No matter if time seems short, long, relative or fleeting, time matters.
It is either your aide or your adversary and its pressure is more pronounced when you are a parent of multiples. So allow me to share a bit of advice on how to keep this relationship pleasant and productive. You might call this “The Quadfather’s Five Suggestions for Time Management and Multi-Parenting Success.”
#1: Know Yourselves and Your Family
Regardless of your family size and structure, it is imperative to determine your personal strengths and weaknesses. Discover likes, dislikes, passions, and giftings.
For instance, my wife Pam and I have known for years that in terms of personality and motivations we are polar opposites. She is goal-oriented, organized and assertive. I am more relationally motivated, creative and persuasive. On the other hand, you might say I am friendly, disorganized and long-winded. Still, we have learned over a decade, or almost two, that my weaknesses are her strengths and visa versa. When we relate well we minimize our vulnerabilities and blind spots. Taking on the tasks that fit us the best makes the most sense.
Knowing yourself, your spouse and your best mix together is vital. It makes your efforts more focused and effective. It saves time and limits frustrations. Unrealistic expectations of each other will sink your best intentions every time–and we are talking about your precious time.
#2: Understand Roles and Boundaries
Maintain and establish a healthy family boundary. Various people for various reasons will want access and input into your love and care of the double blessings, triple wonders, quality quads and so on. Advice will be like weeds in your neighbor’s lawn but real help will be as rare and welcome as rain in the desert.
The time-challenged life of a multi-family needs as little extra drama and relational drains as possible. Parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends can be invaluable and provide much-needed relief and support. Alternatively, they can be vicariously attached, jealous, co-dependent and distracting.
One good friend explained it to me like this. Your family is like a large train. You make set stops and set departures. Your regular riders depend on this. If someone wants to be on your train, they need to be on your schedule with a ticket you issued. This keeps the train riding smoothly and its’ passengers happy and on time.
#3: Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!
One word…schedule! If there is one thing (besides faith, grace, and mercy) that has kept our household manageable, it has been the fact that we have a schedule. With multiples, you will either have organized logistics or you will have chaotic crisis management and thankfully – you get to choose. The organized thing is better to trust me.
Start this from day one. All of the feedings, changing, napping and visiting need to take place on a time structure. My belief is that multiples respond to this better than singletons.
When we are raising multiples we are raising individuals, but much of the dynamics and interactions will occur with a group inclination. I believe that you can harness this behavior tendency to everyone’s advantage by early schedule introduction and constant reinforcement. They can be a group cyclone or a troupe that knows the drills. Now you guess which one most folks prefer to sit near at a restaurant.
There is no need to be neurotic in this pursuit but I can assure you as the unforeseen arises, your schedule will allow you to bend and adapt. Without it, you scramble to stay ahead and might even miss your own train.
#4: Make Time for Your Relationship and Yourself
And I do love fours, with all the commotion, planning and boundary protecting carve out time for yourself and your spouse. This may seem hard but be realistic, like us you may go for a year or more with just one afternoon. Make it count.
That one good friend always came to our house every Wednesday at 9:00 AM. She would be there until 4:30 PM. During that time, we sometimes shopped, napped, had lunch or talked in the park. Other times we might rent a boat, find a nice cove, sit in the sun and just hang loose.
Even if you are a single parent, make time for you. I cannot overstress how much this will help when someone opens a pudding cup and your double dreamboats practice body painting just before its time to go pick up the oldest from school. Make regular time deposits in the bank of personal mental health and relational renewals.
Multi-parenting can drain this account dry if you do not take that time for you. Embrace the seasons! No matter where you stand in relation to faith listen to the Wisdom of Solomon “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:” Even if you define heaven as “only stars” you need to know your seasons.
#5: Be Flexible and Embrace Change
Shorts in wintertime and long sleeves in summer are nearly always poor choices. Seasons change so do circumstances and people. Look around and look ahead. Potty training may be kicking your butt, but one day they might be changing your diaper. Embrace the best of where you are today, even if the best may be simply getting to tomorrow because tomorrow will come and it will not be the same as today.
I hope my list has not left some of you disappointed as you might be seeking well-seasoned tricks or amazing magic formulas. As you sort through these “suggestions”, it is my hope you take away this bit of insight, no matter the number of kids you have. Regardless of the number of recourses and abilities you possess. It is the health of the relationships involved and the space you create around them that will matter the most.
These are what will most influence you, your kids and those around you. These are what will set the stage for your children’s, children’s childhoods, parenting styles, and prayerful success. Just in case, you have been wondering, these are a huge part of what has kept our train running and Pam and I feeling like we are heading somewhere wonderful.
Mike Poff is a 40 something stay-at-home father who lives in the Appalachian Mountain Town of Big Island, Va. Mike’s wife, Pam, owns a case management firm that operates in four states in the Mid Atlantic region. Before defining his role as a domestic dad, Mike was a news reporter, disc jockey, copywriter and production manager. He is perpetually working on his Masters of Theology in his abundant spare time. He and Pam have seven children ranging from 15 down to 17 months including their quad kiddos who are now six.
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