Chore Wars

Let’s talk chores…

I’ve polled this. I’ve asked other parents. I’ve googled the heck out of it…and it boils down to 50/50. I’ll start by saying my kids do chores. My (almost) 4 yr old dusted my cold-air intake the other day. It looked like garbage when he was done, and I re-did it, but he was so damn excited about it. img_4303

Parents who are for it said things like:

“It teaches them to work in a family”
“Chores raise kids to be better adults”
“Chores help kids understand important life skills”
“Children gain a sense of accomplishment”
“Don’t you have kids for free labor?”
“You have to teach them responsibility”

Now flip the tables:

“Chores annoy me as an adult, so I’m sure my kids would be annoyed and that’s emotionally damaging”
“They already have enough to do between sleepovers, playing outside with friends and homework”
“Kids aren’t adults. Housework is for adults”
“Kids need fun and fresh air. Not housework”
“Chores should be considered child cruelty”
“If kids do chores in their free time, all they will do it grow up to be housekeepers”

You ready for these two? These are by far the best most ridiculous answers…. brace yourselves:

“Parents who have their children do chores are just lazy and shouldn’t have to rely on their kids to do their jobs”
“Forcing someone to do work is considered slavery. Individuals should be allowed to choose what they do in life for their own gain. Kids are kids. Not slaves”

I can’t. I just can’t even entertain those.

915497.jpgAlright. So like I said, it’s clearly an equally debatable topic between us lazy slave drivers and the others. Just kidding. We’re not lazy slave drivers and I’m still baffled that someone even used that as a comparison.

Studies has shown and proven that children need chores. A professor from University of Minnesota, Dr. Rossmann, did a pretty extensive study on this whole topic. “Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance…

She “analyzed data from a longitudinal study that followed 84 children across four periods in their lives—in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s. She found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens”.
So it seems that her study was pretty conclusive to the fact that us who enforce chores are in fact not slave drivers, we’re just raising a generation more likely to be responsible and successful. Now, I’m not saying that kids that don’t do chores aren’t responsible and won’t be successful…what I am saying… well not even what I am saying…what the studies are saying is there is a correlation between success and chores. 17787369286_0c5db0b3a5

Now, no one is saying to make your toddler scrub toilets and go outside and clean up dog poop… the key here is age-appropriate chores. This list is all
of the things that your child within that age range should be perfectly capable of doing… will it be perfect? no. will you probably have to re-do it the first few times? yes. Is it for their own good? Absolutely.

So trust me. You’re not a slave driver and your kids won’t be emotionally scarred from having to put their laundry in the hamper by themselves. Handling spoons and forks won’t kill them and dumping dog food into a bowl isn’t the end of the world.

Teach your kids to contribute. Studies have shown, it’s worth it in the end.

-Kirstyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Finding Mary Poppins

fecsw3ihprcwbtbqpeln.jpgAt some point in our crazy journey of parenthood we’ve all needed a babysitter… Which means we’ve all realized just how virtually impossible it is to find someone who is the perfect fit, and who won’t break the bank.

After over a year as a SAHM, this momma has rejoined the workforce…which also means, I’ve rejoined the someone-else-has-to-watch-my-kiddo-force too.

So, how exactly do you pick the perfect sitter? Note: I have not personally used every resource listed in this post, so please do your own homework and research.

Try sites such as care.com or sittercity.com.  They require tons of information from people soliciting their sitter services, and most have background checks available to.

You can even turn to Facebook to the local buy, sell, trade pages as they often contain a vast amount of information. Do your research. Ask for references. Meet with the sitter prior to dropping your child off, and go with your gut.

Your best place to start would be writing down just exactly what you want in a sitter so you can narrow your search down.

  • CPR/SIDS/First Aid Certified

If you’re going to have someone with your child during the day, unless you’re going to wrap your kid in a bubble, it’s good to find someone who has been trained for the worst. Things happen. Even under the best care and watchful eye, things happen. If someone is prepared to deal with said “things” then it makes it all the better.

  • Cost

I have found that home childcare ranges from $50-$200/week. I always shoot for somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It needs to be worth while for you to work. If you’re working just enough to pay for childcare, then what is the point of working? But also remember, you get what you pay for, typically.

  • Availability

Will the sitter be available when you  need them to be? Do they offer drop in care or last minute care? Nights? Weekends?

  • Meal Plans

Maybe it’s just me but this is a big one. If someone is going to feed my kid junk food all day and sugary juice, I won’t even entertain it. I’m not asking for free range chicken and bacon wrapped filets, but at least hit some different food groups other than “highly processed” and “full of sugar”

  • Experience with food allergies

If the potential sitter has no clue what gluten is, and your child has a gluten allergy, this is probably not a good match. I prefer someone who knows the warning signs of a real, true allergy attack and knows when action is needed.

  • Punishment tactics

This is a touchy subject. I am not so picky on who punishes my child…but better yet how they punish him. I had a potential sitter tell me that she has spanked children before. She has SPANKED a child that did NOT belong to her. I was baffled. I mean, I can deal with an age appropriate time out,  removal from the situation,  or even a stern “no”,  but lord help the person who lays their hand on my child.

  • Activity plan

Coloring? ABCs? Macaroni pictures? Something other than a TV on a constant repeat of a DVRd Peppa Pig? Ask. Seriously.

  • Duties

Are you expecting the potential sitter to come to your home and clean? Take the child to appointments, or play dates? Are you wanting them to help with bottle weaning, or potty training? This all needs to be conveyed and explained.

It’s hard enough to find child care. It’s even harder to find someone you trust.

Do your research. Don’t be scared to ask for references and follow your gut.

Your Mary Poppins is out there.

-Kirstyn

I have a Large Family: Stop the Judgement!

Children

Guest Blogger Kelsey Burrows, on her Family and Judgments Surrounding it:

Hi, my name is Kelsey.

I’m twenty-nine years old and I’m a mom. I am a mom of five living, breathing, beautiful monsters. They leave their clothes on the floor, and toothpaste spit in the sink. They forget to turn off lights, or just don’t care about the electric bill. They leave messes just about everywhere they go, and generally don’t pick them up without being asked at least twice. They fight with each other constantly, over practically nothing. I rarely get to sit down and eat a meal with them because I’m too busy helping the younger ones get their plates, cutting up their meat, pouring drinks, cleaning up spills, and getting out some random condiment that I inadvertently forgot. By the time I get done shoveling food down my throat, they’re all done and I’m reminding them to clean up their plates, finish homework, get ready for volleyball or soccer, or whatever extracurricular activity is going on. It’s generally pure chaos in my house from dinner until bedtime. At the end of the day, I wonder how I managed to survive their waking hours. Let’s not even start on the damage they do to the bank account with all their wants, and “needs”, and actual necessities. That alone can drive a person over the edge.

kiddies
Kelsey with 5 of her Children

Looking back fifteen years ago, if you would have told me that I would have five kids and be divorced by the time I was thirty, I’d have looked at you like you were out of your mind. I wanted to go to college, maybe get married, travel a little, and then maybe settle down and have a baby or two. But yet, this is my life. I rarely go into public with all five of my kids without getting some kind of look insinuating that I am a crazy person. But guess what? I am a crazy person. My kids drive me to the brink of insanity, multiple times a day. It’s amazing to me that I have any hair left on my head. So often in a day, I’m frustrated enough that I could probably pull it out without a second thought. You haven’t lived life until you’re trying to cook dinner while a whiny two year old asks for a fruit snack, and his seven and eight year old sisters fight over whose turn on the computer it is. And then, my favorite is the “MOM! He just shot me in the eye with a Nerf dart!”. Yes, this is my life.

Occasionally though, there are times when we go out in public when my kids behave. Quite honestly, they behave most of the time when we have to go places. That’s not to say that one or two of them don’t cop an attitude over wanting candy or to look in the toy aisles, but they’re generally good kids. While we’re at it, my kids are pretty awesome. They’re smart, they’re caring, they’re mostly hilarious. I have some of the best times with them, even if it can be a little stressful. So when you see me with my kids while I’m out in public with that look of pity in your eyes, I’m generally looking at you like you’ve lost your mind. You’re judging me, someone you don’t even know, because of how many kids I have? Don’t you have anything better to do with your life? Both of my grandparents come from families where they had several siblings, and by several, I mean upwards of five. It only seems natural that I have a large family too. Some days, I question my life choices. Most days though, I thank God that He has blessed me with these five kids who are daily reminders of why I’m here on earth.

I’ve been asked so many times, “Are all these kids yours?”, while I’m grocery shopping. Let me ask you, do you routinely suggest that your kids bring their friends along to run your errands? I don’t either. So yes, to my knowledge, all these kids I have with me while shopping the aisles of Walmart are in fact my children. The sandy blonde hair and fair complexion doesn’t give it away I guess. I understand that your questions are not necessarily intended to be judgmental or rude. Your questions, though, cause me to question my worth as a parent. Is there a reason you’re asking me if all these kids are mine? Why did you ask if I’m planning on having more? Should I not? Am I not a good enough parent to have five kids? What if I want six, or seven kids? Surely you’d really judge me then.

silhouette-kids-holding-hands.jpg
Well actually, I don’t have five kids. I have six. I gave birth to an angel baby in June, at only twenty-nine weeks pregnant. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I wonder what her smile would have looked like, or if she would have had any hair or teeth yet. I think about what an awesome set of older siblings she would have had. She was taken from me before I even got to hear her cry. It was a devastating blow, one that I feel the effects of everyday. When you ask someone if they’re done having kids, or jokingly ask if they know how babies are made, be sensitive. There are people like me out there who thought their families were complete, and then a surprise came along that rocked their world. People like me, who fell in love with the baby they were carrying inside them. People who dreamed about what their baby would look like, sound like, what their personality would be like. Would they cry 24/7 and make me want to smack my head against a wall in frustration? I’d give anything to be able to be up all night with a crying seven month old right now.

I no longer feel like my family is complete. My heart grew to accommodate that sixth little being, and now there is a void where her tiny little smile should be. So while my five kids are sometimes brats, they’re sometimes mouthy, and they fight all the time, they are here with me. I can hold them close, and kiss them goodnight, and tell them I love them whenever I so choose. It isn’t right to look at someone and make assumptions about their lives based on the number of kids they have. If you only have one child by choice, good for you. You knew your family was complete. If you have two kids, or ten kids, good for you. If you chose not to have kids at all, I understand that too. But, don’t judge other people because of their choices in procreation. Some of us have experienced losses greater than what you could ever imagine. Those losses sometimes effect our choices.

I hear, “Wow, you really have your hands full”, at some point during almost every outing with my kids. Most of the time, I just ignore it. Sometimes people jokingly ask me if I know how babies are made, or if I’m planning on having more. I love my kids. You don’t have to, because they aren’t your kids. So yes, all these kids are mine. Yes, I’m a little crazy. Yes, I’d love to have another baby. Yes, I know how that happens. Yes, I know my hands are full, but my heart is too. The love you feel from a child is unlike any other love you will experience in your life. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

-Kelsey

Week On. Week Off. 


I feel obligated to tell people I meet about the fact that we have week on, week off custody of all three children. The reasoning is so when they try to make plans and I reply with “if we have the kids”, they don’t give me the crazy stare and wonder where I would be stashing my children for the night-and “their mom (or Dad in C’s case)” is not an acceptable response to “whose watching your kids?”

Divorce is ugly. Divorce with children is even uglier. Essentially, the only people who lose are the children. Our parenting plans are set to up to maximize visitation to the benefit of the children. Week on, week off. Sunday to Sunday. Holidays are split up as well. So breaking it down in a non-legal fashion, we have all of the kids one week and 0 kids the next. Holidays are dictated by a piece of paper.

At first, we had C full-time, so although E and K got picked up at 6pm, C kept us in “parent” mode per se. Then things changed. The first Sunday exchange with C was terrible.  He was a little over a year old and had no idea what was going on. I shut the door, turned around and burst into tears. An eerie silence flooded the house. It was unnatural to be away from him. My DH, who had been doing this for 5 years, knew the feeling all to well and explained that it never gets easier.

You’re probably thinking how awesome the break is and yes, while it’s nice sometimes, deep down it sucks. It allows for the scheduling of the doctors appointments without having to find a babysitter, it allows for me to get my house clean and laundry caught up and it allows ample travel time (which we do often), but it also allows me to miss milestones, school projects, football practices and school dances. It allows me to be secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) judged by the gaggle of moms at the park who want to set up a play date, for “next week”…

So having only have 182.5 days a year with your children, how can you maximize the time?

  • Plan accordingly

 I have it on my calendar in my phone when we pick up the kids. It allows for me to easily see when to schedule appointments, family vacations, and sleepovers. It definitely helps me keep track of everything and when to plan things.

  • Don’t waste valuable time 

When the kids are home, we don’t like to sit in the house. School nights are slightly different, but we at least try to play family games or watch a movie together. Weekends are a different story though. We plan fun things the kids will remember that get us out of the house and active.

  • Be involved

We go to (almost) all school programs, events, and class parties whether the kids are with us or not. We also try to go once a week to eat lunch with the kiddos at school. They love it and so do we. That extra 30 min on a random Tuesday definitely helps break up the week.

  • Be flexible

At some point in time you will have to celebrate a birthday the week before, do thanksgiving dinner 4 days before, or move Christmas until the next day. Don’t worry, it will be okay. It’s not so much about the date, but the memories and meaning behind it.

My husband was right, it never gets easier. As a parent, being away from your child for any reason is unnatural. However, making up for lost time is quite possible with proper planning and a positive attitude.

-Kirstyn

Octopus Hotdogs.

BigBlendedFamily.com_

Blend·ed Fam·i·ly
noun. a family that includes children from a previous marriage of the wife, husband, or both parents

Well, Merriam-Webster, you should put a caveat somewhere in your sounds-so-easy-to-do definition that truthfully explains well, that is not so easy to do and at most moments in time you will stand wide-eyed staring at your DH about what the in the heck just happened. It’s not like the movies and there is no “What to Expect When…” book.

Now, I will say I’m not a psychologist, therapist or an expert for that matter. I’m just another step-mom trying to figure out the secret, but this is what I’ve learned. (My focus initially is going to be more on the relationship with the older children, C is still to young to figure out or realize what is going on)

Our History

I got divorced from C’s father when he was just shy of being one. It was a huge change, but thankfully, he won’t remember most of it and although I’m sure it did, it doesn’t to this day seem to have an effect on him. His father and I are civil. We worked out a parenting plan that worked for us, we communicate freely as necessary, we’re flexible when it comes to times, days, etc for visitation. It’s great.

Danny got divorced from E and K’s mother in 2010. They were a bit older (7 and 3 at the time) so they remember a little more about life before the “Big D”. There is not a single drop of civility between Danny and his ex-wife and it’s truthfully not Danny’s fault. I could write a whole book about that situation and the effect it is having on the children who are now 12 and 8, but it’s honestly not my story to tell it’s theirs. It does however play a gigantic part in what goes on in our household because there is a lot of brainwashing, bad mouthing, and negativity being fed to them by their mother about Danny and I. I will however, spare you the details.

I met Danny in college in 2013. We instantly hit it off. We were very open and honest with each other from the start. He knew about C and I knew about E and K. We didn’t however introduce our kids into the relationship until we knew this was a for sure thing.

Our parenting plans match almost exactly. We have week on, week off, 50/50 joint custody. Broken down this means, all 3 kids 1 week and 0 kids the next.

So here it goes…

What I’ve Learned

  1. You are not their mother. They will make it known and it will usually be out of anger.

    Let me start by saying I am in no way trying to replace E and K’s mother. I know the maternal bond is a unique, strong, unbreakable one and I fully understand this. I would be lying if I said it didn’t suck because I love them just as I love my own.  It really hit me when K (in rebuttal to me sending her to her room) said to me “Just wait until I tell my real mom”. I’m 100% positive that she took my heart with her to her room and stomped on it. Repeatedly. I was speechless. It was one of my many wide-eye staring moments. I then offered her my phone, she refused, and stomped up the stairs and slammed her door. What do you do at this point? You breathe. You don’t take it personally. They’re testing their boundaries. They’re figuring out just how far they can push you. You know that you’re not their real mother but still hearing from their mouth is still pretty painful. Eventually, they’ll apologize and life will go on.

  2. There will be jealousy.

    It might be towards the kids or it might be towards the ex, but it will happen. You’re secretly (or outspokenly depending on your attitude) going to resent her because she gave birth to them…because she took off the fingernail polish that you put on your step-daughters nails to replace it with a color that matches hers..because your step-son has a picture of her and him on his iPad. The list could go on but trust me on this one, it will happen. You’re going to be jealous that your spot on your DH’s lap was taken while you were up getting a drink of water or that he is upstairs having a tea party instead of sharing a cup of coffee with you. Mark my word, it will happen.  Jealousy is such a difficult emotion to manage. I won’t lie, I still struggle with it everyday. It still hurts when K comes home with her nails blue instead of pink and with a huge smile on her face says “They match my moms”. I choose to join in her excitement and let her know that we will repaint them again when it starts chipping off KNOWING it will be taken off again the following week. Again, breathe. It’s trivial (most of the time) things that don’t have any lasting effect on your life. I’m sure 5 years down the road, the color of her nail polish the week of September 3rd won’t have any bearing on life.

  3. Your marriage will hardly ever come first.

    If you’re reading this for advice then it is safe to assume as some point in the not so distant past, you were single parent whose child/ren came first. It’s not easy to switch back to the focus-on-my-marriage aspect of life. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take time. What I recommend and what I have found to work for us is to set your alarm for 30 min before the kids get out of bed. Spend this time laying in bed, talking, catching up, drinking coffee, reading emails, etc. with your DH. On the weekends, they know after they wake up to play quietly in their rooms until Danny or I come to get them. It helps. Try it.

  4. You are set in your ways. More than you thought.

    You’ve been the only adult in life making decisions and things were done how and when you wanted them. Your husband is the same. Cram that all into one household, add in the children, and (in our case) the dog and hold on because things are about to get crazy. You will be used to sleeping with the door shut, he’s going to want it open. You’ll compromise with leaving it cracked. You make hot dog octopus with little beady ketchup eyes and he cuts them into slices. Seriously?! Slices?! Where is the fun in slices!? This is a pick your battles moment. Not everything is worth it. Let him cut the hotdog into slices, it’s less work for you.

  5. You’re going to love his kids.

    You’re going to love them more than you ever thought was possible. You will be proud of them, you will be sad for them, you will fight for them just as you would your own children. You will place them on the same pedestal as your do your own child. Eventually the word “step” will get left out and the fact that they aren’t technically yours will fade. The Mama-Bear will come out, the snotty noses will be wiped without second though and eventually you will be the one they are waking up at 3 am because they dropped their stuffed elephant and can’t find him.

    Lastly,

  6. There is no secret or answers.

    You can read books, you can read blogs, you can message me personally and I will happily answer your questions and give you all the advice in my mind but honestly, what will make it smooth is what works for you, your children, your SO, and essentially your family. There will be tears. You will yell and I am sure at one point in your wide-eyed stare you will wonder what you got yourself into. But at the end of the day, it’s not all bad. You may have taken your family of 2 and squished it together to make a family of 5, but that’s just more hearts to fill with love…and more octopus hotdogs you have to make.

-Kirstyn