The Workingmums’ guide to juggling work and multiple children

So, you had more than the standard two children and you believed those people who told you blithely that after two it doesn’t get any harder? Well, now, of course, the adults are outnumbered and the childcare intricacies just that little bit more complex. After all, you can ask a friend to look after two children, but three, four, five? How are you going to cope with work and family life? Workingmums has some tips.

So, you had more than the standard two children and you believed those people who told you blithely that after two it doesn’t get any harder? Well, now, of course, the adults are outnumbered and the childcare intricacies just that little bit more complex. After all, you can ask a friend to look after two children, but three, four, five? How are you going to cope with work and family life? Workingmums has some tips.

 

1. Delegate. You do it in your job so do it at home. As your older children get older, they can actually do stuff for you. Depending on their ages, of course, you can get them to do all sorts of things that will make your life theoretically easier. Most kids love being given a task and helping out if you make it sound like something important – see work. Give them a title like ‘executive cook’ and get them to take charge of an area such as cleaning up. Do not, on any account, put them in charge of the menu unless you want it to consist of no greens and lots of pudding.
 
2. Build good sibling relationships. Easier said than done. Try and encourage them to do stuff together from the beginning so they become buddies, even if this is disguised as a family outing. Get older ones to teach the younger ones, eg, reading. This also means less time doing homework for you.
3. Cut corners. Do not put yourself under any unnecessary extra pressures. Scale back housework to the bare minimum. Convince yourself it’s good for their health to be exposed to bacteria and bugs and will only make them stronger in the end.
 
4. Make sure you have time for each child. They really value time alone with a parent, but beware. All the others will be clocking up the time you have spent with their siblings so be sure to be fair about it, although without making it seem like you are organising meetings with them. It doesn’t have to be about “treats”. Just spending an hour reading together or doing a drawing and chatting is just as good. They just want your undivided attention. Of course, you may have to find a hidey hole to avoid all the others who will immediately have something vital to tell you when they find you alone with their sister/brother. For older children, this could be at bedtime if they have a slightly later bedtime.
5. If they get lots of homework at the weekend, be sure not to leave it all till the last minute with all of them doing it and asking you questions about it simultaneously. Leave the youngest one’s till last as it is likely to be the quickest [ie you will actually understand it]. Remember, you will end up knowing more about Biff and Chip than you ever dreamt possible so don’t get too enthusiastic the first time round. By the third time, try to fake enthusiasm about their adventures even though you have read the books what seems like 1,000 times and are aware that every story ends with “Oh no, what a bad dog, Floppy” or permutations of the same. Act surprised every time Floppy does something wrong. The same advice applies to anything school-related. Be nice to teachers – unless they wholly don’t deserve it. Remember, you may be seeing the same ones again and again and again.
6. Be as fair as you can. Again, easier said than done. You will be called on an infinite amount of times to intervene in rows to which you have not been party. You will see only the results, ie smallest child crying as oldest one has thumped them impatiently. You will not have seen smallest child winding up oldest child to the point of madness. Talk to them about war and peace, how crises escalate and generally bore them to tears with reason. The plan is they will eventually try to resolve these situations themselves or appeal to their dad.
7. Be organised. Buy a large calendar and write everything on it as soon as it enters your head and just before it ebbs right out of it again [we’re probably talking seconds here]. However, don’t try to get them to do too many after-school activities or you will end up exhausted trying to keep up with them [and poor]. If possible combine their after-school activities so they are doing them almost simultaneously. Make sure you have at least one family night a week where you do something together, even if it is just slobbing out.
8. Childcare – it is vital that you cultivate family and close friends and try not to feel too guilty about it all. The more children you have, the more difficult it is to get one person who is not related or a very close friend to look after them all. Having them in three or four different locations makes picking up exhausting and increases the likelihood of at least one arrangement breaking down at the last minute. Reciprocate any favours quickly so you are in line to ask again in the near future. Try to simplify childcare, including after-school childcare/school drop-offs, as much as possible by having it all nearby. Think practicalities over potentially stressful and unsustainable arrangements.
9. Holiday playschemes: bear in mind that most are age specific so you will have to multiply the number that you book and it could turn out very expensive plus they might not all be in the same place. In addition, bear in mind that your children are unlikely to all like doing the same thing. Again, relatives are a good bet here, but you might find that towards the end of the summer you are getting down to the cousins and second cousins or to forcing your bookish daughter onto an outward bound course with her siblings simply because it caters to all ages and is cheap. Check out all options through your local authority children’s services and ask friends.
10. Be thrifty. Parents of multiple children are experts at saving money. You can update old clothes with new pockets or make them into a new outfit so they are not so obviously handmedowns. Charity shops can offer great bargains. Do the supermarket shopping online to avoid being asked for drinks/snacks as you go around. With more than one child, a round of drinks can mount up. If you do go out, take supplies. You may need to upgrade things like cars to fit all the family. Shop around and remember those kids are only going to get bigger. Cultivate your own entertainment to cut trips to the cinema, etc. Get them to put on shows by threatening to do a show for them if they don’t – perhaps involving a duet with their dad. Suggest something long and with a complicated plot which will take weeks of rehearsal. The Lord of the Rings is a good first start. Suggest they read it first…




Comments [2]

  • claire Davidson says:

    I’m just re starting work after a long break and was worried about how to cope with 4 kids, housework and a job. Reading this has helped a little.

  • says:

    Love this! Only have two kids, but like the bit about when they argue reason with them using war and peace and hopefully they will appeal to their dad instead!


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *