It's amazing how something that used to be simple—like running errands or making dinner—can become much more challenging when you have four kids under the age of 4. But, as I've learned, these daily tasks don't have to be total nightmares.
I can probably count on one hand how many times I attempted to run errands with my 4-year-old, 2-year-old twin girls, and an infant. It can be a huge ordeal!
Taking care of errands when you have four young children is all about planning. I tried to condense all of my errands into one day or a few hours, usually accompanied by my oldest child while someone watched the younger kids. I often went out during the twins' naptime. I am lucky to have family close by who could help, but I also had a great babysitter.
If you can get out and run errands by yourself, I highly recommend it. Listen to your favorite music in the car, hit Starbucks for a coffee (or a similar treat), and take your time. You deserve the break. (Isn't it funny how life changes when you have young children? Running errands by yourself is a break!)
- Order online if you can.
- Shop with a list.
- Don't feel guilty about leaving kids with a sitter.
- Make running errands as fun as it can be!
Preparing a healthy, nutritious meal that the kids will actually enjoy is always a chore! It's tough, yet not impossible. I often remember what my pediatrician said to me when my oldest was 2: "At this age, kids will eat one meal, play with one meal, and totally refuse one meal." This made—and still makes—me feel much better when meals don't go over as well as I'd like.
I usually do most of the dinner prep while the younger kids are napping. Since my oldest is no longer napping, he has quiet time in his room where he plays with his cars, LEGOs, and other toys.
My most successful meals are the ones my children have helped with—either by deciding on a menu or helping me with some of the prep work. The more involved they are, the better they eat.
To keep meals as nutritious as possible, I try to follow one simple rule: "Eat foods that go bad." This helps us to avoid consuming a lot of unhealthy processed stuff.
- Find a good website or cookbook (with pictures).
- Don't feel guilty about making frozen meals or grabbing fast food—just don't make either one a habit.
- Plan ahead.
- Remember that kids are smaller, so they eat less than an adult.
Coping When a Partner Travels
My husband is constantly traveling for work. I enjoyed that aspect of his job much more before we had kids. My, how things change.
I can't say it's easy to temporarily be the only parent home, but I feel stronger for doing it. The hardest part is seeing how much the kids miss Daddy. It breaks my heart. In a jar or small container, I put the amount of days in candy that my husband will be away. If he will be gone for seven days, I put seven pieces of each child's favorite candy in the jar. Then I let the kids have a treat once a day. It's a nice way to count down the days until Daddy returns.
Sticking to our routine helps the kids feel secure. They like to know what comes next. I also like to have a few special activities that we do when Daddy is away. One of my kids' favorites is to watch a movie in Mommy and Daddy's bed.
I try not to sweat the small stuff. If I get overwhelmed, I take a step back and gain some perspective on the situation. Sometimes I realize all I have control over are my reactions.
- Stick to the routine as much as possible.
- Have some special activities or treats the kids can look forward to.
- Be flexible.
- Keep things in perspective.
Keeping My Sanity
I have had many moments when I've felt like I got myself into something I cannot handle and there is no way out. But then I look at my kids and I know it's all worth it. I believe if you can handle what you have, or at least try very hard, you will be rewarded with more.
My faith has always been a huge form of support for me. I know God would not give me more than I can handle, so I remind myself of this constantly and especially during the rough times.
Want more Martiza? Check out her many musings, and check back often as the list will grow!