Life With All Young Children
I don’t really fit the bill of “all young children” any more. I now have two children of school age, and two children under school age, but I’ve had three children below school age, with no children above school age. That stage is hard work, but there are a few things I have learned along the way that I wish I’d learned sooner.
- Practise herding. Keep your young children close to you throughout the day. When your children are close to you they are less likely to be making big messes for you to have to clean up. It is also easier to discipline immediately when necessary.
- Along the same lines, have your children work alongside you. Have them hand you pegs while you hang the washing – maybe even matching the pegs to the colour of the garment or simply matching pegs so that the pegs are both of the same colour as each other. When washing up, let a toddler or preschooler wash the plastic items in some warm soapy water. Items that are only a little dirty – such as a plate that has a few sandwich crumbs on it – are easy enough for your child to wash. They can wash the dishes up at the main sink or use a large bowl or bucket with just enough water in it. It goes without saying that you should stay with them at all times with water.
- Capture the runaway minutes. Instead of standing in the kitchen waiting for the microwave to finish, the kettle to boil or the toast to pop up, use the time (even 30 seconds) to put a few items away, or quickly wipe the bench down, or even wash two dishes. While your children are in the bath, use the time in the bathroom to wipe down the surfaces while still keeping an eye on your precious children.
- Take the opportunity to speak life-giving words to your child. When you change their nappy, tell them how much you love them and how they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. When you sit down to eat, discuss things you can thank God for – and thank Him. Sing hymns, praise songs and Sunday School songs with your children.
- Have a rhythm to your days. Don’t stress about strict routine or scheduling that accounts for every moment. Young children have no regard for your pretty chart with everything occurring in its allotted time frame. If you try to get into a strict schedule you will most likely find yourself frustrated. Instead, have a rhythm – it provides predictability while still being flexible.
- Enjoy your children. They are hard work but life should not be all work, nor should your children feel as though they are burdening you. Read to your children, sing with your children, hug and kiss your children, include your children in what you are doing and take small moments to play with your children. Children don’t need to be entertained constantly, despite what toy catalogues and some parenting magazines and books try to tell you.
- Don’t forget God. Pray in little snippets during the day. Place a Bible somewhere you go regularly and read a verse each time you are there. Choose a verse or short passage to memorise and place it somewhere you will see it – above the kitchen sink is a good spot! Make a habit of reading it aloud each time you use the sink. Cry out to God in moments of need and thank Him for each blessing. You most likely wont have an hour or three each day to devote to solid prayer and Bible reading, so don’t feel guilty. Just do what you can, when you can.
- Don’t neglect yourself. A lot of lists would place this higher up but the focus is not on you. Make sure that you are eating regularly, drinking enough water (that’s my big downfall) and getting enough rest. Try to make some light exercise (even gardening or a child’s pace walk around the block), sunshine and fresh air part of your daily life.
- Get together with other people. While it’s tempting to only catch up with people in your situation, it can be a bad thing. Groups of young mums will often (but not always) degenerate into competition (my baby is better than yours, my baby slept the most/the least etc) or simply a time to vent ones spleen about their child or spouse. Avoid such groups that stoop to such lows. They will just make you feel awful. Seek out women of different ages and stages to get together with. Find a Mum of older children you can glean from or a new mother who could use some reassurance that she’s not alone. Find single people or elderly people or anyone you can. Just don’t let all your friends be people in the same situation! Sometimes it’s nice to talk about something that doesn’t involve children 🙂
- Stay at home. We are to be keepers at home not visitors. I am not suggesting you should never leave the house (as tempting as that may be some times, especially when it takes fifteen minutes to get from walking out the front door to pulling the car out of the driveway) but your calendar shouldn’t be so filled with activities that home is where you eat and sleep and not much else.
- Don’t feel guilty. Do what you can, when you can. Do the best you can and no one can ask any more of you.
Don’t think that I have it all sorted. I certainly wish I’d worked these things out sooner and could put them into practice consistently – even now! This season will come to an end. It really does get easier.