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Exhausted by preschool DCs- tips/sympathy here please!

(14 Posts)
ExcitableScallop Tue 04-Aug-15 11:01:39

I have 2 DCs, aged 3 and 4. They are funny, fabulous, smart little people, and I really do love spending time with them. BUT. Right now I am finding them fecking exhausting, and we're only 2 weeks in to the summer holidays.

They're generally pretty well behaved apart from having the odd moment, and whilst they do fight, I don't think it's more than the average sibling relationship.

What I do find draining is the CONSTANT demands for me to do things, and also the incessant talking. They were both very early talkers, and DH and I are chatty people, but they are relentless! DS will constantly ask me questions I just can't always answer (normal, I know), or waffle on about his particular interest for the best part of the day. DD will narrate everything going on and the stream of consciousness going through her head NON STOP, and if I don't appear to be paying attention, will now say to me "Mummy, look at me, look at me please" until I totally stop everything. Which is fine sometimes, but I can't do that 24/7!

I work for myself, and in the holidays I have to do it in the evenings (freelance here), but by the time that comes, I just feel so drained. I know I should be grateful that they want to engage with me, and I love them to bits, but I've been getting a bit snappy with them as I can't/simply don't want to DO STUFF or be 'on' all the time. They have plenty of time with me, and I always make sure we do several things together throughout the day and have quality time eg. reading, a game, just talking to them about what they're doing, so they're not deprived of attention. We also get out and about loads, but again, we can't do that every day (and I want a rest!).

The other day I shouted at them when DS tipped me over the edge asking me to get yet another activity out for them, 10 minutes after I'd set up a previously requested activity, because I just felt suffocated at the demands. I took myself off upstairs to have a little weep! blush

They are very early risers whatever time they go to sleep (5-6am), and they have some stamina, keeping on with this right up until bedtime. DD also still doesn't always sleep through the night, so I think DH and I are quite tired from this too. I just can't keep up!

Is this normal? Does anyone have any advice as to how to deal with 'high needs' children? Or just please tell me I'm not the only one?! The only time they are quiet is when the telly is on, but I don't want them watching it all the time (I tend so save it for some down-time late afternoon when they need a rest and I need to cooke dinner).

They are awesome but very full-on!

ExcitableScallop Tue 04-Aug-15 11:04:10

Should have also said, I'm wondering if I might have some introvert tendencies which is why I find it so exhausting? I used to think I was an extrovert, but now I'm not so sure!

hookedonamoonagedaydream Tue 04-Aug-15 11:23:11

It is full on with small ones at home all day. I try and get them to learn to occupy themselves (as much is as possible) and just zone out some of the noise. Teaching them not to speak while others are speaking helps too, if I am mid conversation with someone i don't just break off because they come charging in shouting.

I have a massive book shelf full of things to do, I rotate the things because they can only reach a few shelves, I try and put something in reach that the haven't seen before/for a while. I also try and fill it up with things they can set up themselves.

Have you got a garden? E-bay and local FB selling site are good places for second hand play equipment, once your garden is safe you can pretty much leave them to it imo and just intervene if they are being dangerous.

The biggest ting for me was to stop trying to do all the things that I thought I ought to be doing, we only bake occasionally (they also do it at their grandparents) and painting is done at nursery or on the patio table where the mess can be hosed down.

ExcitableScallop Tue 04-Aug-15 14:55:32

Yes Hooked they have a garden that I chuck them in as early as is deemed reasonable! wink

I like your idea of a shelf of things that they can set up themselves, I think I will try this, especially as a way to keep them occupied whilst DH and I wake up a little. I've realised that quite often we've been painting/cutting and sticking etc by 7am and it's knackering.

I find it so hard to get a balance of being a mum who does lots of things with them, and leaving them to get on with it. My mum did hardly anything with us, so I always vowed to be a bit more 'hands on', but I think it might be to the detriment of my sanity!

So many Mums I've spoken to so far this holiday are absolutely loving their time with their children (apparently), and look at me like I'm a bit odd when I say I find it tough some days. sad

teacher54321 Tue 04-Aug-15 17:26:35

Ds is an early riser - always awake by 6.15am, normally earlier. He comes into our bed and has a snack and some milk and watches CBeebies on the iPad while dh and I wake up! There is no way I could do craft activities before 7am! Can you set them up with telly, drink and snack first thing to slow down the start of the day?
We normally go out as much as possible, so that when we're at home he is happy to play with his toy cars and train set or play doh.

hookedonamoonagedaydream Tue 04-Aug-15 19:07:52

7am is early! I'm still faffing about in the bathroom at that time when its the holidays. We don't do 'stuff' until after breakfast and we don't have breakfast until I have had my shower in (relative) piece. I've taught the DCs to veg in their p.j's until breakfast, then they get dressed. Channel 5 is pretty good for small DCs. That way the day is more spaced out, otherwise it feels like midday and its only 10am!

Artandco Tue 04-Aug-15 19:13:55

I had same ages, they are now far far better at 4 and 5, than 3 and 4.

Between 2-3/4 years I used to set timers! Also work for myself so often work around them

At that age they didn't have school or nursery. So I would set up train set for example and play with them 10 mins, then say mummy now is working a little bit so you play together, when timer goes off I will join you again. Set timer 30 mins and try and sort some work emails. Then play or read to them, or sort new activity for 10-15 mins again if needed.

Meant I could usually get at least basic emails, and a bit of research out of the way whilst they were awake, then main phone calls and write ups whilst they napped or slept.

Artandco Tue 04-Aug-15 19:18:17

Oh and I don't do anything with mine except reading and feeding before 9am. They do generally sleep in well until 8-8.30am, but on occasions they wake at say 6am, I just leave them playing alone with quiet toys at bottom of my bed, or give them books to look at. After 7am I will read to them and give drinks, or get out basic toys but no setting up paints and stuff until after 9am. I'm too busy sorting stuff/ sleeping/ showering/ helping one dress to be watching them also

PartyFops Tue 04-Aug-15 19:24:41

I feel your pain, some people wonder why I have 3 days worth of childcare during the summer holidays when I don't really need it work wise ( I do work but I'm self employed within a new business which is still building up).

This is why! my 4 year old is relentless. She keeps asking questions, most of which don't really make alot of sense despite being a good speaker. She tells me lots of jokes that also don't make any sense what so ever and will get upset if I don't laugh. She has the concentration span of a gnat and will move between numerous activities. And she will not do anything without me, I have to help her with puzzles, colouring in, playing shops etc. Which sometimes I love, of course, but its exhausting.

PinPon Tue 04-Aug-15 19:33:41

It is a challenge. I attempt to have something (anything!) planned for each day. And I try to tire them out as much as possible. Walking to the shops, scooting to the park, riding bikes to friends' homes... It all helps towards easier evenings and better sleep in our household. And I get some exercise too - no need for the gym smile

BertieBotts Tue 04-Aug-15 20:22:44

I am an extrovert but I find dealing with 3 or 4 year olds brings out the introvert in me extremely fast! I think it's because they aren't generally very good company except in v. small doses and are usually quite hard work blush I suddenly understand my introvert husband (and friends) so much better. It's like every social interaction for them is like conversing with a four year old. Give me strength!

I find scheduling is the most helpful thing ever. I used to hate the word schedule, never ever had a baby routine, but it's so useful with preschoolers and/or anything else which has you longing for the end of the day.

If you are an extrovert then adult company will be an absolute need. Not a nice to have, but a lifeline. So that is your first thing. Every day (yep, every day) have some time where you are within the company of other adults. A playgroup. A busy park. Arrange playdates. If you have a day without adult contact then make time to phone a friend for a chat that evening or do something with DH. Don't get sucked into feeling that MN or FB is adult interaction, because it seems to hit the right buttons immediately but long term it won't replenish that social energy for you, so you end up feeling worse. Oh, 3-4 year olds are also horrible at letting you socialise and will create absolute hell, so good luck in finding the right child to pair them with or the right venue to go to, but persevere, it is worth it. Consider keeping playdates short, around an hour, if this is a problem. Maybe find another mum of a 3-4 year old to be your text buddy so you can swap deathwishes. Or just swap anecdotes and murder urges with DH via text if he has irritating colleagues. (For folk who are genuinely introverts it might be a good idea to designate a "quiet time" at some point of the day where everyone goes for a lie down - if not an actual nap - separately. And again to make up the alone time when your partner is home if you can't do it during the day, but try to build it in during the day as often as possible.)

TV is great. TV is not actually that bad. But keep it at a set time (time relating to event, ie before/after dinner, not clock time) and stick to that religiously, or you'll have annoying whining all the time insisting on having it on all the time because they can't possibly entertain themselves. If you've accidentally done this, don't worry. Remain firm. Turn it off and remove the remote batteries, or flick it off at the plug when they aren't looking, so they can't turn it back on. (In extreme cases, remove the fuse from the plug) The whining lasts around ten minutes (Which feels like an hour) and then they suddenly remember some amazing toy that they have and rush off without once looking back. Really really truly.

Mealtimes are of course mealtimes. Schedule those in so you know what time you're meant to start preparing them and you have a legitimate excuse to get away but also to give you a structure to arrange everything else around.

Then you need to break the rest of the time up into playing with time and playing alone time. Playing with them and directly interacting with them is so much more enjoyable and manageable when you know there is an end in sight. It also means you can be proactive in suggesting activities. Let go of the guilt over saying no - you don't have to play the things that make you feel like crying. If you hate board games or pretend play or train sets or crafting then just don't do those things. I'm sure they'd love to play 101 other things with you - what do you enjoy doing with them? Focus on that instead. Setting up an activity or getting out and doing something out and about can also take up a good chunk of this time, or you can just follow their lead and see what they want to do.

Lastly schedule in some playing alone time. So during this time you do whatever it is you need to do - jobs around the house, or just taking some time for yourself to recoup, though it helps if you look busy. During this time you encourage them to play with each other or alone rather than asking you for attention all the time, and if they ask you to play then say no or explain that you can't right now because you are __. At first they will probably be a bit nonplussed and not really know what to do but you can help by setting up activities for them but then leaving them to it, designating high-value toys for this time, or offer to watch them but not join in (and sit with a cup of tea). What else can also help here is some not-quite-TV - a story CD on in the background, some music they like (Frozen soundtrack?), some kind of low-input toys like Leap Pad type things, very simple games they can play just the two of them, or very physical toys - garden equipment, dressing up clothes, water play, etc. If they try to attract your attention during this time then keep it really minimal because you want them to get into the idea of playing with each other rather than you for some of the time. Try to be relaxed about mess and have a joint tidying up session at the end where you help them put everything back to normal. Like the TV routine, if you keep this up at a regular time, they will soon understand that before lunch is when Mummy plays and after lunch is when Mummy is busy (or whatever).

It can also help to have a sort of bedtime routine starting right from dinnertime, so that you can almost be on autopilot during that time rather than having to rustle up energy to do yet more activities.

Hope this helps, and good luck! smile

ExcitableScallop Tue 04-Aug-15 21:28:51

Thank you everyone SO much for your tips and stories- it's great to know that I'm not alone with demanding 3/4 year olds!

Artandco It's reassuring to know that it might get better within a year! I also LOVE the idea of a timer, I think I will give this a go tomorrow, so we know where we are with regards to spending time together, myself as well as the children.

Partyfops Amen to holiday childcare. Next year I am putting mine in for a couple of days a week when DD is old enough. I think the enforced break for those two days would do us the world of good!

Pinpon I am with you on scheduling a few things- I have a list on my phone with a few easy things to do together should I be lacking inspiration.

BertieBotts I could KISS YOU Bertie Botts for your lovely words and advice- your tips are FAB and you seem to understand how hard work 3 and 4 year olds are! Seriously, I was beginning to think it was just me! We do have other children/parents over but I prefer to keep them fairly short as well unless we know someone well (no more than 2 hours), as I find my usually well-behaved children get rather over-excited and it often ends in tears, usually 3 year old DD. Like you said, I just want to really enjoy and be enthusiastic with them, rather than willing the time playing with them to end. I guess I just feel guilty if I say no, I'm too busy to play, as their little faces are so sad. I do say 'no' frequently but that's probably part of the problem, I worry I'm saying 'no' too much and that I'll damage them or they'll think they have a mean, grumpy Mummy, but then I feel a bit resentful that I'm at their beck and call.

Hmmm, lots to think about. Today wasn't a good day, and I snapped and shouted through bedtime sad Now sitting with a glass of wine, and had a good chat with DH. I might reduce my freelance work this next month, as I just can't focus properly without the set childcare in place, and it's making me very distracted when I'm with the DCs. Going to unwind with a cuppa and my book in bed I think! rocknroll

Artandco Tue 04-Aug-15 21:43:42

Oh and I find it best to get them out early to burn energy. So if you want to be mainly at home, still head out straight after breakfast for a walk around for leaves/ run in park/ etc for an hour. Then they seem to settle into playing better at home as excess energy worn off

notascooby007 Tue 04-Aug-15 21:50:17

Can you and your friends do some sort of child care between you? So your friend has your dc for the afternoon so you can get some work done have some peace then another afternoon you have her dc?? If your ears are already bleeding with 2 kids they may aswell bleed with 3 or 4 kids. Can grandparents or aunties / uncle's help out for the odd afternoon?

Also with the early mornings encourage them to play quietly in their room or put a dvd on for them to watch in bed why you have a snooze, even if your not asleep your at least resting in bed. TV is not the devil especially at that time in the morning!

Children are relentless roll on September shock

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