Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Happy Household

Mum needs time alone with the children. 
Dad needs time alone with the children. 
Mum needs time on her own (work doesn’t count). 
Dad needs time on his own (work doesn’t count). 
Mum and Dad (partner) need time together. 
The family need time all together. 

All of the above need to happen, both at home and away from home, at least once per fortnight.

I saw this Formula For A Happy Family by Martien Snellen when I was at the maternal and child health nurse and thought that it was a lovely, commonsense approach to thinking about what makes my household happy.

We have a new baby and as for all families with a new baby, it takes a little while to work out how to fit the happy formula around the new circumstances. Now that we are three months in, we are getting more and more comfortable with how it's all going. Increasingly, I have time on my own playing netball, gardening and crafting. Increasingly, my husband has time on his own playing board games, building things and riding his bike. Increasingly, we have time together when the kids are asleep and when a kind relative takes the children out. The family has time together playing in the house or on excursions out to the park or the zoo.

Time alone with the children is actually more challenging that it appears. Not because my husband and I don't both get time with the baby and Miss 3 together, that's easy, but we also have to be conscious to have one-on-one time with each of them. Miss 3 is older and has a strong personality; she is quite able to ask mum or dad when she wants to do something alone with us and I wrote last month about some of the activities that I have been doing with her.

But what about alone time with the baby? This baby is very calm and unless he is hungry, hungry is usually happy to entertain himself on his play mat. But feeding does not count as alone time. So how to make sure that he gets his one-on-one time?

Carve out some time for the baby.

It can be hard to find time completely alone with the baby, and it would have been even harder if the two were closer in age. But when Miss 3 is at kindergarten or swimming lessons or playing over at a friend's house, this is the perfect time to recapture that alone time that was so easy with #1. Right now, we use the time when Miss 3 is out to just sit and sing to, read to or play with the baby. But as he gets older, we'll be heading to the park, or story time, or perhaps music classes together.

Find separate activities for each child.

The baby is only three months old. But already his personality is different to Miss 3's. For example, at this age her favourite toy was a green noisy ball, but he loves a brightly coloured peacock. So I can often set Miss 3 up with an activity that she likes to do alone, playdough or driving cars on the car mat for example, and then spend some time alone with the baby looking at high contrast pictures or shaking rattles.

Carry the baby.

As you know, we love the park and have for a few years. And we also love walking and riding around the neighbourhood. It's easy to put the baby in the pusher for these outings and he is happy looking around and the napping when he gets tired. But when he is in a baby carrier, he's not just sitting alone at the side of the playground, he is part of the action.

Leave the children to play alone together.

One-on-one time is important for siblings too. Miss 3 is learning to be more careful and gentle around the baby, and he is less breakable. So she can play with him on the play mat or bouncinette, or burp him, or read to him. This makes her feel very important and children often learn much more from other children than they do from adults. It also promotes the bond between them.

We're only three months in to a family of four. We're by no means experts and there's a lot more to learn. And we'll be happy learning.

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