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I’m so excited today to be hosting five of my fellow Mum Bloggers! They’re a fabulous bunch, so do check out their blogs for gutsy, practical, godly wisdom on raising kids. Today they’re sharing their tips for how to cope with two or more children.
These feisty females are experts in dealing with nappy explosions when your toddler has just fallen off the swing, dinner’s bubbling over and you’re late for the school run. No sweat, this is their bag, and they are here to share their secrets. Enjoy!
Annie Willmot – Honest Conversation
I have two boisterous boys, a three year old and a nine month old. When we started thinking about having a second baby I have to admit I wondered whether it was really worth upsetting the balance I felt I’d kind of found with one. It’s certainly different with two (I wrote about some of the differences here) and it can definitely be more challenging but when I see them together I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of the biggest challenges for me has been learning to be kind to myself and choosing to go with the flow a bit more. I’ve always been keen with my toddler to try and get him outside (mainly because he goes a bit stir-crazy, as do I, when he stays in) but there have been days where I’ve just been so knackered that we’ve watched a few films back-to-back before I’ve even considered trying to get them dressed. And, I’ve realised that’s fine! Far better to rest, than go out and be short-tempered because we’re all so tired.
Building connection with both my kids, and my husband, but particularly our toddler has been hugely important as we became a family of four. He absolutely loves his little brother and I have been surprised by how much he wants to be with him but where we can we build in moments for him to connect one-on-one with me or my husband. Sometimes he’ll still invite his brother in, for example when I offered him the opportunity to go for a babyccino with just me and he insisted he came too, but it’s giving him the option that’s important. I go into depth about some of the ways we do this as a family in this blog post.
I love being a Mum of two. Sometimes I have to pick my battles and decide what to just leave because I literally have my hands full with a baby and toddler, and I definitely get to sit down less with two kids – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although I am slightly dreading the day they’re both old enough to gang up on me!
Claire – Clarina’s Contemplations
In April 2017, when our fourth little person arrived on the scene, my husband said, in a moment of realisation, “Do you realise that five and a half years ago we weren’t even parents, and now we have four kids?”
We laughed in the moment, but when we’re talking about the struggles of parenting multiple children, I know the struggle is real. The last seven and a half years have been testimony to that fact.
Life in our home is crazy, chaotic, beautiful, exhausting, intense and constant. I feel like I’m on my knees most days. It’s been full on, but there is beauty in that too, if you can see past the piles of laundry and bickering and constant questions.
This parenting thing has been the biggest means of grace in my life to date. It is a daily window into my own insufficiency, and need for grace, and has thrown me onto Jesus far more than any previous life experience.
In my children, I often see a picture of me standing before my heavenly father; at times stubborn, at times gushingly loving, at times insanely selfish, and at times desperate to please Him. I, like my children, am a constant rollercoaster of hot and cold, eager and selfish, loving and losing the plot… and my need (and too often failure) to demonstrate patience, generosity and grace in my parenting points me back to the stunning patience, generosity and grace of God to me. It is hugely humbling.
Some things I have found helpful?
* Keep your head in the word, even when you are getting broken nights’ sleep and can’t get up earlier than your children (still there!)… if an early morning “quiet time” in the traditional sense is still an impossibility, find ways to keep Christ front and central – listen to good podcasts, play worship music while you fold laundry, stick Scripture on your mirror, on your fridge and even on the back of the toilet door. [Desertmum says: “To help with this, why not download my free ebook 15 Spiritual Practices Every Tired Parent Needs To Know?”]
* Make space in the day. For my sanity, having an hour a day of child free “quiet time” has been essential. As our children dropped their lunchtime nap, we have trained them (very much training – it took time and persistence, particularly with our eldest son!) to play quietly in their rooms for an hour after lunch every day. This hour has been my saving grace and offered me an opportunity to recharge for an intense afternoon with all the kids. I wouldn’t be without it!
* Remember there is purpose in everything, and try to be thankful. I remember being really struck once when someone told me they were thankful for their children’s tantrums because it helps us show our kids their sin, and gives opportunity for us to teach and practice grace, forgiveness and discipline. Even the crazy moments are opportunity to show our children something of Jesus – our own apologies for our own sin perhaps most of all.
* And persevere. It is worth it. The Lord has handpicked you to parent these little loves. There was no accident in that. Pray, pray, pray and entrust each day, each hour, each crazy, hair-pulling moment to him. You’re on the front lines of the most glorious work, and he is faithful!
You can follow Claire on Instagram.
Joanna May Chee – MumsKidsJesus and JoannaMayChee.com
We have four children. The first was five years old when number four was born! It was a crazy first few years in many ways, but years that were also filled with lots of joy and laughter. Adding child number two was the hardest – we all had to learn how to share each other. With subsequent babies, our family routine was more established, and it got easier.
A few tips that helped me cope (and enjoy) having more than one child:
* Prepare each child for the birth of the next. The arrival of a new baby is huge! It helped to prepare our other children so they were excited, and the adjustment smoother. Lots of ideas on how to do that here.
* Help each child know they are loved, valued and included. One example: I remember breastfeeding a new baby, with a toddler, desperate for my attention, climbing all over me and baby, and sometimes taking it out on his new baby brother with a pinch or bite. It helped to make feeding-time a special story-time for my older child. I could feed baby and have older brother snuggled next to me holding a book and turning the pages, while I read it to him. As my kids have grown, I’ve sought out ways to give each quality time and attention.
* Rest! It’s not impossible – nap when your children nap (don’t do the housework or the million other things on your to-do list). Or train your children to have quiet alone-time so you can rest – this could be a special time where they are allowed quiet toys or books they don’t have at other times. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the time. A tip on how to do that using a timer here!
* Have YOU time. I lived most of the early years with a baby in my arms, a child hanging onto my leg, or several kids fighting over my lap. When we homeschooled, we even had a rota for whose turn it was to sit next to mummy! But the times I was able to leave the children with a friend or my husband were precious. Make YOU time a priority. Plan it. Consider who you can ask to help. Then go pursue a hobby, a dream, or simply time with friends.
* Involve God. He never intended for you to be a mum without him. I share lots of ideas on involving God in your day-to-day in these posts: The #1 Secret to Coping (and Thriving) in Motherhood and How to Stay Close to God as a Mum.
Our kids are now in their twenties and teens. There are still challenges. But I can say with all honesty that I absolutely love having four kids (and always have).
However many children you have, and whatever the demands, I pray you know much joy and peace. You are the best mum your kids could have (yes, really). God is with you!
Lucy Rycroft – Desertmum
When my four were aged six and under, I definitely found family life a struggle. I never got to sit down: there was always someone needing help on the toilet, or a plaster for their knee, or new batteries for a toy. I wrote of those struggles here.
Now that they’re aged between four and nine, they’re less dependant (although don’t get me wrong, family life is still rather intense!). However, these days my challenge is to make sure my eldest doesn’t get neglected: he is so independent in many ways, and also less attention-seeking by nature than the other three, that it’s easy for me to let him slip off the radar. I’ve realised that quality is more important than quantity. Yes, sometimes I sit the others in front of the TV so that I can do something with my eldest, even if it’s just play FIFA for 20 minutes (he’s teaching me – I’m getting better!).
With the twins (4), the challenge is to give them individual time, as they do everything in life together. Again, it’s quality over quantity. Maybe just ten minutes reading a story to one of them, or playing a game. Sometimes it’s just about having a conversation – I’ve made a concerted effort recently to stop what I’m doing and look them in the eye when they’re talking to me. Obviously this can’t happen all the time, but wherever possible, I try to give them my undivided attention, which I think is all the more important in our phone-led, multi-tasking culture.
Slowing down to my children’s pace in this way is good for me too. We weren’t designed to run at eighty miles an hour all day – but sometimes having a big family can feel like this! Just hanging out with my kids, sitting with them, listening to them, rather than using every available minute to get on with the never-ending to-do list, is food for my weary soul.
It is worth being aware, however, that much of our guilt in not giving our children ‘enough’ individual time comes from the unhealthy emphasis our culture places on the individual. Through history, parenting has largely been about raising a child to become a member of a community.
Of course it is important to give our children time to flourish, away from the pressures/expectations of others, but not to the point where we run ourselves ragged trying to do it!
It is also unhealthy for them. They need to learn patience, forbearance and the art of sharing within a community – much of this is learnt by having to wait for their parents to deal with a sibling! As always, when our first inclination is to reach out to God, rather than the parenting manuals of our time, He will help us navigate family life, and open our eyes to any influences which may be unhealthy or unbiblical.
Our family life is testament to what God can do with very little human energy!
Michelle Pannell – MummyFromTheHeart
When my children were younger, they were very concerned with fairness and making sure they each had equal mum time. Very often we did things all together but of course each wanted to feel special and be heard, and this can be quite difficult when your siblings won’t quieten down for even a moment.
I worked out of the home three days a week and this meant our quality time was limited, so I made sure that each Friday after school we had mummy time for 20 minutes each.
Twenty minutes might not sound much, but we used to achieve loads and I found it important to allow the child to dictate what we would do. So sometimes I was baking cakes, others playing with play dough or crafting and my personal favourite (not!) was make-believe.
I’m not a natural player, so it didn’t always come naturally to me to play with the children, but the enjoyment they got from it and the benefits in terms of their behaviour and cooperation were always worth it.
My children are now 15, 11 and 11 and nowadays I tend to give them the time they need. There is nothing as structured as twenty minutes each, it is more about meeting their personal needs. So, for my 15-year-old son we chat as I drive him to cadets, or we might go for a coffee, just the two of us. Miss E likes a snuggle on the sofa together, reading her book in bed or maybe doing some craft, whilst Miss M will accompany me shopping or we might go to the local pub for pudding.
The most important thing I find at this age is being available to listen. They don’t always want to talk to me at the time I allocate, so it is being able to stop peeling the carrots and focusing on what they’re saying when they’re telling me about a school issue. Or for my son JJ, it is about tuning in at 11pm just before he turns his light off, as that seems to be when he downloads and tells me what’s going on for him. Not ideal, but far better than not having that connection. I pray they always want to keep talking to me, even if the time they choose is inconvenient.
Rachel Ridler – Mum on a Mission
A few years ago I blogged some tips for dealing with two children. You can read the full post here, but my top tips are:
* Deal with the toddler first, baby second. Who will remember you ignoring them? Who will follow you round and go into complete meltdown if you don’t deal with them? It might seem really hard and heartless to leave your tiny baby crying, but it will be much easier to deal with their needs if you have a happy toddler who thinks he is number one. Yes it may then take a little longer to soothe baby, but at least you won’t have to do it with another crying child wrapped round your leg.
* Find a way to connect with God that works around your chaotic life! Accept that with two kids, there will be very little time to breathe in the day let alone sit and have hour-long devotionals. We accept that our relationship with our husband changes when we become a mother, so accept that your relationship with God will change also.
It was for this reason that I started “Mummy Meditations” where I study just one Bible verse a week (but in depth!) – something much more manageable for busy mums.
But if that’s not for you, then find something that is. Maybe it’s the Bible on your phone, maybe it’s a short devotional book. Don’t feel guilty that it’s not the same as pre-children (or even when you had just one!).