Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities



When we decided to have a fourth baby, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to manage the baby's sleep schedule while still getting my children to their extra curricular activities and school. I immediately started thinking it through. Since she was my fourth, I knew there was a certain time frame of schedule that had worked for my other three children and had an idea for when she would be eating and sleeping. I talked with our piano teacher and the owner of the dance studio where we go months and months ahead of the Fall so I could have some input on when classes happened (yes, my piano teacher thought I was crazy, but she knows me well enough that she already knows I am crazy).

I am ever-mindful of the idea that baby joins a family. I take that to mean that baby will sometimes make sacrifices to fit into the family, and the family will have to also adjust to welcome baby into the family. Baby joins a family. That means that baby's needs are addressed--not that baby has to just deal with it because that is the way things are. There are things we can do to help make sure everyone is giving and taking. Here are my tips for maintaining baby's sleep schedule while still letting older children participate in their activities.

1-Evaluate Activities
The first thing to do is to evaluate the activities you are planning on and be sure they are worth the difficulties they are sure to bring up. This is important to do no matter how old your other children are. Is it worth the money? Is it worth the time commitment? Is it worth the time that will be spent away from family?

There is no one right answer to each activity. Even the same activity can be great one year and not the next. For example, for the last three years, we have done ice skating lessons. It is a fun winter activity that is great for burning energy at a time when our kids are highly house-bound by extremely cold temperatures. We have all enjoyed ice skating lessons.

This year, however, my husband and I decided we would not do the ice skating lessons. It is a 30 minute drive from our house and always around dinner time. We decided the stress it would cause with having a 6 month old baby in tow was not worth the benefits. We can instead go ice skating as a family a couple of times and do it at our convenience. 

2- Make a List of Activities and Potential Schedules
Once you have decided which activities you will participate in, write them down. Write down the activity and how often it is and at what times. For example:

Swimming Lessons - Every other Wednesday - 6:30-7:30 PM

Then I would add to that what time you will need to leave your house and what time you expect to get home. Don't forget to add things like school drop-offs and pick-ups.

Once you have your activities written down, write down possible schedules you can see baby having. This is tricky because baby's schedule changes quite often. A baby might start on a three hour schedule, but then move to a combo 2.5-3.5 hour schedule, then 3-3.5, then 4. There are certain things that will remain pretty consistent, though, like morning wakeup time and bedtime. So when I was planning Brinley's schedule, I felt pretty confident I could do a 7:30 wake up time (I did know from experience, however, that some babies are 7 AM wakers). That would mean 7:30 bedtime.

3-Sign Up For Best Times
As you determine your schedule, sign up for activities at what seems would be the best times to work with baby's schedule. For example, I had a few options for when each girl could take dance class. In all reality, very little is going to be "perfect," and even if it was, it would only be perfect for a small window because the schedule will shift anyway. 

I signed up for our piano lessons so they ended when my husband was home from work. That way, I wouldn't have to stress about picking kids up. I only need to worry about getting the kids to the lessons, and then one of us can stay home while the other one picks up.

4-Adjust Baby's Schedule
Then of course, there will be times you can't have any control over, like the start of school each day. Adjust baby's goal schedule as needed to make this all work as well as possible.

Sometimes, you will have to do things in a less than perfect way. Just today, I needed to pick McKenna up from dance followed by Kaitlyn from school (my mom usually does McKenna and my husband usually does Kaitlyn). Because of this, Brinley had to nurse, then we were in the car for the next 45 minutes, then she got to eat her solids. Perfection? No, but it worked. 

5-Be Prepared to Adjust Again
Even with my best laid plans, there were some things that were shifted after Brinley was born. And yes, it caused me some anxiety, but we adjusted our strategies and got everything worked out.

6-Carpool
Carpooling is such an awesome tool. Sure it is green and that is nice and all, but above that, it makes life easier for everyone involved! I have a neighbor I carpool to school with each day. She drives one week, I drive the next week, etc. It is so nice to have a whole week that I am not worried about driving to school.

We also carpool to Kaitlyn's dance class. My husband drives her to dance class and my neighbor picks up. Kaitlyn and the neighbor girl think it is so cool that they get driven to dance by a dad. I don't know why, but they do :)

7-Involve Your Spouse
This leads me to involving your spouse. My husband drives to dance class. He just drops them off on his way back to work from lunch break. On that day, he has a little bit later lunch (this was one stress for me--her dance class got moved back by 30 minutes, but he was able to adjust his lunch with no problem). He also takes the kids to swimming lessons. 

8-Ask For Help
I asked my mom to drive McKenna to and from dance class each week. McKenna LOVES this special time she gets with her grandma each week. My mom will also come over and watch Brinley at times if needed. 

I also have a neighbor who will watch Brinley when needed during nap time. I do the same for her sleeping children.

When McKenna was a baby, I drove carpool for Brayden's preschool. Each week on my day to drive, my dad came over and hung out at the house with Kaitlyn and McKenna slept. He did all sorts of fun things, like played ponies with her. He also had the patience to teach her how to play games on PBSKids.org.

So ask family members, neighbors, older people you know, teenagers, etc. to watch your sleeping baby if needed.

9-Divide and Conquer
While I love being at everything I can, I realized I had to let go of some things right now. There are things just my husband goes to and things just I go to. Brinley will not be a baby forever. We do our best to work things out to both be there, but if one can't, we accept it as reality of having multiple children.

10-Sign Up Close to Home
When considering where to take piano lessons, go to preschool, where to take dance class, and all of those activities, I take proximity to home into account. I will choose a place 10 minutes away over a place 20 minutes away. 

Utilizing these methods, Brinley has been able to be just as consistent as any of my other children have been with sleeping needs. 

Do you have tips you have found work for your family?

10 comments:

Emily said...

I LOOOOOVE this post!!!! I have told many people, many times that i personally believe the first year of life is CRITICAL and that for that year our family will revolve (for the most part) around the baby's schedule and needs. I too stress about school and have found solutions that allow my baby to get her needed naps. She has to eat her lunch later in order for us to pick up her brother each day but she's adjusted to that pretty well! i agree with you about doing my best to revolve around the baby's schedule and then letting them adjust to the things that we cannot change. ASKING for help is super tough to do but it's worth it! seriously, this might be my favorite post you've done :) I'm going to send it to my husband haha!

D & H said...

I love using my wrap carrier (Moby) for times when I need to run errands or to activities with my older son. My baby sleeps well in it so he gets his nap and we get to get out of the house! I do try to limit outings to once a day.

a patriotic expat and her findings said...

I would often leave the baby home to nap with my husband and take my oldest with me out and people often commented on how I didn't bring the baby but I just said, you know what, there will be plenty of time to bring the baby into the great big world very soon. Now, I'll let them sleep!

Aymee said...

Good post, thank you for publishing it :) I have a question: when you say you let your neighbor watch your baby while she sleeps, does it mean that you take your baby to her house to let her sleep there? Or does your neighbor (and her kids) come over to your house while baby sleeps? Or do you take the monitor to her?
Thanks!
Aymee

Valerie Plowman said...

Thanks Emily!

Valerie Plowman said...

D&H Thanks for your tip!

Valerie Plowman said...

expat, it is so true! And right now, I worry about the flu and RSV.

Valerie Plowman said...

Aymee, we have done it all ways. We don't have one set way. A walk-in closet and a pack and play or bassinet is great for that situation. And the peapod.

Jessie said...

Another tip for those reading this post late, is for going to school. Growing up, we lived three blocks from school, but Mom didn't want to bundle baby up every day for the walk so she enlisted the help of an older neighbor kid. She lived a block away and walked with my sister and I.

lilly martin said...

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