn’t getting it right.

    I am so proud that he took the time and through his tears to pause and stop and find his words to express what was really upsetting him. Sometimes this is very hard for kids to do. Sometimes they even forget why they are so upset. But him in his tired and half-sleep state trusted me enough to work through it with me and explain in a different way what was bothering him.

    Of course I made a big deal out of it. I told him how proud I was of him for calming his body and finding the true reason why he was so upset. It wasn’t that I didn’t read the book a second time, it was that he never had a FIRST time with a book that HE picked. I repeated this to him and I told him that this is what a mis-understanding is and that sometimes misunderstandings happen. But it is important to TALK about it and find your words that way the other person [me] can truly understand. It is important that I truly understand what is bothering him and each of my kids.

    Of course Red was there listening to all of this too. So I reiterated this lesson to both of them, again. And I apologized to Big Bro and commended him on his strength and patience and ability to express himself so clearly to me. And the hug that I gave him was strong and REAL. And he knew it.

    So I left the room with more emotions that I had originally envisioned. I felt guilty for putting him through this. But misunderstandings happen. But what he DID get to see out of this is how I took the time to work with him and talk to him and that he saw that it was very important for me to really understand what was causing his distress.

    So now I know to listen a little more, do not take situations for granted, and push each of my children to find the words and communicate to me – to talk about their feelings, why they are upset, and even the good stuff too.

    Thanks for listening –
    – Mama K

    Staying Sane: Partner with your Partner


    I’m sorry for this late post — my goal was to distribute this last night, but the long weekend got away from me.   My apologies…

    People often look at me with four kids and a demanding job where I work 5 days a week and ask – “‘how the hell do you do it??”. I really don’t have a strong reply to the is question because I oftentimes feel like I’m not doing it – or at least not to doing it well (refer to Staying Sane: Being a great mom and worker – don’t expect perfection).    I believe there are a lot of factors that go into making our crazy lives work, which I will continue to write about in future posts in “Staying Sane”.   However the subject of this particular post is the partnering that my husband and I do on a daily basis.   I always joke and commend him by saying that we are the only couple that can do what we’ve done for so long.   We are able to do the day-to-day block-and-tackling of managing 2 full-time jobs and 4 kids ages 5 and under almost flawlessly. How is that?

    I think it boils down to:

    1) communication (a must-have)

    2) execution (a must-have); and

    3) emotional connection and ability to look out for each other (in an “ideal world” — my husband and I are still actively working on this part, but this does not prevent us from getting through the day-to-day).  I believe this provides a very strong foundation that in turn makes everything else work so much easier.  However, if it is not there (yet) things can definitely be do-able, but it will be more difficult.


    1.  Communication – Work Together as a Team

    My husband is a very hands-on dad and he shares responsibility of caring for the kids as I do. I think there was a time when I did more, but I’ve pulled back and he’s stepped in without a hitch.   This really needs to be done if both parents are working full-time. 

    We have a system together. We communicate on the logistics daily and sometimes throughout the day. We are big on text.   We sometimes call each other during the day.  We leave email and voicemails on various topics.   We communicate future work requirements (e.g., late meetings, out-of-town travel, etc.) and we back each other up.

    When we are in the “thick of things” with our children, we typically have our “routine roles” especially in the AM rush hour out of the house and also at dinner time.  We are in constant communication then too.  We check-in with each other to make sure the ball isn’t getting dropped or that we’re not headed for a tantrum.   When I finish one of my tasks (e.g., diapers) I check in on his progress (e.g., lunches) and I pick up wherever he has left off (and vice versa — who has been already diapered?  Twin Crazy or Twin Husky?).   This back and forth communication occurs throughout the morning until all kids are safely packed in our mini-van (did you get the shoes?   Are the lunches in there?   Does everyone have their jacket? etc.).    The same happens at dinnertime and bedtime.  “What else needs to be done?” “I’ll get the Twins started on some food before the rest of the dinner is finished.” “Who still needs to brush teeth?”  “Are the Twins down?”     It sometimes feels like we have an abbreviated language with each other as both of us are rushing around — I laugh when I visualize walky-talkys.  

    Through my research in talking with other working mothers, here are some other ideas:  

    • “Create the to – do list and together decide on the things that REALLY need to get done and the things that don’t. Prioritize and focus on the things that MUST get done together.”
    • “‘We’ is important. Have your husband as a full partner (in terms of sharing the load and helping prioritize). Share the load and both choose what to let go together.”
    • My partner and I work very hard to get important things done as a team. Sometimes it involves a lot of negotiation, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it ends in explosive arguments

    However you may feel like your partner is not doing his/her 50% — so how to achieve more balance?

    2.  Execution – Divide and Conquer

    If you are familiar with the entries on my Daily Journal, you may already see how we try to divide and conquer:

    • Hubby is usually up and getting the kids their breakfast in the morning.   He also starts their lunches.
    • I am usually the one that covers their clothes.  I help to get the older kids dressed in the morning and also do the diaper changes for the younger ones.
    • I usually also have responsibility for the bag — getting the kids clothes organized, diapers, wipes, shoes. Or other bags for the older kids if needed (nap sheets, blankets).
    • We talk about dinner usually the day of (we are terrible about advance planning and both of us are capable of dinner prep – we usually trade-off – while one is cooking the other is getting stuff on the table, unpacking, or handling kid issues).
    • Both of us are actively involved in bedtime routine with the kids. We sometimes divide and conquer with the kids (one take older ones, one takes the younger ones) but if all the kids are quiet and in good moods, we’ll both do the Twins first (with Big Bro and Red participating in that) and then move onto Older kids.
    • In terms of food shopping, he usually does any bulk shopping at Costco; I tend to do the in-between shopping at Trader Joe’s or elsewhere for necessities or other specialty items on our “favorites” list.
    • We outsource laundry (Mother’s Helper) and cleaning (housecleaner, about 1x a month) when we can.   When we cannot, I take over laundry and Hubby takes over cleaning.

    Through my research and talking with other working mothers, here are some other ideas:

    • Make a list of all the things you feel that MUST get done. Then give it to your partner and let him/her cross things off. The look at what is crossed off, and take it seriously.
    • Invest the time in doing a better split of the household work to alleviate rebuild up of resentment.  Week on / week off each with responsibility for meals that includes the shopping and planning) Divide laundry responsibility.
    • Training of the husband.  He has very concrete task he is in charge of that I don’t have to remind him to do. He takes out the trash, makes the kids lunches in the morning before school. Puts the kids to bed. He is in charge of all MD visits. We figured out things that he feels competent at that he doesn’t mind doing – so it’s not a big battle.
    • If one person is on, the other better be on too! So while one of us does bath/bedtime, the other is making our dinner or folding laundry, while one is walking the dog, the other is changing a diaper, etc.
    • Create and agreed plan and then stick to it – don’t bail the other our if they don’t engage (e.g., if you come home and there’s no dinner on his night just go out by yourself or wait for him to fix a meal) otherwise it will never stick.
    • Do advanced meal planning and divvy up the shopping. One person shop and plan 3 – 4 meals on the weekends, and the other shop and plan 3 – 4 meals during the week. Since grocery stores are open late, you can go after the kids go to bed. This would enable less time shopping, cooking, and worrying about what’s for dinner. And no more discussion about “who’s turn it is”.
    • You create the shopping list and have your partner go out shopping during the week.

    3.  Emotional Connection – Look out for Each Other

    This is a topic that should seem so obvious.  Simply said, members of a team actually behave like team-members, back each other up, and care for each other.   When one is faltering, the other steps in (if its OK and welcomed).    You are able to pick up on your partner’s emotional ques and know when the other is having a tough day — and that is not OK for you.   You communicate with your partner and see where you can help.   You remember who was here before the kids came along.  And you fight and invest to preserve that special partnership.  You fight for time alone with each other and make date-night a priority.

    This is an area that me and Hubby are still working on; but we are getting better at it.  It seems so foundational to the relationship.  How can people effectively work together as a team when you feel like you are not connected as a team?   The term “co-parenting” is used so frequently (couples that just ‘parent’ together but somehow have lost what brought them together in the first place) and I truly believe there are many couples out there facing similar situations.   Again, we are still working on this.   I can’t pretend that we are doing this well and we have been abysmal at this in the past.   But we are turning a corner – and things are getting better.

    It is comforting to know that your partner is at your side, is supporting you, believes in you, and is on your team.   You reinforce each other.  You communicate your desire and need to be together as a team.  It can be simple… a short neck rub in the middle of the chaos, a quick hug to keep each other going, stopping to look into each others eyes and laugh when the kids say/do something funny.   Knowing that you can get through this with your partner at your side.   Knowing that you are a better person and a better parent because he/she is there too.  Positive reinforcement when you see how well your partner handled a tough situation.  It is comforting to know that you can crumble into each other’s arms at the end of a hard day and admit “shit that was a really tough night”.

    What others have said:

    • “be kind to each other”
    • “Repeat the mantra “he is capable, he cares and I need to let him do it his way.”

    I found a great series of blog entries that concisely provides some pointers on how to better connect with your partner – they essentially talk about approaches and tactics to use to communicate with your partner that brings him/her closer to you, versus distancing them from you.  Much is so intuitive but I can see that putting these tactics into practice can be difficult.   It could require changing how you currently communicate, interact, approach, and adjust your frame of mind in certain situations.  I can see how it could take time to re-learn and make the approach second nature.  And you need both people to want to actively engage in a new  way.   Take a look: 

    Just Ask:  http://barefootbarn.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/just-ask/

    Choosing Words and Body Language:   http://barefootbarn.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/partner-communication-tip-2/

    Speak Their Language:   ( by the way I love this book — The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman — I highly recommend)http://barefootbarn.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/partner-communication-tip-3-speak-their-language/

    Its Your Choice:  http://barefootbarn.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/partner-communication-tip-4-its-your-choice/

    =====

    In closing:

    I am fully aware that I would not be able to have the kind of job that I have if it were not for Hubby and the active way that he parents and involves himself in our children’s lives.   I appreciate this from him but at times it still is difficult – we’ve managed to get through it by pro-actively communicating to get through the block-and-tackling that we do each and every day.   We divide and conquer.   And we are getting better at keeping in touch with each other, and remembering why these children entered our lives in the first place.

    I would be very interested to hear how others are managing this – what have you found that works well to team with your partner?  What other tactics do you use?  What do you find to be helpful to get through the days/weeks/months with your partner? 

    Thank you for listening –

    – Mama K

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