10 top parenting tips from a mama of three
Tired of feeling like a broken Stepford Wife who’s constantly frazzled and never manages to get everything done? This mother of twins and a preschooler has some wisdom to share
After I had my first daughter, I felt like I’d moved to another planet where everything was so. freaking. hard. My boobs leaked constantly, I was petrified of sneezing for fear of waking the baby, and cooking dinner seemed more challenging than decoding the human genome. Mamas who managed three kids without having a nervous breakdown seemed superhuman to me.
Fast-forward three years and I can whip up dinner for five with one 14-month-old twin on my hip, another wailing for attention at my feet, and my three-year-old whining, “Muuuum, I’m hunnnngggryyyyyy” for the 473rd time that day.
What’s my secret? Experience. And progressive desensitization to anything that’s not a hospital-worthy wail. Here are my top 10 tips to help you streamline the parenting process.
- Cook in batches and freeze
Healthy eating is one of my core values. While I’ve had to cut some corners with three kids (frozen fish fingers do happen!), I have an arsenal of six healthy meals that are easy to cook in big batches and my whole family loves. Examples include whole-wheat pasta with a ton of veggies hidden in the tomato sauce, cauliflower dahl, and a delicious mild chili. I make at least one of these each week and freeze the leftovers. Then we eat one frozen meal per week (sometimes two if we’re busy), and I don’t have to worry about cooking or a huge pile of dishes!
- Don’t bother pureeing
If you really want to save time, skip purees altogether and go straight to baby-led weaning (BLW) – offering an array of soft, healthy finger foods and letting your child decide which ones they want to eat. A study has shown that mamas who follow this approach are more relaxed, and many experts believe it creates more adventurous eaters because they don’t need to engage in a power struggle over food.
Honestly, I never would’ve had the confidence to do BLW the first time around. I was too paranoid about choking and I worried my daughter wouldn’t get enough nutrients. I even did some pureeing with my twins at first, but I quickly introduced finger foods and started offering them the family meals mentioned above. At 14 months, they’re already feeding themselves with spoons and forks.
- Pack bags and lunches at night
Mornings are hectic enough as it is, so do yourself a favor and pack the diaper bag, schoolbags and lunchboxes the night before. I know you just want to crash on the couch and watch the latest Netflix show as soon as the kids are in bed, but that extra half-hour will prevent two new gray hairs from appearing on your head the next morning. Totally worth it.
- Keep spare supplies in the car
It doesn’t matter if you’ve reached Parenting Level: Expert, you’ll still forget essential items almost every time you go out the door with the kidlets. I thought about putting spare diapers and wipes in my glove box for months, and then I FINALLY did it. Life changed overnight.
Now if I run out the door without the diaper bag, which pretty much guarantees a diaper disaster as soon as I’ve pulled out of the driveway, I have supplies right there at my fingertips! My glove box now also contains spare undies for my big girl and sun hats for all the kids.
- Buy a bath seat and use it everywhere
Desperate times (two babies) call for desperate measures (unashamedly using bath seats to keep them secure when you’re out and about). I used my bath seats not only in the bath, but also at the public pool and as high chairs while traveling. I don’t see why you couldn’t do this with one baby and enjoy your newfound freedom.
- Let the baby destroy one controlled area so you can get stuff done
Ever since my twins started crawling, they’ve been tearing around the house together. I quickly understood that I could spend my days running after them yelling, “No! Don’t do that!”, or I could let them wreak havoc in one controlled area while I performed household tasks.
“Hmmmm, it’s awfully quiet, where are those monkeys? Oh, there they are, throwing all the books off the bookcase/pulling all their nicely folded clothes out of their drawers/eating the cat food.” (Just kidding about the last one. Kinda. OK, it happened once.) Before, I would’ve lost my marbles. Now, I just slink back to the kitchen and chop some onions.
- Trick children into thinking household items are cool new toys
Place kitchen items such as wooden spoons, canned goods and Tupperware filled with dry pasta in a small tub on your kitchen floor to keep young children entertained while you cook. They’ll think they’re playing with “grown-up stuff” which they’ll like a million times better than their toys!
- Make friends with nudity
Your children’s, not your own (though to each their own within the comfort of their home!) When you’re at home, stripping your kids down to their diapers or underwear as often as the weather allows will cut down on laundry.
- Be creative & positive with your disciplinary tactics
Our eldest daughter is “spirited” and has never responded well when we’ve tried to lay down the law. Engaging in power struggles with her gets us nowhere – it only serves to create stress and tension for all involved. So, we had to think far outside the “because we said so” box and come up with some creative ways of getting her to listen to us.
Games and friendly competitions such as these have worked wonders:
- “Who can wash their hands the fastest?”
- “I bet you can’t put your shoes on by the time I count to 30!” (Hourglasses and online timers are great tools for this.)
- “Let’s have a crunching contest! Who can crunch their vegetables the loudest? Shhh… 1-2-3-CRUNCH! [Child’s name] won!”
- “Quick, eat your dinner or the Dinner Monster will get it!” (Stomp around like a monster and pretend to steal their food.)
Humor is also an excellent parenting tool. When you find yourself in a downward spiral of scolding/bad behavior/scolding, put a stop to it by making a silly joke, breaking into song or tickling them. You might think it’ll undermine your authority, but constantly nagging at them undermines it more because they just hear it as white noise after a while.
- Take 10 minutes a day to just BE with your kids
No matter how much you have on your plate, take 10 minutes out of every day to get down on your hands and knees and play with your kids. It’s so much easier to take those 10 minutes than to constantly tell them you’re too busy, and you’ll probably notice that your anxiety (and theirs) is reduced when you take the time to just “be”. While you’re at it, why not ask them about their day? If they bring up any issues, listen to and acknowledge their feelings no matter how petty they seem. It’s amazing what 10 minutes can do.