If I were to write a post about parenting advice. I’d probably say that I believe it’s important to spend one-on-one time with each child or to keep a spare bag with diapers and wipes in the car just in case, but that’s all advice you’ve probably heard from your mom, your BFF, or the latest issue of Parents magazine.
This post is more about the lesser known “parenting hacks” that I’ve myself implemented and they’ve changed my life. It may sound extreme, but they are undeniably game changers. Maybe you’ve done all of them or none at all, but I’m hoping that at least a handful of them may be useful to another parent. *throws up parenting gang sign*
Okay, here we go.
1) CHILDREN ARE CHILDISH
I know that seems like a redundant statement to make, but there are times that I feel guilty for being irritated with their behavior or dreading playing another round of Candyland. But there’s a reason why they like that stuff and I don’t, and it’s not because I’m a boring parent. It’s because I’m a grown-up that likes grown-up things and they’re little kids that like little kid things.
When they’re in the middle of having a loud tickle fight with each other or rolling bouncy balls down the hallway, my knee-jerk reaction is to get them to stop. I’ve had to pause for a few seconds and ask myself, “Are they doing anything wrong? Or are they just being children?”
Two little girls singing different songs at the same time is discordant to me, but to them… they’re better than any Brandy + Monica “The Boy is Mine” harmony. I also think that I suffer from sensory overload pretty easily, and that’s not their fault, either.
Ear plugs. I kid you not, and before you call DCF on me, ear plugs (the neon orange foamy kind that you can buy at any drugstore) do not eliminate all sound. They just take the edge off the high pitched noises, the thump-thump-thumping down the hallway, and um, let’s be honest… any whining. I can still hear them… but I’m not so overwhelmed by the noise.
I also do something similar with earbuds + music at bedtime that I’ll explain further below.
2) GET A BABY CARRIER.
Or a baby carrier, but my favorite is the Ergo. When my daughter was smaller, I used a lilleBaby, which I liked very much because it has a “newborn setting” on it. I ended up giving that one to my friend and I use my Ergo every day, multiple times a day. I strap my little one onto my back and I clean the kitchen or vacuum the living room or go for a walk with my kids or shop. If you’re newly pregnant and are only going to register for one thing on your baby registry, make it a really good carrier (like the Ergo!).
3) STRAP THEM DOWN.
Whoaaaa ho hoooohhhh. No running for the duct tape just yet. I don’t do this often, but if we’re having a rough afternoon, I strap all of the girls into their carseats, and we go for a drive. I put on a kid friendly CD (love Jewel’s “The Merry Goes Round” album), and run any possible drive-thru errands. Mostly, this means the bank, but one day I’m hopeful for a drive thru Target.
YES AND AMEN. This isn’t the most gas-friendly option, but in a pinch, it’s an easy way to stop fighting (no one can even touch each other), get them to mellow out a little (babies + children love new scenery), and keep you from losing your cool. I drive a few towns over to get to a Starbucks drive-thru to order a shaken black tea lemonade and sip.
4) BABY EINSTEIN ON YOUTUBE, Y’ALL.
I know babies aren’t really supposed to watch television before the age of 2, but I asked my pediatrician about it, and he swears up and down that 30 minutes of television for a one year old is not going to do any detrimental damage. And as a mom who has done this with the two older ones, I don’t feel an ounce of guilt doing it for Minnie. If you need someone to make you feel comfortable about this, CHILD, I RELEASE YOU.
Read also: The Importance of Reading To Children
Anyway, once in awhile, I pull her highchair into my office, strap her in, put a toy on her tray, and “split” my computer screen in half. We watch Baby Einstein on the left side, and the right side goes to whatever project I’m working on at the moment. We sit, we chat, we marvel at the puppets for 20 minutes or so, and I get a little bit of work done.
5) TOSS THE ART PROJECTS.
Well, sort of. I heard about this app, downloaded it, and I love it. When my girls come home from school with art projects and pictures, I open up Artkive (for iPhone, not sure if it’s compatible with other phones yet), take a photo, and just enter the info. When you set it up, you put in the names of your kids and their ages or school years, so I just have to choose which child and all of that info populates for me.
I name the piece of art (The Universe!), and boom. Done. It’s uploaded and later on I can order a book made with all of their art in it. The books can be kind of pricey (at first glance, I haven’t really checked), but at this point, I don’t have to think, glue anything, or figure out any particular website’s photo layout software. I’m also no longer drowning in paper clutter.
A still keep a few, but most of the projects get “filed in G,” (code for thrown in the garbage or recycled) but their memories live on! THIS IS SPARTA!
6) IMPLEMENT A QUIET TIME.
When my daughter goes down for her afternoon nap, the other two kids have quiet time. They get split up into two different rooms (usually one in the living room and one in my bedroom) with a couple of toys. I put the timer on for forty minutes, and they’re allowed to quietly play or read books. Every few days or so, Sophie tucks herself in and takes a little nap. It’s a nice way for them to unwind after a day of school (and another hour of play), and have a little alone time. I used to do quiet activity bins regularly, and I’m thinking about utilizing them again. But right now they mostly read, play with blocks and puzzles, and color on a Magna Doodle. PS. Magna Doodle? Great investment. Catch ‘em on sale, and buy one for each kid.
7) CLEAN WHILE THE KIDS ARE AWAKE.
Say whattttt. I know this flies in the face of every joke on Pinterest about how “cleaning while the kids are awake is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”
BUT… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put the girls to bed, hopeful for a little time to myself, and then I realize that I need to spend the next hour and a half cleaning because the house is a bomb. It’s kind of disheartening.
We have three basic cleanup times throughout the day. They have before school chores, before quiet time chores, and before bed chores. These chores are really, really simple. I have a list of chores for toddlers + preschoolers, but their before school chores include things like 1) putting their breakfast dishes in the sink and 2) putting their pajamas on their bed and their undies in the hamper. Before quiet time (which is not long after they get home from school), they make sure their lunch boxes are in the kitchen, their shoes are in the shoe basket, and any toys are put away.
The hardest hitter is the before bed time chores. We loosely start after dinner. Jack works late often, so I’m usually the one dealing with dinner/bedtime by myself. Real talk – sometimes it’s really frustrating. I think most parents will chime in and say that this is the most difficult part of the day. For me, it’s the time where I’m most apt to get frustrated or raise my voice. 🙁 Both things I don’t want to do.
I put earbuds in and play some music. It’s low enough where I can still hear my kids (and they’re with me this whole time, if anyone’s concerned about safety), but it’s a barrier against general kid-loudness and sensory overload. Y’all know me as a hip hop lover, but at nighttime, I switch on Vivaldi or Shane & Shane on Pandora. The music on the Shane & Shane station lines up with a lot of my spiritual beliefs, so I find it soothing while I’m heading into a particularly rough time of the day.
With music in my ears, a baby on my back, and a three year old and a four and a half year old by my side, we go through room to room and quietly pick up. Toys get put away, dishes go in the sink. They help me load dirty laundry into a basket, and all of us take the trek into the basement. They take turns pushing buttons on the washer/dryer, loading and unloading. They sweep and they take turns vacuuming (with my help). Everyone gets their own little rag and we wipe down the kitchen table. This isn’t abuse or child labor. Remmy + Sophie really, truly enjoy helping. It’s spending time with Mommy 🙂 and helping with the cleaning because “we all live here and we have to share and respect the space.”
Pajamas, teeth brushing, going potty. I pull Minnie off my back, and get her ready for bed. We spend the last few minutes hanging out in their room, quietly playing for a bit. I take my ear buds out and give them each a turn to listen to the music (THEY LOVE THIS!) before tuck-in time.
When all of the kids are in bed, I still have some cleaning to do, but it’s not nearly as bad as if I just let them wreak havoc and waited until bedtime to clean.
Parenting hacks for newborns that I don’t recommend
Let the baby cry
Many people urge parents to let their children cry so that their tempers are tamed at a young age. However, according to a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, newborns who cry excessively during their first months of life have more difficulties controlling their emotions by the time they reach the age of ten months.
It’s also common knowledge that babies who cry a lot are 10 times more likely to develop ADHD. The issue is that weeping raises cortisol levels and puts the baby under stress, which is harmful to both emotional and physical development. When babies cry when their needs aren’t addressed, they’re more likely to grow up to be insecure.
Not carrying baby in your arm
Some moms are advised not to carry their infants in their arms since they will become accustomed to it. However, babies require physical contact, particularly with their mothers, because it provides them with a sense of safety and protection.
Body-to-body contact is almost as important to babies as food.
In reality, an Austrian physician named René Spitz conducted a research in 1945 that found that infants who were admitted and separated from their mothers for only three months had a greater death rate than infants who were maintained in contact with their mothers. Moreover, despite receiving adequate medical care, these newborns displayed sorrow, an inability to eat, sleeplessness, weight loss, mutism, and even mental retardation.