Tips for surviving (and thriving!) in the baby/toddler phase

Or, A Few Things I’ve Learned from Having Four Kids in Five Years

iStock 000006938297XSmall Tips for surviving (and thriving!) in the baby/toddler phaseI started this post as an answer to the most frequently asked question I get, “How do you find time to write?”, but realized that the answer stems from my overall approach to life with little ones. As I’ve said before, since we’re bad at NFP open to the possibility of more children, my husband and I don’t see the baby/toddler years as a brief phase, but rather we’ve come to see having little ones around as just part of life for the long-term. This has prompted us to spend a lot of time thinking and praying about how to not only survive but thrive in a house with multiple children in diapers.

I thought I’d share some of the general “life management” tips we’ve come up with. I don’t offer this as expert advice, and I assure you that I do not walk around feeling like I have it all figured out. These are just some ideas that my husband and I have found helpful that I thought I’d post in case they give anyone else food for thought.

1. It’s all about optimizing

  • Accept that you can’t do it all: My husband is fond of saying that optimizing isn’t about having it all, it’s about being good at not having it all. In a busy phase of life such as this there’s no way that you’re going to be able to scrapbook and garden and can vegetables and blog and try new recipes and maintain lots of close friendships and reply to all your email and learn to sew and watch TV and so on. You will only be able to do a few of the all those things you’d like to do, so it’s important to make conscious decisions about how you spend each hour of the day.

  • Know the goal: In order to make tough choices about what to fit into your life vs. what to leave out, it’s important to clarify what your primary goals for yourself and your family are. For example, our first goal as individuals is to be close to God, our second goal is to draw each other and our family to God. Below that might be other things like accomplishments I’d like to have with my writing or successes my husband would like to see in his career, but they are all secondary to that primary goal. It’s helpful when tough tradeoffs arise to have that clearly defined.
  • Value flexibility: The only thing that’s predictable with a house full of little ones is that it’s unpredictable: kids get sick, babies wake up at night, toddlers have temper tantrums, etc. I’ve found it critical to make sure that all of the activities I’m involved in allow for flexibility. For example, I’m not involved in any ministries that have regularly-recurring meetings, and I recently turned down some interesting writing work because it involved deadlines. In order to be able to make daily choices that put my highest goal first, I need wiggle room to be able to spend more time with my family as the need arises.

2. Housework: Prioritize and seek inspiration

No matter what your goal is for your family, it’s hard to achieve it — or do anything at all — if your house is total chaos.

  • Prioritize: Decide with your family what level of order and cleanliness would be the right balance of bringing everyone peace without making you too overworked. Again, I think it’s really important to make this a conscious decision that you make with your husband rather than (as I tend to do) just doing things done haphazardly as you get to them. For example, my husband and I have decided together that it’s okay with both of us if it takes a few days to get clean laundry put away; however, we’ve decided that dirty dishes in the sink really bother us, so we make sure that at least that is taken care of each day. Spelling this out with my husband has resolved a lot of nagging guilt I used to have about what was and wasn’t getting done each day.

  • Seek inspiration: There are a lot of great books out there with ideas about how to stay on top of all the little daily tasks involved with running a house, such as FlyLady, A Mother’s Rule of Life, Sidetracked Home Executives, etc. It’s unlikely that any one system would be a perfect fit for your family, but many of these books can offer great food for thought if you’re having trouble getting it all done.

3. Know thyself

  • Introvert or extrovert?: It’s been my experience that one of the most important things to know about yourself, especially in a busy time of life, is whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. The most helpful way I’ve heard these concepts defined is in terms of how you recharge your batteries. Which soothes you more when you’re feeling run down: having quiet time to yourself or being around people? If it’s the former you’re more introverted, if it’s the latter you’re more extroverted. When you’re running at 100% each day it’s very important to understand the best way to recharge your batteries…

  • Think about which activities wear you down and which give you energy: This sounds obvious, but I’ve found it surprising how often I assume that something will be no big deal for me just because it’s no big deal for most people. For example, when I was a new mom I went to weekly playdates because it seemed like that’s what all moms enjoyed. I eventually realized that while I also enjoy playdates, as an introvert, they’re much more exhausting for me. Whereas something like writing, which might be hard work for someone else, actually leaves me feeling relaxed and energized. This understanding helped me choose which activities to be involved in and how frequently to be involved in them so that I didn’t end up frazzled.
  • Explain it to your spouse: It’s helped my husband and I support one another to realize what the basic things are that each of us need to stay sane. For example, it’s important that my husband understand that, as an introvert, it is a very high priority that I get regular quiet time to recharge my batteries; whereas the spouse of an extrovert would need to understand how important it is for that person to get regular social interaction.

4. Remember that serving others does not mean running yourself ragged

I’ve mentioned before in posts like this one and this one and this one just what an important realization this has been for me. As a Christian I am called to live a life of selflessness…yet I cannot do truly serve others if I’m not meeting my own needs first.

  • Prayer: This subject has been covered better by other people, but the importance of making time for daily prayer can’t be overstated. You can’t give what you don’t have, and you can’t show Christ to others if you’re not developing a deep relationship with him yourself. Though I struggle with making prayer a priority in my own life, I’ve found that there are incredible fruits when I do. (All my posts on the topic of making time for daily prayer are here.)

  • Food: I used to get through the newborn period by constantly eating foods that would give me a quick “high” like chips, sodas and snack foods. After I cut those out as part of my “Saint Diet,” I found that I not only lost weight but had so much more energy to get through my busy days.
  • Exercise: I will readily admit that this is an area of my life that could use a lot of improvement, but I’ve found that even trying to be more active with the kids by going to parks or even just running around the house with them helps keep me from getting run down physically.
  • Sleep: With my first child I was devoted to the concept of co-sleeping, but after 18 months of trying various ways to make it work I found myself so severely sleep deprived that I was depressed and even becoming a dangerous driver. After I switched to a more scheduled approach with babies sleeping in their cribs, such as the one laid out in Kim West’s book Good Night, Sleep Tight, I saw a 180-degree difference in my happiness, my energy level and my ability to serve my family. However, what works for one person isn’t what will work for everyone. Here’s a great post by a mom of ten talking about how going from strict scheduling to co-sleeping worked wonders for her family. Either way, I think it’s important to make it a priority to get good sleep whenever possible.
  • Fun: I’ve found having a hobby that challenges and excites me is a great source of inspiration that helps get me through those tough times when I feel really overwhelmed. Back to the “Know Thyself” idea, though, I think it’s important to carefully choose activities that give you energy rather than take it. For example, formal photography, scrapbooking and sewing are all hobbies I’d really enjoy, but they would use up a lot of energy. Given my very limited free time I’ve chosen to only have one hobby right now — writing — which is something that is a source of energy for me rather than a drain.

“But how do I know how much time to take for things like rest and prayer and hobbies? How do I know if I’m getting what I legitimately need or just being lazy?” are questions that immediately popped into my mind when I was first introduced to this concept. Which brings us to…

5. Be careful about how you evaluate yourself

  • Schedule “mini New Years” for reflection: It’s sometimes hard to know where to draw the line between giving yourself a needed break and just being lazy. “Do I let the kids watch too much TV?” “Could I read to them more?” The answers to questions like that aren’t always clear, and it’s surprisingly easy (at least for me) to succumb to unnecessary guilt when you can’t do as much because it’s truly a bad week or, on the other hand, to tell yourself that you’re doing fine when you’re actually slacking. It’s hard to discern these things in the heat of the moment, so I’ve found it incredibly helpful to reserve judgment on my overall success in my vocation to three “mini New Years” spread throughout the year (which I talked about more in #3 here). I set aside these days for serious high-level reflection on where I am in my life vs. where I should be, and knowing that I have that helps ward off mommy guilt on a day-to-day basis.

  • Don’t compare yourself to other moms: As Sarah pointed out in this great post, things are totally different for moms with children of different ages, and as Molly Miller pointed out in this inspiring article, we all have a completely unique set of gifts that will make some things harder or easier for us than they are for other women.
  • Consider getting a spiritual director: As I said here, I have found it immensely helpful to have a trained, orthodox spiritual director to help me honestly evaluate how well I am doing as a wife, mother and Christian.

6. Be proactive about creating a support network

As I’ve we talked about last year, I’m a big believer that we weren’t meant to raise kids in isolation. I’ve found it to be critically important to seek out a support network so that our family has extra help if we need it, and so that I can get little breaks here and there when other people are around.

  • If possible, put down roots: People often remark that my husband and I are so lucky that my mom lives nearby and we seem to be surrounded by people able to babysit or lend and extra hand here and there. A large part of that stems from the decision we made to put down roots in this area. It’s meant sacrificing potential money and career advancement for my husband, but the payoff has been huge in terms of building a community and support network for ourselves.

  • Learn to accept imperfect help: I once wrote about the ah-hah moment I had when I realized that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t have any help as much as it was that I didn’t have help that was on my terms. Once I went through the painful process of learning to accept “imperfect” help, even when it meant dishwasher chaos, it opened doors for me to receive so much support that my perfectionism had prevented me from receiving before.
  • Remember that getting help isn’t an all-or-nothing thing: This might not be an option for everyone (as it hasn’t been for us for plenty of periods), but during rough patches it’s worth seeing if a small amount of temporary help might be able to be squeezed into the budget. For example, a couple years ago I was lamenting that I had my hands really full yet couldn’t afford help. My husband pointed out that, while it was true that a full-time nanny wasn’t in the budget, we could set aside a certain amount of money to use to hire someone to come in a few hours a week for a couple of months, just to help me get through this rough phase. We ended up finding a nice lady to come over for part of the morning two days a week for a few weeks, and it was a tremendous help.

7. Partner with your spouse

This is another one that’s probably obvious, but one thing that has been very helpful for our marriage and our family is that my husband and I share with one another in everything we do. For example, we see his career as something we’re both involved in, and we see the writing I do as something we do together: he gets my input on dilemmas at work, I tell him about interesting blog comments and get his feedback on what I’m writing about, etc. As busy as we are, it’s especially helpful not to have a lot of boundaries about “his stuff” and “my stuff,” otherwise it would be hard to do it all and still find time for our marriage.

8. Put God first

All of the above are some practical tips my husband and I have come up with for managing life in a house full of little ones. All of them are ultimately meaningless, though, if the final aim isn’t deeper union with God. We’ve found that it’s so important to remind ourselves that everything we do, down to the smallest action, should somehow, some way, be aimed at bringing us closer to God. Not that we’re living that out perfectly, of course, but knowing that that’s the goal helps us make good choices about what to do with our very limited time, and it helps us support one another to know that we’re both working toward the same thing.

If that makes it sound like we’re ultra-holy people, I assure you we’re not. We have committed to put God first in our lives not only because it’s what we “should” do, but because, after putting everything else first for so many years, we have found it to be true that God is the only source of lasting happiness. Even in our crazy busy lives with four kids under age five, we have found that, compared to our old lives, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

New here? Come say hi on Twitter at @jenfulwiler!



Enter the Conversation...

53 Responses to “Tips for surviving (and thriving!) in the baby/toddler phase”
  1. Martha says:

    Thank you for putting this up! I'd like to ask you – I looked at that sleep book on Amazon and one of the first reviews I saw said it was not for breastfeeding moms, since it recommends too few feedings, which in turn leads to a too-small supply. You have mentioned having supply issues with at least one child – do you think that was a result of using this method? I am not judging if the answer is yes, honestly – I have 4 kids and I know sleep is important (as is breastfeeding. I promise I am honestly just looking for more info as I have a 3 month old right now. Thanks!

  2. Annie says:

    I just wanted to let you know how much your writing has come to mean to me. My husband sent me a link to your blog last week and I have just been devouring every post!

    We have not been very successful with NFP either (Don't get me wrong-I think NFP works, we just don't seem to!) and have 4 children. The oldest just turned 4 in April and our youngest is 4 months. They are the greatest blessings I could imagine, but it has been a bit overwhelming at times. Of course, when I remember that my main goal is sanctity for me and my family, I can relax and enjoy the ride!

    Please know that you and your family are in my prayers. I am so thankful to have found your blog; it is a real inspiration!

  3. brian says:

    Beautifully written…cant wait for your book

  4. tootie says:

    I don't have kids, but I still found this post to be helpful! I forget sometimes that I can't do it all, and that prioritizing makes it easier for the things I can/want to do.

    Thanks for writing this! I always learn so much from you.

  5. Shelly W says:

    This is such a great post. I sure wish I had known and done all of these things when my kids were toddlers–sure would have saved me a lot of heartache and misery.

    I especially liked what you said about knowing yourself–introvert/extrovert–and what gives you energy. I could have saved myself a lot of playdate "angst" by avoiding them like the plague if I had known then that I was really an introvert trying to be an extrovert.

    And writing. Boy, I've learned in the past year that that brings me so much energy too. Sewing, scrapbooking, all that stuff just wears me down.

    You are WAY ahead of the game, Jennifer, because you've done some careful thinking about yourself and the kind of life you want to lead. I applaud you for that.

  6. Anne Marie says:

    Partnering with my husband has been so fundamental to our marriage and in our case since we work together to our business as well. Now that we have a son it’s so natural for us to check in with each other that the adjustment to parenting an older child has been no big deal in fact really natural.

    One of the greatest benefits of partnering over the years is the trust and confidence I have in him and his insights, decisions, etc. and visa versa. I know that this man has my back through good times and bad, even if he and I are having a rough patch I know I can count on him to act in ways that have the best interests of our marriage and by extension our business and now our child at heart, and that brings amazing peace of mind, a huge blessing in life.

  7. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary says:

    Martha -

    "You have mentioned having supply issues with at least one child – do you think that was a result of using this method?"

    I don't think so, because I don't really follow her guidelines re: feeding that closely. The main thing I found helpful from her was gently encouraging babies to go to sleep on their own early on. I do on-demand nursing but always end up having to supplement with formula anyway.

    Thanks for your question!

  8. Christine says:

    Your post inspires me – even though I am just a busy student.

    I really can't have everything: very good grades, being involved at the local parish / university parish, meeting friends, reading good books, doing art, party like students should do, … and so on….

    Even though I'd love to, but the result would be something like a burn-out…

  9. Kathleen says:

    As a new mother (my son is three months), I want to thank you for this post. Similarly to Annie, my husband forwarded this to me and it seems to come at the perfect moment. I really have been struggling to find a good balance between catering to my son and finding time "on my own." I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  10. Kim says:

    What a timely post. I so thank you for writing it.

  11. Kris says:

    I'm so glad you figured this all out now. I nearly lost my mind when I had 4 under 5 because I had such wacky expectations of myself.
    I still struggle with it these days, but not so much ( with the addition of 5 more kids it was kind of sink or swim).

    Great post!

  12. Michelle says:

    I have a 20 month old and a 4 month old. Getting stuff done has been a challenge to say the least. Thanks for the great post.

  13. Angie says:

    Great post!

  14. jrbaab says:

    As someone who's not a mother and may never have children, I found this post very helpful. I am one of seven though, so I have at least witnessed what situations and sentiments a lot of children create in a house. Thanks Jen,
    John

  15. Lenae says:

    As a mama to two little boys (ages 3 and 1) with another arriving in September, I gobbled this up! I am terrible about trying to do everything and have it all, and this gave me some great ideas to streamline the chaos and glorify God (while maintaining my own sanity :) amid the pandemonium.

  16. Joy says:

    Such a good post. Filing this one in my files (we too have had four in five years…) but seriously? I laughed so hard at the "bad at NFP" comment (our fifth is due in July) that my husband had to come over and see what was so funny. He cracked up too and said 'yup, that's us!'. He likes the article too, by the by.

  17. Sarahndipity says:

    This is such a fantastic post!! I think you and I are similar tempermentally (introverts, etc.) and a lot of the stuff in your post is stuff I've learned myself, from the "Good Night, Sleep Tight" book to the idea of putting down roots somewhere. You also had some great ideas I hadn't thought of.

    You should seriously write a book about time management for Catholic moms (when you have time, of course!) I could see each of these paragraphs being a whole chapter.

  18. Christine says:

    Lots of great stuff in this post Jennifer. I forwarded it to my husband.

    We're not the poster children for NFP either. But I get 18 months before my fertility returns after each baby – which helps a great deal. That's only because we co-sleep and the baby nurses so much at night. (That's not why we started sleeping with the baby; but it is a nice side benefit.)

    So, I guess either way you do the sleeping there are pluses and minuses! Pick your poison? (Or more positively, choose which upsides work best for your family :-))

  19. KimP says:

    Another very thoughtful and insightful post, Jennifer. Thank you. I'm not married, nor do I have children, but your concepts apply to everyone. I, too, am an introvert, and I thought there was something wrong with me when a night out after work left me more exhausted than anything else. Everyone else was having fun – why wasn't I? I must have some deficient DNA. Now I know that I just recharge differently, and I am more comfortable sharing with others on a one-on-one basis. Now I don't feel like a freak because I would rather go to mass, sew, or watch British comedies on PBS on Saturday night.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Funny that I have found that even though I AM an extrovert…sewing challenges really recharge my batteries!
    Your posts are always enlightening.
    Thank you so much. I love the mother's rule of life…I re-read it constantly (because I have to).

    Re: NFP…the Creighton model which is known as NaPro Technology
    (developed at the Paul IV center in Nebraska) can be very effective even with those who have a tough time with the other methods. I have a Napro counsellor and chart daily, but only need to see the Doc. when necessary. After a miscarriage this year, NaPro helped me get to 16 weeks curently! BTW: mine are
    10, 8, & 4…with miscarriages between two & three and earlier this year…we COULD have had five under eleven…whew!
    Anyway, as a homeschooler, this year should be exciting…new baby in Nov. a 5th grader, a 3rd grader and a pre-schooler…pray for me!

  21. Judy says:

    Jennifer, thank you so much for this post. My challenges are a different from yours–I will have a 12th grader and a 1-year- old next school year with 3 in between and one away at college. But I have been very down on myself about how disorganized I feel this year with the baby and our homeschool and feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. Your post reminded me to sit down with my husband and prioritize. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I liked it so much I linked to it on my blog, which is mostly just read by my mom and mother-in-law, but we all can use a little pep talk once in awhile, I think. :-)

  22. Anthony says:

    I've only just found this blog but am so glad I did. You have a God-given talent for writing, but what really makes this blog come alive is your honesty in all things. I write as a cradle-Catholic who was lapsed for many years, before truly finding faith for the first time a few years ago. My wife is a non-Catholic, with little apparent interest in God, and I am trying to find a way of discretely(!) guiding her towards this blog. Please keep writing – it is truly inspirational.

  23. NC Sue says:

    I have not kids, but there is so much wisdom in your post that I plan to reread it several times; its message seems to be to be applicable to folks of any vocation, at any stage of life.

    Thank you!

  24. JMB says:

    Wonderful post! I have four children who are now older. The only thing I would add, however, is to try not to complain too much about your life with young children. I've seen first hand how sad it can be for the children when their mother just sits and complains about her life. It's not so bad!!! Yes, I had some difficult days when my babies were little, but I also had some wonderful times. It's nice to be able to spend the morning in a beautiful park, or take the kids to the library. These things are good! You don't want to look back someday and regret that you didn't enjoy it more. Children grow up so quickly and this season of your life is short. Very short.

  25. Martha says:

    Any thoughts on how to manage when you are an introvert with an introvert husband and extrovert child? (That's what did homeschooling in for me.) Surely someone figured it out?

  26. Angela says:

    Amen!! The past two weeks, I have found that just being a homebody and not feeling compelled to run to every playgroup and activity around town, to take a break from the zillions of errands during the day (and run them in the evening when my husband is home with the kiddos) has reduced my stress a lot and helped me be a more patient, attentive, loving mom (plus the house is tidier, and the kids have the time and peace to take the naps they need in their own beds, not in a carseat! everyone is more well-rested and happier.)

    Thanks again.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I love your blog. Read it nearly every day. I completely agree with this post, as I have discovered much of these lessons raising my four young children. I have note though, that as a cradle Catholic – we don't get spiritual directors. Those are usually saved for the converts only. It's just the way of the American Catholic Church. I would love to have one, but they are generally busy helping to receive non-Catholics into the Church. They tend to leave the life long Catholics to themselves – since they had all those years of CCD and such and were raised by Catholic parents. That's just my two cents on how it is quite difficult for a cradle Catholic to get such a thing – and grandmothers are generally not available and find it strange to take on such a role.

    Again, love your blog. Good luck with the book.

  28. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    This is an excellent and extremely helpful post. Thank you (I especially need to work on accepting "imperfect" help!)

    Blessings,
    Kate

  29. Tara Sz. says:

    I love this post. Love, love, love. Jen – it's awesome to look back over your posts and marvel at the spiritual evolution. Awesome and humbling. Thank you for sharing, I will be printing this out and referring back to it as my husband and I start growing our little family (number one is due in seven weeks!)

    And boy are we readers lucky that blogging gives you energy. Hope that stays true for a long time.

    God bless you. :)

  30. Jeanine Juth says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Trying to homeschool kids and juggle a 2 year old is much harder than I'd anticipated and you've encouraged me so much! As an NFP teacher, I had to laugh at your comment. My experience is that when a couple is REALLY motivated to wait, NFP is very effective. We can always tell in the first session how motivated they are – especially the ones who follow up 4 or 5 times! A lot of others just learn it in case they'll need it some day, but they have no reason to postpone a pregnancy right now. I just have to say that, because I have friends who have 6 or 7 kids in 9 years and they tell others NFP doesn't work. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but they need to be careful who they say this to. It is not a great witness to Catholics on B.C. who might be open to trying NFP. Remember that 95% of Catholics are using B.C. and we need to stand up and be a witness to God's plan! It is ok to say that we don't strictly follow the NFP rules (and that's ok!) but that those who need to postpone pregnancy for a serious reason and follow the 'rules' of NFP are 99.9% successful. The biggest block we see in Catholics is the fear of having 'tons of kids'. The same couples who intend to use NFP to postpone pregnancy, often wind up having more kids, because their hearts become more open.

  31. 'Becca says:

    This post is a really great combination of helpful instruction with balanced "find what works for you"-ness! It's refreshing after reading so many judgmental statements about parenting from one viewpoint or another.

    For NFP, have you tried saliva ferning? For me it was much easier than temperature charting. See ovulens.com for some explanation and a handy gadget–but if you happen to have a microscope, you wouldn't need the gadget.

  32. Susan Thompson says:

    This post could make a great book!

  33. LivingByDailyGrace says:

    This was a great post. My dh sent it to me. I have 6 children from 7 mos to 10 years old. I remember the days when I had 4 under 5. Woaw!!! It does get a little easier. . .espeically if you keep being bad at NFP (that was a great comment!!). My children and I are preparing for my inlaws to arrive tomorrow. I have been sick this week so I am WAY behind. AND I needed to finish sewing skirts for my older girls for our family pictures next week (inlaws are staying in my craftroom.) I put post it notes up all over the wall with jobs and the amount of money I would pay for each job. My house is nearly clean and I haven't lifted a finger (although I am now broke. It was cheaper than a cleaning service.) I could never do that 5 years ago. Enjoy those babies at every age. It goes so fast. My 10 yod is already showing signs of growing up too fast. I wish I could stop or at least slow it down. Oh, i did want to mention that this list is not only great for those with young little ones. I walked away with some great food for thought as I still have little ones. God Bless.

  34. Melanie B says:

    So many great tips!

    I am so glad there is at least one other mother out there who finds co-sleeping just doesn't work. I tried, I really believed it in. But I got crankier and crankier. It got to the point where I was starting to worry about being a danger to her because I'd get so frazzled and even angry. I could never actually get decent sleep while she was nursing, it became agony to lie there waiting for her to stop so I could sleep. And she kicked and squirmed, a very restless sleeper. I'm a light sleeper and have a hard enough time sleeping in bed with a husband who snores. Once we moved the baby out of the bed we both got so much more rest. And she's a very happy girl who sleeps through the night beautifully. I'm so glad I got over the guilt and did what worked for us.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Why is "Put God first" the VERY LAST tip on the list?

  36. Shannon says:

    "optimizing isn't about having it all, it's about being good at not having it all" Oh, wow. That is GOOD. Please tell your husband that he now actually appears in my quote book! ;)

  37. Kenj says:

    Great stuff. You are a wise woman!

  38. Melanie B says:

    "Why is "Put God first" the VERY LAST tip on the list?"

    That's good writing. When you want to emphasize something you can either state it first or state it last. The final item on a list therefore should be the most important item. By putting it last, you make it the last thing that the reader reads, the one thing they are most likely to remember.

  39. Jessica says:

    Jen, thanks for writing this. I had four in four years and I'm nodding along with just about everything on here (and I just linked to it back on my blog).

    I agree especially with the one about knowing if you're introverted or extroverted. I'm an introvert, and have become even more so since I had children. I've learned that I owe my kids and husband my "people energy" before I owe it to anyone else, and that I don't have the luxury of wasting that limited resource on other people.

    Wait, that sounds cold. :) What I mean is that I've realized my limitations, and have decided that if I need to do less social stuff outside the home so that my family gets the cheerful me instead of the wasted me, that that's okay. God made me a wife and a mom before he made me a party-goer, you know? It doesn't mean I never leave my house, it means I'm careful about what I choose to do. As an introvert, I don't have the luxury of being indiscriminately social. If I go to too many outside events, I get cranky at home, and that's not fair to my family.

  40. Monica says:

    Thanks for all this great info. I only have 2 kids (almost-3 and 1), but some days I still feel like I'm losing my mind! Reading this has given me some good tips that I plan on putting into practice (the 'accept imperfect help' really struck a chord). Thanks again!

  41. Carrie says:

    Thanks for this post- I just had my second child, so now have an almost 4-week-old and a 22-month-old. And adding that second kid has had quite the effect on my life and our household, and is going to require some reorganization of my priorities and life scheduling. Your suggestions are great, particularly the "accept imperfect help" part and the focus on prayer- both things I really need to work on!

  42. Melanie B says:

    I just wanted to say that I've been pondering #6 and accepting imperfect help. Especially as I look forward to the birth in two weeks and my parents coming to help out. I realize that I'm looking forward to my mom's visit and yet dreading receiving all that imperfect help. Bracing myself for dishes put up in the wrong places that it will take us weeks to find, for food served that isn't quite how I'd make it, for groceries that aren't exactly what I'd have bought and all the things that happen when I am not fit enough to run my house. I know I am a far from perfect housekeeper so it is ridiculous to criticize anyone else's imperfections. Still, I struggle with things not being done my way, with not being in control. And with accepting imperfect help.

    Thank you for giving me a catch-phrase to remind myself when I feel the irritation rising to be thankful for the help rather than irritated at the imperfections. To see the dishes done rather than the ones that got left in the sink, the table cleared and not the floor unswept. I'm still working on it; but at least I'm making some progress.

  43. Birthblessed says:

    Hey I live in Austin, too, I had 4 in 5 years (then 2 more in the next 5 years, then 1 more)…. This is the 2nd time in a week I've stumbled upon your blog from links at other blogs. Maybe we should have coffee sometimes. :) Are you on Austinmama?

  44. Anand says:

    I liked your post very much, even though I am NOT a mom (actually I am the other half!).
    Quite an insight. Thank you for sharing.

  45. Colleen says:

    Absolutely loved the comment about not being good at NFP – but being open to having more children. I agree wholeheartedly with your post, as a mother of 5 in 5 years, and optimizing is just the word for it. For those interested in getting babies to sleep, my husband and I have had wonderful success with Babywise by Gary Ezzo, even while breastfeeding.

  46. Mary Elizabeth says:

    As another mommy of 4 under 5 (my oldest turns 5 in August, my baby is 3 mos old) I am so excited to have found your blog. I too get this question a lot and never quite know how to answer, thanks for helping me think a little more deeply about this!

  47. Jamie says:

    So, I don’t know know if college students are the equivalent to toddlers, but if this post is any indication, they very well might be…

    I’m a FOCUS missionary, meaning, in a nutshell, that I do outreach-focused campus ministry. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, but there was not a thing in this post that doesn’t apply to me in some way, or that I can’t change a word or two to make it apply to me.

    Now to just implement this, and the 7 (ok, it’s only 5…) other related blog posts of yours I have tabbed right now. :)
    Jamie recently posted..FOCUS vision night event: "It’s your move!"

  48. Greetings! I’ve been following your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!
    Genesis Software recently posted..Genesis Software

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