for release Friday February 25, 2005
by Melodie Davis
How to Survive Having Children
Our 18-year-old daughter, Doreen, had babysat a number of times for a young mother and her husband from our church. They have two very small daughters, about 7 months and 2 years in age. I had to smile when this mother told me how she responded when her husband asked her what she wanted for Christmas.
“I want Doreen,” this stay-at-home Mom requested. She wanted Doreen to just come and play with the girls for a few hours several times in the hectic weeks before Christmas so she could finish her shopping, go out to lunch, or just have some time away from the children.
Her plea brought back just how harried and desperate for time away from toddlers I used to be, too. I remember a difficult moment in which I practically threw infant Doreen into the arms of my husband saying something like “You take care of her. I’ve had it.” Doreen was not hurt in that exchange but I do remember thinking how easy it would be to cross the line and physically take out one’s frustration, tiredness and out-of-whack hormones (after childbirth) on a child.
For those first several months when Doreen was a baby, we had three children age four and under. We had spells of two in diapers. Lots of suppers the only way to eat in peace was to stick the baby in the infant swing and let it work its hypnotic magic. The stress of young children all adds up to a giant need for Mom or Dad—whoever does the bulk of the care—to have some sanity time away to regroup and recharge. It is important for the couple to get away together, too, for the same reasons.
Having two or more children increases the complexity of issues surrounding childcare exponentially. Add in one or two careers or jobs and the complications go up even more.
A new book, How to Survive Your Baby’s First Year is full of advice by hundreds of mothers and fathers. The book is part of a series called the “Hundreds of Heads” Survival Guides (published by Hundreds of Heads Books, Inc.) all written basically by people who have tried and tested their tips. I’ve picked out tips for finding “sanity time” especially in families with more than one child, and especially where both parents are working outside the home part or full time.
“When I get home, I pretty much give all my attention to the kids because I don’t get to see them all day. The other stuff you think is important, such as work around the house, can wait. It’s not as important when you put it in perspective with how fleeting those moments with your kids are.” Ken Beckering, children ages 5 and 2.
“At first, my wife got irritated with me when I would have her take the kids every time I needed to get something done. She pointed out that she didn’t have that luxury during the week when I was at work, and I should learn to deal with kids and life simultaneously. So, I’ve had to become more proficient at multitasking: a kid on the lap while at the computer, feeding the kids while talking on the phone.” J.R., children ages 4, 2, and 1.
“I took a one-year sabbatical when my daughter was about three and my son was a year. I was working on my own projects, but I took total responsibility for picking them up, dropping them off, taking them to the doctor. It was tremendous. The best part of it was developing a relationship with my kids.” Anonymous male, children ages 9 and 6.
“Trying to balance work with family, I just got used to being exhausted. I still have visions of myself driving to work in the morning at about 7 a.m., having just dropped off two kids at two different places and feeling so tired it was hard to believe I was just starting the day. But I did fine at work once I was there and I managed to handle everything, so I think we just adapt.” Barbara Stewart, children now ages 20 and 17.
“We set up a system to reduce stress: every night one parent was allowed one hour to go shopping, take a bath, get some exercise, whatever. The next tonight was the other persons’ turn.” Michael, children ages 11 and 5.
“Here’s my absolute number one piece of advice for stay-at-home parents: Get together with other stay-at-home parents! The isolation of being alone with a baby can drive you crazy. Finding those parents and sharing the joys, stresses, excitement and challenges of parenting is the best thing you can do for yourself.” Evan Weissman, children ages 6 and 3.
After each kid is born, it’s always hard when I go back to my job. My husband works days and I work nights as a pharmacist, so we’ve been able to share duties and avoid most paid childcare. But it’s still difficult not being home. I get calls like, ‘Don’t worry, honey, but where is the medical insurance card?’ So many of the calls start with, ‘Don’t worry, honey, but…’” Pilar Shoap, boys ages 7, 4, 2, and 3 months.
There are other books in this series and you can send in your own stories at www.hundredsofheads.com
For a free booklet, “Struggling to Balance Work and Family” write to Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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