This is an annual post I write here on Planning With Kids. While I write on the blog to share ideas of what we do in our family, to hopefully help other families, it also provides a fantastic record of what is happening in our life.
As the kids grow older, I realise now how easy it is to forget what each stage is like. Not forget completely of course, but forgetting the little things that were at the time quite big for me. Like not being able to go to the toilet on my own!
I hope to look back at these posts from time to time, read them and help them shape how I may interact with a family who have kids that age. What would be the most helpful thing I could do for them? What type of meet up might suit them best? That type of thing.
You can see my previous posts here:
- Late 2009 – Does It Really Get Harder?????. I contemplate comments from other parents with older kids who suggest that it actually gets harder as the kids get older! Our youngest was 10 months old at this time.
- April 2011 – Easier……for the moment!. Not every individual part was easier, but overall I did feel family life was a little easier. Our youngest was 2 at the time.
- April 2012 – Family Life – New Challenges. While the last year had brought new challenges for me, it was certainly easier in many ways than the last couple of years.
The last twelve months has seen significant changes in the house. Our eldest is now 14 and at an age where we feel comfortable leaving in him in charge, looking after his siblings for short periods of time – which is incredibly helpful. But I do sometimes say that the 14 year old takes up more of my emotional and mental energy than the other four put together!
Overall though, things are very much easier than when I wrote my first post back in 2009. At a soccer morning recently, I watched a mum undoing two little ones from car seats, while responding to the “hurry mum” requests from what looked like a six year old. My guess was the other two children were about nine months and around three. They made their way across the soccer pitch to find his team. The session started and within minutes the three year old was taking off in direction of the playground and the nine month old was crying.
The slightly frazzled looking mum headed off after the three year old and I looked around for my four year old, who was happily playing with our (new) puppy about 5 metres away from me. As I went back to watching our almost seven year old train with his team, I thought to myself if that mum comes back and I see her, I will tell her that things do get easier!
With our four year old having two and half days in kinder now and the other children in school, running errands is very much easier. Even if I have kids with me now it is easier. While they may not necessarily enjoy it, they can all understand what needs to be done, they understand time frames and they can all walk on their own!
I also now have three kids who can go into a shop and purchase items, while I wait in the car out the front, so not always everyone even has to hop out of the car.
I estimate 50% of my showers are now interruption free! I am also much firmer on allowing interruptions. It is really only the four year old that I will answer questions etc for, unless there is some sort of household crisis. If the older kids come in, I explain that unless it is really important in can wait five minutes until I am out of the shower. This doesn’t always please them, but there really is very little that cannot wait those five minutes!
After School Activities
The running around for trainings and sport is much easier than when the kids were little. Not everyone has to come everywhere all the time, so I can leave the house and take one child five minutes up the road to training, come back, cook dinner, then quickly drive back and do the pick up with minimal disruption to the house.
But the at home stuff after school definitely takes up more time. It is rare for me to be on the computer before 8.30pm at night and is more often after 9pm. This year, I thought with the youngest having increased hours at kinder, I would have more time for work. In reality, I think I am working less. This is partially by choice as I have become better at making choices about what work I will do and partly because at this moment I feel my family needs my time more in the evening.
In winter we have seven sporting activities (eight if you include my run!) from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. If we have other commitments across the weekend, my blogging time is significantly reduced, so this does pose challenges with time management for me – some weekends I do better than others.
If I do suffer from spates of sleep deprivation, it is no longer due to children waking me up at night or early in the morning. I am regularly getting to bed before midnight, which while not as early as I would like, is an improvement and an area I continue to work on.
The most exciting thing to happen though over the last 12 months, is that when there is no sporting commitments early Sunday morning, we actually get a sleep in (well until maybe 7.30am or 8am if we are really lucky)! With the table set, the kids can get themselves breakfast and occupy themselves quietly reading or listening to audio books until we get up.
Lifting, Carrying, Chasing
The physical workload is very small now, with only the four year old being carried from time to time. In fact, I know I probably carry him too much, but he is a light weight and there is no baby or toddler to push him off the hip!
The Squabbling and Fighting
I think this is about the same or maybe slightly easier than when the kids were younger. The kids do get on pretty well, but they do fight. The trick for me is working out when to get involved. I try to avoid becoming referee at all costs, as experience has taught me that never ends well. Working out what triggers the fighting has been a helpful exercise. When I see one child is in a particular mood, I may go and speak to another child and ask them to give the other one some space. This works on most occasions.
Individual Time With The Kids
The challenge of finding individual time is still an ongoing one. As they all go off to formal education and become involved in team sports, there is just less hours to eek out one on one time.
This is an area I need to address. At the moment I sneak moments here and there where I can, but I think it is time I worked out a more planned way, and something a bit more special occasionally for having one on one time with the kids.
Time together and time alone
General family life, combined with Mr I’s work and sporting commitments and my own fitness activities, means there is not a huge amount of time left over to be together alone! However I did set some personal goals on some things for us to do together this year and I am glad I did. It is making me ensure we actually do get out and enjoy some shared interests.
My fitness routine still revolves around early mornings which I like, but I would love to find a little more time for general socialising than what I do now.
We have gradually and minimally increased the household tasks the kids do, so they are doing more around the house. It isn’t always completed without reminders, but the tasks do get done.
I think overall the household side of things is easier. Watching a toddler who is going through the tip everything out phase and I am quickly grateful that phase is behind us!
I cook much, much more than when the kids were younger, to keep enough food in the house to feed them, make healthy lunches etc. But it is easier to do this than when I had a baby on my hip and toddler on my leg.
As I am documenting in my parenting teenager posts, I am needing to think a good deal about how I parent our 14 year old. It is new territory and I am finding my feet. This is always mentally tiring.
We alos have a child in year four and as with our first two children to pass this stage, I find it is a challenging year behaviourally. They are starting to exert further independence and will be more argumentative towards parental instructions / advice.
The mental workload of parenting is certainly greater and I can only see this increasing further as the kids get older. But it is offset to some degree by the enlightening and fun conversations you can have with your own children. Currently on the whole I really do enjoy all of their company and I hope this continues!
How about you? Are things easier or harder for you than a year ago?