Six ways to keep your sanity with a newborn (and older siblings)

First of all, congratulations on your new baby!

I wish you plenty of moments to cuddle and smother him or her with kisses. And as you know when you have older kids, time flies by very very fast.

I'm a mom of four little ones, the eldest is four and the youngest is two (and a half, by the time this post is finished) weeks old, so I've had some practice but those are notes to self as well.

1 Take your time to cuddle and kiss

Newborns are so very, very precious. They also seem to grow on love, they need you close to survive. They need cuddles :)

You have a chance to do this while breastfeeding, but also when you are bottle-feeding, take a moment to really be and (after a few weeks) interact with your baby. They say those little "smiles" are not real smiles, but they do seem to happen when your baby is happy. When feeding, sing songs, tell a story, offer playdough, or get help/Netflix to entertain/watch your other children.

Another way to have close contact is to wear your baby in a sling or baby carrier. This keeps his head nice and close to your heart and you will have your hands free to... help your other kids, do some things around the house or on your computer, e.g. write a blog (guess where my little boy is now).

2 Do not mind the mess, throw your perfectionism out the window

Everything will take two or three times as long with a new baby. Accept it. Enjoy it! It gives you time to interact with Precious and/or your other kiddos. It also gives you plenty, numerous, shiploads of opportunities to practice your preferred parenting style. Ahem. So, take your time, try not to yell (or do so outside and NOT while carrying the baby 'cause it will make him cry), and cuddle some more.

Also, try to encourage your older kids to do more chores independently. Don't mind a little more mess, but do try to train them to clean it up for themselves. Just half an hour ago I taught my almost 3-year-old how to clean up after an "accident". He deemed these hectic newborn days a good time to potty-train and remove his diaper a few times a day. But hey, try not to stress about such blessed circumstances :)

3 Take gifts and accept help

When someone asks what kind of gift you would like, be practical. Also, ask for help if you could use it. It does take a village to raise a child. Two of my gift suggestions would be:

- Dishes of food that you only have to heat up in the oven. When you have some dishes, don't eat them right away but save them for "emergency situations", which will surely happen sooner or later.

- Things you (yourself and your partner, the adults in the house) can use. For example, a few weeks before giving birth to our fourth son, the sheet that covers our bed was ripped (accidentally) by our eldest. So a new one definitely made it to our gift registry, since we are bound to change our sheets a little more often during this period and we need everything that may slightly improve our sleep.

- Things that make YOU happy :) such as nice flowers and chocolate. Giving birth to your sweet baby was hard work so take credit for it!

4 Go to bed as early as possible

As in, right after your kids! This requires some organization of evening and morning routines beforehand, such as a meal planning strategy.... which focuses on minimizing the amount of dishes and pans used. Pizza at least once a week, for example. No, I did not have a meal planning strategy before I had multiple kids.

Our tiny boy now takes his longest sleep of the day after his feeding at 8 pm. I should consider myself so lucky with his timing, and also try to sleep as much as possible within that window... But then we tend to do housework, and watch some TV, or have some adult conversation as a couple. Set priorities, sleep is one of them!

5       Try to implement rhythm and routines

Maybe not as much for your newborn, but for yourself and the other kids (especially toddlers) it's nice to know where you are in your day.

So get really handy at feeding with one hand so you can have meals together at regular times. Furthermore, we try to make the 8 pm feeding a serious bedtime ritual for the newborn, as a signal to him and his brothers that the day has come to an end. Then we act as if it is 8 pm sharp and watch the evening news on demand together, just like I remember my parents doing when I was young(er). Only they were more strict. My sister and I were in bed by 7:55 pm and they watched the news at 8 pm live. They drank coffee, I drink tea (sans caffeine). Nice ritual though.

6 Finally, about playdough

When trying to get the entertaining playdough out of its pots do not use the pinky you will use later on to let your newborn suck on. It will get under your nails, and although it's supposed to be non-poisonous, I reckon one has to be used to solids for ones stomach to enjoy it. This also goes for the poop diapers on your older kids. Wash your hands a little more often. Try to minimize trips to the ER; this newborn phase is better enjoyed at home.

 

What are your top tips to mentally survive the newborn phase? 

Moving house with young kids

MOVING HOUSE WITH YOUNG KIDS

So...we moved into our new house two weeks ago :)

Exciting and very hectic times for all of us, but especially for the boys. Hubs and I know what we got ourselves into, knew what the new house looks like, what we expected from the new school / day care et cetera. But for the kids, it rocked their world. 

How on earth do you explain the concept of moving to a four-year-old (who seems to like change, just like his mom, but who will miss his best friend as well), a two-year-old (who DISlikes change vehemently), and a one-year-old who isn't verbal in the first place... 

Thus, I put some thought into the process, wrote down what I would like and gathered some tips from the all-knowing World Wide Web which I think are important. 

 

1 PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK FIRST... AGAIN :) 

Moving is stressful for everyone and you have to be fit to a) do it and b) take care of your little ones at the same time. You will feel more tired and your children will require more attention, patience and cuddles from you. So start by executing radical self-care and mark it in red on your calendar around the moving day (and a few weeks / months after).

 

2 ANNOUNCE THE MOVE TO THE KIDS - NOT TOO EARLY, NOT TOO LATE 

And take your kids' character into account :) 

As I mentioned, our eldest seemed to be looking forward to the move and asked questions. He generally likes to know things well in advance. However, our two-year-old thinks of worrisome things ahead of time, he fusses about them, will not sleep the few nights before, will have more tantrums, et cetera. For him, it's indeed important to know that "everyone is moving, so he doesn't feel as if he'll be left behind". When you talk, don't just tell the kids what will be different. "Make sure you explain that the important things will stay the same, including the fact that everything in the house, especially what's in the child's room, will come with you."

 

3 VISIT THE NEW HOUSE BEFORE THE MOVE 

Fortunately we did this five or six times, because it is a newly built house: some heavy machinery was involved and our boys love that :) So they have seen their new rooms with and without a roof, windows and flooring. I think it helped both the enthusiastic four-year-old, who was making plans on blue walls and such, as well as the two-year-old who got a little more familiar with the building and surroundings. 

 

4 SAY YOUR GOODBYES

It's good to acknowledge the things you and the kids will say goodbye to. It's healthy for children to express their sadness and it will make their adjustment easier.  

Some ideas:

- accompany your child on a tour of every room so he can say goodbye. We did this on the last morning the kids were there, and the two-year-old really responded by naming practically all objects including every wall and saying goodbye. He gained a lot of perspective into what would come with us (furniture, paintings) and what not (those walls). 

- Say goodbye to the neighborhood as well, the playground nearby, the shops in the village center, all your favorite spots. We did this on the second to last day before the move, which was a Tuesday. My parents and the kids toured the village on most Tuesdays anyway, so it was possible to do this intentionally and the boys enjoyed it very much.  

- Have a farewell party at day care or school - for us, this was planned a week before the move and was a very nice little ritual which the boys had already seen when other kids moved. It marked an ending and they hugged their teachers a lot during those days. 

 

5 ASK THEM TO HELP PACK THEIR OWN THINGS... 

Well, actually I wasn't planning on this, but it did make sense. It reassured them that all their toys and treasures were coming with us. They even packed each other at one point. It gave them a sense of ownership and control. And it was a very good idea to mark a special box for each of the boys and ask them to fill it with things they love, plus a few items for them to have during the actual move and settling in time when most of their things were not accessible. We made sure to have some familiar books for pre-bed story time at hand as well. 

 

6 PACK THE CHILDREN’S ROOMS, AND THE KITCHEN LAST AND UNPACK FIRST

The day before the move we brought our boys to their new school / day care so they could spend the day. That night, we brought them to their grandparents (my parents) who live nearby. We all had dinner together and they spent two nights at my parents’. Most overnight stays up to now have been a real party for all of them, and they will be safe and ahem, out of the way during moving day. So after we dropped them off in the evening, we were able to pack their rooms and make sure they were loaded in the front of the truck, to be unloaded first on moving day. 

Making their rooms in order was a first priority. But because they were away for another night, my husband and I were able to take shorter breaks, have some time as a couple on our first evening, sleep in a tiny little bit (7am instead of 6 am with kids), and continue to unpack the next day. Also, we had our groceries delivered that morning. Next I unpacked the kitchen, so the kids would know they could get food or water or ask for something to eat whenever they wanted. 

This planning turned out well, primarily because we were able to take the kids home to a house which wasn't as big a mess as it was on moving day, their rooms showed the items they love, and the kitchen was basically arranged so food and glasses for water were accessible. We knew what was for dinner the first days they were home (pizza, pasta, soup, nothing difficult) and there were snacks (and chocolate for mommy). Phew!  

It would have been great if we had put together a part of their playroom as well, so they would have had a nice place to go to while the rest of the house was still being dominated by unpacked boxes, but this did not happen. The boys enjoyed unpacking as well, but now the playroom is one big mess of toys thrown out of boxes but not put away. Also, we don’t have enough cupboards to put it all away. The sliding doors between living room and playroom now generously keep the mess out of sight when the kids aren't around.

 

7 TAKE PLENTY OF BREAKS

Also, see #1. During the breaks, you can have intentional attention for your kids, your partner, or yourself, and maybe, kind of, do the things you normally would have done on that day and at that time, to keep things as consistent as possible. Such as eating, and maybe napping (I was 34 weeks pregnant on moving day), or checking in with work. 

 

8 STICK TO THE SCHEDULE

Right after moving in the kids, we tried to get back to our "normal" rhythm a.s.a.p. The more predictability, the more quickly your child will adjust, according to ahaparenting.com However, two weeks in and still not there. Our two-year-old will nap TWICE at day care (two days a week) and refuses to nap at home. This has something to do with fear of the unfamiliar, I guess, since he also wants his nightlight turned on during the night. So, bummer for my pregnant and tired self (less downtime in the afternoon), but we'll give him time to adjust, of course. We still try to maintain most of the old routines, especially with a new baby brother coming in a few weeks. We consistently have dinner and most breakfasts as a family and read a bedtime story in the bedroom of our eldest son. But I find this the hardest part of moving. I do my best to be more available, but I also crave me time, work time (just a little bit...) and SLEEP!!!

 

9 DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE EMOTIONAL ENERGY INVOLVED WITH MOVING HOUSE

Not for yourself, and especially not for the kids. Changing house, garden, neighborhood, day care, school and nanny is an awful lot to take in for our boys. And although I can reason about it, for me too. It's about time I stop taking clothes out of boxes :) but I have to get used to moving through the house efficiently (kitchen - waste bins - kitchen - toilet - pantry for extra toilet paper - kitchen to start cooking - where did I put those knives.... and so on). Also, there is a lot of ambiguity and comparison going on in my head: I love the bathroom in the new house but am getting frustrated the light fixture is not in place yet, I love our new garden but the view from our old bedroom was nicer... Not for naught that moving is considered the third most stressful thing that you can go through (after death and divorce). 

 

10 GO EXPLORE AND MAKE IT FUN! 

While the weather is still mild, with autumn just starting to creep in, we take a lot of walks around our new neighborhood. This helps the kids to get a sense of where they are. And it is helpful to do fun things as a family. We sought a lot of playgrounds in the area. There are no less than six within five minutes walking! We also visited grandma and grandpa a lot those first weeks (and will continue to see them a lot, with the new baby due soon). We live a lot closer to them now. We tried pizza delivery (kids tried the doorbell first, so we wouldn't miss the delivery boy ringing, which they found very rewarding). We went to the little shopping center quite a few times to get some groceries and to get to know our way around. My husband and I are trying to get involved with school / day care and getting to know other parents around. Greeting and chatting with total strangers like crazy :). But hey, we're building a new village!

 

If you have a move planned, good luck! Want to chat about it? Click here for an online meeting. Have tips to share? Please leave a comment! 

 

Xox, Marthe 

My week so far

So, what a week it has been. I've been ill since last week Wednesday, and I needed to adjust to a totally different - much lower - energy level from then onwards. I've been advised not to work as much and to rest more than I have been, and take it slow, to accommodate the baby in my growing belly (26 weeks today!). Bummer. 

So, our weekend (or rather my weekend) was slow and quiet. My husband and the boys went to a birthday party. 
Monday was slow as well, with the nanny caring for the kids and me sleeping and doing a tiny bit of work from bed. Tuesday same.
Wednesday I drove 1,5 hrs to and fro to a meeting on one of my projects for my other biz. That was almost too much so I spent the afternoon sleeping.
Thursday I did some coursework from the couch and my first laundry in two weeks time (thanks to hubby). And I slept, of course. And kept working at finding a new balance for the coming months / third trimester of my pregnancy.
That led me to stop working for another project for my other biz, which I discussed today with the company that hired me. The conversation was ok and though I hate to quit I strongly felt this was the sensible thing to do. So I feel very relieved. I'm resting again as I write this, and tonight hubs and I are going out for dinner together. Looking forward to that, it's been a long time :).
And then it's weekend again! We'll be having a BBQ at my parents house on Sunday! Yeee!
 
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When mom gets ill

O help, you're ill.... And you can't ignore it and feel too weak to do anything else but focus on getting better*.

But, what about your kids now? And your husband (who must be an adult, come to think of it)? And your housekeeping, getting everyone a healthy meal, and o yes, work and/or your biz. 

I am so with you, dear girl. On average, I'm in this boat once a year. Just like right now. And since I only have one biz (or two, actually), it seems I have to prioritize. Not to mention, I'm pregnant with boy number four, so that adds some responsibility for another person I cannot delegate. 

So, my steps to get healthy and up and running again?

 

1. Take a time out, and I don't mean 5 minutes. Clear your schedule for this day and the next with everything outside of your home. Communicate this clearly to everyone involved. Make a fort out of your bed with water, tea, your laptop (Netflix, email, Facebook) and some nice pillows and candles and stuff to make you feel better. 

2. Get help, from hubby, family, friends and professionals to take care of your kids, and optionally your home. Remember, you will only be available for cuddles. Make sure you don't have to worry about the rest. Seriously, ask for help! 

3. Go see a doctor if you think it's necessary. Make an appointment and make sure you have the time to discuss everything that's bothering you. Ask for specific, doable tips to help you get better fast. 

4. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. This will make you better. 

5. Eat healthy things, such as veggies :) but, if your appetite isn't up to par (eating vs. feeling worse),  eat what you like at that moment but be aware of the effect it may have on your gut. 

6. Go back to your schedule and see if you have to clear some more. Make a plan to increase your busyness step by step over the next few days. 

7. If  'disaster' strikes likes this, give yourself permission to Take Care of Yourself First! Here the airplane-analogy comes in handy again: if you don't take care of your own oxygen first, you might not be able to provide it to the people around you. 

 

Take care and get better dear momma, get well soon! 

 

 

* I am not referring to serious, life-threatening diseases or chronic illnesses, more to something like a flu. I have the utmost respect for people who have to deal with  a chronic or life-threatening situation and I wish you all the best. 

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Planning like a pro

Woah! Hubby and I are spending our days working, taking care of and playing with our kids, and...

 

Haha, I'm writing this in a hotel... working between meetings here and there. The waiter brings my tea and offers me a choice of flavors, saying "that this may be your most important choice for today" with a big smile :) . I hope so too, but fear otherwise. At least I also already know what's for dinner :)

 

So, where was I. Right, next to work and kids, we're having our dream house built. I know a lot of moms who are in kind of the same boat. That was a lot in itself, but three weeks ago our dear nanny announced she'd leave around mid July. Panic all over!! It was unexpected and it's sad to see her leave, but the impact on my agenda is not small either. Every week since then hubby has spent five (5!!) hours per week in search of a new nanny. Writing a job posting, calling potential candidates we already knew, getting nanny agencies to search with us, et cetera. That's a small part-time job on its own :) And so far, no result. Hmmm. 

 

However, to add this new hobby to my schedule takes some pro planning skills I didn't know I had. Like abs. So, how do you do all that???

 

1) Let's start with the fortunate fact that hubby and I can share the load and we tend to do that quite intentionally. Most Sundays we have some sort of (very informal) planning meeting. Usually when our kids need downtime and are watching Shaun the Sheep, or in the car when we are going on an outing. This way, we know what's coming at us the following week and what important actions we need to take. Divide and conquer. 

 

2) Meal plan. This is becoming quite boring but during the past half-year, we've been eating pasta every Wednesday and pizza every Thursday. We always plan meals for a week ahead and have groceries delivered accordingly. If we watch the deals, delivery is usually free or discounted. 

 

... Meeting starts. More in due time! xox

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