family life · parenting

Coping with Children #2: Support in the home

How did I end up with so many of these little things?
How did I end up with so many of these little things?

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

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15 thoughts on “Coping with Children #2: Support in the home

  1. I agree that this is something that cannot be compared among families. Every family has different needs and faces different situations. For me, I’ve been through a few arrangements in the past 8 years as a mom. It’s wonderful that you have a reliable helper who’s able to lighten your load. We used to have a helper but she gave me so much problems that I felt like I was looking after 4 kids! My situation now is: 3 kids, ptwm, no helper, 3 kids in school, my parents or mil help with the kids before/after school when I need to go out.

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  2. This post is interesting! Having a good helper is so important. Actually, I don’t have one and I don’t really like the idea of having someone foreign in the house. I don’t really want to get myself stressed up to worry about my helper’s emotional needs and behavioural issues. But then, you are so lucky to have a good helper, that is really hard to come by. You can have all the time for your kids and need not worry about house chores. That’s what a good helper can do: let you concentrate on just the kids and more quality time with them.

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    1. Actually I still have to worry about her lah, like what she’s going to eat if we cook pork, or if we go out I have to let her know to get her own meals.. I also rather do without but I guess for the short term no choice, got to make it work 😁

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. The important thing is to find the right balance and mix that each family can live by with and be contented. So, having help from different avenue or sources just varies. It takes a whole village to raise a kid! I had changed a few helpers and had much stress over the helper no. 1 especially like Ing. It was caring for 4 kids indeed! But i also couldn’t do without help with my kids’ close age gaps and Highly ACTIVE genes.. Now my third helper is a really good help and I thank God for her. : ) It is really great to know more and be encouraged by our local community of mums here. Really glad to join SMB! : ) Let’s Jiayou in our journey!

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    1. I wish we could return to those times when the whole village would help out! These days everyone is so busy with their own lives, and I really worry for society handing the child rearing reigns over to hired help. Haiz!

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  4. I agree that finding the right balance is very important for each family. For us the elder boys are in primary school and the youngest is in Kindy so I have to plan for activities for them individually and together as a group as we don’t have a helper and no intention for one. Thanks for linking up this week 🙂

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  5. I belong to the 1 kid, FTWM, no helper, grandparent helps during work hours category. I think I have a great arrangement since grandma is very willing to stay home and spend dubious amounts of time looking (and fussing) after my K2 kiddo.

    Ever since helper left 2 years back,house has been in perpetual state of mess. I long to have a well-kept house and that irks me on occasion. But I also enjoy not having to ‘look after’ another person who is very different. I’m pessimistic that the chance of getting bad help is much much greater than good help so I’ll live with the mess.

    I’ve learnt to live and let live in certain aspects. Eg. toys are a perpetual mess since the girl has SO MUCH TOYS (*guilty*) and doesn’t quite know how to pack them properly. SHort of packing it for her every week, I really have to just let it go. The service balcony also has those ‘mystery corners’ where less-used stuff just dumped. I close an eye to it until I really cannot take it. Usually things just get thrown away though if I get down to it. Haha. Things I definitely have to keep clean are the bedroom, toilet and general living areas. For the rest, I just do the minimal.

    It would greatly help to have less around the place so I’m aiming to get round to that…though it’s been a year since I embarked on decluttering and I’m still nowhere near completion. BAH!

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  6. Maybe a little late, but I have to agree that if you get a good helper, it brings the sanity back. I was struggling like crazy when my helper went back home last month. Thank god it’s only 1.5 weeks, as we timed our trip to make up the rest of the time she is away. Ha.

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  7. Again having to play catch-up on your posts! I think its a blessing to be able to have many kids. It does feel like, no matter what, once you cross the threshold of 3 it is extremely difficult to avoid help in some form or the other, either a domestic helper or very helpful grandparents, but everyone manages in their own way and kids are also highly adaptable. By the way, I love your later post’s idea about flexible helper arrangements. When I was considering engaging a full time helper I couldn’t deal with the idea of a stranger living in my home and would have been really glad if there can be a hostel she goes back to every night. If there’s an arrangement like that and the helper can go to 2 or 3 different homes on different days in a week, that will really help people with a privacy problem like me.

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    1. Apparently in Hong Kong they do have hostels, and not only would it solve the privacy issue, with our houses getting smaller it would also be more practical. And they could spend evenings with their friends, everyone wins! Maybe I need to go to some MOM feedback session 😁

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