Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Advice For The Mother Of Two

Welcome to Jeanie's unsolicited advice corner! Recently a lot of my friends have had or are expecting their second child. Not that I'm a parenting expert (who me? The mom who literally washed her son's mouth out with soap last night because she heard "butthole" one too many times?).. but I do have two years of raising two kids under my belt. Not that I wear a belt, because having two kids caused all the fat in my body to migrate to my hips and belly. Anyway, I was a working mom of two for six months and have been a stay at home mom of two for a little more than a year and a half. So I've found a few things that work, don't work, or make life a lot easier.

Let's talk about housework. I imagine everyone just clasped their hands in joy reading that. Okay, the secret to housework is: be realistic about it. I can clean my house every hour of the day and it will still be trashed by dinner. Why? Because kids are messy. And as soon as you start to pick up their toys, they were playing with that mommy! GOSH! If I had a dollar for every time I put toys in their bins only for them to be all over the floor two minutes later, I could hire a live in maid to clean them up again. We used to have this awesome toy room that was dedicated to all my special little angel first child's billions and billions of toys. When we moved to Brazil, I said fuck that, they can each have one tote full of toys. And guess what? They've survived. So when I need to clean toys up, they get thrown willy-nilly into a tote and I can see the floor again! I no longer put all the toy cars together in their special toy car bin or every piece of play food together with its play food brothers in its special play food bin. Nah.. it all goes together in one bin. And clean up is a breeze, okay?

Dishes used to be like.. my absolute greatest nightmare. I fucking hate washing the dishes. I hate the idea of old food touching my hands. It just grosses me out. And let's not even talk about scrubbing pans. I have one pan here that is non-stick. Step one in handling this monster was to greatly reduce the number of dishes I had to wash. There are four of us in this family. We have four cups, two coffee cups, four plates, four bowls, four spoons, four knives, you get the picture. When we have company, we use paper plates. I've yet to have a guest turn down free food just because it was on a paper plate. One of the benefits to having a limited number of dishes is that we're forced to wash the dishes in order to use them. I can't just say, well I'll wash lunch's plates tomorrow and use four new plates for dinner. So there's never a huge build up of dishes for me to ignore until I eventually throw all of them in the garbage and start fresh. (Admit it - you've done that at least once in your life). I generally wash the dishes once in the morning. While everyone is getting ready for school or work, I take about five minutes (really, it's that quick), and wash last night's dishes. Since we typically have only bread and coffee for breakfast, breakfast dishes aren't an issue. Then I wash dishes again at night, right before or while I'm cooking dinner. That way lunch's dishes are washed and ready to be used again for dinner. Since by the time everyone's finished eating, I'm usually exhausted, all of dinner's dishes will get washed in those five minutes the next morning. And everyone must keep track of their cups during the day. I'm not washing cups five hundred fucking times, okay?

My only other real advice for housework today is: stay on top of it. It's so, so much easier to do a little bit every day than to do a massive clean once a week. Really, like 30 minutes of cleaning, it doesn't even have to be at once, and your house will feel clean enough to allow you to relax. I do a load of laundry, pick up anything on the floor, and wash the living room and kitchen floors every single day. (I probably wouldn't clean the floors every day, but all of ours are tile and crumbs, crumbs everywhere). I promise, as overwhelmed as you may feel, you have 30 minutes to get all this done, and it will feel like you accomplished a ton.

The second thing I want to talk about is: free time. Yeah, that's right. You'll eventually get free time. It won't be long before you can force those kids to nap at the same time. The older one doesn't want to nap? I tell my oldest one that if he's not going to sleep, I'm not going to force him, but we will turn off all the lights and the tv and be quiet. Use the iPad with no sound or read a book. Whatever. Just lay down and be quiet about it. My kids are very schedule-dependent, so making sure we have quiet time at the same time every day is really important. So what are you going to do with this glorious period of somewhat independence? Whatever you want. But I highly suggest that you plan out what you want to do. I've lost so many nap times because I got lost checking my email and then Facebook and then back to my email and then a random website and then dammit the kids are awake and I didn't actually accomplish anything, nor do I feel any less stressed out. Those days are the worst. I feel like I cheated myself. 

So decide what things you'd like to accomplish during that time. Is there a book you want to read? Want to take a nice hot bath? Get shit ready ahead of time so that you can maximize that 30 minutes or hour or however long it is your kids will nap for. Have a running list of things you'd like to do during this time. This is not the time to catch up on housework or errands. This is your time, mama. I like to paint my nails during my free time. It makes me feel like I'm taking care of myself and my nails actually get to dry before I'm tasked to get someone juice or a fifth snack. I also take online courses with Coursera (no sponsership). I've taken a photography course, a cooking course, and a logistics course. Taking courses helps me keep my mushy mommy brain active and again, I feel like I'm accomplishing something. I don't care what you do during nap time - it's your time. Just enjoy it.

Disclaimer: If your baby is a newborn, just come back to this in three months. This shit doesn't apply yet. Your goal for the first three months is to keep everyone alive. If at the end of every day, everyone is alive - you're winning. I don't care if you haven't showered in two weeks and you're living off of delivery food and coffee. Just enjoy and get through the newborn stage and then you can rejoin humanity.

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