I often get asked, “How do you cope (with 3 kids)?”. That’s quite a loaded question, and most of the time rather small talk, so I don’t usually launch into the full details.
When I was a new parent, I’ll admit that I used to be a lot more judgemental than I am now. Now that I’m stretched to the limits (or rather my limits) with three monsters, I’ve come to realise that not every parent has the same ability or affinity. Some parents are great at organizing activities, or teaching art and craft, or playing sports together, or teaching music. Some parents are super chill, have an endless amount of patience. Others are more particular, have OCD (me included), some are self-professed parents who don’t like to be hands-on, and there are even those who say they’d rather be at work than with their kids.
But everyone who has kids needs to find a way to look after them. After I had Mittens I volunteered for retrenchment, and stayed at home with him (with my ILs) for a good 10 months. After that, when I reluctantly went back to work my mother looked after him for 3-4 days a week while my ILs took the other days as they were also looking after my nephew.
After I had Abacus I was more than happy to resign and stay home with the kids since it made more sense with 2 to look after, and also helping the husband with his work (but no, you will not see me sitting behind the counter!). When Abacus was around 10 months we moved out to our own place and decided we’d need a helper.
Now I have 3 kids and a live-in helper whom I am so thankful for. I would have a questionable level of sanity without her. As I am a WAHM, she takes a large load off me, providing support and backup in case I need to zip off to run errands, attend a meeting, go to the bathroom without being interrupted, or just answer the darn phone without having a wailing baby or shouting boy in the background, even though that still happens. Although I would love to, realistically I don’t think I would be able to do everything on my own!
The boys go to school for 3 or 4 hours, so the rest of the time they’re at home with me, tearing the house down. They are quite homely kids, who don’t mind staying home to play with their toys, but I do try to get them out for as much as possible. We often go to the playgrounds in our estate, and some afternoons we will go further, to wherever the action takes us. Also as I get more and more weary of “outside” food and processed food, I am so thankful there is someone to make most of our meals (and clean up after!). On some Sundays if hubby is at soccer or has to work, I do look after the three as well as cook for them, but the helper will help with the cleaning after she returns.
On normal days, I almost never leave all 3 kids with my helper alone, unless the boys are watching TV and I’m just going to the supermarket a 3 minute walk away, or if 1 or 2 are napping. It’s nice to have someone available at home, e.g. if I brought Scout out in the morning I don’t have to rush back to pick up the boys from school.
If I do need a few hours on my own just to cut my hair or something like that or if I know I’ll need more time at an appointment, I’ll arrange it at a time that’s convenient for one of the grandparents to pop over or I’ll drop the kids off at my ILs. If the husband and I have a dinner to go to, my MIL will come over and stay to jagar the kids with the help from the helper. I’m so thankful that we have extra support when we need it! Last week there was a parent-teacher curriculum talk I needed to attend, so the MIL came over, and I made appointments for a haircut and massage before the talk. I really have to make full use of my time!
I often wonder if I could do it all myself. Maybe if I was a full SAHM with part time help coming a few times a week, maybe if kids who weren’t insanely sticky or vying for my attention all the time, went down easily for regular naps (Scout is a horrible napper!!), maybe if the boys went to schools at different times of the day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), maybe…. Well there are plenty of maybes. I’m pretty sure I’d spend a lot of my time cooking or cleaning up (just a tinge of OCD), instead of spending time with the kids, which I feel kinda defeats the purpose of my staying at home with them. The husband typically works 10-8pm, sometimes later, and often he gets back just when the kids are getting ready for bed or already in bed. Since his work is rather labour intensive, I also don’t feel like he should have to be mopping or something when he gets home.
To give you an idea of the different permutations and combinations of different families, here are just a few examples I know of (where most of the kids are K2 and below):
- 1 kid, SAHM, kid in childcare (envy!)
- 2 kids, SAHM, no help, kids in childcare. Or kids in school and partially farmed out to grandparents.
- 2 kids, SAHM, part time help weekly.
- 2 kids, 2 helpers, 1 granny – and if the parents are home that means there are 5 adults and 2 kids
- 2 kids, FTWM, 2 helpers.
- 2 kids, SAHM, 2 helpers.
- 1 to 3 kids, FTWMs with no help
- 3 kids, PTWM, 1 helper, and grandparents to help out during work hours.
- 3 kids, PTWM, 2 helpers
- 3 kids, SAHM, no help, kids in school, 1 YO to 6 YO. Part time help comes like twice a year. WOW!
- 4 kids, SAHM, 2 are in their teens, and 2 preschoolers, with the husband available during lunch times with flexible work hours.
- 4 kids, FTWM, 1 helper, 2 are in their teens, and 2 preschoolers.
- And not to mention those who also live with the grandparents
As you can see, so many different arrangements for different families. So how and where do you find the support to make your family work? Every parent tries his or her best, and there is no one-size fits every family. There will always be those comments, even as well-meaning as they might be, those “Why don’t you hire help?”, or “Why you need a helper but my other friend doesn’t?” (Well, because your friend’s kids all go to child care lor). What’s most important is that it works for you and keeps everyone in the family as happy as possible. I would love to hear how your family does it!
You might like to read Coping with Children #1: Somebody needs you