I have been wanting to write this post for the longest time, but I was either procrastinating or too busy. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that my youngest daughter was hospitalized for flu and cough. To be accurate, it was upper respiratory tract infection which obstructed her breathing and feeding ability. We stayed in the hospital for nearly a week and have returned home last week. That experience had certainly cost me my sanity.
Well…, my friends and relatives have been asking me whether I am handling the 4 kids well (age 7, 6, newborn, newborn) and I thought perhaps I should share it in my blog. However, I am taking the longest ever to start typing the first paragraph because I could not decide how to approach the post. I don’t want to sound like a whiny housewife…. Finally, I decided to break the daily details into tips and hopefully, my friends who are pregnant or facing similar situations will find these tips useful. Before I proceed further, I must kudos to the mummies with no live-in helper. I saw a number of these mummies on Instagram and they have 4 or more children. I have one helper and yet I am struggling…
So how did I keep my sanity?
I am referring to breastfeeding here. In the ideal world of breastfeeding mums, the babies should be fully fed by breast milk. I had spent many waking hours finding ways to increase my supply, which was and is low. Some mummies may feel lesser of themselves if their milk supply is not sufficient. I behaved the same way when I had my first child because my supply was low and my son was fussy. As a result, I suffered from mild depression. I was definitely not happy during the first 2 months of my son’s life.
As for my second child, I found the right strategy to breastfeed and thus had no issue with feeding my daughter. Click my post here if you are keen to know my journey then. It became sort of a status symbol for me that my daughter was drinking breast milk for 8 months.
With the arrival of my 3rd and 4th child, I was somehow cognizant that I should not be so hung up about whether the babies are fully on breast milk. This is because I was more worried that I may fall into depression given that I may be overwhelmed by the task of raising 4 children (under 7) with the help of a live-in helper and a frequent flyer husband.
Indeed, my supply is currently not enough for the 2 babies and we are partially relying on formula. I was recently upset again for having insufficient milk. As mentioned earlier, my youngest daughter was hospitalized. Because she was only 3 months old and had no fever, the doctor did not prescribe any medication and tactfully suggested the baby to rely on the antibodies in mummy’s breast milk to recovery. No matter how cautiously the doctor made the suggestion, I immediately started to dwell on my inability to produce sufficient milk. Fortunately, it took me just a couple of days to get out of this negativity.
As of now, I am still trying to increase my milk supply. I accept my inadequacy and I am not ashamed to announce it here. In the grand scheme of things, ensuring that my entire family is well taken care of is far more important than stressing over milk supply and feeding my own ego.
Stay positive and calm
Newborns being newborns, they cry all the time. Some happen to be fussier than the others. I have 2 newborns. They often cry together. When this happens, their thunderous cries fill the entire flat, sometimes coupled with quarrels or complaints from the elder ones. At times, my head starts to spin. I just have to let them cry for a couple of minutes and numbed myself from the cries and the fights. This approach helps me calm down and think logically of their needs. Are the babies hungry, sleepy or simply looking for comfort? Or perhaps their diapers are dirtied? Are the elder one fighting for my attention, or they have a real conflict that they need me to step in and resolve.
These situations are just temporary.
Babies are only babies for the first year of their lives. We have to stay present and savour the moments, sweet or bitter. They will grow up and become independent. In fact, before I know it, they no longer need me.
A little trick I use to motivate myself is by visiting the Instagram or blog by others moms with many kids. They often demonstrate their resolve to handle their daily challenges. Whether or not these mummies represent themselves 100% truthfully, I choose to let them spur me to continue fighting my own daily challenges.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
With 2 newborns to care for and 2 older ones to feed and guide, we have very little time left for housework. In fact, we only do the necessary such as laundry, ironing work clothes and uniforms, cooking and cleaning up, vacuum and mop to ensure that the floor, which our kids roll on daily, is free from dirt and bacteria.
Other than doing away with the non-essential, we also try to do more while using the same amount of time and the same number of hands.
For instance, we change the way we cook. We incorporate more steaming, grilling and baking into our cooking methods to avoid time-consuming cleaning after the cook, and we try to cook just once a day. This means we will prepare the dishes in the morning so that we eat the same food for lunch and dinner. However, there are some dishes such as stir-fried leafy vegetables which may not last well into the evening and thus can be prepared only in the evening. This also means we don’t usually eat deep-fried food that will require cleaning up thereafter. Deep fried food is unhealthy in the first place.
Some friends asked why don’t I just order tingkat or take-out to save ourselves all the trouble. I can’t bring myself to do this all the time because hawker and tingkat food simply score low when it comes to healthy eating. And I still insist on minimally processed food at home.
I am very grateful to my helper who is able to multitask. For instance, she would bring the baby chair to the kitchen to entertain the baby while handling the laundry, or carry one baby with the help of a sling and vacuum the floor at the same time. As for me, I often allow one of my babies to latch while going through my son’s school work. Multitasking is actually hard work when one needs to put in extra focus and effort to get things done at the same time.
Be shameless, ask for help when required
My hubby is a frequent traveller. Without him at home, it is almost impossible for 2 adults to get 4 kids to bed by 9 pm. These days, I would shamelessly ask my family members to come and help me. Fortunately, I have a sweet and caring sister who tries her best to be around for me when my hubby is out-of-town. My mother and mother-in-law also make special arrangements to come over and help out as and when I ask them too.
I believe it is extremely important for all mummies to set aside time for self-care, i.e. exercise, sleep and beauty.
When we exercise, our body release chemicals known as endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in our body. This not only releases stress, it also helps us feel good about our body. We may think we are slimmer, fitter and healthier. I love yoga, so these days I create my own poses to practice baby-wearing yoga. Another way I find time to exercise is by fetching my eldest girl to and fro school.
I am maximizing my multi tasking skill here. By walking her to school, I create time to spend with her, create time to exercise (because her school is located over a hill) and babysit one of the babies by pushing her along in the pram. No way I will let my helper take care of 2 babies. I need her to keep her sanity too!
Sleep is currently a luxury to me as the 2 babies continue to wake up a few times a night. In an earlier post (the French Way of Parenting), I wrote about sleep training and delaying instant gratification. I got this idea from an author Pamela Druckerman who suggested that we should not pick up a baby right after she starts crying at night. While I still agree with her thoughts, I realize this tactic doesn’t apply to twins at all, unless they are in different rooms. My babies share the same cot. If I don’t pick up the crying one immediately, I will soon have to handle 2 crying babies in the middle of the night! Need to just roll with the punches and get on with life. I am sure the situation will get better as the babies grow. Hope they will sleep through the night soon.
Well, this is how I keep my sanity. This is a relatively long post as compared to my usual ones. I hope it is not too whiny and whatever I mention here can be helpful to you in some ways.
For the curious,
If you enjoy this post, you may be interested in my earlier post on my first month with 4 kids at home.