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Help! 4 bigger ones is harder than 4 littler ones. How do I cope?

(13 Posts)
coldethyl Thu 09-May-13 15:10:29

Four isn't really too many, I'm being hyperbolic, I love them all dearly. But suddenly they are Y7, Y5, Y3 and almost 3 and everybody needs a piece of me all the time and I can't manage it all.

DS1 (almost 12) is coming up to his first school exams and is floundering a bit on how to approach them. So I help with revision.

DS2 (10) is needing a little bit of support at school after a disastrous Y3. We're doing about 20 mins a night together on comprehension, grammar etc but he needs all my attention at that point, not me to be bobbling in and out, breaking up fights, providing drinks and mopping grazed knees. After a month of trial and error we have found after tea (6pm) to be the best time for him, but DS3 is reaching the end of his tether then and really needs a bath. We solved our previous 'what time is tea?' problem, only to lose control of another tentacle on the octopus of family life.

DD (8) is bored at school and can be a right madam at home. She needs near-constant 'management' to keep things on an even keel.

DS3 (almost 3) has suddenly started recognising letters and numbers and I want to help him build on that, not miss the moment. He does pre-school 3 mornings a week, when I'm supposed to work instead I hide on MN sometimes

DH's lovely new job means he "works from home" (shut in the study, only coming out to go to the lavatory) from 8.30am til 7pm and can no longer help as he used to; except on the days when he goes out at 7.30am and comes home at 9pm. These 'out' days are unpredictable, so I have to plan to do it on my own.

And I'm self employed. Oh, and I think the two oldest are entering puberty together.

I realise that routine is all (and I am the routine queen) but frankly I'm drowning. When we decided on a fourth child, DH's hours were light and I've been very spoiled with masses of help during the day until the last year or so. We are just about used to DS1 being at secondary school and the longer day, but it also means longer evenings. Realistically, my day starts between 5.30 and 6.30am, when DS3 gets up for a wee, and continues until 9pm, when DS1 goes to bed. I feel like a wet rag and I don't think I'm helping any of them as much as I could be, because I'm so bloody tired. I get almost no time of my own, and things I used to leave til the evening (Tesco orders, menu planning, filing, bills) aren't getting dealt with. I'm running largely on caffeine and I feel slightly sick most of the time.

And if I can't manage this now, how will I cope when they're Y13, Y11, Y9 and Y4?

Sorry, I appear to have written an essay. I'm not even sure what help I'm hoping for from this board. Have any of your survived similar age distributions and demands on your time?

[have ummed and aahed all day about posting this. Please be kind]

lostonline Thu 09-May-13 15:39:43

Hi - never really mastered it myself either but can you get the older ones to help sort out the younger ones eg eldest help the youngest by reading etc whilst you are bathing the others or any similar combinations. I find getting mine to help out in exchange for one to one time later sometimes works.

Can DH take a break and help out at vital times and may be work a bit later when its quieter?

Is there stuff that you can leave until the weekend when DH is around ? I found that I could get loads more done alone if DH took them all out of a hour to the park or swimming at the weekend.

I only have 3 kids but still found it hard to fit everything in when I was on my own never mind fitting in work as well

Good luck and take care

tallulah Thu 09-May-13 16:54:34

These problems are always cyclical. I had a similar sort of weekend, trying to help DD1 (27) with a job application; sort out DS2 (23) who hasn't been well for over a month; coach DS3 (21) who was going for a job interview and moan at DS1 (25) for the state his room is in, while DD2 (6) decided that as nobody was looking at her she was going to be particularly obnoxious.

I found the later teenage years were actually a lot easier than the stage you are at now. The will do stuff on their own, go out of the house leaving you in peace, and can actually be useful for cooking dinner or making you a cup of tea.

In the meantime, unless your DH has to work those hours because of client contact I would negotiate with him that he has a break from 6pm until 7pm so that he can bath DS3 while you concentrate on DS2, then he works his last hour once DS3 is in bed.

Myliferocks Thu 09-May-13 17:00:35

You have my sympathy coldethel!

Mine are yr12, yr8, yr6, yr5 and yr3.

In some ways it is so much harder now they are older than when they were younger.

I find nights are the worse as bedtimes have got later and my 17 year old doesn't really have a bedtime as such.

My lovely quiet, calm evenings have disappeared!

NAR4 Fri 10-May-13 08:58:00

I used to 'set' work for them to all sit down at the dining room table and do. You can also sit there doing your work or some 'work' with the 3yr old. This way you are on hand to help each of them. Remember it is their work not yours. Harsh but true. You need to take a step back and let the older ones work some of it out themselves. If they aren't coping with their school work you could talk to the school and/or hire a tutor for a while.

It does get easier. My oldest are yr8, yr10 and yr12.

shebangsthedrum Fri 10-May-13 09:12:59

mine are yr12,yr10,yr7,yr5 and yr r. Set your older ones chores which they must do, I don't mean replastering the front room or anything, but dc1 feed animals every morning, then tick box on fridge (so you know it has been done and can award remuneration at weekend, minus days forgot) dc2 make mum and dad a brew at 7.30 each morning tick box etc. For homework, play teacher! all sit around dining table and books out. If one little one is struggling, step in a bigger one to impart advice. All under your direct supervision. Monetary rewards work with all kids really, but especially high schoolers. YR7 example, mum can I please have a new football? answer yes son but you must wash up/ load dishwasher for one week. Bingo one child occupied, a job you hate doing is done and a bit of spare time for something else.

Myliferocks Fri 10-May-13 10:01:01

Yes to the homework round the dining room table and getting one of the older ones to help the younger ones although I have to be very careful which of mine I pair up!
If mine start arguing at any time I point out that the must be bored if they have time to argue so I give them a chore to do that involves whoever is arguing to be in different parts of the house.
There are so busy complaining about me that they forget what they were arguing about! grin

coldethyl Fri 10-May-13 13:48:20

Thank you all. Firstly, I feel very feeble now for having complained when most of you have one more child than I do and an even more complex dynamic!

I will try all working after tea tonight, even if it is Friday. There is still homework to be completed and, thinking about it, even DD has some learning log to do. DS3 can count sheep and pigs for me. NAR4 you are absolutely right that it is their work, not mine. I think the 'involved in homework' thing the infant and junior schools were so keen on is difficult to step back from as they get older. Might try getting DS1 assisting people too, although as myliferocks says, I will have to be careful with pairings. He tends to be a touch... didactic in his approaches.

I like the idea of handing out jobs with financial reward too - do you think it would work for DH grin? I will talk to him about coming out of the study 6-7. If the chief exec phones all deals are off, of course, but otherwise I think he can probably mark it out in his diary and it will work.

I know it's all temporary and part of the longer cycle. And I remember how awful I thought 3 under 3.5 was, but at least they all went to bed at 7pm! I will try shifting house stuff to the weekend if DH can take everyone out when DS2 has a music lesson - I tried doing a Tesco order last night after they were all in bed, and put together a load of rubbish then woke up with my nose resting gently on my keyboard. Ah well, such is parenthood.

Myliferocks Fri 10-May-13 14:47:36

I've had to learn to take a step back.
My DC might not do chores or cleaning to the same ability or the same way as me but at least the job is being done.
Mine don't have their own chores. I give them out as things need doing.
I find this works best for us but might not work so well for other families.
My friends describe me as a swan. Elegant on the surface but legs flapping like hell underneath!grin
I've found that things get easier the more I keep on top of things.
And remember there is nothing like a good moan to make you feel better! grin

LongStory Sun 12-May-13 21:43:30

Coldethyl thanks for your post I am struggling with almost identical issues (Yr8 Yr6 Yr3 + 4yo twins) and find that I really need two adults around from 6pm - 9pm if I'm going to do bedtime, housework, homework and some chat/relax time justice. With DH job that isn't really feasible, so am going slightly spare at the moment. However I have decided to get an au pair soon to help out with the low-flying stuff at that time of day. I'll let you know if that helps!!

coldethyl Mon 13-May-13 11:05:00

LongStory it's good to hear it's not just me, although obviously I'm not pleased there's anyone else struggling! Things I have learned over the weekend:
1) if I'm going to give DD stuff / homework too, settle her first. There was screaming and kicking things over "not understanding" the maths (although what she actually meant was 'I've read the first 3 words and the answers have not written themselves on the page').
2) Do not let DS2 work unassisted on a Friday, he's too tired and gets sad too quickly.
3) Bribery really really works. Tried the 'new football' trick upthread on DS1, dishwasher is miraculously emptying itself at 4.30pm daily. Bribed DC#2 and #3 with a chocolate coin to tidy the playroom. Instant carpet, pretty much, and toys in boxes if not always the right ones.

I'm going to try 'all around the table at 6pm' again tonight, unless DS1 want to take DS3 into the garden for half an hour. We will see. I'm going to try to go back to 'dinner prepped before school pick-up' too, so there's more calm before the storm at 5.30.

Any mylife you are so right about a really good whinge.

coldethyl Fri 17-May-13 14:43:26

Interesting, it looks like we've been overtaken by a 'discussion of the day' about whether older children are more complicated (in logistical terms) than tinies. So it's not just us.

I've concluded that the problem is partly me - I am so wound up about everything at the moment that I make the whole house tense and the children respond accordingly. On the days he is here, DH has been appearing for an hour 6-7pm and that is working better. I am stepping back a bit and trying not to overthink the small things. We're back to 'if all are fed, clean(ish) and safely in their bedrooms, I've won'. I've been using that mantra since DS1 learned to walk, you'd think I'd be over it now.

I have to say, though, this isn't quite the life I envisioned when I was 22. I can see how I've ended up here, but running a house and a family and business appears to be three full time jobs, nevermind finding time to MN relaxing for myself.

ZingWidge Wed 10-Jul-13 12:39:46

I'm here to get help too

DSs are 12, 10, 8, 6 and 3
DD is 15 months.

it's a struggle

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