When my cousin Kamadchi said to me she wants to have 4 kids too, my immediate response: “because this all looks so good to you?!”
She cutely giggles, “Yeahhh.. it looks like fun!” Which of course it is, everywhere we go (including staying at home) is a party – a loud, crazy, messy party. And just like parties, it takes effort, time, teaching and learning (both for me and the kids).
So I thought I’d try to dig out some things I’ve learned, the concepts that have helped us, and tips for my dear cousin when she someday embarks on this glorious journey called parenthood!
Get back Time by Teaching Independence
It really helps if your kids can do some things for themselves (every little bit helps). So take the time to teach them how to dress themselves or brush their teeth, allowing them to eat on their own, expecting them to play by themselves. You can start this right from the beginning, when they’re babies. Feed, burp, and change them, then put them down for tummy time. Allow them time to entertain themselves. This is hard because they are soo darn cute! But necessary for your long-term happiness and success. If you have more kids, you will naturally have less time to cuddle up with your babies, so this is really just for your first. When you have older ones, encourage the kids to play together and for the older kids to read and teach thing to the younger ones.
Teamwork makes the Dream Work
Along with being independent, you can and should recruit help from every member of the family. Kids all want to contribute. Allow them. We used to have large families to handle farm work etc, this is the advantage of having so many hands. But nowadays, kids get up first thing in the morning and ask us what they can have/get/do for themselves (ie. watch TV). Ask them to contribute first! This is a reasonable request in my opinion. We’ve assigned certain tasks to a certain person (zone defense!). In our home, my husband, Naren is the king of the kitchen and laundry (we call him the “home parent”). I am queen of school drop off and pick ups, doctor’s visits and play-dates (we call me the “outdoor parent”). Leela and Ruben (ages 11 and 9) team up to take out the compost and recycling. Priya (6 years old) is in charge of sweeping and Logi (who’s 3) puts toys and books away. They all can sort and put away clean laundry (even Logi). They all work together to clean their room and bathroom. And when there’s a lot to handle, we come up with a list and work at it like a team.
Self Care is not Selfish
Being a mom of big family is kind of like running a marathon, one that doesn’t really end ever (except at nap time.) It really, really helps if you develop good habits to support you. To have the energy, endurance and strength (both mental and physical) I make sure I get a lot of sleep (8- 9 hours a day), exercise daily, practice mindfulness and yoga once a week, play sports, eat healthy (most of the time) and continue to work on myself. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time – I do 10 minutes of exercise/yoga/meditation when I’m super busy. It’s the consistency that’s key, and the act of doing something for yourself. I remember when Leela was 4 months old and she would cry as I was heading out the door to the gym after spending the entire day with her. I could have easily stayed, and still there are days now where there the sink is full of dishes and my to-do list is a mile long, but I go. Because I know it’s important. And everything and everyone can wait for 10 minutes or (gasp) an hour so I can be the best mom I can be.
Say Yes, Please!
People see me and always offer help (no offense taken). I say yes, please! My mom (who raised 3 kids and wants me to spend as much time with them as I can) will ask “Gaya do you want me to cook some curries and send them to you?” yes, please! My siblings and in-laws will ask “Can we have the kids over for a sleepover?” yes, please! “Can I take Ruben for a haircut?” Yes, please! “Can I bring your order to the table for you?” yes, please and thank you! It’s that easy. Take the help you can.
Say No, Thank you!
You have to also learn to say no to too many commitments. Everyone needs down time. It’s important to pick a few key goals for yourself and you family and learn to recognize what doesn’t fit. For us, I’ve learned that too many social events on the weekend doesn’t work. Summer time should be dedicated to doing fun things outside. Birthdays can be simple and still fun. Be careful of what you commit to and learn as you go – what contributes to your happiness and what doesn’t. And be comfortable with saying no with whatever doesn’t.
Single Children Families are your Best Friends
When the kids have friends who do not have any siblings, this can be a perfect pairing. Those families need to have play-dates and you can take a little break from time to time. The parents of the single child also feel it’s a break for them. It’s a perfect win-win-win.
I owe a lot of this figuring out to my husband, Naren who has always encouraged me to have the most out of our life, helps daily in creating a low-stress family life and has been the perfect team-mate. I have also read all of Alyson Shafer’s democratic parenting books that are all amazing resources! She also has a set of videos on the Rogers channel on YouTube:
I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned as the kids get older – issues with technology, school and friends. This list will have to grow as we grow as a family.
Good luck Kamadchi – there’s a lot of love in having 4 kids, and a lot of fun – and it really is a blessing.
Lot of Love,
Gayacca (big sister)