Drama overload...need Perspective

Updated on June 08, 2012
S.L. asks from Warsaw, IN
24 answers

Hi moms. I am only a few days into summer vacation with three kids and already I know I've got to make some radical changes. My kids are all well behaved and generally good. This opinion comes from school reports and babysitters as well as my observations of them in extra-curricular activities. The problem comes at home. They all talk at once and seem to need something every other minute. With three kids this means I often can't eat or have an important phone call much less handle cleaning or projects without ending up yelling at them. I don't even attempt projects usually. To my sisters and brothers I feel like all I ever say is "I don't have time for that". I even wonder how parents have time for Facebook and web surfing. Now my attitude is bad, I've lost patience and a creative spark that I used to enjoy being with my kids is nowhere to be seen. Everyday though, I keep trying to be better and more tolerant but just now, less than 2 minutes into a baking activity, the 3 and 5 year-old were quibbling and screaming over nothing. Now how much of this is just the way it is and i need to wait for the 3 yr-old to mature (he's the hardest to reason with and won't listen)? The 8 year-old and the 5 year-old are quite good together but they are both girls. The 3 year-old is my only boy. Guilt feeds into my daily frustration as well as I never feel like I am giving them all the attention they want. Admittedly, I do keep a clean house and try to cook healthy meals, but I have even let these standards fall a bit to try to find peace. Ultimately that is what I want, some peace and moderately happy kids. In the last week they have gone to the Zoo, a Science Museum, out to eat a few times, swimming, pottery class, sleepovers etc..so it isn't like they are being ignored. What works for those of you with multiple children? What practices lead to peaceful meals that don't end in indigestion? How do you balance their needs and yours without going crazy? It is not unusual that they are all crying at various points in the day. Do I suck as a Mom or what?

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So What Happened?

This is exactly what I needed. I could almost cry at the relief I feel just being understood and having actual ideas to make this better. My husband tries hard but won't ever fully understand the emotional component of being home all day everyday with 3 kids.
So much of what you have all shared is logical and perhaps has been forgotten as I became more and more overwhelmed. Thank you for taking the time to help me. I will do the same for you when I can. I plan to use Mamapedia to help me stay sane this summer!

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answers from Columbia on

You don't suck as a mom. Sucky moms never consider another way of doing things. :)

I would point out that I see three kids that all get glowing behavior reports from everyone but you. I'd then ask myself - self, what am I doing differently?

You're seeking peace, calm, quiet. So are the coaches and teachers. What do they have that you don't?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Syracuse on

I have two boys, 2.5 and 4...they're 18 months apart. They go from playing together wonderfully to screaming and crying about something every day. They are both good kids but there are some long days. I am also a bit anal about trying to keep a clean house, I wish I could let go of that a little because most days it's like I'm chasing my tail! What saves me, is the fact that they do not need me to entertain or play with them every minute of the day, they play both independently in their rooms and with each other quite often. That's when I get other things done around the house. I also take time for myself to exercise every day, whether it's early in the morning before they're up or when my husband gets home, or pushing them in the stroller. It re-energizes my mind and body!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with those who think the problem is that you try to entertain them TOO much.

My vote is that you throw them in the bedroom with some big cardboard boxes, some sheets, and other fort-making materials and let them have at it!

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answers from Columbia on

You have to teach them to do for themselves, and wait, and be patient. This starts with the word "No."

You also have to teach yourself that you DON'T have to always keep them entertained.

It's okay to ignore them sometimes. And space out the activities. They can play together or alone, without your supervision, in their room on in the yard.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I've spent the past 4 years homeschooling... So here are my tips/tricks of having my son 24/7 ISH

1) Don't. Arrange a time once a week for an afternoon where the kids are elsewhere for several hours. That veg time/ project time/ errand time... Whatever it is that just feels good to do on your own. There are LOTS of options available for this ranging from grandparents, to playdate exchange, to half day daycare, to halfday camps.

2) STRUCTURE!!! Plan some nothing days in, but structuring the rest is vital. Even if it's just Breakfast-Lunch = Whatever time (free play), lunch to 3pm = get out of the house time, 4-5 is movie for kids and cooking for me... OR a more detailed schedule. I'm ADHD and fairly impulsive so I scheduled 'blocks' of time so I could be impulsive in how I filled them, but they were still set blocks. Both kids and adults crave structure... Working out what yours will be will be relieving for ALL of you. ESP the school aged kiddos who have no choice 10mo a year. They FORGET how to entertain themselves because schools have rigid structure, and weekends are too short to do more than relax and head back once more into the fray! During this transition they GLOM because they're used to being told what to do every minute. But give them blocks they can count on, and they'll start filling those blocks themselves instead of trying to get home to feel like school. At breakfast you can tell the oldr kids, and the younger kids will catch on what the 'schedule of events' is going to look like.

3) outside classes, camps, sports, etc.

This is a combo of 1+2. It gives them something to count on (like swimming every morning, or practice on tues/thurs, etc. AND gives you am hour or so where you're not the one in charge. Even if your watching, or just reading in the car... It's a weight off your shoulders.

4) Enlist your minions!!! Yes. Chores with kids helping takes 3x as long. Do it anyway. Instead of 3 kids pestering you while you cook, one is shredding cheese, another is setting the table, a third is sweeping up. Make each responsible for their laundry (including the 'fun' parts of adding soap, cranking the knobs, banging the lid,lobbing into the machine). With more than one kid races are often fun. I also always play 'jumping music' while cleaning (fast paced, fun). Trade chores around. Giggle. Tickle. NEVER redo their work while they're awake (why do this if mom is going to do it anyway?).

4) Some days get cancelled and become a movie day. Everyone is beat, and modern tech means e don't have to get dressed for the theatre. So, some days, everyone needs a veg / check please! day where you eat crappy food and sit on your bum. They're OKAY! Yes, it would be bad patenting if you just always sat in front of the TV. Having a movie marathon every once in awhile? FINE.

5)Theme days. We would do a PJ day once a month. PJs at home, store, outside.. It's just something dilly to do. So is backwards day, robot day, spy day, etc. some folks go all out. I'm not that spiffy. But even half of the days schtuff is in theme? We still have a blast.

6) win/win cheats. xBox kinnect = video games for THEM and active time (for them) for me. Educational computer games. Documentaries (movies + learning = not feeling so bad about screen time).

7) Boredom breeds creativity. Kids being bored IMNSHO, is a GREAT thing!!! Their imaginations have shut off, so being bored -as long S they have to 'save themselves' gets their imaginations up and running again. I often combined this with a 'no electronics' day or week.

8) Bad behavior (ESP fighting) means they're banished from good society. Not just timeout, but a good solid hour or more by themselves in their rooms. If you want to be around me or other people... That means treating us with respect. <grin> This happens 2-3 times a year in my house. Kiddo gets obnoxious and I cancel everything for the morning or afternoon and he spends it in his room while I read a book, watch a movie, etc. if its just us. If its 3 or more (I usually take the cousins a few weeks every summer), then it's normal life for the rest of us while the fighters spend a couple hours in their rooms. Separated.

So NOT a complete list, just some things that have worked in my life.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I only have a 4 and 2 year old, but they are with me 24-7. I get maybe an hour a week alone without them when I grocery shop, but they don't go to school.

In any case, it hit me about 6 months ago that I was losing it. So, I decided that every morning I got to work out. Before we eat breakfast, I work out and they play on the computer. Some mornings I have completed my work out and shower before they are even up, but some days we don't eat breakfast till very late, because I slept in (something I never use to let myself do!). I also allow myself to watch cheesy TV in the morning. I'm working on One Tree Hill at the moment. After doing my work out, I do 10 minutes of yoga and watch TV. I cannot tell you how much this little change in my routine has helped me be there for them. I am so much calmer and able to be patient.

I get email time in the afternoon then when they watch videos (their quiet time since neither of them are nappers). One other thing i do is limit myself to 30 minutes on the computer, and then i go READ. It's great. It refreshes me again, and then I am ready to deal with all the fighting and BS that little kids throw at you.

I get interrupted some days, but whatever. I am here FOR THEM, so it is their job to interrupt me. My job is then to figure out how to do what I need to do without getting frustrated.

Ultimately, it is about how you look at and approach little people's common, but annoying behavior. My latest quest is in being patient and open. I try to say YES all day long, and when things don't go the way they want them, I try to teach them how to handle their big emotions. But mostly, every day I am working on finding my own peace, so that when they need me to help them calm down, i can do it quickly. I'm learning to love every minute I am with them, because I am letting myself have some quality ME time, every day.

But ultimately, since I've totally embraced that they are my one and only job, I've found the peace I need to parent them without yelling. Amazingly, they are becoming good little listeners, and we are becoming good little partners and friends.

One other thing I do is insist that we are nice and respectful towards each other. So when my daughter just yelled at her brother (giant disagreement about the next video), I sent her to her room. If you can't act in socially appropriate ways, you can't be with others. This rule goes for me too! When I yell, I have to go to my room too!

Oh yes, and when busy, do take out! Use the crock pot! I have very high housekeeping standards, but occasionally you just have to say "you know what, we are just going to have take out tacos tonight. I get the night off! Let's go the park!"

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Sounds like you need to make and enforce more boundaries. I suggest you need to be less tolerant and feel less guilty. When they all talk at once, stop them, teach them how to talk in turns. If they continue to all talk at once, completely ignore them. You make time for yourself. Focus on a reasonable schedule instead of meeting your kids constant demands.

Have schedule that includes time for you to eat and have peace and quiet. Start a quiet time during the afternoon, during which the children go to their rooms to entertain themselves.

The week you described had way too much activity. When you keep your children that busy they'll get frantic and expect your constant attention. I take care of my grandchildren, 9 and 12 and we do one big thing a week often skipping weeks to just mellow out at home. I don't try to entertain them or keep them busy. I give them lots of time to be creative in the use of their time.

As for mealtimes, have specific rules. When they're not being followed, send the child to their room. They can come out when they're able to say sorry for the disruption and be calm during the rest of the meal. You are in charge! You get to say what is reasonable and what is not. When the rules aren't followed there is an immediate and known consequence that follows consistently every time.

When the 3yo and 5 yo quibble send both to different parts of the house. They can come out when they're ready to behave. Keep sending them back every time they start to fight.

You need to take charge. Make a list of some basic rules and consequences and discuss them with the children. Write down a reasonable schedule and be willing to vary it until you find one that works. Above all stop trying to make your children happy by doing all those things with them in a short period of time. Your list of things they've done in one week is the list I have for the first month.

Your children will be happier and easier to be around once you have taken back control. Children need schedules and discipline to be happy.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

No, you don't. Your children are being - well, children.

My children did that, too, when they were growing up. I was so thankful that they behaved better when they were away from home. It also seemed that the ring of the telephone was a magnet, always triggering some disaster, some disagreement, or some *immediate* need! Then they suddenly remembered that they couldn't find their shoes or that big sister was being mean or that they couldn't live another five-point-two seconds without a snack.

Three is pretty young, of course, and your boy is outnumbered by girls, so maybe he acts up to make sure he gets the attention he thinks he ought to have. He couldn't explain that to you, of course. He probably doesn't even know why he does it.

Here's a thought: is there anything you can do to reward the kind of behavior you want? The opposite kind of behavior often gets the *most* attention from Mama, and that is a reward in itself. You want to come up with something that makes cooperation and peacefulness the key cards for them to play. Noticing and commenting on good behavior would be the most obvious thing to do - "I really like how cheerfully you're playing with your sisters right now, Joe" - even if it lasts only for thirty seconds. You keep looking for and commenting on the good stuff. He will get the idea.

The transition into summer is difficult for all mothers - as well as for the children. It wouldn't hurt to have, not necessarily a daily nap time, but a resting-and-reading time for everybody - where they separate, have their feet off the floor and their voices on whisper mode, and just chill? You could have one, too.

In all your abundant spare time - that's a joke - can you make sure to have a little time with each child individually? It would depend on what your days are like. Even half an hour a couple of times a week to read together or to play a game - some kind of "Mommy and Joe Time" (as well as "Mommy and Beth time" and "Mommy and Sissy time") - might do some good.

Your peace may not come with quiet. I still remember my younger son at age five who, when I remarked that I'd appreciate a little peace and quiet around the house, said, "I don't want peace and quiet. I want peace and loud!"

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

No, you don't suck as a mom. Here's the deal - the other people who take care of them have a set schedule. I'll bet you don't. You are trying to do two jobs - that of taking care of a house and taking care of your kids. If you had a houseful of other peoples' kids and this was a job, you would have a set schedule, you would be right there with them putting together projects with them, directing play, enforcing quiet time, helping them get along, and NOT YELLING. (I know, funny that I put it in all caps!)

Summer is like a job, I found. I did "school" early mornings after breakfast - summer bridge activities were mandatory in our house. Then I took them out. (Unless swim lessons were at 8:00 am - then we did "school" after swimming, had lunch and then went out.)

Most of my summers were spent out of doors with the kids, I admit. They were like little fishies at the pool, enjoyed the park, that kind of thing. My house projects were never finished. I had to just get what I could get to done on the fly and when hubby got home. I didn't worry about a really clean house. My kids took priority.

And I have very fond memories of summers, I have to say.

So try that, if you can stand having a kind of messy house. And while you are with them, get tough on their manners and how they act (without the yelling...)

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Sit them down.
Have a talk with them.
Not in a scolding manner, but give them a head's up about things.

I have a 5 & 9 year old. Boy and girl.
I have always done that with them.
My kids are busy, physically and verbally.
I am OPEN with them, and honest, and I TELL THEM "Mommy's ears are full.... give me a few minutes or I will get grumpy." Then I go in another room to deflate.
Or I tell them "Mommy has stress now... I have a lot to do, I need you both to not call me every 5 seconds..."

They also know that there are things to do in the house. I am not Mary Poppins, they have their things, we have things together, I have daily chores to do, they have chores too, and they CAN play independently and do things too.

Again, I have ALWAYS talked with them about things, gave them a head's up on things, and am very open about what *i* need too... and for them to do.
I tell them I am not a Maid, I am not a restaurant, and we ALL... cooperate. And everyone has a turn.
And I keep my expectations of them, age appropriate.

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answers from Muncie on

How many separate rooms do you have in the house? Can the older girls be trusted in separate rooms? Send your older to her bedroom, the younger to the living room (or where ever you can see her) and the youngest in a high chair booster seat strapped in. These can be their "time -out" places, not just for bad behavior, but just to get them away from each other for a few moments. Those moments when the phone rings, or when the fussing it getting to be too much or when you just need 30 mins to clean. It might help.

I only have 1 and I send her too her room at times. Not because she's being bad, but usually because she's being a pest, asking for this or that and getting in the way while I'm trying to get something done, like dinner. "Go play in your room." "Why?" "Because you're being a bug and I'm going to step on you, shoo."

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answers from Kansas City on

You are certainly not a sucky mom! Sounds fairly normal to me actually. I only have 2 kids, but they are 4.5 and 2.5 and I do understand how they can go from loving and happy to bickering in 2 seconds flat! My youngest is a boy and let me tell you that I didn't understand mothers of boys until I had one. There are stereo types for a reason, sister, and let me tell you what, boys are crazy! ;) Multiple times a week I will get loved ones or complete strangers ask me how I deal with my son all day...he never stops moving. He is very sweet but he's a boy...busy getting into mischief ALL. THE. TIME.

I do think Christy Lee brings up some good points though about saying no and having boundaries. THey are okay to play by themselves and you don't have to entertain them or please them all the time.

I recently read (in Parents I think) about a mom of three kids who started an activity called The Kid of the Day. She wrote all her kids names on a clip and rotated the KOD. The KOD would get to choose first on everything that needed choosing, like where to go, what show to watch, etc. The KOD also got to help mom with "special" projects such as changing the laundry, mopping the kitchen, etc. She said it worked great for her and although she had started it out of necessity of sanity, she said it's still going strong years later and the kids love it. It might be something to think about in your house too!

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answers from Chicago on

Sit on the floor and just play with them.

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answers from Denver on

Well, I don't have any great advice either, but after having read a lot of the answers here, I would say, that you actually need to do LESS with them and let them discover how to entertain themselves
I'm not great at this either, but I have a 12, 10, 5, and 2 yo, and one on the way, and so I am TIRED!!! I try to let them have the morning to chill, relax, be lazy, etc. If we go do anything, it will be from about 10-2p. That way we are back for nap time for the youngest. I try to save video games for that time for the older 3. We spend time outside on the swingset, I let the older ones sneak out by themselves to ride bikes, etc. If I let them, the younger 2 would be outside ALL DAY, but we don't have a fenced yard, and I can only handle sitting out there so long at any one time....
Sometimes I feel guilty that I am not structuring their entire days like some people do, but when I do that, it isn't good for ME, and I have to take that into consideration. They do bicker,argue, fight, etc. But I did too, with my siblings, so I think a bit of that is just par for the course. I intervene when necessary, remind everyone how to treat each other, and pray for 5:30p to come FAST for reinforcements getting home from work!

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answers from Chicago on

Okay, I do not have multiple children and your post is partly why - I could not handle all of that. My suggestion is this: find out what programs you can put them in over the summer - park district is your #1 bet for fun and inexpensive programs. Try to give each one an hour or so a day with just you. Create a world of independence for these kids too:
Have a table that is cleared off where they all can sit and do something (together or not) have tubs/bins/bakets whatever with things such as Crafts, play dough, coloring etc, things they can get to/use with out your immediate need to supply it. Have snack baskets in the pantry/fridge that have foods they can eat w/out asking you to get it (but they have to have your okay) - baggie of cut apples (lime juice so they don't brown), carrots, celery w/ peanut butter etc, juice boxes, milk, jell-o (a fav here), granola (home made) or nutragrain bars, fruit cups (8yr old can help here), yogurt etc. Whatever you feel they can eat "freely" as a snack and drink. Try setting up areas in your house kind of like school - here is a science area - this week we are exploring stars, this week we are exploring vinegar Ephie may have some insite on this area. Another that is dress up or a theater - hand puppets maybe (could even be a craft). I think you will find that if you help them by creating a self help environment you will have more "free time" to make a quick phone call. Plus, you should call a ten min (use a timer) "Mommy Time Out" every hour. This means that for 10 min unless there is blood or the need to call 911 leave mommy alone until the timer goes off - here you can call someone, plan your meals, work on part of a project etc. I know this all sounds great but execution is the hard part, I suggest you enlist the 8yr old and 5yr old here ... the 3yr old could probably help a bit too. Oh, and as for cleaning I only worry about one room a day and my son and I play the "clean up game" in that room. So, the living room he (5) uses the handivac to get the couch and between the cushions and the corners - I vaccume the rest. He dusts all the low places, I get the high. He picks up the toys, I get the trash and stray items. It works out well enough and takes maybe 30 MAX and that is on a bad day!

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answers from Norfolk on

I think what you are going through is pretty normal. Your question brought back a lot of memories! Remember, you are only one person, and can only do one thing at a time. I think that you are probably a very good mother. You just have your hands full right now. Give yourself some credit for staying at home with your three children. It is definitely a challenge. I know that this does not help your immediate situation. I suggest hiring a babysitter at least once a month so that you and your husband can have a quiet dinner together. It will do wonders for your sanity! Best of luck!

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answers from New York on

No you don't suck as a Mom. We all have been there and done that. The trick is to get the kids more involved in what you may be doing. Since the 3 year old boy doesn't mix well with the 5 year old try separating them as much as possible by either pairing him up wit hyour oldest for some special project or keep him with you working on something important for him. He can do so many things you would be surprised. At 3 my son could sweep the kitchen floor and put some of the dishes in the sink and even wash a few things and mop the floor with my supervision. He was always willing to help. I even got him a kid sized broom and mop set from Toys R Us. Which he used until he outgrew it. Each kid helps with cooking. I keep it age appropriate. I get them involved at a young age in every stage and phase of housecleaning.

If the 3 year old is into certain kinds of toys perhaps acquiring a toy he only has access to when you give it to him will keep him busy for a time. Even age appropriate videos can be used to keep them entertained but try to keep it to 1 hour or less at a time.

These few methods seemed to work well for me when I was raising 1 son, 2 nephews and 3 neices in the same house at the same time the oldest was 10 and the youngest was 1. Loads of work and fun all wrapped up together but definitely easier than raising just 1 or 2 or even 3 kids at 1 time. They managed to keep each other company if you can find the right combination.

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answers from San Francisco on

Been there, done that and STILL doing that!
It will not always be perfect. Siblings are like a litter of puppies, they play, they play fight, then they actually fight, then they sleep and play again. It can be exhausting for the mama dog!
Don't forget that teachers and coaches are dealing with them in a different environment, and only among their peers, so it's a lot different than a 24/7 family dynamic.
Don't attempt to entertain them too much. You are there to provide a safe, clean and healthy home, not to be their playmate and social director. Provide activities for them to do of course, make sure there's play doh and building blocks and sand and water and all of that good stuff, but for the most part they should be playing on their own.
Let them watch TV, play on the computer and play video games. Not all day of course but there's nothing wrong with sitting down to a little screen time.
Getting out is important, but it doesn't always need to be to someplace as overwhelming and overstimulating as the museum or zoo. Do that maybe once a week. And sleepovers at that age? Once a month was about all I could take! On other days call a friend and hang together at the park or the pool, something nearby and easy. You can picnic and have some adult conversation (SO important) while the kids run around and play.
It's all about balance, and not expecting perfection. I wish you luck, my girls are 13 and 16 and I am NOT looking forward to summer either. If they spend too much time together our home quickly turns into a war zone and all I want to do is escape :(

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answers from Lansing on

I wish I had some great advice, but I don't!! I just wanted to say that I fell ya! My girls are 3, 5, and 9. Your house sounds like mine! Nice to know I am not the only one whose house is like this! It will get better, I usually just take them outside to wear themselves out!

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answers from Boca Raton on

I really think some of that is just the age . . . my goodness when mine were 3 and 6 (both boys) the days could seem very looooong. And they had their fussing and screaming moments too.

You might have the older girls getting annoyed with little brother. Little boys that age have tons of energy and can pester like crazy. Can dad take him out for some guy time? I would also be sure to praise the girls excessively when they pitch in and help with him, or when they're loving with each other.

Good luck - hang in there. No you do not suck as a mom. :P



answers from Toledo on

You are not alone; I often feel the same way.

My friend had a great idea. She sets the timer and gives her kids her full attention while it's running. Games, playdough, water play, etc. When the timer goes off, she says mommy's got to do the dishes and laundry (or whatever) for X minutes. It took a few times for her kids to get the hang of it, but she finds that it works well.

I have four kids (8, 5, 3, 1). The older one does a lot of structured activities, and I take the little kids and we play at the park and try to do at least one fun errand until we pick her up.

I also have a sitter twice a week because I have a couple of work things I do.

Sounds like you're completely normal!



answers from Columbus on

I really, really love the Love & Logic parenting method and it sounds like it could help you a lot. (As if you have time to read a book, right?)

I suggest "L&L Magic for Early Childhood" and until you can find it, check out their tips on their website: http://loveandlogic.com/articles.html

They also have counselors you can call for specific help and a great Facebook page with lots of tips where you can also post questions and get help from other L&L parents.

My house became much more calm when I started using it - saved my sanity!



answers from Cumberland on

No-you're doing a wonderful job-activities, structure, etc-and they're just being...children-it will pass-have you tried an hour (or less) of quiet time-where everyone goes to their room and reads or rests? It might help. Maybe it's too much togetherness??



answers from Kansas City on

Hang in there!! My kids are 6, 4, and 1, so I know busy:) We try to get out first thing in the morning when it is cooler out. We also have "quiet time" when the little ones nap. During the school year, that is MY time to clean, pay bills, go online, etc. Now that my 6 year old is home, he can draw, write, read, etc. He just has to be quiet.

I definitely wouldn't say there is a balance between my needs and theirs. Their needs are always met first.

Can you get a "Mother's Helper"? Maybe a neighbor who is between 12-15 that would come play with them so you can clean the bathroom or have time to get ready?

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