Feb. 23 2018
Our Honest Survival Tips for Parenting Small Children
I sat across from Justin last Saturday in a small Thai restaurant eating lunch. We were alone, we were in public, we could have a real fluid conversation ~this was rare. I told him about my goals for blogging moving forward, explained to him how much I missed blogging consistently (as I had been able to do in years past.)
He of course encouraged me keep to pushing forward through the thick of all the responsibilities and daily tasks because he knows how much joy writing, sharing, and creating brings to me. Yet, we also recognized that we are still in the "thick" of parenting small children, and with that comes exhaustion and endurance.
You see it wasn't that long ago that Justin and I had many conversations about whether or not to have a third child after having our twin girls. Justin being the realist and me being the dreamer talked a lot about this, a lot. I knew shortly after having my twins, that I was meant to have another. I remember so many people telling me "yeah, twins....you only have to go through this one time."
My heart would sink each time I would hear this. ONE time!? One time experiencing pregnancy, one time experiencing birth, one time experiencing newborn cuddles, one time going through each phase....smiles, words, steps. One time starting pre-school, and on and on. Granted YES, these "one times" were multiplied but still. That's a lot all at once.
Justin knew it too, deep down I think he was always on the same page as me, he's just too logical to admit it. He would tell me many times "Jennifer, having a third child will impact our lives greatly. All of our other goals will take longer, life will be harder, and this will most definitely impact your business, you will have to be okay with continued slow yet, steady growth." Okay, we both decided~ we "knew" what we were in for and we decided to add another child to our family.
Within (no joke) a few weeks after having our "final" deciding conversation about both wanting this~ BOOM. I was pregnant, and Justin was shocked. So shocked that when I told him over a fancy dinner lakeside at the "Chart House" he couldn't even eat his meal.
Fast forward nine months.... our little blonde burst of sunshine: Hunter Starr entered our world full of tiger cat growls and great big smiles. And after the amazing months of newborn magic, reality set in. LIFE WAS HARD, damn hard.
Everything that Justin had pre-warned me about was happening. Life was busier and more challenging than ever. We had had 3 children in 3.5 years. And it took (and is still) taking some big adjustments. But throughout this journey and phase in our life we've learned and come to realized a handful of things that I thought we would share with you today.
Survival Tips for Parents of Young Children:
1.) Weekly Date Nights, whatever it takes~ something that has been amazing is going on a weekly date night. At first the idea seems kind of silly. Once a week? Who has time for that, the budget for that, is once a week really needed? That's what we used to think until we realized that we were no longer able to have actual conversations unless all the kids were sleeping. Now we look forward to them so much. They are short and fairly simple, but it's weekly reprieve that we can always look forward too. Even if it means that we are both exhausted, at least we're together. We feel so fortunate to have found someone we trust be able to watch our littles once a week. This was a challenge before, as both Justin's parents have passed away and my parents live 50 minutes away. But someway, somehow we found someone and we've been able to carry on with weekly date nights (for the most part) for the last 13 months.
2.) Consistent Communication about finances, scheduling. We have busy lives. Justin works about 50 hours a week, and I run my growing business and I'm the primary caregiver to my children (twin 5 year old girls & a 1 year old little boy.) And then, I'm a sucker for all things fun. If there's an event of any kind, I'm always going to try my hardest to get us there. While I'm still working on creating more "white space" in on our calendar, there are a few things we've learned to help keep us better in sync. Once a week (usually on Sundays) while our little guy is napping and the girls are supposedly in "quiet time" we try and crank out our schedule and pay bills. I use an old fashion, super simple paper calendar planner (with monthly view) paired with our shared google calendar. I prefer to use the handwritten planner first (I'm a visual person) and then insert everything in our google calendar next. We've realized that it's nearly impossible to remember everything on a day to day basis (especially with my diverse schedule) so chatting it out on a weekly basis helps immensely. And money, we've found that in order for us to be on the same page with our budget and financial goals we have to sit down together and pay our bills and plan.
3.) Staycations. Prior to having children "Staycations" seemed lame. But now, oh how the tides turn....because "Staycations" are GOLD. We try and manage 2 to 3 a year. They are easy, relaxed, and amazing. We've realized that any time we get "away" from the kiddos is meant to be for guilt-free relaxation. We've learned that these escapes aren't meant for adventure and outings...they are meant to do nothing~ and nowadays we even make it goal to never even leave the resort at all.
4.) Individual Time. Truth is, I think I get more of individual time than Justin. But that's probably because I'm with the crew more than him and he fears my sanity more than I do his. But yes, from time to time I've found that I function best if I can get a little time completely to myself (and not work related.) My escape is usually a reflexology place down the road where I never have to make an appointment at. I also think a weekend get-away is in my future to visit one of my best girlfriends.
5.) Adult Meltdowns. And knowing that adult meltdowns are a normal part of having small children. (so long as you don't have more than your children do.) It's intense, like way intense and so constant. I think feeling like you're losing it once in awhile (or once a week) is totally normal.
6.) Acknowledgement that this stage isn't forever. "The days are long, the years are short." No better statement could be truer in this stage of life. Now that my twins are five I have more perspective on this, the years seem to be flying by faster than ever, although sometimes the day are painstakingly long.
7.) Recognition of differences, strengths and weaknesses. I rarely share about "parenthood" stuff and I've always been terrified to join a "Mom's Group." I think the reason being because "parenthood" is the hardest role ever. It's so easy to beat yourself up about not feeling like you're doing a great job. But one thing I've learned is that everyone parents totally differently and there's no wrong or right way to do anything. I think the secret is to try to do everything you can to make yourself a happy person and ultimately your happiness is the greatest gift you can give your child.
8.) Choose what to surrender, and being okay with that. For us, we've surrendered our home. Honest truth, sad but true. What I mean is that we haven't done a single home décor project in five years. Yes, it pains me, because I LOVE everything design related and I'm a big believer in your surroundings having a big effect on your mood. But this truth is, like Justin always says....when you have twins (followed by their active little brother) constantly picking up our home is much like trying to books on the shelf during a earthquake. For me, I like to say having three children, 3.5 years apart and cleaning the home feels a lot like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreo cookies~ kinda impossible. And anytime that my children are sleeping (aside from my regularly scheduled work days, when I have our sitter), I'm working on my business ~ before they wake up, during pre-school/nap time, and sometimes after they go to sleep at night. And I'm so grateful that Justin totally supports this. Now as the girls are older, and we only have one toddler...I'm starting to notice a difference, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know that one day I will have a pretty home again, but I also know that I'll miss my children no longer being babies even more.
9.) Endurance, progress and motion. I'm constantly reminding myself just to keep going. It's unrealistic to think that I'm going to get a BIG job done in one setting. It's more realistic to always making small steps that eventually turn into achieving big goals. I think giving yourself a true "block of time" and giving it all you got within that block is a huge game changer. Sure at the end of the night I don't feel like I've aced my daily to do list, but it does feel great to know that I was able to "touch" on all the areas of my life that are important to me.
Bottom line, it's just about surviving and remembering that *this* stage of life is hard on everyone. Try your best to be strong, be happy, and remind yourself that you're doing an amazing job.