Got Kids 24/7 – 2 Tips to make life easier

by Mary Ann on July 30, 2015

large family

24/7, 365 days a year for 18 plus years!! That is a long time to parent. I know because I did it. I actually had children living in my home, full time, for 39 years, so I know how hairy that can be. There is no way around the fact that parenting is a real commitment. The upside is that it is a commitment that can pay HUGE dividends in joy and satisfaction.

That being said, we still have to deal with the day to day effort to feed, cloth, clean up after, minster to and create relationships with our children. Add to that the importance of finding time for ourselves.

I can’t resolve all the issues involved with this big job you have taken on but I can share two terrific tools that I use at my home that help to make it easier.

Snack Plates

When my oldest daughter was expecting her fourth child she needed some help.  She was having a hard time keeping up with everything. One of the big struggles was keeping  Jack, aged 4 and Mary, aged 2, fed. Because they were little, they didn’t eat much at a meal and then wanted something to eat every couple of hours in between. That is how it is with little kids. (My pediatrician said that it is about 1 tablespoon of food, per meal, per year of age, after they turn one. Many of you know that is soooo true!) My husband came up with the perfect solution.

Each morning we would cut up vegetables, fruit, meat, such as salami or pepperoni,olives, crackers, cheese, etc and store it in airtight containers. Then Don would drive them over to our daughters home and throughout the day she would make “snack plates”. Each plate would have an assortment of goodies on it and would be placed on a flat surface, at child height, in this case the TV center. Then the children could help themselves as needed. Each plate would last a couple of hours. That would get them through from breakfast to lunch and then again from lunch to dinner. It was perfect.

Jack is now 7 and Mary is 5. We have been using this little trick for a good while now and it is still working. We don’t need a plate everyday, but frequently enough, on a munchy day, either Don or I will throw one together. While I have been in Seattle with my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter I have been doing the same thing. Because this is a university married housing complex there are children here all the time and they all get hungry. If I want to get anything done then, snack plates it is. Very helpful. : ) Here are some examples of what they look like at our home. (We don’t do anything special, we use what we have on hand)

snack plate 1-horz


 Picture 1 – L to R – strawberries, apple slices with peanut butter, buttered bread,  cheese

Picture 2 – L to R – mini carrots, canned pineapple, olives, raw almonds, cucumber slices

Picture 3 – L to R – banana slices, orange slices, cheese, sliced ham lunch meat, orange and red pepper slices

Picture 4 – L to R – pretzels, blueberries, strawberry slices

Picture 5 – L to R – Gogurt, cheese, pepperoni

Picture 6 – L to R – orange slices, apple slices, grapes, cheese, pepperoni

Door Hangers

door hangerBecause we live in a basement apartment under one of our children, we have those grandchildren over all the time. As grandparents we love it! However, I am not retired and I work at home four days a week. It can get pretty noisy and I find it hard to concentrate, especially if I am writing.

And please bear in mind that even though we are older and grandparents, that doesn’t change the need for quiet time! Sometimes I want to hear silence. I want to read or crochet or watch a television program or eat an ice cream bar undisturbed and unshared.

One day we came up with the perfect solution and it works! We talked to our daughter about what we needed and she set up a family meeting. She and her husband gathered all of their children around and told them how much we loved them but that sometimes we just needed some space. They asked the kids how they thought their family could make that happen. There were lots of ideas, some good, some wild and some just plain silly.

In the end our daughter invited them to make two door hangers. One would be green for “Come on in” and one door hanger 2would be red for “Grandma is working”. The children were really excited about the idea and they got to make them.

I have often said, and have proved it for myself, that if you want a system to work, the presentation has to be exciting and inviting and the family has to “buy in”. These children were excited by the presentation and making the door hangers themselves helped them buy in.

The youngest child, Ben,  is three. Even Ben has great respect for the door hangers. Sometimes the kids will come down, crack the door open and peek in to see if I am really still working. They know that sometimes I forget to change signs. One day Ben came clattering down the stairs and barreled into the living room. I said, “Benny I can’t have company right now because I am working.” He looked at me, cocked his head and replied, “Grandma you don’t have the sign out.” So I got the door hanger for him and he hung it on the doorknob and left.

We have discovered that we just don’t need the “go” door hanger because they are welcome in our home most of the time. We focus mostly on using the “stop” door hanger when I really do need private time. That means that I often work when the house is filled with laughing, rambunctious children. But if I really do need quite, I put out the sign.

I think this could work for busy mom’s and dad’s too. You could have a family meeting and talk about people needing some quiet time and where they might need it: in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the office. Then you could talk about ways family members can help mom and dad get the time they need and introduce the idea of the door hanger. There could be one for the bathroom, one for the parents bedroom, one for the office. Then when you just need a time out or 10 minutes to read or breathe deeply, you could try it out.

If you don’t abuse or overuse this tool it just may give you the few minutes break that you need now and then to keep going 24/7, 365 days a year for 18 plus years!!

What are your best tricks for making the job of parenting easier?

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