I come from a church where big families are the norm and am from a family of 11 myself. For this reason I have been blessed to have many mothers in my life to pass on mothering tips and encouragement. I wanted to take a moment to jot down those things that I find most useful at this phase of life before I forget what it is like to have two busy toddlers running around. Some of these I have gotten from friends and family, some online and some I just learned through trial and error.
First of all one of the most helpful things, housework wise, was that someone told me she never folds her kids laundry. I started doing this, I still put them away in the correct drawers I just don’t bother to fold. This saved me so much time and keeps me from having a giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded. And since my girls are at the age where they are always digging through the dressers they were constantly unfolded anyways.
Also along the housekeeping train of thought I have learned the importance of prioritizing. Back when I had a screaming baby and a one year old I knew I could not accomplish much at all. I asked my husband what was most important when he woke up (he works graveyard) a semi clean house or a good dinner. He choose dinner. So everyday that was the one thing I tried to accomplish and I did not pressure myself about housework until his days off. Now that they are bigger and more independent I can get much more done. However I am not one of those woman who love housework and trying to keep my house super clean causes way more stress than is worth it to me or my husband. So instead of trying to keep it immaculate I try to have it fairly clean when he gets home in the morning, and the house picked up with dinner on the table when he gets up. I do projects and deep cleaning here and there as the babies allow. I have talked to my husband and he agrees he would rather have a happy, more relaxed wife and kids than a photo worthy home.
Another thing I have been working on is finding time to squeeze in a few minutes alone with the husband when I can. It can be hard with a husband working graveyard because we don’t get that time in the evening after bedtime to unwind without the kids. We have to be proactive to get time to connect without the babies during his work week. Sometimes this means putting the kids in front of Dora with sippy cups and snacks while we have adult conversation and time not centered around them, other times it means skipping naps to put them to bed earlier than normal so we get time alone before Julio is off to work.
One great idea to help with building your relationship was given to my by my cousin Kendra. She was telling me how her and some friends of theirs trade babysitting. I decided to talk to my pastor and his wife and we started a similar arrangement. I keep their kids for an evening one week and than they keep mine the next. It is so nice because it is guilt free free babysitting. And we usually do about 5 hours each time which makes for a nice long date night. We don’t do it every week but it does give us at least 1 or 2 date nights a month. It has been so great and it is awesome because my kids love playing with theirs so even when it is our turn to babysit it is enjoyable.
One of the most important things is to appreciate your spouse and all the ways they help. Don’t expect them to do things exactly how you do or how you would want them to. I remember when I was pregnant with Bella hearing a focus on the family podcast about helping your husband be a great dad. One of the things they said is to not criticize how he does everything, if he feels like he can’t do anything right he won’t do anything at all. This pops into my head sometimes when Julio gets the kids dressed (Why can’t men find matching baby clothes anyways?) , or feeds them a unhealthy snack right before dinner. I just keep my mouth shut because you know what? I would rather have a husband who happily changes diapers and plays with my kiddos than to have everything done exactly the way I want it. Another area which I still struggle with is score keeping. You absolutely can not score keep, or play “who has it worse” if you want to have a healthy happy marriage in these draining child filled years. However old habits die hard and I still sometimes finding myself counting who got the most sleep, or changed the most diapers. This is something I pray for and struggle with a lot!
The biggest thing of all, which I still am horrible at is knowing your limits and priorities and not caring if they don’t look like others. There are some things in life I just accept because my sanity is more important than what people think of me. I will wear a ponytail most days, and sometimes yoga pants. I will carry a diaper bag instead of a stylish purse because it makes my life a little bit easier. My house will sometimes be a disaster and my diet will sometimes consist of donuts and diet coke. I will rock my babies even though they are well past old enough to go to sleep on their own. My kids will watch too much TV somedays because that is the only way we will make it through that day. Every once in a while I get it all together. I have my hair and makeup done, my house is clean and I am eating healthy while doing art projects with the kiddos and keeping the TV off all day. I enjoy those days, I love them and celebrate them. But I also know sometimes they are the rare exception and that is OK because this is an exhausting phase of life and you gotta do what you can to make sure you not only survive but enjoy it.