Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Topic suggestion for today from Amy:

Think back to when you had a baby, toddler, and preschooler in the house--What advice would you have for people like me who are in survival mode--how to juggle things or what NOT to do? (I may use the second part as a topic on another day).

This is an interesting topic for me because I feel like I am far from the one who should be giving advice on this topic. When I was in that situation I felt smothered, disordered, and unsupported for a large share of the time (not by my husband, but simply due to the fact that we had no family in town to help us out).

I also find this an interesting topic because what helped me and my personality would likely not help many others - including Amy:) I am an introvert. She is an extrovert. I have a hard time thinking about how MY advice would be relevent to her since we get energy so differently.

But here is what was important to me at that time:

* Predictability - I was a schedule nazi with all three of my girls. Not because I think the schedule itself is so incredibly important, but because I needed to be able to predict my day as closely as possible (I'm still very much like this even without nap schedules to follow - I don't do very well with spontaneous changes in my plans). By the time each of my girls was around 2-3 months old I knew exactly what times they would nap throughout the day, exactly what times they would eat throughout the day, exactly what times they would get crabby etc. Part of this is due to the fact that I am an extremely observant, puzzle solving person. I look for patterns in all of life, not just in nap/eating schedules, and when something doesn't follow a pattern I will go crazy - obssessively - trying to solve the puzzle. I tried to feed on demand and I wanted to tear my hair out - it seemed that I would just get something started and then the baby would start to cry. I could not handle that - many moms can and do. I.cannot.

Being able to predict this stuff was helpful in many ways - I was able to plan my errands if I dared to venture out with the three of them, I could workout in the morning, I was able to tell babysitters/family EXACTLY what to expect when they watched the girls, I knew how long I had to complete household chores and how to plan my day. These things are important to me - not to some people, but to me. These things were important enough to me that I spit in the face of the idea that you never wake a sleeping child. Whatever - I woke my girls from every single nap they took and in the morning to start the day from the time they came home from the hospital until about 2 years old.

When Georgia was an infant, I was a little more loose with the schedule - just in terms of timing. Nora and Ryann had exact schedules - they each ate/slept at the exact same times every day. With Georgia I worked more with a 3 or 4 hour schedule based on when she woke up in the morning.

The routine was especially important when I had a 4 year old, 2 year old and 6 month old. Nora was in preschool at the time and because I had such a good handle on the schedule I was able to have Georgia and Ryann nap while Nora was at school and have a few precious hours to myself a couple of times a week.

* Blogging/internet - right about the time that I had Georgia I started this blog. A few other people did, too. I also joined a private forum for christian women. These things were a big deal to me as I felt I had some communication with the outside world.

* Evening bottle - If I can suggest one thing to any mother with a newborn it would be this idea. We did this with Georgia as a way to combat the problems I had with Ryann not taking a bottle for her first 8 months... Every night around 8:30/9:00 I would pump a bottle for Georgia and leave it for Dave. Dave was committed to staying awake to feed it to her at 11:45 (she wouldn't even wake up - she would eat it in her sleep; every couple of weeks we moved the time up by 15 minutes). This resulted in a couple of things: she would take a bottle, I could go to sleep right after I pumped and get a long stretch of sleep before getting up to nurse her around 4, she and Dave could bond, I didn't feel lonely staying up that late by myself. If anything at that time in our marriage showed love to me, it was the fact that Dave was willing to do that. I was able to function during the day because of it and I will forever suggest it to others and forever be in his debt.

* Managing expectations - this is actually true of all seasons of life, but I found this to be an important way to ease my mother-guilt at that time... I can't say that I ever felt overwhelmed by guilt, however, I know that it was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. This guilt about how much tv the older girls were watching, how much I was neglecting them, how much time I WASN'T spending with them. At some point, though, I realized that it would only be for a short time - approximately 6 weeks for our family. It took us about that long to really get in the swing of everything and get back to the point of having some kind of routine. When I realized that, my load became much lighter. While I would never choose to sit my kids in front of the tv for most of the day for 6 weeks, at some point I had to admit to myself that I needed to do it. I also had to be conscious of not keeping that going when I could get my head above water again. After about 6 weeks of that, ALL of us were sick of the tv:)

In addition, I had to manage my expectations for myself and what I could do. There is nothing wrong with saying no or setting boundaries with other people. And there is nothing wrong with not doing everything available and with bowing out of what may seem to be an important social occasion. Dave had his first EJ christmas party right after Georgia was born. I was incredibly overwhelmed - she was too little to leave with a babysitter, but I hadn't met ANY of the people that would be there. I knew that it was going to be an awkward and miserable situation for me - having the baby there, having to find a private place to nurse her and all that, so I politely asked Dave if he could go without me. He wasn't thrilled, but he understood. It probably wouldn't have been as bad as I anticipated, but it wouldn't have been fun, either.

At the time that I had the three little ones under the age of 4 I didn't realize how busy I was. Now that life has gotten easier than that I look back and realize just how smothered I really felt and wonder how I did it. Not sure I could go back... which is why there is no 4th in our future;)

So what is on the agenda for tomorrow's post?


Skooks 11:01 PM  

Talk to me about the girls. When they were born, did it seem they would be a certain way (introverted, hammy, etc)? Did people have predictions on what kind of kids they would be? Did you? Were you right?

Where are their personalities at now?

April 11:45 AM  

oh this was a great post too Jana! Love the bowing out of things and not feeling like we have to be so involved. I always thought that William allowed that for us too. His food allergies have easily allowed us to bow out when we had to or it has allowed us to go to things and then leave early. We really like the quiet life and we all function better with it. Minsan and I are all about peace and leaving the house to chaos often doesn't lend to that. Yeah, the simple life is good! I am glad you are on the other end of being smothered. I can actually really relate to that feeling and having William be 4 now has really made that possible!

Amy 4:30 PM  

We have more in common than you probably realize. :) I am probably not as strong as a schedule nazi as you but pretty close. I, too, need a routine. I can not handle cluster feeding or feeding on demand. I have several friends who never pump and take their babies with them everywhere until they are weaned...even if it's as late as 9-10 months old. I'm a strong believer kids need lots of sleep in their own beds/cribs. I am OK with leaving my baby with a babysitter and bottle of expressed milk.

Some people don't agree with letting your babies cry it out around the 4-6 month age or having a rigid nap schedule. We've had very, very few sleep problems with our kids. We hear of so many parents whose preschoolers don't sleep through the night and keep waking them up repeatdly or toddlers that get up every hour. This is very unusual for us...if it does happen it is very rare or due to a cold or flu bug. Parents need their sleep too!

Rob doesn't do the evening bottle, but he does put Kara down almost every single night. That means rocking her if she won't go down or staying up with her if she's not sleeping. I know this will change once she starts going down earlier (and we're already seeing this a little). Putting my other kids down at night was the most stressful thing for me that caused lots of anxiety. With Derek it could take 1-2 hours on a bad night. I am so thankful Rob is willing to do it and I can just go to bed. Rob also sees it as bonding time with Kara.

Your final paragraph reminded me of how some people believe you should not plan how many children you are going to have. That you should have as many as God gives you. I have a hard time with this because I think there has to be a practical side of it...and a responsible one. Dr. Laura (and I don't agree with everything she says or her approach) made a good point of saying we're all different and can all handle different size families. I, too, never considered having a fourth. I am not sure I am "built" to be a mommy of lots of kids! I do have respect for those who want that kind of life.

Skooks 11:53 PM  

Where'd ya go?

Mommy Brain 11:11 AM  

Oh my goodness...the blog world has started turning again and I've missed it! Looks like I've got a lot of reading to do...thanks for your facebook email...so busy here haven't had time to shower let alone reply to emails...you are a good friend...even if we've only met once! LOL! Merry Christmas if I don't get to say so later!

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