Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: You once said there should be an “It gets better” campaign for parents of small children. Smart. Profound, even.
When? When does it get better? I have 5-year-old and 18-month-old highly active (!!!) boys, and I’m completely overwhelmed. Caring for them in their ever-changing states of development is itself a full-time job. Add to that a husband, two large dogs, a home and a good, flexible job, and I’m overwhelmed.
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I take full advantage of the flexibility I’m offered at work, still meet demands and deadlines, but the “overwhelm” just won’t abate. This is about more than a date night or having a baby sitter more often. When does it get better? I need a light at the end of the tunnel, not just a temporary fix.
Temporary fixes get you to the light, at least with “highly active (!!!)” kids.
So more baby-sitting is not a throwaway or temporary fix. On the contrary, the way through the exhaustion is to delegate the workload – both physical and emotional – as much as you possibly can and as responsibly as you can.
That means more baby-sitting (not ad hoc, but as a standing appointment X days per week), more care via child-care center or preschool, more conversation with your spouse about whether the labor has been distributed evenly between you, more reliance on paid dog-walking, more standing, scheduled appointments with yourself for alone time away from the family so you can catch your breath, and for your husband, too. You both need ways to recharge.
These solutions generally aren’t cheap, though you can find ways to economize (neighbor kid versus professional dog-walker, for example). But this immediate, pressing need will pass and you can outgrow these extra expenses relatively soon, so as long as you can swing them with minimal or no deficit spending, do so without guilt.
It’s about bringing your best self to the job of raising your kids, which means getting through as safely and calmly as you can.
Re: Tunnel: Carolyn, your answer was spot on for immediate abatement.
I’d like to add that 2 is better than 18 months, 2 1/2 is better than 2, and 3 is freaking awesome for active kids. I am at my lowest with an 18-month-old. Mine were EXTREMELY active and curious, but not at all aware of their own safety or limits. My second boy climbed everything, and jumped off anything. I was the parent who desperately wanted my child to get into screen time because I just needed to sit for a dang second.
Now I outsource chores to them. At 3 and 5, they dress themselves, make their beds (messily), set the table, and buckle themselves into car seats (mostly). I can walk away from them for a few minutes to cook dinner, go to the bathroom, take a shower, read a book while they wrestle in front of me, etc. It gets easier. I promise.
Just Needed to Sit
Re: Tunnel: Swimming lessons! Nothing wears out a kid more than swimming.
Good one, and a safety imperative.
Also: ice skating*, indoor climbing gyms, gymnastics classes (two words: supervised trampoline), kiddie music/dance classes, rec soccer, children’s museum membership, Ikea Smaland, martial arts.
*Warning: gateway drug for hockey.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.