10 ways to make life with little ones easier

Life was sleep deprived and chaotic when we were blessed with our daughter Victoria. When we were blessed another baby, things really got chaotic! Here are some ways I've found to make it all a little smoother....
  1. Prepare the night before.I've started to lay out things for the morning before bed, and it really cuts down on the morning madness. At night when the kids are asleep, it takes just a few quiet minutes to pick out clothes, figure out breakfast and make a mental game plan for the next day. In the morning I have diapers and clothes out ready to put on my manic darlings, I don't have to worry about searching cupboards and figuring out what to cook, and I already have a sort of schedule in my mind so I can function a bit on auto pilot. Some days I even plan out some tentative crafts and book ideas, so I have something all set up to give the girls to do while I finish waking.

  2. Get rid of stuff! The less you have, the less there is to put away. Kids get overwhelmed by too many toys. Stick to basics that are actually good for them like duplos, blocks, art supplies and toys that use their imaginations. Donate at least half of everything that beeps and flashes to your local women's shelter or Good Will. As for clothes, take a good look at them and give away anything that isn't darling or perfect for something. I don't bother with "play clothes" and instead I use darling stuff with a hole or stain for those since they can go ahead and get them messy and they still look adorable. This is a mental strategy on my part, since when my kids look really cute I am less likely to want to ship them to Alaska.

  3. Give them room to run and permission to holler. Kids naturally need exercise and the outdoors. That's why so many of us and our kids are going stir crazy right now after being cooped up all winter. Running around outside makes our lives so much easier! You don't have to sweep up the yard after they play in it. There's not much to break. They can run and be exuberant. The sunlight helps everybody's moods too. If you can't get outside then find places where it's okay for kids to be kids and use their energy, like roller rinks or the YMCA. Victoria (almost 3) sleeps so well on nights where she's had some quality time outside during the day!

  4. Take a break. Somehow, some way, get away for a couple of hours. Tell their dad (or mom, for you dads out there) you need some time off and leave him in charge. Swap with a mommy friend and then give her a break later in the week. Hire a sitter, use the grandparents or use a drop-off center. Many communities have crisis nurseries for moms who are stressed out to leave kids for a short time to take care of themselves. Full-time parents are especially in need of down time! No other job requires 24/7 shifts, every day for two decades! Even emergency room doctors slip up when they've been on duty for too long, and our jobs as parents can be every bit as tough, stressful and important as theirs.

  5. Get along with your child. If you've slipped into some sort of power struggle with your toddler, both of you are in for a rough time. Back up and look at the situation with fresh eyes. Remember when he was a baby and you were so in love with him you cried? He's the same child and he's just as loveable. All of this willfulness and curiosity is part of how he grows and learns, and it will pass. Treat him really sweetly and make an effort to make a fresh start with him, and watch how much easier life gets with him. Give him choices whenever possible and make him feel like he matters. It works.

  6. Organize sensibly. Move things so they're clustered where you actually use them, and load up on containers to store them in neatly. Keep bill-paying supplies like stamps, pens, and envelopes near where you open the mail. If you always do craft time at the dining room table, keep your child's crafts in a tub in there instead of in her room. Do you have to walk across the room every time you need a sippy cup and then back again for juice? Keep a stack of sippy cups on the fridge. Little changes can make everything much smoother!

  7. Use a schedule. I know, I know, for those of us who hate routines it is painfully hard to keep one. But it works and kids thrive on them. It's worth it! You don't need to plan your life in 15 minute increments, but try to get up around the same time, have a set chain of events for much of the day, and stick to the same rules. Bedtime routines alone are a lifesaver. Kids follow them, often without even considering that they could not.

  8. Rethink the rules. Are you doing things because somehow you got the idea you had to, even though it doesn't make much sense? Sometimes we slip into the "gottas" without realizing we have a choice. We've gotta make sure the house is clean at all times. We've gotta toilet train by two. We've gotta serve a hot lunch. Why? Decide what things are important to you and let up on the rest. For instance, my daughter used to have breakfast that consisted of cold sliced turkey, cheese, orange juice and chopped veggies. It's every bit as healthy as any traditional breakfast, she loved it, and it was easy! I feed my 14 month old because it's much easier than trying to get her to use a spoon herself and then clean her up. I have no doubts that she'll be able to master a spoon by kindergarten anyway, so why create the extra work if it's not important to her or me? You don't have to live by the priorities of your mother-in-law, your friends or Donna Reed. Decide what you believe is important and focus on that!

  9. Team up. Get a support system for yourself in other parents with kids of similar ages. There are many community groups for parents of certain interests, activities like Early Childhood Family Education through the school system, and more in just about any area. The Internet can be a great source of support too. I'm on several parenting lists and have found them to be fun and invaluable. There are also bulletin boards for issues from twins to colic to single parenting. I really recommend getting some real-life support systems in place too, though. Nothing beats being able to physically sit next to another mom and watch your children play!

  10. Cut yourself some slack. It's okay if the house is messy, if your child doesn't know the alphabet, and the dog is wearing a tutu. Sometimes the best way to deal with it is to sit down, grab something to drink (no, not that kind!) and take it easy. For today, give them lots of kisses, don't let anybody get hurt, and the rest will work out.

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All works on this site Alicia Bayer unless otherwise noted.
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