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Life with Little Ones: The Journey Not the Destination

     As I pondered what to write this month an opportunity presented itself (it always does if I wait long enough). This time it came earlier than expected and started with a leaky clothes washer. I saw water leaking through a light fixture from our kitchen ceiling (our washer and dryer are on the second floor). Of course it happened when my husband wasn’t home and at 10:00 at night.  Fortunately, I was able to call my brother (a general contractor) who lives 30 minutes away.

     He came right away, addressed the problem and then went to fix the light fixture. When he saw my kitchen, which was quite a mess from the day, he commented, “Wow, I thought I was bad. I’m a single dad raising two kids with my own business and I don’t even have that many dishes in the sink!” I was mortified! (Granted, his kids are 11 and 4, while mine are barely 6, 3, and not even 1—a little different scenario—still humiliating!). However, it was my own fault. I had broken one of my cardinal rules of housekeeping – never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink!

     I had been keeping a late night schedule the previous two nights and had gone to bed the night before with dirty dishes in the sink. When morning came, I tried my best to clean up the kitchen before breakfast but it just didn’t quite all get done. I have two little helpers. The one-year-old tries to climb into the dishwasher and for some reason always goes for the knives. The three-year-old really does try to help and does well except that it takes three times as long. Needless to say, by dinner I had decided to put the kids to bed and clean up at the end of the day. Who knew I’d get caught because of a leaky washer!!

     This brings me to the purpose for this article.  My husband is a federal firefighter who works 24-hour-shifts every other day. Twice a month he works a three-day overtime shift. I am often alone with three little ones for 24-72 hours. Now, this is nothing compared to military families or single parents. If you are a military wife with children or a single parent, you are one of my heroes.  Although I don’t have anywhere near the challenges that you encounter, I have had to be creative in how I manage my time and housekeeping in this season of our life. It is a wonderful and fulfilling season of raising little ones that are close in age. There is never a dull moment! However, it also requires efficiency to capitalize on all the enjoyment along the way. I wanted to share a few ideas with you if you are also raising little ones without a spouse home each evening.

Taking Care of Your Home

     The first no-brainer is never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. Inevitably, even if the children don’t delay the clean up, life will. Before you know it, you cleaned up from the night before but didn’t have time to clean up the breakfast dishes. The same happens with lunch. Then at dinner you have dishes from lunch and dinner, which is always the meal that produces the most dishes. By now, the dishwasher won’t hold them all and you are left with a pile in the sink.  If you start each day with a clean sink and an empty dishwasher, clean up is a snap!

Taking Care of You

Shower at Night:

     The second idea to consider is taking your shower at night after the kids are asleep. I know some of you think this is gross. But when you are by yourself for three days, it is better than allowing little ones to be unsupervised while you are in the shower. I have found this works well. In the morning, I can jump out of bed, get dressed, and be ready in 15 minutes. I also invested in an electric razor. For me, smooth legs are a must and showering the night before left just enough stubble the next morning that even if it weren’t visible, it would have been visible by noon. So a quick touch up in the morning with an electric razor takes only two minutes.

Healthy Skin:

     With our third child, I developed a “system” with regard to keeping myself from sinking into the “stay-at-home-mom” look. I invest in good skin care products such as facial cleanser, moisturizer, foundation, etc. There is a quick (five-minute) morning routine that works with my foundation makeup and a quick (five-minute) night routine that takes it off. (A plus is the skin care line I chose also contains anti-aging products, so it works on fighting wrinkles while I sleep!)

     I make a point to do this each morning and night. My skin always looks great, my makeup looks good, and I feel better about myself even if nobody comes to our door all day. In the event that we do receive visitors, I hope they leave thinking, “Wow, that lady really enjoys being home with her kids,” versus “Oh, she looks awful, the poor thing, those kids run her ragged.”

Hair Care:

     As part of my “system,” I force myself to get a haircut (trim) and color every six weeks. I make the time and schedule appointments a few weeks in advance. My husband will watch the kids and I get to cover my gray! I don’t have bad hair days anymore because I keep it well maintained.  Bad hair days result in wasted time in front of the mirror.

Your Children Deserve a Well-Balanced Mom:

     Don’t feel guilty taking care of “you.” Biblical motherhood does require sacrifice and selflessness but it also requires us to be there 100% with our family – body, soul, and spirit. When general hygiene suffers, overall you feel bad or, at the least, you feel not as motivated.  It isn’t because you deserve to be pampered, but because your family deserves a mom that feels good about herself.

     You can’t give out to others what you don’t have inside.  I am not saying that you need expensive make up or hair appointments to be happy. I don’t go to the spa, get massages, pedicures, or manicures, nor do I have the time. However, basic general hygiene such as a clean face, body, hair, and teeth isn’t too much to expect!
Taking Care of the Children

Evening Preparation:

     It is also helpful to reorganize the diaper bag each night. I do this so I can pick it up and go when I need to leave the next morning. Refill wipes, diapers, baby food, spoons, snacks, and the always infamous extra outfit. Extra clothes have saved me on many occasions. I now keep a tote bag in the car with my six-year-old and three-year-old daughters’ extra outfits including a bath towel for each child.  

Easy Breakfast:

     When morning arrives, I hit the ground running. All three tend to wake up at the same time. All three are hungry at once. It can be nerve wracking with a hungry one-year old toddling around as I prepare breakfast. Often I will pre-fill the little ones’ sippy cups at night and set the cups in the refrigerator for the next morning’s breakfast. It is one less task to do with everyone hungry at once! Anything I can do the night before to prepare for breakfast is a plus.

     For example, the kids enjoy having warm boiled eggs for breakfast. Often I will make the boiled eggs the night before, store the eggs in the refrigerator overnight, and then in the morning pop them in the microwave. Obviously sticking to an easy menu of boiled eggs, cereal, or toast makes things much easier. If they are still hungry, having something like applesauce, berries, or yogurt usually does the trick and again offers easy clean up. I also use paper plates whenever possible!

Gates are Great:

     Perhaps my biggest challenge is each time the baby turns into a toddler. Our third baby just transitioned to the toddler stage. He started walking at 10 months and now at 12 months, he is so quick. We have a steep flight of stairs so a baby gate at the bottom and top is necessary. I recommend investing in baby gates that you can use easily with one hand. It becomes a source of frustration over the course of a day when every trip up or down the stairs turns into a battle with a baby gate. It can be especially tiring with a baby on your hip!

Training Toddlers:

     Identify any areas in your home that need better “baby-proofing” than you currently have. Most likely, this will not only result in better safety but also less stress for you.  For us, it was a shelving area in our kitchen. The toddler kept pulling things off the shelves. Unfortunately, it was often our bottled water. He then liked to roll the plastic bottles all over the house. Combine this with two kitchen drawers that are at the perfect height for little hands and we had items all over the floor that belonged in the drawers.

     Yes, I have taught him the no touch command ‘till I am blue in the face. Yes, I have taped his little hands with a stern, “no” each time. I found substituting the shelving with a cabinet and installing baby proof latches on the drawers is much easier. As my thre-year-old is yelling from the bathroom, “Mommy, I have to poop,” I don’t have to worry about the toddler getting hurt from pulling something off the shelf or pinching his fingers in the drawer while I go to review a lesson in how to wipe. That isn’t lazy parenting, it is prudent parenting when you are home by yourself with little ones close in age.

Taking Care of Prayer-Anytime!  

     Finally, this might be the first time you will read this in regard to spending time with God…but here it goes. If you are a morning person, good for you. If you aren’t, please don’t feel condemned if you don’t get up an hour earlier to pray. I have read soooo many Christian parenting books that emphasize the importance of rising early in the morning before the children are awake to pray (better known as the “quiet time” concept). I agree that spending time with God is absolutely vital to life. I crave my alone time with God but it isn’t at 5 AM.  

     If we consider how God worked in creating the world, He actually worked from evening till morning. Read in Genesis 1, “And the evening and the morning was the first . . . second . . . third . . . fourth . . . fifth . . . sixth day.”  In Jesus’ time, there were eight watches in a day. The first watch would begin at 6 PM, the second watch would begin at 9 PM, the third at midnight, the fourth at 3 AM and so forth. In Matthew 14:23-32, we read that Jesus prayed in the evening and during the fourth watch of the night a storm came. He had already prayed about 10 hours before the enemy sent a storm and because of His prayer beforehand, He already had his strategy for the following day.

     The Jewish culture places great importance on nighttime prayer. The Jewish practice of cheshbon hanefesh occurs each night before bedtime. This is a reflective process where one ponders the activities of the day and takes an inventory of their soul. It prepares the heart and mind for the bedtime prayers known as the tefilah. Here again is another example that the concept of “quiet time” doesn’t have to occur early in the morning.

     We also know from occult practices that the “witching hour” is midnight. Before most Christians awaken for their 5 AM prayer, there have already been witches, warlocks, and like evil spirits pronouncing curses and planning how to sabotage someone’s day. Wouldn’t it be effective if like Jesus did in Matthew 14, we pray beforehand against such attacks and gain divine revelation and strategy for the next day?

     Let’s face it, when you are raising little ones, it is a challenge to ever find a “quiet time” in your day anyway. (This is especially true if you have more than two children!)  Some of my most powerful prayer times have been in the shower or cleaning up dishes from dinner. I find that I need to pray often through out the day. I believe this is what Paul meant when he said we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

     If you have felt discouraged about sacrificing sleep in the morning to have a “quiet tim,” be released from that guilt. Raising little ones is only for a season and during this season, mom’s need rest so they can enjoy it. God knows this, and there are plenty of examples in the Bible that don’t conform to the “morning only- quiet time” concept.

Conclusion: The Journey vs. the Destination

     Raising little ones can be so much fun. However, it has required me to realize a fundamental principle: life isn’t about the destination, it is about the journey. How many smiles can we put on their face each day? What do they learn from us? What will they remember and take into their own family someday? I want them to remember parents that always thanked God for the blessing their children brought to their life and I want them to remember parents who enjoyed life all along the way.


     “Father God, I pray that You will bless each person who reads this article with Divine revelation and strategy for their days. Please give them creative ways to make their home and family life more efficient, so they can enjoy all You have created them to do and be! In Jesus’s name I ask You. Amen!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Dorena DellaVecchio, Ph.D.

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