Staying Sane: Developing Traditions

I’ve been writing about Chocolate Tuesdays in my daily journals and I also recently wrote about a rainy weekend when I took the kids out for ice-cream. I received a request from a fellow Mama to spend some time writing on this subject and also getting feedback from our Mama In Motion community on traditions that they do with their families, no matter how big or how small. This really does help keep sanity. It helps to promote stability and respect and positions the family as a unit, versus individuals “at odds” with one another. And this is perfect timing….

Some of our day-to-day traditions:

  • I do “hugs and kisses in the morning” each and every morning with each of the kids. When Big Bro and Red were little babies, I used to make a song of it; but now at least its a round of hugs and kisses for each child and a big “good morning” for each of them.
  • I also play a “love” game with the kids – I try to do daily with Big Bro and REd, and would like to start it with the Twins now too since their old enough to get it. It goes like this: Me: “Did I tell you yet today how much I love you?!?!?”. Kid: “No” (or sometimes they say yes mommy…”. Me: “I love you so much that I am going to [kiss your ear], [pull your toe], [squeeze your nose], [mess up your hair], [tickle your belly] etc. etc. etc. And then as I do these things I say “THAT’s how much I love you, I love you, I love you so much…..”. It really is fun, because they know the game but don’t know how I’m going to express my love, whether its picking them up and spinning around, or chasing them, etc. They also do it back to me from time to time.
  • Each day and in relation to school/pre-school, I ask each kid to make sure that they 1) learn something new today; 2) exercise their bodies; and 3) laugh really hard about something. Then at the end of the day I ask them questions about what they did today to learn something new, exercise, and tell me a funny thing that made them laugh.
  • Chocolate Tuesdays – I found Nutella as another breakfast option that is really easy to put on bagels, toast, tortillas, etc. A good source of protein since it is made of hazelnut – and the kids love it because it really does taste like chocolately goodness. The problem was that they wanted it all the time. So we asked them to pick only ONE morning to have it – that day was a Tuesday so of course Big Bro suggested Tuesdays. So the tradition was borne.
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  • Movie Fridays – as a family we are a bit restrictive on the kids watching TV. Big Bro is the kind of kid that if he watches something in the day he will waste the day away (like me). So we have one night devoted to movies and popcorn: Friday nights. We love it as a family. Even the Twins now are getting into the popcorn even if they don’t have the attention span for the whole movie. I have lots of pictures of the four of them lined up on the couch eating popcorn and mesmerized by the movie – although this is fleeting and Red and the Twins tend to get bored and move on to other activities.
  • Saturday AM pancakes
  • Sunday AM waffles
  • Bathtime/ showertime is big in our house. We may not be able to do it as frequently as we would like, but all of the kids together is too much fun. The four kids used to bathe together in the one big HUGE tub in our room; now Big Bro takes a shower while the other 3 take a bath together. They LOVE it.
  • If the kids eat “two colors” at dinner, they get chocolate milk afterwards. I tell them that they have to listen to their body to know if they are full or not. I don’t force them to eat. But they must at least try two colors of food to get the milk at the other end.
  • Bigger traditions:

  • Christmas Eve: We make home-made pasta together. This is something my grandmother used to do whenever we would visit her, but I wanted to make it a tradition on Christmas eve. The thought is that we can make homemade linquinine or other shapes, and then diversify year by year with different sauces. It is hard work and takes time (even with a Kitchenaide mixer), but my thought is that as the kids get older, they will take over and with four of them they will be able to work together to get the job done faster, or at least switch off when they get tired.
  • Christmas eve: we also bake Chocolate Chip cookies during the day for Santa. We leave these out at night along with a cup of milk and carrots for the reindeer. We take baths and get into our chistmas pajamas, take pictures by the tree, and I have each of the kids draw a picture for Santa. It is the cutest thing to see each of them in their PJs busy at work, creating a special picture for Santa. In years past we’ve had pictures of airplanes, choo-choo trains, circles, and scribbles. I think it will be wonderful for them to have when they get older… so they get to see what meant so much to them when they were little and how they gifted their creativity to Santa each and every year while they believed.
  • Each year right before 9/11, we go to the store and buy gifts for the firefighters. We wrap them up and then on the day of 9/11 we visit the firestation and give them their gifts. Last year we got a crazy tour of the truck, they got to go inside the truck, and we all got a tour of the fire-house.
  • For Easter, the easter bunny not only gives them candy, but also TOOTHBRUSHES. The kids absolutely love getting them in their baskets.
  • We also do TOOTHBRUSHES in stocking stuffers at christmas time.
  • Things I’m thinking of:

  • With four kids, I’m thinking of having a poliana at Christmastime that the kids can do with each other.
  • Also with so many kids, I’m thinking of toning down Christmas (to one gift each) and spending the real celebration on their birthdays – which are more meaningful to me. The thought of celebrating a person’s life…. the fact that they are who they are…. and celebrating their uniqueness and what they mean to you, seems so much more worthy in my mind than the pile of presents at Christmastime for EACH child….
  • What are some of YOUR traditions? Big or small — share them all!!!!

    August 29: The first days of school

    The weekend with my father was wonderful – it was filled with playground visits and preparation for back-to-school.  We got all the “necessary” gear to make Big Bro’s first day of Kindergarten and Red’s first day of pre-school successful – new lunch boxes, backpacks, sneakers….   We also went to a birthday party yesterday and all four kids had a blast.    The parents still don’t know how we’re doing it, and to be honest, I don’t know how we’re doing it either…

    Highlights of our Morning and Commute:

    Again, because of the first days of Kindergarten and pre-school, this morning was very unusual:

    • Wake up at 6:30 so I can enroll Big Bro in an “after care” program since Kindergarten ends at 11:30.   Leave it to us to wait until the last-minute.   I also have to look for Red’s immunization records so we could hand in her completed application form for pre-school (again, last-minute).
    • I want to get to “after care” at 7 AM since we were concerned spots would fill up.   As I start to leave, Red is already walking downstairs, after gotten dressed by herself in her first day of pre-school clothes that she picked out by herself the night before.   She said she wants to come with me.
    • We get to the “after care” and they tell us that there are spaces, but they needed more families to sign up before hiring a teacher.   So we are on the waiting list and nothing is confirmed for us for today.  SHIT!!!!  Now what are we going to do?  Good thing I’m working from home today.  I might have to cancel my business trip this week.
    • At home, Big Bro is eating a special “chocolate bagel” since he is nervous for his first day.  I guess Hubby feels bad and is trying to help him through this.
    • Red gets ready for oatmeal.
    • Twins are walking around talking and playing with books and eating.
    • I pack Red’s lunch; Hubby packs for Big Bro
    • Red and I pack her bag with some extra clothes and sunscreen, and some small toys.  She is ready and organizing all of her stuff.  So cute.   She asks for a pony-tail so we go into the bathroom to wet and comb her hair back.  She is gorgeous.
    Red packing for her first day of pre-school

    Red packing for her first day of pre-school

    • OK!!! Time to go!!!!!
    • First drop off:   Twins are dropped off very quickly.  No problems.
    • 2nd Drop off:  Big Bro is acting very nervous about school.  There are people everywhere.  It really is over-whelming even for us.   Me, Hubby, and Red are there during Big Bro’s drop off.   We find his name by his hook and hung his jacket and backpack there.  His lunch goes on the above shelf.  Inside, his spot is near a friend from pre-school (thank goodness).  We play with play dough that is provided at his seat.   He is very clingy.  This is going to be rough.  As we start to leave he runs after us – we go up to the teacher and mention that Tyler is VERY shy.   She asks him if he could be her helper.   He agrees.  My heart aches.  We take a few (but not many) pictures but honestly it breaks my heart to think back on the morning.  He is so painfully shy.
    Big Bro being very nervous on his first day of Kindergarten

    Big Bro is very nervous on his 1st day of Kindergarten -- look at how he's sucking in his lips

    • We drop Hubby off at the Ferry
    • 3rd Kid drop off:   The front desk is very welcoming since they know Red through Big Bro.  I drop off all the paperwork and sign the (BIG) check.   We go to her new room and she is a bit cautious.  I help her find her name on her cubby and put her things away.  We try to do “pegs” which was the activity set up but she is not that interested.   We go for a walk around the room so she can soak it in.  Most of the kids there already know each other from the earlier classroom and she is the “new kid” but the people there are so nice and she is so spunky that I’m not worried about her.   We wind up at the pegs, she becomes occupied, and I hug and kiss her goodbye.  She looks down engrossed in the pegs and ignores me as I leave.  This is always how she was at the older daycare center – she had her routine.  Sit down at the activity for the morning and don’t say goodbye to us…. She is so sassy.  I think she’ll be OK.  From what I know, she did not shed a tear.
    Red is READY for pre-school

    Red is READY for pre-school - no tears at drop off

    • I then go back to after-care to sign up Big Bro.  There was a misunderstanding and they called us back.  They will take him starting today.  The problem is that they close at 6 PM which is impossible ffor us to do if we are taking the ferry.  If I work from home it will be OK, but days I work in the city I will just have to take the earliest ferry home so I can pick him up in time.
    • I am home now, trying to work.  It has been an emotional day today but I held it together.  Hopefully big Bro is doing OK.  I worry about him.

    Highlights of My Working Day:

    • I set myself up in the living room; answer emails since I was off on Friday and there were a bunch in there.
    • I start to organize meetings for the Best Practices discussions as a result of our last project.  Hopefully we can turn these into business development meetings and identify other opportunities for consulting work at these other organizations.
    • I organize sales outreach for some of our firm forums
    • I go out for lunch – sushi, head to Trader Joe’s for food for the week – Hubby will be on his own with the kids and I want to do my part so that he has what he needs.   While at Trader Joe’s I buy little mini ice-cream cones so we can celebrate the first days of school together.
    • I do more sales outreach for a separate forum our firm is leading.
    • I put a chicken in the oven.
    • I pick up Hubby early at the Ferry station.  We are going together to pick up all of our kids
    • I will need to pack up for my trip but I’ll do that tonight after the kids are in bed.

    Dinner and Commute:

    • I pick Hubby up from the Ferry at 5  PM.  We go to pick up Red first.  We arrive and she, as expected, is a sassy little diva.  She stands there and tries to hold back a smile.  We try to talk to her about her day but she is silent.  She wants to hold each of our hands.   We see her seat with her name tag and she looks so cute.  She had a pee-pee accident today (small one) and had to change underwear.  She tells us about this and said we have to bring in lots of underwear for her at school.  We also need to bring in a blanket for her naps.  She had a great day.   After leaving the classroom and walking through the lobby, she holds each of our hands and her smile is literally ear to ear.  She can’t hold it back.  She is so happy.  I make a BIG fuss about the first day of school and how proud of her I am. She skips and laughs and giggles and says “stop it  mommy!!!”.   I just want to squeeze her.  She is leaping with happiness.
    • 2nd Stop:   Big bro.  The three of us pick him up at the after-care center.  He is playing in the back with some cars and some boys.  He stands up and gives me a HUGE hug.  He is proud when he says to me “Mommy… I only cried for a little bit and that was only in the morning.”.  I tell him how proud of him I am, how I can’t wait to hear about his first day, and how it was probably scary for him  but hopefully he had fun.
    • Outside, they are both playing like monkeys on the bars leading up to the building.  The reunion of the two is so sweet.  They are both laughing and giggling.   I am on top of the world.
    • 3rd stop was the Twins.  On the way over there Red says that we didn’t pack any spoons for her applesauce.  I say that I was sorry that I forgot but did they have some at school?   She says no and started to smile.  Big Bro says, “Yes there are.  There are spoons at school.”.   The twin pick up was easy shmeasy.   It seemed like the daycare provider missed Red?  She goes over to the car and mades a big deal about Red’s first day of school.
    • At home, the chicken is cooking.  The twins are running around.  The big kids are well behaved.   Big Bro is unpacking his backpack and somehow he goes outside and takes off his jeans.   I’m not sure why he did that.   He grabs his new pencils and starts to sharpen them.  He plans to vacuum up the wood shavings with the dustbuster.
    • We look at their lunchboxes.   Both ate only ½ their sandwiches but ate all the fruit and applesauce.  Seemed OK.
    • OK!!!  Time to eat!   The chicken was cooking while we were doing pick ups; I sliced bread and heated up some veggies.  It was very easy.
    • I am shocked and amazed at how much food Big Bro and Red eat.  Red eats so much we ran out of chicken and she shoves all the plates aside and starts picking at the carcass.   I’ve never seen that before of a 3 year old.  Both kids eat their vegetables.  I am astounded.
    • We receive a call from our mother’s helper – she can’t make it because her car broke down but I pleaded with her to find an alternate car for tomorrow and Wednesday night since I will be out of town and Hubby will be on his own.
    • Twin Crazy is in a strange mood – I think full fledge toddler moods are with us now.  She knows what she wants, and she wants to do everything her big brother and sister does.  Tonight she is obsessed with using a kid knife to put butter on bread.   She is so upset she eventually pukes all over Hubby.  At this point it is a signal to me to put her down for a “cat nap”.
    • She goes down, but angrily.  I grab Twin Husky, who is in an excellent mood, and ask him to take a catnap too (otherwise Twin Crazy would never go down).  They stay there for about 20 minutes; Twin Crazy crying, Twin Husky talking.
    • I bring out Trader Joe’s ice-cream cones as a celebration.  The older kids get quiet so fast.
    • I bring down the Twins for their ice-cream.  And tell them that we have this treat because Red and Big Bro did so good on their first days of school.
    • After ice-cream we have chocolate all over the kitchen so we make a  game out of finding the chocolate and me picking it up
    • OK!!! TIME FOR MILK!!! TIME TO GO UPSTAIRS!!!!   All kids start their shuffle upstairs.  It is amazing to watch.
    • I change the Twins in their room and Big Bro and Red are there.  I love having all four around me at the same time.   Kids are playing in the closet and I am changing each kid.  We read books, made fart sounds in each others bellies.   Twin Crazy is spitting milk all over the place.  Twin Husky is just a barrel full of laughs.  Twin Husky looks like he is doing exercises – reaching up to the sky and then touching his toes, over and over again.  Big Bro and I are laughing.  They are all in such a great mood.
    • I grab Twin Husky and kiss him and tell him that I feel like I didn’t spend a lot of time with him today.  Then Big Bro says that I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him either.  My heart breaks.  But I say “sure I did’ — we spent a lot of time together at your school and talking about your day.”  “Yes but I didn’t get ‘mommy time‘”.  Oh how I sunk.  It’s not even the amount of quality time I can give them… but it’s also about ALONE time.  I need to get better at this if I possibly can.  This is important to him.
    • Twins go down without a hitch – Twin Crazy acts anxious from her crib and I think of the toothbrush – I bring her one and she smiles at me and she quickly uses it, I then give it to Twin Husky, and they are fine.
    • Teeth, pee-pee, and books are so easy with the older kids tonight.  I read a few pages of each book for them.  Red changes  her mind about pajamas, and about how much the window should be open.
    • I look into each of their eyes and tell them how much I love them and how happy I am today about them… about listening to their bodies and eating so well and also for going through a scary but fun day.   I ask them if it is OK if I kiss them in the middle of the night while they are sleeping and Big Bro agrees  but Red says “No” in a sassy little way with a laugh.  I make a face at her as I close the door to their giggles.

    I feel like today was so amazing – I just couldn’t get enough of the kids.   I was so proud of them and so happy — for the people that they are becoming.  For the way all of them get along and laugh the way they do.   For the way they respond to me and run into my arms and laugh and squeal and show their emotions.   For the way they try to make me laugh.   I just can’t get enough.   I am addicted to these children.  At least these ages.  I know this will change.  They will grow older and not need me in this way as much.   I hopefully will be ready for that when that day comes — but for now, I want to soak this in.  Every kiss, every hug, every laugh, even the emotional outbursts.  So much feeling – so much passion with everything they do.   I love it.  Days like this are too good to put into words.

    Tomorrow I will be leaving them for a business trip so this was a great way to ease into the trip.   I will be with them again tomorrow AM but will leave for the airport after all the drop offs.  Hubby will be on his own tomorrow night, all day Wednesday, and also Thursday AM.  Wish him luck.

    Til tomorrow –

    –          Mama K

    Staying Sane: Being a great mom and worker – don’t expect perfection

    Part of being a person is fulfilling on the different roles that you play – whether friend, daughter, sister, wife, worker, mother. When we are little and life is simpler, there really is no juggling act. When we enter the workforce the juggling act is between friends, family and work is still manageable – especially if you become friends with your peers at work.   It becomes harder when we become girlfriends – at that point we do juggle between our friends, family and partners.  Time starts to feel stretched.   You get married, and there are tradeoffs.  Then a child comes along.   Even though this evolution of roles occurs over time, nothing can prepare you for the juggling act when a child arrives (I know, all of you know this!).  When you have to go back to work, it can feel like your world is caving in.

    Simply stated, it is almost impossible to fulfill expectations of being a good friend, family member, partner, worker, and mother, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  You may try, but you will exhaust and deplete yourself in the process.   The best advice I could give ANYONE is simply to expect less than perfection and be OK with whatever it is you can manage to do.  I’m going to be writing a series of posts related to “staying sane” but this one is focused on the simple mental acceptance that you cannot do it all – the notion of a PERFECT working mother who seemingly can do it all and continue to excel at work and have a spotless home with charming children just does not exist.   Your expectations need to change.  You need to think about what is important and focus on that. Your way of living will forever be changed when kids come along and you need to re-adjust your expectations of how you work, how you live in your house, the relationships with your friends, and even the relationship with your partner.

    I did NOT want to return to work after each pregnancy. I LOVED each of my maternity leaves and loved being home with my babies. I went on walks, went on outings, and really had fun with them — I loved teaching them things and singing, dancing — pointing at trees and talking about flowers and looking at the sky at airplanes.  In my experience (remember I did this three times) being pregnant, having maternity leave with your child, and then returning back to work felt like I had two left feet. IT WAS NOT EASY.  IT STILL IS NOT EASY.  What should have felt normal for me at work felt very, very different.

    After Big Bro:

    After Big bro was 4 months was counting down the weeks to the end of maternity leave. I did not want it to end. the day finally came. I bravely put on a smile and said to myself that I could get through it. It’s just another challenge that I will have to overcome. It was the hardest day of my life. It felt so unnatural. I think the hardest thing a woman can be expected to do is return to work after the birth of a child, especially her first.   I had been with my son for 9 months when he was in utero and then another 4 months for maternity leave and now somehow I wound up in a situation without him. It felt un-natural. Pumping at work felt unnatural. Counting the hours and feeling impatient on conference calls felt un-natural. Things that would normally get me riled up at work seemed all of a sudden insignificant. What a metamorphosis occurred.

    First day after maternity leave with Big Bro as a baby

    First day after maternity leave with Big Bro as a baby

    For that first year, I tried to do it all.  And I tried my best. I wanted it ALL. I remember all too clearly taking Big Bro in as a baby in a stroller on my way to work to drop him off at daycare. I remember some mornings doing this EXTREMELY early — taking him out of his crib and leaving before Hubby even woke up, so I could be there for an 8:00 AM conference call. I remember the exhaustion of working all day on client commitments then running out the door to pick up Big Bro from daycare and walking home – to then figure out dinner and maybe play with him for 30 minutes before he went to sleep. Then working on my computer some more. I also remember when client commitments were heating up, I would wake up in the middle of the night and work on PowerPoint presentations. I remember Big Bro not sleeping through the night until he was 8 months old. I remember trying to keep up with my peers at work and feeling like a duck above water that was calm cool and collected but under that water my feet were scurrying like you wouldn’t believe. I remember the days went into each other and there was no relief. I remember wanting to do more at work the way I used to but it was just soooooo damn hard to do the basic requirements of the job. I suddenly went from an A player to a C player overnight. I had VERY a hard time dealing with this.

    I also remember trying to merge the worlds of “work” and “family” and failing miserably.  I tried. But it just didn’t work for me. I remember days picking up Big Bro from daycare and taking him up to my office since I still had some work to do.  This poor kid was cranky and hungry – but I would get irritated and actually get annoyed at him for wanting to touch my computer keyboard especially if I was trying to send an email to a client.  Thinking back on those days disturbs and disgusts me.

    This went on for one year – and after that time, I tried to assess where I was and where I wanted to be. I made a BIG decision – I changed my attitude, big time.   I no longer thought of my work as a “career”, but as “job” instead.   I just stopped expecting so much of myself.   I went in, did my work, and got out.  I stopped trying to over-achieve.  I did the bare minimum and just tried to get myself through the damned day/week/month.  Since I did not want to become less of a mother, this was really the only acceptable solution at the time.  I still worked 5 days a week, and still did the travel when required, but I learned to say “NO” to extra projects, I learned to turn away work / proposals if I thought I was too busy (even if I knew that others were busier than myself). I knew that this strategy would have consequences but I made that decision for myself.  But, as soon as I made that decision to step back and look at this as a “job”, I suddenly became happier. This may not have been the right approach, but I thought it worked for me at the time (thinking back, I should have been brave enough to make a much bigger change — to a less demanding job – but that is in hindsight).
    After Red:
    After Red was born, I again loved being with her. My little girl. I enjoyed learning of her little squeaks and sounds that were so different as a girl compared to a boy. She was my little baby red-head and she got lots of attention even as a bald baby. I again went through the routine of the end of maternity leave and return to work. The pressure was big at that time. Now we had two kids in daycare and a HUGE expense. At that time I was making considerably more money than Hubby so there was no option for me but to return to work full-time. I ached inside.   And the second time was NOT any easier.   I had a double stroller and would get both kids out and walk to work, do the drop off and head to work.

    My first day back from maternity leave with Red as a baby

    My first day back from maternity leave with Red as a baby

    My morning commute with Big Bro and Red

    My morning commute with Big Bro and Red

    After the Twins:
    The twins swere born after 2.5 months of bed rest. I also took 5 months off for maternity leave with them. Mothering baby twins was quite different than “singletons” and I again enjoyed and felt lucky to have the time with them. I remember when I returned to work after the twins, I just felt drained. The feeling of going back did not get easier.  And the pressure was mounting with FOUR kids in daycare.  It felt so illogical to me. Why am I doing this? I have these four beautiful children and why can’t I spend time at home with them? Doesn’t having FOUR justify the ability for me to spend more time at home with them????   WHY AM I DOING THIS????  THIS IS SO UNFAIR!!!!

    My first day back from maternity leave with the Twins

    My first day back from maternity leave with the Twins

    But life is not always fair.  And sometimes families do not have all the choices they may wish over whether one can stay home with the children – even if you do have four of them!

    Trade-offs.  Be careful what you choose to sacrifice. For example, walk away from dirty laundry but still keep that commitment for date nights. Let dirty dishes sit so you can have a conversation with your child. Walk over the dirty clothes and piles of crap in your house to make room to do a puzzle with your child.   You can’t do everything well all the time.  Don’t expect this of yourself.  Your house will be messy.  Be OK with that.  You won’t be able to make home-made meals all the time.  Don’t worry – your kids won’t hold it against you.  It’s OK if you drop your kids off at daycare with no make up — other mothers have been there too.   Don’t judge yourself.   My house usually looks like a disaster and ask my hubby – I don’t clean ANYTHING and it is a chore just to keep the up with the clothes (that someone else washes and folds for us).  I came across a great description of a one mother’s feelings and emotions on this topic – and the conclusion she came to was that she be appreciating the fact that she was doing the best she could:  How to be a working parent

    This is easier said than done.  Even now at times I have those nights when I am extremely stressed at work when I quickly lose patience with the kids because I know the amount of work that I still need to do.  I hate that feeling of my kids getting in the way of my work. As such a devoted mother, I still cannot believe that I still am able to let those feelings creep into my psyche.   The juggling act between work and being a mother is still haunting me.  I still have not figured out the right answer for me and my family and am still working through this process. I think this tension between work and motherhood will always exist for me and be a source of stress.  But at least now I recognize that I can’t do it all and it is OK.  That is the biggest learning for me and the first step to becoming happier with who I am as a mother and who I am as a colleague.

    So I’m going to sign off now and go upstairs and kiss all four of my kids – we have a big day tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be the first day of Kindergarten for Big Bro, and the first day of a new Pre-school for Red.   I decided to work from home tomorrow because of these big milestones.   And I’ll try to make a good dinner while at home to help celebrate with the family.

    Thanks for reading –

    – Mama K

    Staying Sane: A Mother’s Helper is worth his/her weight in gold

    It wasn’t until AFTER I ran myself ragged and became utterly exhausted (seriously… both mentally and physically) that I demanded more help.   Our family has always been big proponents for daycare but honestly after working all day and doing multiple drop-offs, cooking dinner, cleaning up, doing dishes, doing bedtime routine, doing laundry, and dealing with crying kids, I was PRAYING for a solution such as nanny to make things easier on our lives.   However, the nanny option is not for everyone and they are also quite expensive where we live.   It is also great to have help from family, but our families do not live that close and sometimes their “help” often came with opinions — or, we just didn’t feel comfortable asking them for the real help we needed.  We came to a conclusion that the busiest time of day was after work up until bedtime.  So we arranged for “help” during those hours only – and this was in the form of hired help — a Mother’s Helper.

    What does this “help” entail?   Essentially everything that you don’t want to do so that you can relax and spend more quality time with your children.   Let me emphasize this further…. EVERYTHING that you DON’T want to do so that you can RELAX and spend more QUALITY time with your children.

    For our family, duties have included:

    • assisting with dinner prep; table set up
    • dinner cleanup
    • primary responsibility for all laundry (gathering, sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away) – kids and adults!!!
    • taking out trash, taking out compost daily
    • help with bed-time routine (diaper changes, getting in PJs, reading books, etc.)
    • help entertaining/trouble shooting with any of our children
    • other projects, as needed (vacuum, sweeping, cleaning out refrigerator, going through old/small clothes, etc.)
    • playing with kids, helping kids pick up their toys

    We advertised on Craig’s List and received 10 – 15 responses to our ad.  We did NOT need an experienced person as a nanny.   All we needed was someone who was conscientious, could follow directions, and use common sense with our kids.    We also wanted someone who is punctual, dependable, eager, energetic, and generally enjoys children.  We also wanted someone who lived close by and had their own form of transportation.

    Our Mother’s Helper comes from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.   We start dinner and eat dinner as a family while the Mother’s Helper is at work.  After dinner, we play with our kids and engage with them.   We talk to them.  We play with them.  They climb on us.  We tickle them.    We get them ready for bed and read to them.   We sing and hug them once more and say goodnight.   When we come down from tucking our kids in, the kitchen is spotless, the house is tidied up/organized, the dryer is going, the dishwasher is going, and me and Hubby can sit down and RELAX.

    With our last Mother’s Helper (and we intend to start this soon with our new person once she is ready), we had her stay later one night a week and Hubby and I did “date night” — essentially we put the kids down for bed and the Mother’s Helper is there for them while we are out — so really no need to put extra responsibility on her.   She is there if there is a cry in the night or a plea for water.    And Hubby and I get a date night at a reduced babysitter rate.

    This works wonderfully for our family and the change in stress level was IMMEDIATELY noticed as soon as we hired someone to help us.    I highly recommend this strategy — you ask, they do.   And your kids get more of you.   It’s a win, win, win scenario and I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner.

    Looking forward to feedback, comments, or other suggestions from folks –

    – Mama K

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