Coping with 3

A few years ago, I wrote about how I coped alone with two kids. Now that I have three, I think I should write about how I am coping with three.

In actual fact, coping with three is much easier than coping with two. First of all, we hired a full time maid when we had our third kid. We had a live-in maid for 3 over years and I only went solo again this year (2010) January, when my #3 turned 3. Right now, we only have a part-time cleaner who comes once a week to clean. However, the house has to be cleaned twice a week to be livable, which means I have to do the other cleaning myself. It is actually not difficult. I prefer to suffer all at once instead of spreading out my suffering. Hence, I designate one day as house-cleaning day and do all my cleaning on that day. I vacuum and mop the whole house, wash both toilets and the kitchen on that day. Then for the next few days, I don’t have to do any cleaning, except for some dusting, and laundry (which is basically just throwing the clothes into the machine). After that, it is another house-cleaning day, which the cleaner will do the cleaning. And the cycle goes on.

How do I manage to clean the whole house in one go? I just do. I have been do it in the morning when the older kids are in school. Come next year, the schedule will be a bit different again and I will have to see how to work things around it. Basically, I just do it. The kids know that Monday is house cleaning day, so they keep out of the way. The little one does not need my full attention all day long and knows how to play on his own. At times, I keep him occupied by giving him some ‘homework’ (as he calls it) that he can do on his own, like tracing letters and drawing.

For meals, I have mentioned before that these days, I prefer not to spend too much time in the kitchen preparing elaborate meals. On house-cleaning day (which I am the one doing the cleaning), I will cook very simple and quick meals. I have already shared some of the recipes here. One of the weekday dinner is spent at my mom’s. The rest of the week, I try to cook simply too. Weekend is usually no-cook because we usually go out.

Marketing is done about once a week. Usually, we do it during the weekend, but sometimes I also do a supermarket run during the weekday. Whenever I can, I try to do preparation work like cutting up the meat right after marketing. Then I freeze or keep in the fridge. This way, I cut down on meal preparation time during the weekdays.

So, you see, there is really nothing too much that I do. I think bulk of my time is spent managing the kids. Some how, getting them to do this and that takes up time. Coaching them at their school work definitely takes a lot of time.

As I said, coping with three is easier than coping with two. The main reason is because the two older kids are old enough for me to not have to spend too much time taking care of their every need. They are also old enough to help around the house. For instance, #2 helps me with some laundry sorting, and #1 helps me watch his little brother if I am busy. #3 still takes afternoon nap, so I utilise that time to prepare dinner and coach the older boys in their school work.

What people don’t realise is that having more kids can make your life easier because the older children can help. Besides that, the kids can self-entertain by playing with each other. This is very different from when you only have 1 or 2 kids. I remember when I only had one, I had to be the sole person to entertain the boy, which takes a lot more effort and time.

I find the most challenging part was when #3 was a baby. Even though we had a maid, the maid was mainly in charge of cleaning and cooking and the bulk of baby care was still my responsibility. Baby care like nursing, cleaning, changing, rocking, putting to sleep, basically handling a sticky baby took a lot of effort, attention and time. The maid helped to watch over the older two kids and having an extra pair of hands at home meant that I didn’t have to stress over splitting myself into two to be at two places at the same time. Things got easier as #3 grew, of course. When the last maid finally left and we were left maid-free for good, the youngest was already past the nursing and rocking stage. That made a huge difference.

At this stage, with two older, schooling kids, the challenges are quite different compared to when i had two – one preschooler and a baby. Rather than nursing, cleaning, rocking, putting to sleep, the challenge now is more of teaching, fetching and ferrying, and cooking. Now that the kids are older, and the older ones in school, they have more activities, like extra lessons outside school. This requires more planning and organising skills. I have to keep a close watch on our schedule to avoid a clash, and to avoid over-scheduling. Now that I don’t have another adult at home, logistics is very crucial because I can’t be at two places at one time. I can’t leave one or two kids at home while I bring one out for some appointment. I also have to plan to do things as efficiently as possible, which means going out of the house to fetch and ferry every half and hour is not a very smart thing to do.

Just like when I was coping with two, certain common sense stuff still applies. E.g. keeping at least one day of the week free, so that I have the freedom and flexibility to shift things around, if necessary. Training the kids to be independent and helpful around the house is good for them and good for me. Keeping things simple makes life a lot easier.

A lot of people think that I must be super to be able to handle so many things without a maid. Now you can see that I actually don’t do very much. So coping with three is really not too difficult. I am sure it will get even easier as the kids get older.