Thus begins our fourth week since Ryan’s returned to work. I had to check the calendar and count because it has all blurred together. The first day was probably the easiest because the kids were so shocked by my constant presence, they were on their best behavior. The novelty wore off by the second day.
Overall, however, things have been going better than I expected. As I laid in bed convalescing over the summer (read: dreading the end of Ryan’s vacation time) I started thinking of ways to make this postpartum transition easier than the last. I concluded that I need to be proactive about my own sanity. Keeping myself calm has become my new priority and that’s made for a few changes.
I’ve worked to get back into a routine around the house and so far I’ve been successful every other week (I’ll take it!). When Ryan was home this summer, and exclusively in charge of the oldest three kids, he managed to get them all to nap at the same time each day. I have become the protector of this schedule! Our days are much more structured and predictable now. What a relief! This also means that I have a better sense of what’s going to happen each day and can pick when the best time would be to do a craft, watch a movie, unload the dishwasher or exercise. A little bit of foresight goes a very long way.
Having a weekly schedule also helps keep me from becoming frazzled. The points in the day when the kids are occupying themselves without fighting are short and sweet. I have to be on top of my game if I want to complete a task before they notice I’m not hovering over them admiring every tower they build. When these times come up, I know what needs to be done. There is a lot less frantic bouncing between half done chores when I can say “ok, today is Tuesday; I just need to keep the laundry going and the bathrooms will wait until Thursday.” More importantly, it helps me find “me time” during the day. Rather than trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity, energy and willpower out of myself to do one more chore, I can recognize that what needs to be done for that day is done and I can (gasp!) sit down and relax. Hello sanity!
Some of the biggest changes, however, I had to make within myself. Come to find out, I’m a pretty uptight person. It only took 4 kids in 4 years to realize I need to loosen up a bit. The kids have areas in the house that are almost exclusively for their use. And I’m not so worried about keeping those areas pristine. I’ve found that it doesn’t bother me too much to see a messy play room, backyard or hall bathroom and if the kitchen, living room and master bedroom are picked up and kept neat then I feel much calmer. I’m happy to let the kids play throughout the house, but I’ve become more protective of those spaces and make sure they get straightened up throughout the day. So when Evangeline eats her breakfast at the living room coffee table and somehow manages to get every pillow and blanket thrown on the floor amid her trash and dishes, I don’t freak out. I can better accept that where kids are, there messes are also. But when breakfast \ morning TV time is over and she’s ready to move on to the next thing, she has to pick up the living room first. She can make the mess, but she doesn’t get to leave the mess.
This brings me to my second major mental unclenching: allowing Evangeline more freedom. She is one of those toddlers who is too smart for her own good. Since she began walking, Evangeline has forced us into this very delicate tug of war. We want to encourage her personal growth and curiosity, but we don’t want to have to keep cleaning up the honey she climbed up on the counter to get off the top shelf and spill time and time again. I am trying to better direct her energy and skills. It is now her sole duty to check for eggs each day, a chore she delights and takes pride in. She is also able, willing and allowed to help fold clothes — something I never let her do before. She and Felicity are in charge of switching the laundry over. God bless a front loader! By loosening up just a little and allowing Evangeline more (guided) freedom, we’ve all been getting along much much better.
I’ve been enjoying my children much more. More often than before I have the feeling that I can do this. It’s exhausting and there’s no way around that. Genevieve is doing great, but not so great that she’s sleeping through the night and feeding herself during the day. Reuben is still the girls’ rag doll they carry from room to room despite his shrill whining. And big mama micromanaging hen, Evangeline, can’t take the hint when Felicity tells her to just leave her alone. But somehow amid the chaos we’re finding a little bit of order, a little bit of freedom and a lot of stories for the blog!