I hear this all the time lately, "Take it easy."
"Just be sure to take it easy."
"Take it as easy as you can."
"You just really need to take it easy."
I am just over 30 weeks pregnant. I stay at home with our 5 and a half year old, whom we homeschool in preschool, and our 3-year old toddler twins. We have a dog. My husband is in the Navy which, of course, means we live next door to my parents (not).
How do I take it easy?
We went through this when I was pregnant with our identical twins. I was on modified bedrest and had multiple ultrasound appointments and an OB appointment each week. It was exhausting. When I was pregnant with twins, we lived in a small apartment with one toddler; I left the housework to my hubby. It was a small amount of housework and got done whenever he got around to it. (Sometimes in a frustrating amount of time.) But it all worked out.
How did I stay at home and take care of a toddler by myself every day then?
1. Netflix Instant Queue
I never had to get up to change a DVD. I could add shows to our queue from my computer and either watch them on our laptop or from our Blu-Ray player.
2. Toddler Look and Find books
I know I say this all the time, but I seriously loved these. I could sit and do these with our toddlers while I was laid out on the couch and later when I was feeding 2 newborns. There is so much to talk about in these books, from finding his favorite Disney characters to making up stories about what they are doing. These were a huge source of entertainment to us.
3. Melissa and Doug box puzzles
I love these puzzles. There are 4 puzzles in one box. He would drag this puzzle over to me and we could sit and do 4 puzzles without having to get up. We could do the puzzle on the couch because you assemble the puzzle on the lid of the box. Fantastic. We bought several of these during my pregnancy and in the early "twinfant" stages.
Things are different this time around. I don't have one toddler bumming to go to the park when I need to be resting. I can't turn on a show and take a cat nap while he plays quietly on the family room floor. As I write this blog post, I'm propped up on the couch enjoying Braxton Hicks while our 3 boys bounce wildly around the playroom. Our house is always loud. Someone is always getting hurt. One day of skipping tidying up and the toys start taking over all our living spaces (a bit hazardous for me since I can barely see my feet!). So what am I doing this time around?
First of all, we have a very different living situation this time around. We don't have a small, quiet apartment to take care of. My husband is working much longer hours and when he's home he takes care of the kids and does a few small chores. He doesn't have time to do all the housework. We don't have a housekeeper helping us out like we did in North Carolina. Instead, I rely a lot on doing small tasks each day. I don't have one big day of housecleaning. We tidy as we go and I accomplish one area of housecleaning earlier in the day when my energy is at its peak. (For our cleaning schedule, check out my blog post, "Domestic goddess.") I also prioritize our house chores. I don't waste my energy doing things that don't need to be done right then or don't need to be done by me. For instance, heavier kitchen appliances that go in awkward cabinets will sit on our kitchen counter all day until my husband gets home to put them away. When I make a huge Costco run, I stack things in my vehicle so when I get home I can unload the freezer/fridge items and leave the rest for when my husband gets home. There is no need to tire myself out doing things that don't have to get done right then. These are small examples, but they add up. Sometimes I look around the house and think, "Man, we need to sweep the floors!" But we don't have company coming over and I already cleaned the bathrooms that day, so I put it off until the following day. Or, lately, I ask our oldest son if he wants to do it. Surprisingly, 9 times out of 10 he enthusiastically says yes; he absolutely loves helping his momma, as he calls it. One of the hardest things for me to do, oddly enough, is pick up toys. The constant bending over to pick up toys from the floor really inflames my round ligaments, not to mention sometimes making me very lightheaded (the joys of pregnancy-- I'm anemic too, of course). I never spend time picking up toys anymore. I have the boys pick up their toys throughout the day, but my husband has them clean everything up each night when he gets home. I posted as a Facebook status the other day, "How do you guys get it all done?" My favorite response: "I don't." That really is the answer. I don't get it all done; I don't try to and I don't pretend to. I do what I can.
The number and ages of our children are also different. I was pregnant with our twins when our oldest had just turned 2-years old and then was months shy of turning 3-years old when they were born. I have been pregnant this time with a 5-year old (now 5 and a half year old) and 2.5-years old, just turned 3-years old toddler twins-- 3 kids at busy ages! While we have to sometimes, our kids go nuts staying home all day. They want to ride bikes, play outside, run in circles, and experiment. Homeschooling has been a huge blessing because we are always looking for activities. As this pregnancy has progressed, I've set guidelines for myself when scheduling our days. I don't do activities that require walking or standing around; I must be able to sit. I don't over schedule our days (well, I really try not to... I accidentally overbooked yesterday). I stick to one or two activities, including errands and bigger chores. I have fun things for our boys to do in our front and back yard. My husband makes sure our outdoor spaces are usable for us. He's always picking up our back porch so I can sit out there with the boys and watch them play. He keeps our garage organized so all I have to do is open up the garage and pull out our nice, sturdy folding chairs and watch the boys play. I love being able to let them run wild right outside of our house. We have tons of outdoors toys-- a water table, bikes, chalk, hose, sprinkler, scooters, every ball and sport you can think of, bubbles... They love paint brushes and buckets of water; they "paint" everything in sight. This is nice too because they can run in the house and use the restroom and I can fill up my water without having to drag everyone off of play equipment while lugging around all our stuff, like when we go to the park. I do also utilize our neighborhood parks; we pack sand toys and picnic. Sometimes this is our day's outing. For the days we have to stay at the house, we have lots of indoor toys and we make sure to pick them up between activities so they stay fun, even if they can reach a lot of these themselves. We have crayons, Play Doh, puzzles, crafts... I really try to do a couple focused activities with them a day, even just helping me make granola bars, so that they aren't moving from down time to down time.
Here are some of the things I have loved so far during this pregnancy:
1. Finding a homeschool playdate group
Since we are homeschooling preschool this year and starting to homeschool kindergarten next year, finding a playdate group with fellow homeschoolers has been awesome! (If you aren't a homeschooling family, maybe just a mommy playdate group?) Instead of me trying to fill our calendar with things to do, I have this group of moms who are always planning something. They are always posting park meet ups, picnics, bubble playdates, information on local happenings... I love it and my kids love it. I don't go to all the playdates and I've had to leave early a couple times, but it sure is nice to have low-key playdates outside of our house to take the kids to on our calendar!
2. Brain Quest workbooks
This is for our 5-year old. For our 3-year olds, I am using a lot of the same things I used with their older brother when I was pregnant with them. We do Look and Finds; we watch Netflix. And they are entertained. For our 5-year old... he gets bored. He wants to do something. These have been a recent purchase and I'm sooooo glad we got them. We have our homeschool activities (read "Homeschooling 5-year old preschool"), but this is not for homeschool. This is just for the times that he is bumming to play a game and I want to lay on the couch because his brothers are finally quiet. He sits next to me on the couch and works on his workbook. He loves the puzzles and games. These have been very entertaining for him.
3. Well-stocked pantry
While running out of groceries wasn't a huge deal when it was my husband and I feeding a toddler, now that we are a family of 5, I can't feed our kids just by splitting my meal with them. Eating out gets expensive, not to mention it is very inconvenient at our current duty station. It is exceedingly convenient to be able to make our meals at home (read "Family diet and family budget"). For breakfast we had English muffins, strawberries, and hard boiled eggs. We spent some time outside, came home for lunch, and I let the boys play on the back porch while they ate sandwiches, pickles, and apples. For snack we turned on a movie and picnicked on our family room floor where they had chips, almonds, and dried apricots. Since today has been such a rough pregnant day for me, I threw some tortellini in boiling water and steamed a bag of frozen veggies for dinner. Not fancy, but super easy.
Games have been ah-maze-ing this pregnancy. We play so many games. With our 5-year old, we play the obvious preschool games: Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land. We also enjoy playing with him:
- Share a Berry
- SpongeBob Square Pants Yahtzee Junior
- Sorry and Sorry Sliders
- ThinkFun Math Dice Jr
- 3-in-1 Jumbo Checkers
5. Let it be
To quote the Beatles, "There will be an answer; let it be." Sometimes I just let it be. The kids are behaving too wildly-- but happily-- in the playroom and I'm having horrible round ligament pain? Let it be. Husband called to say he was on his way home when I made steamed veggies and tortellini for dinner? Let it be. Someone knocked on the front door when I'm wearing my husband's PT gear and our kitchen counter is covered in dishes? Let it be. Some of this stuff just really doesn't matter that much in the scheme of things. My house is not going to look like how it did before I got pregnant with baby #4 (which isn't how it looked before I got pregnant with babies #2 and #3... which isn't how it looked before I got pregnant with baby #1... notice a trend?). Pregnancy is a temporary state; I'm not going to be pregnant forever. Yes, I will be busy when baby #4 gets here and there will be sleepless nights, but I won't be dealing with all the wonderful side effects of pregnancy (note the sarcasm). I can't do it all right now and there is no reason to do it all right now. Our house is operating under a Priority Policy-- if it must get done it will; if not, it won't. The harder side of letting it be has really been saying no. Sometimes there are things I want to do, but I know that after a day with the kids and my hubby's schedule being what it is, that it would be too much for me to go, that I wouldn't have any energy or that I would really pay for it that night with Braxton Hicks. The biggest reason I say no to things is that I know would just be exhausting for me and not fun, like if I would have to spend too much time wrangling the kids. It is what it is. I can't change what's on my plate-- my husband's schedule, our active kids, the point I'm at in this pregnancy-- and so I just need to put some thought into what I say yes and no to.
Ah-- gotta love family. Since we don't live anywhere near family, my sister is going to fly down and stay with us for a month, during an especially busy time in my husband's schedule, when I'm even further in the third trimester and having a hard time dealing with his long hours. I'm so excited to have her come down and help with the kids and make us dinner and pick up around the house-- er, I mean, I'm really looking forward to her company. ;) On some of these really busy days, it is so comforting to think, "Only a couple more weeks and my sister will be here!"
So that is how I've been taking it easy so far this pregnancy. My definition of taking it easy has evolved with each pregnancy and again this pregnancy with each trimester. Now that I'm 30 weeks (home stretch!), I've really had to put more thought into how I can take it easy with 3 kids.
What are your tips for taking it easy when pregnant, especially if you have other children?