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When Baby Makes Four

Regular readers of the On Parenting comments know newsahmom. And if they've been following her notes over the past few weeks, they -- and I -- know that she needs support and advice.

In the his and hers blog about finding equality earlier this week, newsahmom wrote:

"Today's post is really timely for me. Four months ago, I probably would have typed out a smug little comment about how the division of labor in my household is unequal but not unfair and how all I need to do is remember how hard DH works and blah blah blah sunshine and puppies.
Then we had a second child, and now? I'm drowning. It seems like I spend every waking hour tending to the needs of one or both of the kids, then the second I have two free hands, I'm racing around trying to keep the household stuff on track (for the record, I've been trying to type this comment since 1 pm, have been interrupted no fewer than six times, and am only now getting it typed with one hand while feeding the baby in the other). DH's life, on the other hand, hasn't changed at all. I've told him I need more help, and all he has to offer is "you can hire a cleaning service," a useless answer if ever I've heard one. I can feel the resentment rising with the tide of clutter and unfinished tasks, and right now no amount of walking in his shoes is helping. But today's post at least reminds me not to wait three years to re-negotiate the balance in our household."

That followed her question a little more than a week ago:

"By the way, can someone with two kids tell me if free time ever returns? I love having two kids and wouldn't classify it as difficult, but it has definitely spelled the death of free time right now."

For many of us, adding a second child is a little like throwing spaghetti against the wall. You've had the first child and had time to get to know how to care for that child. You've got your routines set. And then, here comes baby No. 2. You work hard in the months leading up to and right after the birth making sure the older sibling continues to feel loved. But what sometimes gets lost is that now you've added another person with his or her needs to the mix. But the number of adult hands hasn't changed.

As a mom who's been through the dark days of a having a toddler and a baby in the house, here's some advice for newsahm:

First, decide what's important to get done and what doesn't matter. Write a prioritized list of tasks that need to be completed. Show the list to your husband. Ask him what he can get done on the list that week and if he thinks anything's missing. Then, take the money that you and your husband think you can afford to spend on a cleaning service and find a mother's helper. You'll know what you need that person to do because you've got your list. Maybe you only need a couple of hours a week just until you're able to figure out a new routine that works. That's fine. Remember, it's okay to ask for and seek out help.

Second, consider having your helper -- maybe a responsible high schooler looking for a summer job -- take your older child to the park for an hour or so. Just enough to give you time to relax.

Third, and possibly most important, find time to sleep. Remember that old advice from the first child about sleeping when the baby sleeps? It still applies -- even though you've got the older child. If the house is in chaos, so be it for awhile. There were some days that the only thing I'd get done was take a shower. And really, that's okay. No one expects that a household with two small children will be neat and clean -- except maybe you.

Fourth, enlist your older child's help. Toddlers may not do a great job, but they like sweeping, sorting their toys into boxes or clothes into laundry piles, putting the silverware and plasticware away, etc. Make it a game to do those chores.

As for free time, it does return ... eventually. One thing to negotiate with your husband is when that time will be. It can be a weekend morning when he's responsible for the kids and you get a break. Or an hour at night a couple of days a week ... whatever you feel like you need to stay sane.

I'm sure I've missed about a thousand more pieces of advice. So, let's have it everyone. Be gentle and kind as newsahmom needs support. What else do you suggest?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 12, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
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Comments


My baby #4 just celebrated his first birthday yesterday, but I can tell you that it does get easier. When I was expecting #2, I can remember being told by another mom of 4 that the hardest transition is from one baby to two and the rest seem easy in comparison. Like Stacey said, you are so used to the routine you have with just one child that it's hard to introduce another whole life into the mix. But if you ever decide to go for #3, you're already an expert :-).

My best advice is to not worry about having that sparkling clean house and try to create a schedule for your kids as far as naps, meals, and bedtimes so that you can get enough sleep. Having kids sleep through the night is one of the biggest obstacles there is to being able to find time for yourself, but if you can create such a schedule early on, things get so much easier. My first child was sleeping through the night by 3 weeks old (he was such an easy baby, everyone told me I was spoiled) and #2 was sleeping through the night by 2 months. Baby #3 took the longest to reach that point at 4 months. So once I laid them down for the night, I could have time to myself or to be alone with my husband. I knew about what time they would be getting up in the morning, so I could plan to get up before them as well.

I truly believe that their excellent sleep habits are what kept me sane! I rarely felt as though I didn't have time for a shower. I was working on my M.S. degree when #2 was born and I've never been fortunate enough to be a SAHM, but I've mentioned before that my husband and I share duties with the house and kids. Get your husband as involved as possible, even if that means he needs to be with the kids for an hour for you to take a nap. Most of all, don't let yourself get stressed...your babies will know something is bugging you and they'll get all worked up too. Their time being little goes by much, much too fast to spend it worried about something else. Good luck!

Posted by: MEALmama | June 12, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

It does get easier! My boys are now 3 and 5 and best buddies (and worst enemies at times). Now I actually have free time to make dinner while the boys play together. I am not sure the magic age of when it got easier, but the first year is the worst, and then it gets easier. My advice - get a mother's helper if possible and a cleaning service if that is an option. Also - while I do not advocate putting the toddler in front of the television - sometimes you just have to for your own 30 minutes of sanity to focus on the baby.

Posted by: mamaof2boys | June 12, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm probably in the monority but I didn't struggle so much from 1 to 2 kids, it helped that number 2 was a really good, happy baby. Number 1 was a preemie and presented a variety of health problems, so it was relief to have a full-term baby that slept through the night.

My first was 3 years old when the second was born, and yes, very active. The only thing I really struggled with was the heat the summer following the second baby and not being able to be outside for long periods of time. It helps that we have family in the area and my husband has a schedule that allows me to have some downtime in the middle of the week. We also had lots of kids in the neighborhood the same age as our first, so trading off for a couple hours in the afternoon (while the baby slept) gave me a break too.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 12, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Do high schoolers do this anymore? We are still (4 years in) searching for a babysitter, and the most fruitless search was for high schoolers. They are too busy with school, sports, volunteer work, regular work and being teenagers. They are busier just trying to get into college than we are as working parents!

Posted by: mdem929 | June 12, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Let me modify this advice a bit: "First, decide what's important to get done and what doesn't matter. Write a prioritized list of tasks that need to be completed." Once you've done that, sit down with your husband and ask him to help you cut the list in half, and find quicker/easier ways to do the rest. THEN assign the remaining tasks between yourselves.

And second, third, fourth the notion of time to yourself. Mine weren't great sleepers, so the best thing we ever did was trade off weekend mornings with the kids -- I got to sleep in Saturday, and he got to sleep in Sunday. Somehow just knowing that I was going to get one solid night's sleep helped me make it through a lot of weeks. Early on, we'd sleep until 10 or 11; as the kids got older, he'd sometimes use his morning off to go play golf; and now all of the weekend activities have pushed it back to 8. But even 8 yrs later, my favorite time of the week is still Friday night, when I go to bed knowing I don't have to get up at the crack of freaking dawn.

Posted by: laura33 | June 12, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

ADVICE not ADVISE...
JOURNALISM not WRITING...

Posted by: robjdisc | June 12, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm printing all this blog and comments and posting them on our fridge so I will remember this stuff when baby #2 arrives in early August! :)

But seriously, this is really helpful stuff to hear. I have one sort of related question for other moms of two or more - with baby #1, I had some pretty bad postpartum depression to deal with. It surprised me, but I think a lot of it was related to 1) not enough sleep and 2) feeling so wildly out of control over my "new life" with baby.

I admit that I'm a tiny bit worried about having to deal with that again, but I've heard other moms say that though they may have had it after #1, they didn't have it with #2 - perhaps because they knew more of what to expect?

Anyway, I don't mean to hijack the blog, this is a great topic for today, but if anyone has experiences to share with postpartum issues after #'s 1, 2, 3, etc, I'd welcome hearing them.

Posted by: stephs98 | June 12, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to all of your for your advice. I feel a little embarrassed about how whiny I've been. For the most part, we are doing ok, I just to seem to be struggling a little bit figuring out the new routine, and am in the midst of a sleep regression with the baby. I know things will get better.

And in the meantime, since I did act like such a brat, I should mention that I also know how good I have it. I get to spent a lot of each day chilling at the park or the pool with the kids, and DH is thoughtful, a great dad, and eager to help in any way he can. And of course, I love the heck out of these kids.

Posted by: newsahm | June 12, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

newsahm, if what you've been posting here is any guide, you're one of the least whiney new moms I've met. The pool and park are fun -- but they're even more fun on a full night's sleep. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | June 12, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Admitting that you are a bit overwhelmed is not whining. You should feel totally justified in seeking out advice and help when you need it. Sometimes life with a toddler and a newborn is rough, especially when you are exhausted. I also felt the transition from 1 kid to 2 was the hardest. By the time the 5th came around it was no big deal (not that there will be a 6th!).

The best thing I ever did was hire a college babysitter to take my older two kids out for one entire day a week for the summer the twins were born. I would rather have one massive chunk of time than a few smaller bits. She would pick them up by 8 or 9 and not be back until 3 or 4. They'd come home tired and I would get another hour or two to relax with them. While they were gone I could cook, clean, just be with the babies, shower or sleep. That was also when I started doubling every recipe I made so I could freeze half. That way, on the days I just couldn't do it, I knew dinner was at least taken care of.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | June 12, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

stephs98, I too had PPD after #1. I am expecting #2 in October, and given my past experience, I have already talked with my doctor about a plan to handle the issue this time around. Since I know I don't function well in sleep-deprivation mode, I'm just taking it as a given that I'll have issues; if I don't end up needing medication, that'll just be a bonus. Not only do I not want to be miserable, my family and I need me to be a functioning human being.

Yes, I'm scared about the transition from 1 to 2 as well, and I look forward to the insight other posters have to share.

Posted by: library2 | June 12, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I can't give much advice about the transition from 1 to 2 since it took about 1 minute in our case (twins). I can promise you eventually get used to it. Nothing like seeing your kids play together or one helping the other.

@typopolice - By my count, Stacy used advice correctly 3 times before one slip. ADVICE not SNARK.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 12, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

For "mother's helper", see your doctor. $20 a bottle or a month's supply is well worth the expense, or so I've heard, from friends.

For me, the transition of going from 2 to 3 was much more challanging than 1 to 2. Personally, when I got stuck babysitting my kids, (and being married to a nurse that works evenings, weekends and holidays I can say with confidence that I've done my share), I felt that taking care of at least 2 of 'em was easier than taking care of a single. With a single, I was the only person that the baby could demand attention from. With multiples, I could put them all in the ring, and sneak out of the room to do my own thing.

Also, I don't want to appear cold here, but for a blind person to hear how difficult it is for a SAHM to care for 2 healthy kids... I'm having trouble mustering up much sympathy. I mean, life just HAS to be easy if you can see what you are doing, right?

But I realize, no matter the situation, 2 little ones are plaing chaos. A parent does well to learn it, live it, and love it. No doubt, I'm struggling too.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 12, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

In our case the biggest transition was from 2 to 3, for a couple of reasons. The first can best be described by a sports metaphor: with 3, you can no longer play a man-to-man defense; you must always play a zone, even when the zone doesn't seem to be working.

The second reason was that the "outside help" seemed to pretty much dry up by the third.

That is, with the first, DW had her mother, my mother, her sister, and a couple of good friends who seemed to be always "on call" to help, give advice, etc.

With the second, I was teaching at the Air Force Academy and DW had a whole department full of military spouses jumping in to help.

With the third, we were back in Maryland, and to most outside our family it was no big deal. Oh, grandma would come get the older kids for an afternoon, but that was about it. The support system seemed to be pretty much internal by then, and it caused a lot of stress. Many was the day that, as soon as I got home from work, DW was out the door "running errands" (read as "getting away from the kids just for a few minutes).

But yes, it all does get better eventually, once the kids get a little older and don't quite require all of your time and energy. As others have said, the first step is to just "lower your standards" WRT the house, etc. Then try to be patient with each other.

Oh - and make your husband let you "run errands" a few afternoons after he gets home from work.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | June 12, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Great post today! It's nice to see helpful comments and tips from everyone.

I posted on Craigslist and got a phenomenal mother's helper. She's a single mom in nursing school who comes to my house for 3 hours once a week while her son's in preschool. (He was already in an all-day program so she could go to her classes.) The schedule is ideal for both of us, since her class schedule didn't leave enough time for long shifts anywhere else, and I just needed a little break. I highly recommend trying this, if you're struggling for babysitters and/or mother's helpers. :)

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 12, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Socks were almost the death of me when #2 arrived at the age of 3 years old. I had known from the moment I adopted #1 that I would want a #2, so I saved all the clothes #1 outgrew. What I didn't realize was that I kept buying the same packs of socks, same colors and all, just in different sizes. So when #2 arrived, I pulled it out and SOCKS DON'T COME WITH A SIZE TAG. I spent several months trying to figure out which socks fit which kid. Finally I threw out all the old socks and bought new ones--packs for one at Target and packs for the other at Walmart.

Yeah, I found the transition from being a family of 2 to being a family of 3 to be difficult. I used to say my house was two steps away from being condemned for two years after #2 arrived. And #1, who had been queen of the house for 4 years, was not interested in helping out any more than usual. My advice to those thinking of acquiring additional children is to teach the older ones new skills BEFORE the subsequent ones arrive--just like you make sure the older one is out of the crib well before the new one needs it.

Posted by: janedoe5 | June 12, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

i have never before "needed" caffeine as I do now with 2 kids. More info on that $20 bottle of "mother's helper" for the doctor, please?

It does get easier-- yesterday I gave my toddler a bowl of yogurt and realized although it was likely they would be a mess on the floor, it was highly unlikely yogurt would also end up on the walls, ceiling,etc. That realization allowed me to relax and focus on cleaning up the kitchen rather than literally sit there and spoon feed her to avoid a massive mess.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | June 12, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

We just added #2, a daughter, in Sept last year. My son was 3.

The winter (we are in Ohio) was dreary and long. My daughter is a light sleeper, up multiple times at night. I am nursing. We are just coming out of that fog now, 9 months later, as summer is here and DH is less busy at work (read: able to help out more).

It is tough having two. I think my marriage and free time have suffered the most. DH and I have only recently resumed a semi-normal sex life and since we both work, we save evenings for the kids. We may sneak out for lunch together every couple weeks.

I'm looking ahead, though, because I know that once they get older, it gets physically easier (mentally is another matter entirely).

Posted by: goodhome631 | June 12, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I recently attended a meal planning seminar with some other moms (w/kids of all ages). I was shocked at the tone of the seminar which seemed to be, "We know your husband can't/won't/doesn't know how to cook...we know his work is more important than yours...we know he is a clueless oaf..." Is this the universal bar set for men? I suppose my reaction stemmed from NOT being a SAHM as the others seemed to be.
Please, ladies, raise your sons and daughters to wash dishes, cook from a recipe, clear their plates and at the very least, run a vacuum cleaner. They need to see that the division of labor in a modern household is no longer woman=housework/cooking and man=outside work. Teach them that telling their wives or husbands to "hire a cleaning service" when asked for help is setting a poor example to their children who need to see one parent giving a little extra when the other parent needs them to.

Posted by: awb21 | June 12, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes, woman=housework/cooking/cleaning and man=outside work actually works just fine. If my DH made $300 an hour and was working overtime, it would be a far better use of his time to be at work than to come home and mop our floor. In the limited time he was at home, I'd prefer he spend time with me and the kids than do any chores. Thus, being encouraged to hire a cleaning service would be a recognition of the fact that neither the SAHM (who's busy with the kids) nor the WOHD was able to do the cleaning. So, you agree together to outsource. Why is this such a terrible thing?

The people who had the $$ to pay for that seminar AND the time to go to it were likely primarily rich SAHMs. For them, the reality is that their DH does little to no housework. So coping strategies catered to that subgroup made sense. Presumably there are other seminars for WOHPs who split things more evenly?

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 12, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

AND, of course, the couples who have found their own split that works for them don't need to go to any seminars!

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 12, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

My one bit of advice for SAHPs: shower before your spouse leaves for work in the morning. (Impossible when your spouse travels a lot for work, but at least it makes things easier when he/she is in town.)

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 12, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

You can always bring the car seats into the living room, strap 'em in, then go take your shower.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 12, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The big highlight of my life as a SAHM with two kids under age two was "The Great Nap Overlap." It was rare and it was cause for celebration!

I don't know how I survived those years to be honest but I guess I did.

Posted by: annenh | June 12, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes you just have to slog through it. You don't get extra points for getting through this time with a spotless house and perfect nails. My advice, lower the bar! It won't kill number one to eat golfish and watch two hours of Noggin (its pre-school on t.v. right?). Do what you can as best you can, that's all anyone can ask AND figure out what one thing you NEED to be sane each day. For me, it was my bagle, coffee and paper in the morning. Hang in there, won't be long before you are walking around with two bickering kids who are playing their DSs while they walk and you will look longingly at the mom with the toddler and baby. I did it myself today.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | June 12, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

We didn't find the transition from 1 to 2 that dificult, even though there were less than two years between them. Baby No 1 was pretty easy going, with a few rough patches early on (but that more down to inexperienced paretns, I suspect), and was sleeping through the night by 3 months. Baby No 2 was ridiculously easy going, perpetually happy, and almost never cried, and decided to sleep through the night at two months. As I say, we were incredibly lucky.

Of course, because it wasn't so bad, now we've decided to jeopardize the whole man-to-man defense and go to a zone defense: Baby No 3 is due within the next 10 days. We are just praying she'll be as easy going and cooperative as her big brothers. Wish us luck!

Posted by: raynecloud | June 12, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

On Mother's helpers, HSer's are too busy. You have to get them in Middle School. If all you are looking for is someone to essentially keep the older one out of your hair while you are at home, an 11-13 year old is ideal.

My 11 year old is going to try out as a mother's helper next week at our friend's, she will be there to play with the 3 year old since they have a 6 week old baby. We discussed that she didn't have CPR training, etc., but she already knows the little girl and the mother will be there. The other benefit is that they are cheaper, a HSer will charge you a lot more than an 11-13 year old.

Advertise in your community paper or just put the word out with a bunch of friends and neighbors.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 12, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I have to laugh at the "running errands" comment by AB.

I do recall doing this when the kids were both mobile, maybe 5 and 2 and running me ragged when the weather was good. My husband pulled me aside one day and said
"I think you have a problem, and it is called Target."

Sometimes I wouldn't even buy anything, I'd get a coffee and walk around Target - ALONE. Sad but true.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 12, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

A sad benefit of the recession is that lots of people are willing to work for less. We posted our ad for a mother's helper at $8 an hour, and we got LOTS of responses. From good people with experience and references. So good help is available for significantly less than you may think...

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 12, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Cheeky, for a period of time when my kids were toddlers, my wife would grab the car keys and sneak out the back door to get away from them. Ever do that one? It works pretty well until they catch on and start guarding both the front and back doors.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 12, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

cheeky - it actually took me a while to figure out that "getting away" was what she was actually doing with those errands. For a while I'd come home and hear "we're out of milk; I need to run to the store; you watch the kids." So I would stop and buy milk on the way home from work, only to be told we needed something else. So one day I stopped on the way home and did a whole week's worth of grocery shopping - and that was NOT well received! It was our neighbor who pulled me aside and explained it. Once I had been hit over the head with the clue-by-four, I understood - okay, I'll come home; you go out wherever you want for a while and then we can function. (I didn't necessarily LIKE being stuck with the kids by myself right after a bad day at work, but if that was necessary, that's what we did.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | June 12, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

AB/Cheeky, that's a really good point. When I was home with our first in a new city, I salvaged my sanity by joining a gym with child care. For $2.50, I got 1.5 hrs/day completely by myself. Some days, I worked out; other days, I just sat by the pool or in the cafe, savoring being alone and quiet and doing nothing. Added bonus being I got my body back (which felt surprisingly important when everything else was out of my control). :-)

Posted by: laura33 | June 12, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Cheeky, I'm with you on Target. Sometimes I'd go just to talk to someone, anyone. My husband calls Target the Hundred Dollar Store. lol

Posted by: moxiemom1 | June 12, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

If Target is the 100$ store, Costco is the 200$ store.

I'm just happy my tastes match my budget and need for being alone.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 12, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

newsahmom - When your husband is not at work, have him do 50% or more of the childcare. He can care for the kids at home or take them out - his choice. It will give you room to breathe and also give him some empathy for what you do. Also, have one night a week when you can go out by yourself for an hour or two (or three) and do whatever you want: go to the mall, get an ice cream cone, get together with a friend, read magazines at the library, take a walk, take a class for fun, etc. It will help you feel better. Good luck!

Posted by: obamamama31 | June 12, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

"newsahmom - When your husband is not at work, have him do 50% or more of the childcare."

Warning - try this only if you absolutely, positively want to start a fight. Because you'll get one.

Now, if you believe that he comes home from work and does absolutely nothing useful - no yardwork, no housework, no cooking, cleaning, or working at home - then yes, you might get away with this. But if he's already doing a lot at home, and both of you are swamped, this is just going to make things worse.

"Also, have one night a week when you can go out by yourself for an hour or two (or three) and do whatever you want: "

agreed, as noted above. With DW it was "running errands" but it could be anything else - but you do need your free time.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | June 12, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this is so timely for my family. We have been a family of 4 since January and had two under 2 until earlier this week when my son officially entered his terrible two's. newsahmom and I actually traded comments last week about suggestions for bedtime with two kids and only one parent. Sounds like she is doing just fine as she had good advice for me.
All advice given so far is right on. I have been surprised at how well I have handled the transition from 1 to 2 as I am an only child and was really worried about it. However, that said, I let a lot of things slide. I definitely take my "me time" in the evenings (DH works 48 hour shifts so I have a lot of time with just the 3 of us nights) after the kids are in bed. Besides the dishes getting into the dishwasher and a cursory wipe of the kitchen, nothing else gets done at that time. I read, catch up on my TV shows, whatever. I don't get much out on my own time because of my husbands schedule. I do a lot of online shopping because of this. There is always a negotiation with DH about social time for each of us. We don't have immediate family close by and have yet to hire a babysitter for social outings and this can be tough. Luckily, my husband is the social one and I lean the other way. It makes things a little easier that I don't mind being home.
Only recently had I started to feel like I was drowning, but the cavalry arrived yesterday in the form of my parents. What wonderful support they are, and if you don't have outside support in the form of family, I say BUY IT! I am definitely changing in how I feel about spending money on help. A mothers helper sounds like a great idea. I have been toying with it lately and think this summer is a good time to try it out. There are a couple of tweens up the street trying to start a babysitter service. I think I'll just have to try them out. Any suggestions on how much to pay a tween helper for entertaining a 2 year old while Mom does housework?

Posted by: firemom35 | June 12, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

we added baby #2 to our family in december. i work full time and went back to work after he turned 8 weeks. I have a toddler as well. i was really surprised by how smoothly the transition went. i was way more relaxed with baby #2 than i was with baby #1, so i think that helped alot. a relaxed mama means relaxed kids. so my house isn't squeaky clean and there is a huge list of things that have to be done, but there are only so many hours in the day, and since most of mine are spent at work, i spend as much quality time enjoying my kids as possible. that's the biggest thing i have learned as my family expanded. even though i am dog tired by the time i get home, and have a million thigns to do, i know that everything can wait if i need to just take a few minutes to snuggle with the baby or read the older one a book. take advantage of the blissful time after the babies go to sleep. i always take a half hour to do something for ME before tackling the chores, like taking a soak in the tub, watching TV, reading a magazine, or just sitting quietly with no one talking to me. then, i'm refreshed and ready to do the dishes/laundry/cleaning/etc. and having a travelling husband ensures that i don't get 50% help, but when my hubby IS there, we split up what we can. relax, re-prioritize, and just enjoy your new expanded family. oh, and a glass or two of wine to take the edge off at the end of the day never hurt anyone :)

Posted by: spd279 | June 12, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

a glass or two of wine to take the edge off at the end of the day never hurt anyone :)

Yikes. It sounds so easy, but I am afraid that doing it specifically to take the edge off is kind of dangerous. My stepfather, bless him, has been taking the edge off like this for years, and sadly, is a functioning alcoholic now.

Posted by: emily8 | June 12, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"Now, if you believe that he comes home from work and does absolutely nothing useful - no yardwork, no housework, no cooking, cleaning, or working at home - then yes, you might get away with this. But if he's already doing a lot at home, and both of you are swamped, this is just going to make things worse."

Bingo. When I'm not being cranky and selfish, I can acknowledge that DH works really hard for a lot of hours every day, and the last thing I want to do when he gets home is make his day worse. Besides, our after-work routine is quite even-handed. Usually, he comes home, we eat dinner than he bathes the big one while I try to get the small one down, then one of us puts the big one to bed (depending on who she likes better that day) while the other cleans up from dinner.

As for errands, I'm lucky enough that the older kid is in preschool 2 mornings a week, so I can run all of my errands with just the baby.

Thanks again to everyone for their kind and helpful suggestions. I really do appreciate it.

Posted by: newsahm | June 12, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

moxiemom: Sometimes I'd go just to talk to someone, anyone.

I've noticed that I've started talking to everyone in stores/check-out people. It's so nice to have a conversation with a grown-up. Even if it is about the weather or the great sales.

(and I realized in typing this that I am my mother)

Posted by: mdem929 | June 12, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

mdem929, I hear you! My husband is a security guard and works second shift (from mid-afternoon to anywhere from 10 PM to midnight), which means I get the kids to myself during that time. Since that is when everybody else is home from work and social activities such as PTA meetings, craft clubs, etc. are held, being stuck at home with the kids during that time is a great way to go crazy. The only real "me time" I usually get is after the kids are in bed, and after a day spent doing housework, homeschooling (during summer and school breaks during the year), and working the vegetable garden, all I want to do is get off my feet!

I've found myself doing the same thing-I live for daytime errands and going to yard sales on weekends because not only is it a great way to get clothes for the kids without breaking the bank, it also means a chance to get out of the house and talk to GROWN-UPS! Of course, I come back home and my husband hasn't enforced the chores-first rule so the house is trashed and the kids are watching forbidden TV channels (note to self: get a lockout device for the TV ASAP), but at least I've gotten to do something that doesn't involve picking up after everybody else or telling someone for the hundredth time to get ready for bed!

It's amazing how even a conversation with a checkout clerk about the weather or haggling with someone over the price of a piece of kid's clothing at a yard sale can seem liberating after that!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | June 13, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

for the two months that wife was in the hospital and i was a single dad juggling a full-time+ work schedule, visits to the hospital and the baby i quit running errands.

peapod & amazon

peapod will costs an extra $20/week or so and if you sign up for amazon prime for $40/yr, 2-day shipping is free.

click click click and your grocery shopping is done and with amazon you'll never have to to go target, etc.

those hours that i didn't have to spend running around really helped.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | June 13, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Hi newsahm!

I have never seen this blog, but felt compelled when I happened upon it to tell you to hang in there! I am a 46 year-old mother of four-three boys and one girl, ranging in age from 7 to 16. Do not be hard on yourself! It is not easy, but I truly believe that the key is maintaining your sense of humor as much as possible--I mean this! I feel like there isn't a humiliating moment I haven't had--from the 3 year-old peeing all over the shoe store to another attorney telling me I was way to smart to start staying home. I have had to come to terms with unmatched socks, a trashcan full of dog deposits rolling down the driveway as my son's party started, some significant health issues, and the rocking of my previous (way previous--try twenty years ago!) organized, forward moving, goal-oriented life. In the end though, and it has taken some time, trust me, I am so much the better for it I can't begin to tell you. I have had ups and downs, but the truth is, I have spent much of the time laughing, crying too, but laughing more. There is great freedom and joy in recognizing we can only rise each day and do our level best, and that is perhaps the best lesson you can teach your children. You can do this--you are actually already there!

Posted by: thdesmarais | June 13, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

stephs98 - I suffered from PPD with my first and had my second in Sept. I was definitely scared leading up to the arrival of number two. I talked a lot with my husband about what I needed in order to stay as sane as possible (not easy conversations). And I had all the numbers at the ready for meds and shrink if I needed them. But - we were lucky. Number two was easy in a way number one just wasn't. DH's job allows him to be home more which it didn't with number one and I actually feel like I kind of know what I'm doing which has relieved a lot of stress. It may not be as bad as it was with one but be ready just in case. I wish the best for you!!

Posted by: meganhope | June 13, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I just want to say that the one phrase that frosts my cookies more than any other is when a dad says that he is "babysitting" his kids.

Babysitting is what a person who is not a default caretaker for a child does.

If you share in the custody of your children then, by definition, you are not a babysitter. When you have your kids on your own and your wife is elsewhere? What you are doing is solo-parenting. Not "babysitting".

Posted by: elizmiller | June 13, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

I was terrified while pregnant with my second child, remembering how hard it had been with my first to transition to being a newly SAHM, in a new town, in a rough winter, knowing no one, with no second car,etc. THAT was hard! I still can't believe I survived.

But, having my second child actually made my life easier with the first kid, who accepted his brother really very well and became a more normal child, rather than the mini-adult he sorta was while having only us two parents to model. He thrived NOT being the center of attention. I had no doubt been TOO attentive to the first.

And then, as they grew, the boys had each other to play with and SOMETIMES would forget I existed. Yay!

Plus, there is nothing wrong with 30 minutes of Sesame Street for a toddler. As a kid, I had watched enough totally unrestricted TV to rot any brain, and still did all my homework, played a lot outside, and graduated from college. Admittedly, I was more careful with my own kids and TV.

My husband was almost no help at all when the kids were very young. He certainly did not offer, and I was afraid to ask, since he was bringing home the only paycheck, had a long drive to work, was stressed at his new job, and got little attention from poor me - so I never asked for the things that, in hindsight, would have made a huge difference in the quality of my life: Like him staying home an extra 20 minutes in the morning with the kids so I could take a shower!

If you don't ask, you won't get any help. Learn from my mistakes.

Posted by: bernadete | June 13, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

We are expecting #2 soon so this topic is timely and entertaining. I love the suggestion to dump your toddlers on the earning spouse after a hard day at work. That's a short track to divorce court. The best thing my spouse did for our marriage was go back to work after a few months after our first was born. It gave her back adult time during the day and she didn't feel the need to launch baby at me as soon as I got through the door.

Quite honestly I don't know why so many professionals (mostly women) decide to drop their careers and become SAHMs. Most aren't cut out for it. And no, it doesn't count if your kids are in daycare all day, grandma's all afternoon, or have a nanny.

That being said, I have a lot more respect for single working moms - not sure how they do it but I gather you need a amazing support system to stay above water.

Posted by: Boraxo1 | June 14, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I'm not the only one dealing with this. My life is complicated by a 4-year-old, a 3-month-old, and...I'm a work-at-home mom trying to get time on the computer to earn my pay.

My husband also thinks he's solved things by hiring the cleaning service. And they're nice, but I have to run around hysterically the day they're coming and tidy up so they can clean. Argh.

I don't really have any good advice because my house is a disaster, I'm perpetually behind on work, my older kid feels neglected, and I'm short on sleep. I'm pretty sure I'm doing everything wrong.

Posted by: marag | June 14, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"I love the suggestion to dump your toddlers on the earning spouse after a hard day at work. That's a short track to divorce court."

Borax, if you hadn't noticed - everyone that has posted that they "dump toddlers" is still married. I am pretty sure AB and Wacky are going on 20 years, I have been married 14. So much for your theory.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 14, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

coming in late to the chat here, but as a fellow mom of two, one 14 mos and one just over 2.5 years, I can feel newsahm's pain. One thing I wanted to suggest is looking for a parents group and/or a babysitting co-op. They are great for creating connections and playdates for your kids. It also helps you make friends going through the same stages. It does take a village, but whether it is to raise a child or support a mom is up for discussion. Make sure you and your husband make time for one on one time with each other, becuase that doesn't come easily with two kids in the mix, yet is more important now than ever.

Posted by: mdsails | June 15, 2009 1:34 AM | Report abuse

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