When I gave birth to my oldest daughter almost 23 years ago I did not know it would be an additional 13 years before I had another baby – three more babies in a row, to be exact. I also didn’t know how much of a balancing act I would have to do to be the mom everyone needed.
I needed a plan that worked for everyone, and along the way I learned a few things I think will help others. Here are six survival tips – from a single mom’s perspective – for parenting children who are born in different generations.
Establish phrases or keywords to trigger action.
When my oldest daughter, Amber, would talk to me about something I realized after she walked away that I had no idea what she had said. I felt horrible about that and explained to her my difficulty in concentrating while doing something with the noise of the toddlers as they played at my feet. To help both of us we decided on these two phrases: “Mommy, can we talk in 30 minutes?” or “Can we talk right now?” She knew those triggers would ensure she received my undivided attention.
Make this special time a regular event in your life. It was difficult, but I was able to make time for dates with Amber when she was a teenager. (Actually, we still do this now.) Set regular commitments each week or whatever works best for your family. Go to the movies, get ice cream, roller skating or experience a new restaurant together. Even browsing a bookstore together is special because it’s time spent one-on-one. As my three younger children get older (they’re 10, almost 9 and 6 now) I am faced with performing my balancing act again.
Use your child’s love language.
There are five love languages: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. My middle daughter feels most loved when she receives gifts, my youngest thrives on physical touch, my son and my oldest daughter both need quality time. Here’s one resource to help: The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary D. Chapman and Ross Campbell.
Roll with the punches.
If you make a mistake or let one of the children down, do not beat yourself up about it. Apologize immediately, explain in an age-appropriate manner and make it up as soon as you can.
Have a plan.
Take note of the following things before solidifying your plans: Check the weather, arrange for care for other children, determine a budget and compose a list of things to do.
Make time for yourself.
Think massages, manicures, pedicures, hair salon, day spas, languishing hot baths, errands alone, sipping tea, reading books – whatever recharges you. I know this seems like the opposite of what you’re trying to do, but think about the tried and true saying: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Are you mommy to multigenerational children? Share your tips to balancing that lifestyle while maintaining your sanity.