Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Advice on Preparing for Another Little One

A friend asked me this question:

Pass on some advice of how you prepared for your fourth child or maybe what you wish you would have done or prepared for after adding the 4th child. Anything that made the transition a little smoother? Maybe things you trained the older kids to do, or anything you did to organize a little better. Any verses that encouraged you along the way?

Here was my response:

I’m so glad you’re asking for advice because I feel like we moms do a lot of reinventing the wheel. Everything I say here is just a suggestion and what I did, not supposed to be a step-by-step plan to follow.

When I went from having 2 to 3 kids, I had way too many activities going on and that made life stressful for everyone. We went to story time at the library each week, MOPS, women’s bible study at church, play groups, and eveentually joined a home school co-op. Every day of the week we had something.

But when I was pregnant with my fourth, I decided that I was not going to repeat that experience. One thing that was helpful was that we moved to Colorado half way through my pregnancy, which meant that I was automatically removed from all commitments. But I still had to resolve to stay out of any new ones. The home school co-op was one thing I knew for sure I didn’t want to continue. We loved it for many reasons, but the prep time was heavy for me.

I think women’s Bible studies are wonderful, but they are for certain seasons of life. MOPS is another great idea but it is undermining what it is trying to accomplish if it is stressing you out.

Basically, my philosophy was to have absolutely no daytime commitments after the baby was born. I figured I could always add any back in after I felt capable, but to start with nothing. This was wonderful and made life so simple for us.

We should view all of the little things we do as service to God. It’s not only that going to the women’s Bible study is a spiritual thing to do, but nursing a baby, changing 12 diapers a day, bathing a baby, washing spit-up clothes, all those things are also good and spiritual.

We need the Word every day, but we have to learn to read the Word in a way that fits with the stage of life God has called us. It will mean things like having the Bible open during each meal, to catch a verse here and there while you eat. Or reading while breastfeeding, (after it’s established at least.) And don’t forget to share with the little one’s around you what you are reading. Putting it in words that they can understand benefits our understanding as well.

A few years back, I read a post somewhere (can’t remember where) about incorporating the Bible into our daily lives as mothers and about allowing our children to share in what we are learning. The writer said something along the lines of: “If you toddler wanders into your bedroom where you’re trying to have your quiet time, instead of acting all annoyed that your precious time has been spoiled, act excited to see them, bring them up on your lap, and enthusiastically explain what you are reading about.”

After reading this, Abigail, who was 2 at the time, came in while I was reading about Moses and I told her the story in her own words.

After this day, Abigail would ask to hear the story over and over, so I would often tell it to her when we were driving in the car. It got to be a habit that as soon as we got in the car, Abigail would say, “Tell me the story of Moses.”

Naomi had heard me telling them the story so often, that from the time she was 1, she could fill in some of the details. I would start by saying, “Once upon a time there was a young woman named…” and Naomi, barely able to talk, would chime in: “Jachabed.”

I tried to highlight the themes of the story, not just the details. Things like: “Jachabed was so scared that the soldiers might hurt her little boy, so she had to put her faith in God as she prepared a basket for her baby.” And: “Look how God provided for Moses. Do you think it was an accident that the princess came down to the water at just that moment?” I felt like I was just beginning to understand the verse: “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

To this day, the story of Moses is their very favorite story (next to the birth of Jesus.) Nearly every day Abigail and Naomi climb into a basket or box, pull a blanket over them, and play Moses. One of them is supposed to be Miriam watching over the one in the basket. (Naomi isn’t always the sweetest Miriam, she’s usually dumping the basket over and yelling, “My turn to be Moses.” )

All that to say, don’t feel bad about having to miss out on Bible studies, but incorporate it into your home more instead.

As far as chores go, after trying numerous different charts and plans, I finally found a system that I like. I have each child that is old enough, be in charge of a room of the house in addition to their bedroom. A child of 5 or 6 is capable of going around the living room, picking up toys and putting board books back on the shelf, straightening throw pillows, etc.

I like to keep each child on their “designated area,” as we call it, for several months. It takes at least a week of training before they are actually good at it and independent. I have found I have to be patient with the training process and not shoot for perfection. If we are having people over, I have to redo some of the work, but that’s not really the point. The point is training them to be good cleaners and responsible for their work.

One thing I like about them having separate rooms is that I know who to come to if the work is shoddy. Furthermore, when I tell three kids to go clean the playroom, I constantly hear, “So and so isn’t working, I’m having to do it all.” But I found that my children work better when they alone are responsible for the outcome.

Meal planning and list making are essential to running a big family with a new baby. I have found that I do best when I have a time set aside to do my meal planning each week. For example, every Friday afternoon, plan while kids nap. There was a time that I repeated the same menu every two weeks. This made shopping and cooking real easy. Some husbands may object, but I think that most men care much more about having a wife that is relaxed and a happy baby, than they do in having a varied meal plan.

Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from service temporarily. I was so thankful that Chris was not teaching Sunday school and we weren’t on any leadership roles after both Abigail and Naomi were born. This was temporary: now we are involved in many things, but it was a good to step back for a season.

Here are some Organizing Toy Tips.

God bless you as you serve him in your care of His little ones.


adoptionroad said...

That is so helpful Leslie! Even for those with only two children. FYI.. my husband would be delighted if I had more than three meals I rotated through. Would you mind sharing your two week meal list?

Anna said...

This was very encouraging to me--thank you!

Nikki said...

Leslie, thanks for writing this. With little boy #2 on the way in May, I wanted to ask you what rules you put in place with regard to a new baby. Things such as don't climb on Mommy during nursing, no touching/poking the babies face, etc. I think it would be great to start out with some parameters instead of just finding out the hard way.

Rebecca Nugent said...

Thanks for this advice and encouragement, Leslie.