There isn’t a mom (or dad, or any other type of parent) that doesn’t want to be the best for their kids. But raising multiples means extra challenges, extra demands, extra costs, and much, much less ‘me time.’ It’s no secret, this is hard stuff! And all that extra that comes with caring for multiple kids means it is even harder – and more important – for you to take care of yourself.
You’ve heard plenty of unsolicited advice already, haven’t you? You know, sleep when the baby sleeps. Practice sleep training. Take a nap. Enjoy them while they’re young. You’ll miss this someday. Eat healthy. But it isn’t always that easy to take care of yourself. Here are some ideas to make time for yourself written by a mom of multiples, whether you’re knee-deep in diapers or playing family chauffeur.
Find your Rhythm
Once you get past those first few weeks and crazy hazy days of caring for brand-new babies, you’ll start to settle into your own rhythm. It will change over time as your kids grow, but it will be there. If you don’t recognize it, find it, or create it.
Maybe there’s a late-morning lull or afternoon slot when your contented little ones will gaze at Blues Clues reruns, or your trippy toddlers will leave you be while they snack or scribble. Maybe your school-age kids will give you an hour while they have a little (gasp) tablet time. (It’s ok, honest!). Perhaps you’ll find some time very early in the morning or after a meal. Look for those times when your little darlings are more likely to entertain themselves without wreaking havoc on your house.
Now take that space -whether it’s five minutes or fifty – and fill it up with something for yourself. Not meal prep, laundry, or mopping – make it yours and yours alone. You may have to adjust so you aren’t trying to work out during witching hour, but if you can be a tad flexible in your me-time, you’ll have an easier time finding it.
Follow your Passion
Before your multiples arrived, you probably had something you enjoyed other than your children. What was it? Did you crochet, run marathons, or build birdhouses? Find that thing that gets you a little bit stoked and bring it back into your life. Maybe your body isn’t ready for a marathon, but try sneaking in 15 minutes of running (or walking), so you can start feeling like our body is yours again. Peruse YouTube videos of your hobby while dinner is cooking or hang up some inspirational pictures on your fridge next to the ones your children made you. Whatever it is that gets your heart going needs to still be in your life to some extent.
Prioritize. Face it
Once you are raising multiples, your house will never be the same again. Embrace the scribbled-on walls, the crumbs in the corner, and the never-ending laundry train. Choose the tasks that are most necessary and let the rest slip just a bit, so you have a little more time to read that book you’ve been drooling over. Don’t panic if your inner neat freak died just a little bit. Enlist the help of your kids – or not, if it’s too much work. Temporarily lowering your standards to make space for your own needs is worth it, even if you have to shove everything into a closet and just shut the door for a while.
You need to make time for your own emotional well-being, especially if you’re so tired, you’re tearing up over every little thing (and trust me, I’ve been there!). If you have to schedule yourself a nap, a doctor visit, or a bubble bath, do it! Write it on your calendar, set the alarm on your phone, and just make it happen. Your body and soul will appreciate it.
Hire. A. Sitter
Leaving your precious little ones in the hands of someone else can be excruciating. But do it anyway, even if you don’t go anywhere. Hiring the neighbor’s teenager to come entertain your littles so you can shower or read a book will help you recharge without breaking the bank. If you can’t afford a sitter, maybe you can swap time with a fellow mom or find a retiree from your church to read stories for the afternoon. Ask around if need be but find someone you’re comfortable with to give you the break you need for your own well-being.
Let them Cry. Even for a Minute.
There is a reason a baby’s crying gets attention. It’s loud, it’s demanding, and it tugs on your heart (and your mammary glands, too). And when raising multiples, there’s a high chance of crying at the same time. But take a breath. And another, if needed. It’s ok to let the babies cry for a minute or two. Perhaps they are just fussing in the middle of their sleep cycles and will put themselves right back to sleep. Maybe they’re just bored and want some interaction.
It’s ok to take a short pause and see what happens without dropping everything and running at breakneck speed for the crib (especially if said crib is already in eyesight). Don’t let crying go completely unanswered, of course, but it is ok to give yourself a minute to catch your breath, too.
Write it Down
Keeping track of everything – from bottle feedings to baseball games is a time-consuming challenge. But don’t sweat it! Just write it down. Use your smartphone, find an app, jot it down in a notebook, or on a giant wall calendar.
This isn’t new or news, but if it’s keeping you awake at night, journal it! Keep a notebook and pen beside your bed to jot down all those things you need to remember for the next day. Set a reminder on your phone with an alarm. Whatever system works for you, use it! This will keep you from tossing and turning because you’re worried about what you might forget. You’ll get a better night’s sleep and feel better for it. Better sleep means your tasks for the following day will be easier, faster, and will hopefully give you more time to do something for yourself, too.
Let it go
You know the old adage – Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff. Things are going to break. Diapers will leak. Dinner might not get cooked, but it’s ok! Most things in life can wait, so if you don’t get it done today, try again tomorrow and let it go so you can get some rest. Don’t let the weight of unimportant things wear you down to the point that you can’t enjoy being a mom. Let it go so you can create space for the best things, like yourself!
Laugh as much as you can
Allow yourself to have a sense of humor about it all. Laughing it off doesn’t mean you’re immature. But if you have the opportunity to choose laughter over anger (such as when the walls get colored on with a sharpie, or the dog eats your dinner), your stress level will drop dramatically. Things will happen when you are raising multiples, and laughter and smiling will increase those feel-good endorphins which make you happier and give you more of a sense of well-being without working yourself to exhaustion. Don’t waste your time and energy stressing over things you have no control of, so you have more time and energy for the stuff you and your children love.
It isn’t easy being a mom of twins or several children. It isn’t easy being a mom at all! Which is why it is so important to make a little space just for you. You’ll be a better, happier, healthier mom when you do. It’s true, finding your own space so you can take care of yourself is its own challenge, and it will look different for everyone. But the investment in yourself will pay big dividends in the comfort and well-being of both you and your children. You may have to start small, and that’s ok. Just get started.