I owe you all a more detailed recap of How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, but two lessons from the book have been key for me.
1 is to identify your triggers. Mine include:
being overly tired (me or the kids)
a cluttered messy environment
too much stimulation (attempt to listen to a podcast while the kids are playing – sadly, it doesn’t really work unless they are really engaged independently and I am in another room)
The other is to not attempt to multitask when you are caring for your children.
This one is heartbreaking, in a way, because it essentially means that for all of the hours that my 3 kids are awake and I am the primary parent then I WILL NOT GET TO REALLY DO ANYTHING ELSE. Yes, I get time with my kids and that is great. My kids themselves are great! And I do cherish many of those moments. But sometimes on a weekend I just want to read novels and learn to hand letter and take long walks listening to Michelle Obama’s new podcast. And that’s too bad, because it’s impossible right now. (Browsing instagram and seeing how people without kids spend their weekend days = NOT HELPFUL, and also possibly a trigger).
Now, there are things that can be multitasked, in my opinion and experience. Cleaning up. Folding laundry. Listening to a relaxing album (ahem Taylor Swift). But things like checking email / responding to blog comments, working out, chatting with friends, reading — all of these require concentration, and if I’m with A/C/G, trying to do those things only leads to frustration. On my end and theirs.
I am sure that if I had fewer kids or they were older, I might be able to get around this one more. But for me right now this is true.
This is why I get up at 5 am most days. It’s also why I let A&C have screen time while G naps. ~5-7am and ~1-4pm are MY HOURS, and they are never enough but they are 5 hours and that’s objectively not too terrible.
Okay! Coming your way tomorrow & next week: BLP Ep#2 recap, August Newsletter, habits series continued including my long overdue fashion post.
PS: Tropical Storm Isaias thankfully has not been too bad. We got outside yesterday before the bigger rain bands hit and G had a blast jumping into puddles. We were even able to do takeout night last night (Josh picked up). WHEW. Some traditions are sacred.
PPS: Keep the planning questions coming! I am collecting them all and can’t wait to use them in the first Q&A episode!!
I find the multitasking thing to be so true. I can get lots of things done around the house (and I’m not the kind of mom who gets down on the floor and plays with her kids — I’m not their playmate) but I learned long ago that I can’t do anything that requires intense concentration. That’s okay, it’s just part of life! I can’t always expect to be able to do those things with my kids around. Having dedicated time for that is so important — then we don’t wind up resenting our kids for having basic needs. 🙂
Not a play on the floor parent! Thank you. Now I see myself clearer. Are you peaceful about this? I feel like I fight it. Like I “should be” (which I know is not true.) All thought welcome! Thank you Amy.
You may want to research the benefits of playing with your kids before completely writing it off. Don’t get me wrong- it’s hard for me to play with my kids most of the time; there is usually something else I’d rather be doing. The games they make up can be boring, but taking 5-15 minutes a few times a day to get on their level and connect through something important to them positively impacts our relationship and their self-worth.
There are many other ways to do this, though besides “getting down on the floor and playing.” I am not that kind of mom either. However my kids and I love to read to my kids, and together we watch movies, play board/card games, play video games, cook and bake together, color/draw pictures together, etc.
Be the mom you are. <3
This is me too. I’ve been clarifying it as “not the fun parent” but I definitely prefer “Not the play on the floor parent” as well.
As for the positive results of playing on the floor, I am lucky and have a coparent for that. I’m honestly glad my kids know to go to him for that kind of play because I have a very strong connection with them so it’s good for him to have a thing he is known for and far superior at – something I don’t touch at all. It’s their special thing that they do together
Yep! I feel fine about it. I’m an adult. I don’t enter into their world and pretend I’m a child on their level. It’s their job to imagine and pretend and play. And Brenda, I do interact with my kids. 🙂 I’m not a wire mother. We work together in the kitchen, I read aloud A LOT, we take walks and hikes together … when they were really little I did my time playing duplos and puzzles etc but I did not want to normalize this idea that they should look to me to entertain them. There are a lot of ways to be an engaged parent without turning yourself into their playmate.
Thank you all! Love this discussion. Yes to being involved and connective in our own authentic way. I am now seeing all the ways I am on my child’s level and connecting with 1:1 time… and it’s not because I am crawling through the her obstacle course. 😉
I love this discussion too 🙂 Such interesting perspectives! For the record, I am not typically play on the floor either – I mean, there are 3 of them. The benefit is that they can play with each other on the floor! I do some mini pretend play with G when she wakes up from her nap and I draw with Annabel. I probably need a ‘one on one activity’ with C! Josh plays basketball w/ him. I also love taking the big kids for solo walks.
This blog post is true for me. I really can’t get anything requiring concentration done when my little ones are awake. That’s why I work out earli y in the morning before they wake up. When I mentioned my workout time to a friend of mine who has two older kids, she asked, “You can’t just give them crayons and a coloring book and work out when they’re coloring?” I was like, “Um, no…among the three little ones, at least one of them would try to eat the crayons and at least another would be drawing on the wall.” Anyway, it sounds like a helpful book you’re reading.
I see that you use pen for writing in your planner, and your planner looks very neat. Do you use pen to write down appointments? If so, do you just cross out appointments/commitments that you have to reschedule? I’ve found, at least this year with a lot of things being canceled due to COVID-19, that I’ve had to use a pencil to write down stuff in my planner. So it looks a little messy with quite a few erased plans.
I feel like we have finally entered the time where our kids are independent enough to be able to multitask in the last month or two. My youngest is 4.5 years old and my oldest is going to be 13 (gasp!) this month. I do have to chose the multitasking time wisely, but the transition from little kids to big kids is pretty revolutionary.
I had planned on reading that book…have the e-book checked out but based on this probably will not at this time.
Not multitask? During a pandemic? While working at home with kids who are also at home? (I realize this was written under other circumstances) I will to be sure need to carve out some clearly delineated “Tiny Boy time” during which time he has my full attention, no distractions, etc. But otherwise…
I’m truly envious of your five hours. That’s an amazing amount of time to have (mostly) to yourself.
Gwinne, I think that advice applies more to those w multiple young kids or toddlers. There is literally NO way anyone could get their job done when all 3 of mine are awake (MAYbE a small amount of work during screen time but that’s it).
If someone with kids ACG’s age needed to work and absolutely could not use childcare it would have to happen during those 5 hrs or the equivalent. Even just writing this comment (while A and G are sharing a bath and C is showering) is stressful and it only took about 3 minutes. It’s just not possible to do anything of substance while I’m watching all 3. And it’s better for me to accept that rather than fight it. (Which I am doing right now by writing this so yeah- it’s hard!!!)
Multitasking while kids are awake is hard…my baby is only 3 month old. When he’s awake and I play with him, I listen to best of both world podcast using my Airpod! It’s perfect. Even listening to audiobook requires too much concentration for me. Yesterday I managed to put him in the bouncer and I did a dance workout as he watched…he seems to be pretty entertained by the music and my fun movement.
I can only imagine once he gets older, even listening to podcast could be challenging.
Liv I’m in the same boat over here with a 4 month old! As much as I love spending time with him, I also love his naps lol.
When Dylan was two months old, the pediatrician we saw for some well check, who was also a researcher, gave me the incredibly unhelpful advice not to try to do anything else while I had a baby. It made me want to punch her in the face, like really, I’m supposed to give up on everything I liked about my life now that I have offspring. Sure, why not just quit my job. Why not just drop out of my program. Smh. In order for me to be happy as a sahm I really think I would need to be heavily sedated. Comments about enjoying every moment still grate on me. Some days I still feel like I have four small children (husband, daughter, dog, au pair), and for some reason nobody is able to do anything at my house without interrupting me first.
I’m with you . . . but when it’s just me + all 3, doing anything else of substance is NOT. POSSIBLE. Unless they are all watching something (and I am totally on board with that happening sometimes!). I guess I have proven to myself that I can answer blog comments, but that’s about it. And G is probably destroying something while I type this.
I mean you could take it as, lower the bar for yourself, cut yourself some slack, etc. And you should! But also this is why women drop out of the workforce and scale back. It may be reality, but reality sucks.
Or — in non-pandemic times — make sure you have enough childcare (i know – not so simple now), or if you have a partner, make sure they are giving you some time NOT to have all 3 kids!
I do think that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. 2 years and my youngest will be 4.5, same as commenter Gillian. And life will probably feel very different. I love G’s toddler persona but LOL to enjoying every minute.
PS: They are all eating right now. So I guess there are not ZERO pockets of time to do things. But they are very very short.
@SHU For the record, the moment I finished typing that, my 4.5 yo got completely tangled up trying to get himself dressed while I was showering and my husband was out for a run.
That said I stick by the idea that life is MUCH easier with kids who are 13, 10, 7 and 4.5 that then were 2 years ago when they were 11, 8, 5 and 2.5…MUCH easier. And when I contemplate what life was like when 4 years ago when they were 9, 6, 3 and 6 months, I want to jump for joy for the progress we have made.
Gilligan’s comment makes me want to jump for joy because I have a 3 and 1 year old.
Omdg, I know you mean well but having one older kid makes it really hard to get what shu is talking about.
Oh Rachel, I know more than you realize. I had only one child for a reason, after all!
I think my bar is plenty high, but this is because I have 47.5 hours/week of childcare. Which allows me to live — for the most part — the life I want. I would looove a little more free time on weekends as this post suggests, or not to have to get up at 5am on Saturdays in order to get it. But, I absolutely know I have it REALLY good for someone with kids my kids’ age!!
But….maybe that means this book espouses unrealistic expectations for MOST working mothers right now? (And by extension, ALL mothers, because even if you are a SAHM by choice, how could you devote all your time to undivided attention to kids?)
I will admit I’m feeling very cranky with the self-help genre right now.
Tiny Boy is going to camp (amen!!) this week, which will give me outsourced childcare from 9-4 daily. It’s been since March since I’ve had a whole day in which to work without kids home (granted, I will still have a teenager at home, but they tend to do their own thing!).
(In case it wasn’t clear, I will also not be reading this book. It is utterly unrealistic and your description was demoralizing.)
Haha I get it. Maybe it’s just my description though!
“for some reason nobody is able to do anything at my house without interrupting me first.”
Oh, how I feel this. It’s infuriating.
This really rang true for me – if I try to listen to a podcast while doing chores/preparing meals etc. while my kids are finally playing independently and the baby is napping or happy alone, I will inevitably be interrupted every 5 minutes which frustrates me then they can see that frustration. It’s not fair to them! If I just listen to music instead then when they come to me to tell me about the castle they built it tell me their hungry or ask me to come see something I’m not frustrated that my train of thought is interrupted and I’m a better parent. I need to save the podcast for when I actually have alone time (like when my spouse is watching them or doing screen time) because then I can actually enjoy the podcast when I listen to it and I’m a better parent when I’m solo parenting. I think it’s taken me 4 months of isolation to learn this! This reminds me of an article in the Washington post where two parents documented the interruptions of the on duty parent from their (much older!) 8 and 12 year old: “The parent was interrupted 45 times, an average of 15 times per hour. The average length of an uninterrupted stretch of work time was three minutes, 24 seconds. The longest uninterrupted period was 19 minutes, 35 seconds. The shortest was mere seconds.“
This seems like a accurate representation of my day! So I can only do work than can be done in short bursts (eg email) while parenting.
In fact – didn’t Laura quote that study on one of the podcasts (can’t remember if it was hers or BOBW)
I’m in the middle of reading the book as well! We have a nanny so I’m thankfully not managing having to do work while caring for my children. One thing re: multitasking that helps for me – when my kids (3, almost 6) want me to play or do something else on weekends or before/after our nanny is here, I try to give them 10-20 minutes of uninterrupted time first to the extent I can. Once they have gotten that “mommy time,” they will often leave me alone for a while so I can meal plan, read my book, etc. It’s not foolproof but it definitely helps, so I try to remember that when my kids are begging me to do pretend play (which I’ve always hated, even as a kid!! I was always the kid reading instead of playing with dolls).
I second this! I once read the phrase “Connection, then direction” which applies more to asking your child to do tasks after first spending some quality time connecting with them (for us, this is 2 minutes of morning hugs and undivided attention before the “get dressed! Where are your shoes?” and the like starts. But it applies to play as well, I have found. Mine are 1 and 4 and I actually think it works with both of them (though let’s be real…not much is happening when the 1 year old is awake other than making sure he doesn’t kill him self somehow). Also SAME WITH PRETEND PLAY. (Not my fave choice of activity)
I’m currently reading this book and I really disagree with the “no multitasking” directive, or at least its breadth. It was clearly written with working parents of older children in mind. As a SAHM of a newborn and a toddler, I’m pretty much always multitasking bc my two kids are usually doing two different things. (and if somehow they are both doing the same thing at once, it’s often harder.) And somehow I also have to maintain the house in a livable condition and get food on the table – work that typically has to be done while supervising at least one child.
Besides, multitasking is what keeps me sane. For how many hours can you watch a two year old play with duplo? For how many seconds can you leave him alone with the baby and focus completely on something else? Watching with one eye while emptying the dishwasher with the other keeps me just available enough. And then, if somehow they both sleep at once for half an hour, I can bust out the yoga mat or the novel without worry.
I recently started to practice mindfulness which is more than stop multitasking precisely because I was losing my patience with my kids too often, especially at night. I’ve tried different things and schedules, they never worked. So I had to try being mindful which means no more multitasking, no book/podcast/phone while eating, brushing my teeth, reading, even cooking.
I was skeptical because I can see the value of multitasking as 24 hrs never seems enough for all that I want to do. But the magic happened. Just few days in, I can feel I’m being more present, mindful, calm. and my frequency of yelling to my girls declined.
highly recommend you to try few days. The hardest part of me was to eat without phone or do daily things without a podcast. But even those few minutes, they do work to calm my nerves.
i wrote about it here:
I listened to the first episode of Cal Newport’s podcast last night, intrigued by all of the conversation here about his approach to the world. In response to a question about deep work and childcare, he basically laid out that there are hours where he has childcare, and hours where he does not have childcare. And during the hours where he does not have childcare, he doesn’t try to accomplish other things because it’s just not possible. So it basically sound like what you’ve said here – multitasking when you’re responsible for taking care of the kids isn’t really feasible.
I actually don’t understand the gender based disdain for Cal Newport, given that I assume that a) Cal Newport doesn’t underestimate how much childcare he needs (whether it’s provided by his wife or by a third party) b) I think I read somewhere that he schedules time during his work hours for personal/home tasks, so those get handled during the hours he has childcare, c) unlike me, he’s probably far more disciplined in actually accomplishing the tasks he has to carry out during the limited time that he has childcare available to him, and d) his work as a professor has a lot of built in flexibility, and a lot of the stuff we see like him blogging or doing a podcast are probably considered work items related to his actual jobs.
As I take in what he said, I think I have to be much more mindful about the split between childcare hours and non-childcare hours. I think I might just have to start waking up at 6 to exercise, in order to take advantage of the hour my husband spends biking with our daughter as a dedicated deep work hour.
Your point d) is actually a REALLY important point that I hadn’t thought of. I was kind of begrudging his ability to do what appeared to be 2 full time jobs and also have a (maybe?) significant role in his family life but maybe he’s managed to roll two into one. Academia is a world I am not as familiar with and maybe that is the key.
I find myself arguing with him in my head sometimes, but I really enjoy his work and find I get a lot out of it.
Cal Newport is definitely not trying to fit blogging, writing books, and a podcast into his leisure time (like you are). It’s all part of his job/work hours. As a tenured professor, he has an incredible amount of freedom to decide what he research and writes. He can probably teach his classes on autopilot at this point, assuming he’s not constantly creating new classes from scratch. He decides how much time he spends grading when he decides what kinds and how many graded assignments he requires each semester, and even still, he probably has TAs that do that grunt work, or if he doesn’t, it takes up a relatively limited portion of his time. He has extended breaks from classroom responsibilities during ever winter and summer. Basically, this dude probably has access to half a years worth of time every year to accomplish the stuff that you squeeze into your 5 hours. Most of the people who follow him can’t legitimately compare themselves to him – though he does have a ton of invaluable tips that are worth adapting and bringing into our lives.
Honestly, it’s no different that you and Laura. You both have household incomes that are well over 500K; when I listen to BOBW, I know I have to filter some of your conversations based on what’s realistic given my 220K HHI. Cal Newport gets a filter of what’s realistic given that I have less flexibility in how I spend my work hours, and for my leisure time, sometimes I’d rather binge watch the Baby-Sitters Club than do any deep work and accomplish shit.
Totally puts everything into context – thank you Alyce (and for the concept of filtering advice, too. Also I feel similarly about choosing BSC (already ready for Season 2!) or a juicy novel over Deep Work and owning that choice.)
Timely book comment Sarah – I read your post just as my 4 year old and 21 month old were playing – my attempt at multitasking haha. But I so get what you mean about it being impossible to both watch little kids and do something else that requires concentration like a podcast or a book. Dishes, laundry folding, making food etc. are more doable because you can keep one eye for the kids and you can pause in the middle and resume without too much mental effort. Although I still prefer to do these tasks without kids, as it’s more efficient, but stuff also needs to get done around the house so we fit in chores where we can. Of course SAHPs have to multitask in this way, but I don’t think they also do a strenuous workout or expect to read a whole novel while watching kids. I’m not sure what’s so controversial about that? No one is saying moms can’t work – this is saying you need childcare, even for leisure times like the weekends when the kids are little, if you want to do your own thing, or just accept that self time is limited for now. The more that I accept that this is the season of life that I’m in, the less frustrated I feel. The kids will eventually be older. Comparing myself to people without kids or even slightly older kids and their weekend plans is pointless because that’s not the season of life I’m in.