This is my parenting column for the paper this week. Since it's never been posted on the blog, I thought I'd do it today. Not really an essay, but helpful to some I hope.
On an average day I lead a life that is like any other full time working mother of four. I may have one less leg than other moms but my day to day life is surprisingly normal. That is, until I have a bad leg day. It is much like having a bad hair day except that extra hair spray and gel won't do a thing to fix the problem. A trip to my prosthetist's office is the only cure and sometimes he prescribes time on the couch with my leg off, to let my stump rest. Although my good leg days are the norm, I have purposefully set up our life to function in the most streamlined way possible. Some of the tricks I use are things I learned back when our first two babies were born just 12 months apart. To survive the physical demands of two babies, life had to be simplified and organized. Here are some of the tricks I learned back then and still practice today:
1. Forget about circling the parking lot for the closest parking space. Find a spot right next to the cart corral. No hauling children and gear through the parking lot. Directly load them all into a cart and push them up to the store. When shopping is over, you never forget where you've parked and have a handy spot to put the cart once you've unloaded your bags and babies into the car.
2. Don't bother hauling laundry back and forth to bedrooms. Find a space near the washer and dryer to put shelves or a dresser. Clean clothes go directly from the dryer to the drawers. If shelves are low enough, little people can help themselves to a clean shirt or pants then head to the bedroom to get dressed. To carry it a step further, have one main hamper in the bathroom. All dirty clothes end up in the same spot when it's time to do laundry. No more running from room to room to collect them.
3. While we're discussing laundry let's address socks. Buy only white socks. Not only can you save time sorting , all socks can be bleached together and once dried, be thrown into the same big basket. When it's time for a change of socks it takes just a second to find two that match and preschoolers love the game it creates. A few pair of colored socks, for special occasions, can be thrown in the sock basket also since they'll be easy to pair up at first glance. I gave up spending my sacred time sorting socks years ago and have never missed it.
4. Embrace the pile system. When I have days of limited mobility I find letting the kids do all the running around saves me precious steps. In each room make piles that need to be delivered to other parts of the house. (laundry, dishes, newspapers, books, etc) Young children love the challenge of being able to deliver three different items to different parts of the house and getting back to mom before their siblings. Once everything is in its correct room it takes just a few minutes to put it away.
5. Don't be afraid to let children into the kitchen. Preschoolers think sorting silverware and plastic storage containers from the dishwasher is a fun game. We package crackers and pretzels in small zipper bags that make great quick snacks on the run. Even the smallest helpers can break up crackers and put a handful of pretzels in each bag.
6. One last tip for parents of several small children: Don't beat yourself up that you don't have time to write in their baby books on a regular basis. Meeting everyone else's needs and still getting a shower for yourself is a goal in itself. The easy way to keep track of baby milestones is to hang a calendar with large squares near the changing table. Hang a pen on a string next to it. As special moments happen throughout the day, jot them down. Funny phrases said, first steps taken, new creamed veggie he somehow loves, all can be noted in their appropriate squares. I started this practice accidentally and am amazed how much information I have from that first year we had two under the age of two in the household. I had planned to transfer all of that information to a real baby book some day but now, looking back, I love seeing how our children's lives unfolded, day by day.
Being organized can help maintain peace in an otherwise chaotic situation. Whether your reasons center around raising babies or handling a temporary illness, having coping skills can keep you sane. And letting little people jump in and help out not only softens your work load makes them feel they are contributing in a positive way to the family. Time is a sacred commodity and finding ways to spend more of it cuddling and playing, not cleaning and sorting is a great goal, for one legged moms and their two legged counterparts.