My 6-year-old son went in for a tonsillectomy last Friday, and it’s been a roller coaster ride to recovery these past six days.
The recovery process for him has been much harder than any of us anticipated, and he has needed us a lot more than we thought. On top of that, our eldest daughter is having a hard time understanding why her brother gets to skip school for a week, eat popsicles all hours of the day, and watch as much TV as he can stomach. She doesn’t understand the level of his pain, only that he’s getting to do all this fun stuff and she is not.
And then there’s baby brother, little Hayden, who at 14 months old, is finally starting to show a bit more of his true personality. He’s still sweet and happy as can be, but mobility and awareness sparks a little fire in most babies that leaves them grunting their demands with gusto, and hungry to see what mischief they can get into.
All this has left me, for the first time since having our third child, completely outnumbered and truly overwhelmed.
So how have I been making sure my older son’s needs are met, while at the same time taking care of the little tornado in our house?
Read on for tips and lessons from the trenches of motherhood.
Overestimate how much help each child will need. I think we always underestimate how easy things will be, especially as mothers. We want to look on the bright side, and we are notorious for thinking things will take half as much time to complete as they actually do. What I have learned from this experience is that your kids will always need you most when you think they’ll need you the least, and vice versa. For instance, I didn’t think the recovery time would be so rough for my son’s surgery. I thought that at 8 years old, my daughter would be old enough to understand why her brother was getting so much more attention. And at 14 months old, and not yet walking, I figured I’d easily be able to contain the little one while big brother was down and out. I was wrong on all accounts, and this past week each child has needed me to be there emotionally, physically and discipline-wise more than ever before. It’s left me feeling overwhelmed and ill-prepared.
Ask for help. With that being said, I cannot stress how important it is to ask for help, even if it makes you uncomfortable and those who come to help may not do everything the right way. For a few days, let go of control, let your friends and family be there for you, and realize that it truly does take a village to raise a family. All too often we forget that. We soldier on, trying to be strong, when more than anything, we need help and support. Yesterday afternoon, my son was ready to try and eat some solids and the only things he wanted were foods that he eats with butter — soft bread, pancakes, rice, mac ‘n’ cheese. So I texted a group of friends that live in the area, some who aren’t even my closest of closest friends, and asked if anyone could bring me a stick of butter. Within a couple of hours I not only had a stick of butter, but I had a dinner as well. You’d be surprised how often people truly want to help, if you let them.
Accept help. Which brings me to my next tip. ACCEPT THE HELP for goodness sake! I could have easily told my friend to not worry about dinner, that we could have ordered take out, or that I could have whipped something up. But I let go of my feelings of thinking that I’m putting people out, and I accepted the dinner. This saved us money from not having to order take out, and it let me stay on the couch comforting my son who was having a really tough day. It also meant that the baby could play and cuddle as need be, and didn’t have to fight for my attention as I’m trying to make dinner. (And why do babies always want to be held when we’re trying to make dinner?!?)
Plan simple meals to free up more time. Since you probably won’t get meals brought to you every night, for the other nights when you have a sick child or baby who’s going through a really clingy phase, I cannot stress how much of a lifesaver it is to do some meal prep. Take 15 minutes at some point during the day to plan out a couple of easy meals, and then either send your partner to the store or go out at night after bedtime yourself to get your essentials. Make sure they’re meals that don’t require a lot of chopping or multiple pans to clean up — slow cooker or one-pot meals are ideal. And set out reminder notes to defrost meat as well! Knowing I have dinner covered always relieves a huge amount of stress for me, and leaves me ready to deal with other stresses of the day.
Rotate toys between rooms, or in and out of storage. When all your children need you at the same time, now’s the time to rotate the toys, especially for the baby. By simply moving toys from one room to the next, or taking older toys out of storage, you give baby a fresh new set of things to entertain him, and hopefully buy yourself an extra bit of time.
Use the baby’s naptime to give the older one more attention. Instead of using nap times to get stuff done, these past few days I’ve been using baby’s nap time to just give extra TLC to my son. Things like cuddling on the couch watching TV or reading a book make him more willing to give me up when the baby is awake and may need me.
Remember, your little baby will not be traumatized if you can’t meet all his or her needs instantaneously when your older children need you. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on keeping baby safe and out of trouble, so I can tend to my older son who really needs my attention to help him recover. And my daughter has been getting lots of extra daddy time at night when he gets home, just the two of them. We’ve had to have a few talks with her, but by just acknowledging that her feelings, while may not be appropriate, are understandable. They will all survive just fine, even us parents, and pretty soon this tough couple of weeks will be just a blip in the screen of parenthood!
So how do you get through the rough patches when all your children seem to need you at once?