Ask Caroline

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on keeping your kids close, getting "me" time, and discipline.

on Jun 28, 2011

Kelly from Bergenfield, NJ says: Hi Caroline - I am a mother of two extremely active, young children (ages 2 and 4). I find it hard to give them the constant attention they want while keeping all of the other balls in the air (i.e. house work, cooking, cleaning, job, etc.). I feel like I loose my patience sometimes and yell more than I should. How did you handle all of your responsibilities along with your three children when they were little? Please help. I need your advice.

Caroline says: There's an old saying Kelly, "A mother's work is never done." Isn't that the truth! 

Unfortunately we sometimes allow ourselves to believe that we're invincible and can be all things to all people at all times. Not true, not even close -- you need to take a step back and give yourself a little breathing room.

A couple of things popped out at me in your question. The first was the idea that you have to give your children the "constant" attention that they ask for, and the second was that you believe you yell "more than you should." Children need attention, but they don't need your constant undivided attention. This will only create a separation anxiety issue whenever you leave the room. Your children are still young so they need to be watched for sure, but you need to teach them to play on their own; it's important, it helps stimulate their mind, and gives you a little breathing room. The second thing you mentioned was yelling "more than you should." Believe me, I can understand your frustration, we've all been there, but the kids don't know why you're yelling. They're too young to understand the emotion. If they've done something wrong take them by the hand and show them what they did. Speak sternly, tell them why you're angry. Yelling only scares them and doesn't really solve the problem. When you feel the frustration building, try to take a step back and relax before you address the kids. I'm not suggesting you let them get away with any wrong doing, I'm simply saying to change your delivery. it will make you feel better too. Why get your blood pressure flowing? Relax and breathe.

I know it's hard to juggle all of your responsibilities, but you can't allow yourself to get run down. Try planning ahead for your morning routine, put the kids clothes out the night before, and if they go to preschool or daycare, pack their lunches the night before too. It saves some running around time and unnecessary stress. 

Do housework a little at a time rather than planning one specific day for it. I keep cleaning supplies under the sink in every bathroom. After you're done with your morning routine, give the sinks and countertops a quick cleaning, takes less than a minute. If the kids are playing in their room, vacuum the hallways, living room, etc. Little spurts of cleaning here and there lighten the heavy cleaning workload and the house will always look fresh and in order.

I can go on forever with little tips, Kelly, but the bottom line is you need to manage your time effectively. Put yourself and your kids on a schedule and create a routine that works for you. VERY IMPORTANT: Take the time you need for yourself and your husband too. Everyone needs a little "me" time; it's good for the soul. 

My final thought is this -- you are not alone. There are millions of Kellys out there, and although you may feel overwhelmed right now, this too shall pass – you're kids are growing everyday, and before you know it, they'll be in school and within the blink of an eye married with their own kids. Take the time to stop and smell the roses (and the poop and the spit up). You'll miss it when it's gone.