10 Pros and Cons of Having Close-in-Age Kids

I had 3 kids in under 4 years. My three kids were so close in age that I didn’t have a single menstrual cycle for 5 years (win!!) Of course, I also didn’t have a full REM sleep cycle for about that long. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to having closely spaced pregnancies.

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1) Pro: Shared interests. Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Disney pricesses, kid concerts, indoor playgrounds… when your herd is close-in-age they share the same interests. Not only does this often make their bond stronger (at least in the young years), but this makes everything from playdates to day trips, birthday gifts to vacation planning a bit easier.

Con: Everyone’s a Spitfire. When your whole crew is in tantrum territory life is a minefield. Meals out are a gamble. Religious services are treacherous. Art museums are off limits. Grocery shopping is a three-ring circus. Travel is stressful. Needless to say, you quickly learn the law of 2/3: only 2/3 of your family will be happy at any given time. The extra fun part: the pleased vs. displeased campers can (and will) change without notice.

2) Pro: No Sleep. Once you get past the first indescribably torturous month of sheer sleepless exhaustion of your first baby, things get easier. You learn how to cope with less sleep than you ever imagined possible. (Seriously, you will laugh at how you could’ve ever claimed to feel “exhausted” pre-kids.) Once you get REM sleep it’s harder to live without it. This means it’s far easier to just be tired and stay tired than to taste the addictive drug of REM sleep only to have it ripped away from you. The sleeplessness of subsequent newborns isn’t nearly as painful as it was the first time around when you’re already running on empty.

Con: No Sleep. That’s right, it’s both a pro and a con! When all of your littles are little, so is your sleep accrual. Rising feeling well-rested is a thing of the past and (seemingly unforeseeable) distant future. You may go to bed early to make up for some of the lost Zs, but you have no control over your sleep pattern.

Pro: Diapers Days. When you’re already used to buying and changing diapers, adding another bundle’s bum to the mix isn’t a big deal. Same goes for scheduling around nap routines, carrying a hefty diaper bag, being accustomed to a easy-care-only wardrobe, having a baby-/toddler-proofed home, expecting tantrums, potty-training, and owning kid-safe dinnerware.  You’re already in that phase, so might as well keep it rolling.

Con: Diaper Debt. Diapers add up… and so do wipes. It gets pricey shielding the world (and your home) from multiple incontinent kiddos. Having multiple kids in the same helpless life stage can be challenging — buckling and unbuckling multiple car seats at every destination, putting on multiple tiny socks and shoes, putting on and taking off multiple coats, wiping multiple noses (and butts) all day every day, bringing EVERYONE into the public bathroom with you, bathing multiple kids, keeping multiple mini-humans safe in public — is exhausting and expensive. If you’re formula-feeding on top of all of this… OUCH! And if you’re shelling out for daycare… my deepest condolences to your wallet.

3) Pro: Gear Reuse. When you have your litter close together, the gear is easily reusable. And, if you do what we did and have your babies in just the right timeframe, you can even reuse the carseat and base for all of them before it expires. Win!

Con: Primary Color Pile-up. When all of your kids are young, the amount of toys and gear and primary colors overwhelms your home. Every corner houses kid items. Your bathroom is a bath toy menagerie. Your family room looks like a daycare center. To the minimalist, it’s unsettling at best, anxiety-inducing at worst. It’s a temporary phase but it’s a long one.

4) Pro: Nipples of Steel. Breastfeeding calluses the nipples. If you have your kids close in age, you can maintain that teat toughness much to your benefit. The more you pump and the longer you nurse, the easier it is adjusting to a subsequent newborn latch. Every nursing relationship is different and no matter how many kids you latch on, breastfeeding each baby has a learning curve. However, the soreness that you experienced with your first nursling is unlikely to happen if there’s little to no break between your weaned and breastfed babes.

Con: Milk Machine Malaise. After a while, you just want your body back. You want to be able to put on a shirt without considering boob accessibility.  You want to go out without considering nursing/pumping requirements or calculating engorgment. You want to sleep on your belly. You want to be able to take OTC medicine without worrying if it’s breastfeeding-compatible. Basically, as beautiful and beneficial and bonding as breastfeeding is, it gets old after a while (especially if you’ve been nursing a toddler.)

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5) Pro: Mom Identity. When you are in the trenches of motherhood, the role consumes you in the most rewarding, exhausting, fulfilling way. When you have raised baby after baby — one after the other — into toddlerhood and early childhood, you are unwaveringly secure in your maternal identity. Nothing else in your life — no other role, responsibility, title, or achievement — can come close to the one that demands every shred of you every waking and sleeping second of every day. When you have multiple wholly dependant offspring, your personal identity is: “Mom.”

Con: Lost in Mommyland. When you’ve been in the mommy trenches for years in a row, you forget who you were — who you are — beyond that role. Time simultaneously stands still and rushes by when you have baby after baby. You must focus moment-to-moment to survive but, once the babies all grow older and your focus can grow broader, you can feel lost.

6) Pro: Love Abounds. When you have multiple close-in-age kids, they often adore one another and you while they are young. Hugs, cuddles, kisses… every day is filled with genuine affection. Your arms, mind, washing machine, and life are full, but so is your heart.

Con: Marriage Bombardment. You and your children may share embraces and pledges of love daily, but you and your spouse will be permanently adrift if you don’t take heed. Each child demands attention. Each child deserves affection. Each child owns a piece of your heart. But your spouse does too. However, your significant other is further down the list than he/she used to be. Every additional child increases that distance between you in every conceivable way. Whereas it once was just the two of you bound to one another in love and fealty, now you’re bookends spaced further apart by each child you have together. If you are not careful to maintain your bond and make time, love, and space for each other, you won’t last. Children are a beautiful gift that can snuff out even the brightest marital flame, if you allow it.

7) Pro: Friend Finding. Mom friends for you, buddies for your babes… the (wholly necessary) search is an easier undertaking when your kids are closely spaced. It’s hard for moms with kids who are in vastly different age brackets to relate or spend time together. A 9-year-old doesn’t want to hang with a 6-month-old, so playdates are out. And no matter how exciting Baby’s first bite of solid food may be to the mom in the trenches, a middle school mom is going to have a hard time mustering passable enthusiasm when she’s eyeing tween social media melodrama and looming PSATs.

Con: Babies Steal Time. It wasn’t until I had my third child and had a brief moment of clarity that I realized babies don’t slow down or preserve time, they steal it. Your first baby seems to develop so slowly in comparison to your second and practically backwards in comparison to your third. Each subsequent child develops faster than the last but, what’s terrifying and sad: you lose 1-2 years of each pre-existing child’s childhood with each new baby. In other words, I “lost” 2-4 years of my first child’s toddlerhood and early childhood because of babies #2 and #3, and I lost 1-2 years of my middle child’s toddlerhood due to baby #3. Why? Because while you’re focusing on your newborn — as nature demands in order for the infant to survive — you lose sight of your older child(ren.) They seem automatically older and more capable to you in comparison to the newborn. As such, they require less of your mental attention. Not until the baby gains a bit of mobility are you able to return your focus to your other children. One day, you see your youngest at the same adorable age your older children once were and realize, with aching sadness, that you missed that stage… that those memories are faded in a hazy fog of newborn sleeplessness and rollercoaster hormones. That it was stolen time. Witnessing your youngest is your only window to what you missed.

8) Pro: On-trend Bump. If you have your kids close together, your maternity, postpartum, and nursing wardrobes won’t have a chance to go out of style. Sweet!

Con: Fashion Fatigue. By the time you pull that once-loved maternity top from the storage bin for the third time, it turns your stomach (not fun when you’re already fighting morning sickness.)

9) Pro: Pick-up Sync-up. When your kids are close-in-age, at some point their school schedules will sync beautifully. They’ll, for some time, attend the same school and have one another as a familiar in-school support too. Same pick-up and drop-off times = win!

Con: Sick Time Sinkhole. When your littles are all little at the same time, so are their immune systems. That means your paid-time-off pool is going to take a hit. Sharing is caring, and kids really like to share their germs (with one another and you.) If you and/or your significant other don’t have a rough plan for navigating repeated unexpected days off and midday pediatrician visits, get on it. Kids get sick and it’s generally at 2AM the night before a big meeting. It’s all about timing!

10) Pro: Rip off the Band-Aid. When you have your lot in a brief timeframe, you limit the pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, naptimes, and tantrums stage to a single block of time. You don’t exit the life season just to re-enter it again with one foot in two worlds; you are simply in it (really in those trenches) until you’re not.

Con: When It’s over, It’s Over. One day you’ll realize you’re exiting the deep infant-toddler trench. You’ll recognize the lessening stress and the availability of both of your arms. You can breathe! You’ll also realize that it’s almost over and there’s no going back. No more parent-and-me classes. No more middle-of-the-night cuddles. No more blissful sleeping baby on your shoulder. No more library story times. No more preschool parties. The door has closed, another has opened. What is ahead is beautiful but so was what is behind.

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This list of pros and cons could go on infinitely. But what really matters is what feels right to you, handling what life has handed you, and finding genuine happiness in your own life. Because, after all, we can really control very little in life, but seeking to find joy in whatever our circumstances is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others.

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School Daze: Dinner’s Done (Meal Planning)

Back-to-school can mean even nuttier evenings than usual with homework and extracurriculars, worn-out kids and snack demands. So how do I minimize the chaos? Meal planning.IMG_20170819_181942_053

I used to wait until lunchtime to figure out dinner. Not only did that add to my stress level, stacking another task on my harried afternoon, but it often left me racing to the store for last-minute ingredients — which amped up the grocery bill — or I simply wound up making the same tired three or four meals on rotation, since we generally had the necessary ingredients in the house. Then I began meal planning.

Not only did my stress level diminish because there was no rush to figure out meals, but our grocery bill declined too. And, guess What? We ate better!

How do I meal plan? I go pretty low-tech compared to some, but this is my process.

1) Look to the calendar. Every week I sit down and plan out the meals according to our calendar. If I have a mom date one night, The Hubs is in charge of dinner so I don’t bother planning a meal for that day. If it’s supposed to be beautiful one day and The Hubs isn’t slotted to be busy with work, I’ll be sure to plan a grillable meal. If I know we have a packed afternoon one day, I plan an easy meal.

2) Special requests, anyone? Before finalizing the meal plan, I ask the kids and The Hubs if they have any meal requests for the following week. Then I try to incorporate those menu items.

3) Write it down. Simply using the Memo app on my phone, I type out my week’s meal plan.

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4) List it out. After creating the menu, I go to my preferred grocery store’s app and create my grocery list. Before adding the frequently purchased items, I make sure the ingredients for each menu item are on my list. Then, I add the usual staple products.

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Grocery list on the store app

5)  Abide by the list. The biggest part of meal planning isn’t devising a menu or creating a comprehensive grocery list, it’s sticking to the plan. At first, it can be tempting to wing it and go back to old habits of take-out or frozen meals. Forcing yourself to stick to meal planning is the key to its success. After a few weeks, it simply becomes habit.


Looking to shave even more money off of your grocery bill? Here are some easy ways to go about it.

1) Circulars and coupons. Check out local stores’ circulars and coupons then design your menu around deals.

2) In-season shopping. Buying produce that’s in-season is a major money saver. Apples and butternut squash in fall, zucchini and tomatoes in summer. Let the season’s produce inspire your menu.

3) Fresh over premade. The fewer processed items you buy, the cheaper and healthier your meals will be. Instead of buying a box of seasoned rice, stir your own pantry herbs into plain homemade rice. Instead of opting for a tub of guacamole, mash up your own. Not an inventive cook? There are tons of recipes online. Google is your friend.

4) Go meat-free (or low-meat). Since dropping meat, our grocery bill has been $50-$100 less every week compared to when we ate meat daily. The less meat you buy, the less you pay at the register. Beans, lentils, and other plant-based (unprocessed) protein sources are widely cheaper and healthier than animal protein. Compare the cost and nutritionals of a can of beans or a bag of lentils to a platter of chicken breasts or a pouch of ground beef, and you may be a plant-eater more often.

5) Buy in bulk. If space and finances allow, buy staple items in bulk. Just be careful not to purchase products simply because they’re available in bulk or on sale. This would not be the time to make impulse or experimental buys. Stick to tried-and-trues. If you won’t use it, don’t buy it.


Now that you have the know-how, get planning! Make your afternoons a bit less stressful and your evenings a bit smoother with a little extra planning. You deserve it!

 

School Daze: Morning Prep

School mornings… as pleasant as a hemorrhoid, no? Early start, grumpy kids (and parents), little time, lots to do, start times, and tantrums (from kids and parents.) Fun!

Though our mornings aren’t scenes of fairytale bliss, and far from serene, they are streamlined. They are organized. How? One word: preparation.

I wake up ahead of everyone to heat breakfasts, pop lunches into backpacks, and begin my day so that by the time my crew shuffles downstairs, the rhythm is already in motion. My first-thing-in-the-morning task load isn’t too great though because I prepare everything I can ahead of time.

Lunches and snacks? Made at the beginning of the week. I simply grab a container stack, the water bottle, and place it in the lunchbox.

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Outfits? Laid out for the school week on Sunday evening based on the weather forecast and week’s schedule. The day’s outfit hung in the bathroom, so there are no clothing battles in the too-early morning.

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Each outfit bundle contains a top, bottom, socks, and underwear

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A week of outfits

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The next day’s outfits

Breakfasts? Prepared and plated the night before. I just heat and place them on the table while my caffeine brews.

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Mama’s caffeine? Set up the night before and ready to brew.

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Mama’s tea

Basically, when I wake up in the morning, it’s a matter of hitting “play” as opposed to scrambling to piece it all together while attempting to ready myself and my minions for the day. (That’s a feat in and of itself.)

We all could use a leg up in the morning. Why not give yourself one with a little prepping?

 

The Busy Season

Summer: the stay-at-home parent’s busy season. Long days, warm nights, swimming pools and splash pads, playdates and summer camps, vacations and family outings. Summer requires a lot of planning.

2016-05-31 07.04.54When you go grocery shopping, your entire herd goes with you. There’s no quick Target run while the kids are in school or mom coffee date with just the baby in tow. You’ve got all of your minions all day long, every day.

This is great because you love your kids. The extra time to focus on appreciating them, experiencing summer fun through their awestruck eyes, stockpiling the new experiences, and revisiting family traditions… it’s magical. All of that magic doesn’t happen on its own though.

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Months of planning, researching, budgeting, and form-completing goes into making a summer great. Getting the right balance of vacation, relaxation, and scheduling takes effort.

Amidst all of this well-planned fun, your to-do list is ever-growing: schedule playdates with friends the school year holds hostage, pack and unpack suitcases and day trip bags, buy tickets and passes for destinations and summer events, scour websites for family activities, get medical forms completed for camps and the eventual school year, ensure bathing suits fit and flip flops are functional, buy cart loads of sunscreen and bugspray, stock up on Band-Aids. Meanwhile, all of your usual chores — from dishes to laundry, from sweeping to bathroom tidying, from grocery shopping to meal preparation — amplify with all of the extra sweaty, chlorinated, sun-baked, snack-obsessed bodies constantly milling about.

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The extra family time. The opportunity to be with your children, to soak them in. The countless memories. The sun and salt and sand. Summer is wonderful! It’s also a crapload of work.

Here’s to you, stay-at-home parents! Enjoy it. Savor it. Survive it.

My Morning Routine

Mornings are nuts… always. I plan and prep and rise early to ease the burden, but they’re still dependably bordering on mayhem.

Nearly every day, we venture out for a morning activity and an afternoon activity. Whether it’s preschool, a class at the community center, storytime at the library, a playdate, a walk, a bike ride, a visit with family, or an errand, the kids (and I) do best if we’re out and about often. As Hubs frequently works from home, this provides him with some much-needed quiet time in the otherwise noisy house too.

As the kids get hungry for lunch between 11:00 and 11:30am, we generally need to be out the door for our morning activity by 9am. Here’s what I do to make that happen.

My days start sometime between 5:45am and 6:15am. I brew my green tea, grab my apple, turn on the local news, and pump. By 7:00am #3 is awake and sometimes #1 is too. Hubs brings down #3, changes his diaper, and plops him in the pack-and-play.

Out of sheer pride, #3 disputes his confinement until the local traffic newscaster comes on TV. At which point, he goes quiet and smooshes his fat face against the mesh wall, staring at her like he’s the creepy drunk dude at the end of the bar.

While #3 is distracted, I throw my breast pump parts in very hot soapy water to soak, then bag, label, and freeze the milk. #3 is usually shrieking at me from the pack-and-play by the time I close the freezer door. (The traffic portion is clearly too short for his liking.)

I pour a second mug of green tea, nurse #3, then upstairs we go. I fill our big soaker tub with and inch or so of water and plop #3 in the bath surrounded by floating toys, so that I can get ready for the day.

By 7:45am, I’m toweling off #3 and dressing him. #1 is downstairs usually watching “Dora”, at this point, while lazily eating the breakfast I prepped the evening before.

By 8am, I’m helping #1 do her hair. (If you’ve ever met #1, you know she takes her hair seriously.) As a curly girl myself, I get it.

During the hair routine, #3 is usually trying to eat conditioner, unrolling toilet paper, attempting to lick the toilet, and slamming the bathroom door against my leg. Sometime just before I awake #2 but before #3 manages to French kiss the floor vent, I call Hubs to fetch him to feed him the breakfast I prepped the prior evening.

After successfully styling #1, it’s time to rouse #2. It’s a feat. He loves his bed. We moan and growl our way through the process but, by the time he’s dressed, he’s happily skipping down the stairs to eat his pre-prepared breakfast.

8:15am, I blend the smoothie I prepped the night before, use the second mug of now-luke-warm green tea I had forgotten on the counter to slug down my vitamins, yell at the heathens to stop jumping around like chimpanzees and eat their breakfasts, and — if I’m lucky — pour myself a bowl of Cheerios with cashewmilk. Between bites of cereal or sips of smoothie, I finish feeding #3, clean up breakfasts, rinse my breast pump parts and pop them on the drying rack, then clean up the disaster that is #3’s breakfast area. (Eating is an all-sensory event for #3.)

By 8:30 I am checking #1 and #2’s breakfast progress as I put #3 in the playroom to roam about. I start setting out shoes and jackets, while giving the kids a warning that we’ll be heading out soon. 8:40 is “5-minute warning” time, and at 8:45 #3 is getting his diaper changed, #1 and #2 visit the bathroom, we pull on socks and shoes, squabble about what toy #2 can bring with him in the car, and off we go negotiating who gets to open the minivan door.

People ask me why I get up so early. How could I not? It’s survival.

Keep it Simple

My morning with my boys

Morning with #2 and #3

I am a planner. I plan playdates, research extracurricular classes, arrange activities, and schedule outings. I pressure myself to make our non-school time fun… to make it count. However, yesterday I was reminded that simplicity can sometimes be best. That just being in the moment and enjoying one another’s company can be greater than any planned event.

Yesterday morning a potential playdate fell through so I took #2 to the playground solo (#3 strapped to my chest, of course), while #1 was at school. Not a soul was there, except for us.

#2 and I pretended to be Disney characters, we played chase, we bounced on the seesaw, we examined “baby plants”, we identified shapes and colors on the play equipment, but mostly we had fun. We laughed and horseplayed, and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company.

As we walked out of the playground holding hands, I turned to #2: “Thanks for playing with me, buddy! I really liked spending time with you. You’re fun!” #2 looked up at me and said, “My like it too” and kissed my hand.

The simple memories are the best memories.