Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Ideas from the mothers of LLL Oxford, collected by Ceri Glenister, Guin Webster & Jayne Joyce, Oxford, UK
Photo:Lisa Moore courtesy of Andrea Shemilt
“But I only have two hands!” Juggling the needs of more than one child.
When you are the mother of more than one child…
How can you fit everything in that needs to be done?
- You can’t! Prioritize. Many advise letting housework go, but this can be demoralizing. Know your own tolerances.
- If you hate visible dirt and chaos try changing the beds less often, or getting the occasional ready meal.
- Have a routine but be prepared to let it go.
- Get things ready for the morning the night before.
- Plan ahead for the week; use supermarket meal planners.
- Buy groceries online and scan-as-you-shop.
- Make sure it isn’t all your own time/interests that are being sacrificed.
- If resources permit, employ a postnatal doula or hire a cleaner.
- Accept offers of help and be specific about what would be helpful.
- When you have spare capacity, offer specific help to other mothers.
- Exchange child care, meals, cleaning with friends and neighbors.
How can your relationship with your older child/children stay positive?
- Remember that your older child is still small.
- Know that some regression is normal.
- Look at photos together. Remind them how you met their needs when they were younger and the advantages of getting older.
- Offer opportunities for nurturing that feel acceptable to you.
- If your child is weaned and he asks to breastfeed, let him know that the door is still open. You could offer expressed milk if you don’t want him to nurse.
- Offer cuddles or time in a sling.
- Know that feeling remote from your older child after the birth of a new baby is normal.
- If you lose your temper, model to your children how to apologize and make amends.
- Try to find some time to spend alone with the older child, or put the baby in a sling, perhaps on your back out of the way. Try to find some time to spend alone with the older child, or put the baby in a sling, perhaps on your back. You may feel disappointed if you cannot spend as much time as you’d like with your older child but each day is a new beginning and the intense early time of a new baby will pass. Your child will gain from this new relationship in which he has a playmate as well as a rival for your attention!
How can breastfeeding through pregnancy/tandem nursing work?
- Set boundaries for the older child: time, place and length of feeds.
- Value the opportunities for rest.
- Focus on how tandem nursing cements the sibling relationship.
How can siblings be encouraged to treat each other well?
- Become an interpreter; explain the younger child’s mind-set and motives to your older child.
- Talk to your older children about what they were like when they were smaller.
- Call on the older child’s compassion.
- Accentuate the positives in the sibling relationship.
- Avoid comparisons and libelling; they breed resentment.
- Encourage trading; teach distraction, negotiation and problem solving.
- Give them ownership of their relationship. Help them develop the skills to get along together without your intervention.
How can a mother make sure that enough of her needs are met too?
- Prioritize. What is the one luxury or moment of self-care you really cherish? Savour every moment of it.
- Choose a time when another adult is available to look after your children while you have “off-duty” time.
- Figure out a way to work around your children; for instance, take the baby in the shower!
- Remember to exercise; it increases your wellbeing.
- Go outside every day.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Clearly communicate your needs and their importance to you.
- Include not just practical needs but emotional, creative, intellectual, and any spiritual needs..
- La Leche League Leadership is one fantastic way to do something useful, interesting, and challenging that fits around your family!
- Take the long view when your plans are frustrated. One day your children will no longer want to join you in the bath!