“You have your hands full” is a phrase I literally hear every time I step out in public with our three children, aged 3 and under, with the oldest having disabilities, and being consequently the least mobile.
“So nice of you to point it out – really, I hadn’t noticed”.
My day typically starts in the early hours, with the baby waking 3-4 times during the night.
Then Esther, our eldest, almost always gets up once or twice in the night (often for well over an hour).
Old news for a special needs parent, but incomprehensible for many others.
Thankfully, it does seem to be improving: 4 or 5 nights lately, she has slept through all night!
That might not encourage newbies, but it gives hope to the experienced: things do get better.
First thing in the morning is always a busy time, changing 3 diapers, dressing 3 infants (and, most days myself!), and feeding a 3-year old on a high-calorie diet, a 20-month old picky eater, and nursing a 6-month old.
Once Daddy is gone, I try to keep a (rough!) schedule.
I leave our busy toddler in his high chair while I clear the breakfast dishes and put away things that are sharp (obvious), expensive (guess-able), or messy (jugs of maple syrup – trust me on this one!).
The rest of the essential household chores are done often with the aid of Little Man with the broom, while the girls play on their sheepskin rug.
I keep laundry strictly to Mondays and Fridays.
A routine frees time up, rather than hinders it.
The day’s plans usually revolve around medical appointments.
During the winter, we averaged 2 per week, including Esther’s regular therapy, newborn checkups, and post-natal follow-ups.
This took time to gear all the children up, prepare bottles, and warm the car, as the temperatures here in winter are well below freezing.
I deal with any necessary “business” in the morning before I forget.
I phone to book appointments, preparing myself for the fact that the baby will start to cry as soon as I dial!
Otherwise, I find myself leaving messages on therapists’ machines late at night, when I can chatter in peace, though without response.
The rest of the morning is devoted to playing with the little ones, interspersed with computer/smartphone time whilst I feed a baby.
When they are older, they will not remember if their house was perfectly clean, but they will remember whether their parents got down on the floor and played with them.
They all play well together, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of motherhood.
We have lunch early, when Esther gets hungry.
Sometimes we talk to Daddy on the phone, and always we text back and forth throughout the day, when he can.
After lunch, our busy boy is ready for a nap.
It helps that he sleeps well, day and night; there are benefits to his being so active when awake!
While he naps, I work with Esther on her exercises, and often walk in her Upsee.
Her brother loves to play with her in it, but sometimes it is easier to set up and have a proper walkabout while it is quiet!
On a really good day, I might get some sewing done (my weakness!), or write letters to relatives (all of whom live away).
Late afternoon is a challenge.
Our children are happy in the car, so the quickest way to keep the peace is pile them all in and go for a drive.
We run errands – at Walmart, I push the double stroller and carry baby in her carrier.
We often pick up Daddy, and the children love having him and the laughter he brings to the car.
He really is the brightest part of our days, and in the evenings we spend as much time with him as schoolwork will allow.
Sometimes I wonder why we continue with all the rough days that children can bring.
But there are rewards: hugs around my legs, priceless (often valueless) gifts, and little voices learning to say “I love you”.
And when the day has been particularly hard, we think of all the parents who lost their babies before they ever were big enough to cause trouble.
I remind myself that time with my little ones will end soon enough, and then I will miss their sweetness, innocent expressions, and how cute they look with chocolate pudding all over their faces.
Will you be going on holiday this summer?