Last April, my husband and I moved from a man-to-man defense to a pure zone defense. Or, to put it another way, our third child entered the world and our family. We quickly became aware of just how outnumbered the “parent team” had become! Recently, I got to experience a more-then-normal lopsidedness to our household balance, because my DH headed out of town for a few days.
I began to think of strategies – some time-tested, others new – for parenting 3 kids by myself. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- I’m going to just come right out and say it – TELEVISION. I’m not a strict no-TV mom, but I usually limit the amount of time they get to watch it to 3-4 times per week. But when things get really rough, out comes the DVD collection. Even if it’s just a 30-minute video, it gives me a chance to catch up with the baby, especially for important, full-attention activities like bathtime. One DVD I really recommend is a recent birthday gift – the Dora Dance Along Adventure Mat. My 3-year-old loves to dress up in the costume and dance along, and I feel much better about her watching TV when it involves exercise!
- Snack time – this one is easier to be healthy, fortunately. Think about it – what takes longer to eat, ice cream or carrot sticks? The crunchier the snack, the more time I can focus on another child who needs my complete attention.
- Family snuggle time – the kids all love the big bed. So we pile everyone in and pull up the covers. A little tickling and a lot of snuggling go a long way towards killing some free time in a VERY positive way!
- Time outs – I don’t mean punishments by this, so don’t get me wrong. When emotions run high and everyone starts to break down, I will sometimes send the kids to their rooms for 10 minutes. My two older kids are very competitive, so it’s good to separate them at times. To keep this from feeling like a punishment, I sometimes give them a reserved Happy Meal toy as a treat, or a task to complete (like drawing a picture).
Single parenting is something I hope I never have to do long-term, but strategies such as these definitely help when I’m the only adult and completely outnumbered! Do you have other ideas to share?