A frequent topic of discussion on the Choice Mom boards is “should I have two children?” — and how to manage if you do. As one woman asked: “I’d love to hear the strategies you’ve used in order to provide each of your kids with enough time and attention.”
One very helpful reply came from Linda, and is being resurrected here from the Choice Mom archives:
1) Optimize organization. I’m extremely organized, but even my best methods failed me this year and were eating into way too much of my little time. So…Google calendar… and I have it email me every morning, at work, with the agenda for the day. You can also set it up to call your cell phone, but I haven’t resorted to that as I’m still old school and the cell phone is really only for emergencies. EVERYTHING has to go on the calendar! Every doctor appt for the 3 of us, every skate lesson, every school event, every school/PTA meeting, every teacher conference, every MAJOR test for oldest, PAY RENT reminders, PAY SCHOOL CARE reminders, B-day party invites, school pic day, project due dates, … I just counted the number of entries for October, and there are 41 “things” on there.
2) Take advantage of *all* school events where oldest can be dropped off. I can’t even put words into what it felt like to drop kid off this past friday night at the back of the school, cell phone in hand, and hear “I’ll call ya when I’m ready to come home.” It was a school “social,”which is a new experience for us. So that gave me time with the 5 yr old, and she gets to choose how she wants to spend time with ole mom. Sometimes we go skating, sometimes we just go have a pizza together, sometimes we do a movie, sometimes we just sit in the rocking chair, she drinks a bottle, and we cuddle. I have no shame in saying she will still drink a bottle. There are so many worse things in life to spend time worrying about, rocking with my last baby drinking a bottle simply doesn’t make it on the list.
3) Big Brother… my son has had a Big for around 2 yrs now. It was a huge leap of faith, and I had quite a bit of paranoia for many months. I still have those pondering thoughts about safety and intentions, but I just ask questions to verify what they do to keep me sane. They do something almost every week, so that gives me alone time with 5 yr old. That relationship helps take some of the physical burden off of me, having a high energy son. Plus, I have turned over some of the homework help/oversight to the Big, as he has more patience without the emotional investment, and the kid relates better to a guy approach.
4) Big Sister… I’ll be enrolling my daughter for a Big Sister as soon as she is old enough. That will give me moments of time to spend alone with her brother.
5) Bedtime… I sit on the bed every night with each child, and we usually chat for 10-15 minutes. They look forward, I think anyway, to a consistent means of knowing they’ll get my full attention. I usually rub their back while they chat about their day. I’ve heard all kinds of stories at bedtime. I think it provides a comfort level that things are discussed that maybe haven’t had a prime opportunity at other times during the day/evening. I hear way more than I really need/want to know sometimes I think… I hear lots of stories about middle school. I just try and bite my tongue and listen. From bad language, to fights in the hall, to fights on the bus, to invasions of privacy in the bathroom, to boy/girl sagas, illegal use of cell phones, etc… very scary stuff.
6) Lunch at school with youngest… I try to do this once or so a month. We sit at a table by ourselves and eat and chat together. (the middle schooler has indicated while he might like for me to come lunch with him, his table is “too full with friends” to have room for me. Although I think a part of it is also an embarrassment factor once they get to middle school. He’d love me to come lunch with him, but the potential for being made fun of trumps old mom).
7) Take off work early and surprise a kid with personal time with mom. Their choice of what to do.
8) Put one to bed early, so can spend special time with other. Don’t overuse though, or spread unwisely, as kids will catch on. Needs to be fair.
9) Vacation… I try to do one or two mini vacations with each kid separately, gearing towards the specific interest of the kid. As with the age spread, their interests don’t always/typically align.
10) Sleepovers.. take advantage of every invite for either kid, as that is built-in alone time with the other. It goes without saying, only approved sleepovers will do. Don’t send kids off to someone you’re not comfortable with or don’t know anything about, *just* to get time with other kid.
11) Exercise/activity.. I’ve recently taken on learning inline skating at the old age of 47. If I can do it, anyone can! I was so jealous of my children, and so envisioned us all as a family rolling down the sidewalk together, that I threw in my fears and put those dang wheels on my feet. I fell down big time tonight, and will be sore as (*&)(& a few days from now, but the empowerment and feeling of accomplishment for even being able to stand up with the things on, and the potential that I might actually be able to learn, well, is beyond words. I so want some type of activity that I can do with both kids, or that I can do separately with each kid. Plus, it’s a great way for me to lose a few pounds. If sweat counts, I lost 10 pounds tonight. Falling down doesn’t take much energy, but getting back up with wheels on was near impossible!
As someone else said.. I feel more like a family with two than I did with one.