When the number of kids is greater than the number of hands, the holiday season isn’t quite as magical, 24/7. What do you do when there are five kids, two hands, and ten packages to get into the post slot? How do you shop for Christmas presents when you have three of the kids in the buggy? As a mother of five children, 8 years and under at one point, I am going to share my survival tactics and hope that it will make your holiday season just a little bit merrier.
Do Not Expect Picture Perfect
Whoops, did I say that out loud? Letting go of perfection expectations will preserve your sanity – I promise. I remember hearing Dr. Laura say once, “Frustration is the gap between expectation and reality.” While the remainder of my tips will help you make your reality a little more sane, adjusting your expectations can also help you stay a little calmer. Some days, if you get everyone in the car without visible bodily fluids, it’s a win. Take the victories where you can find them.
Pack a Backup Bag
Do not try to cram everything into one giant diaper bag, or worse, suitcase. It will take up too much space in the immediate vicinity of the baby in the car, which means you’ll pack it in the trunk or back space. And then it’s a hassle to get into or dig out during your driving time. Pack TWO BAGS. One diaper bag with enough diapers, distractions and snacks for the drive, and one suitcase with everything needed for the baby’s full stay. Before you drive anywhere, just transfer enough diapers and accessories into your “trip bag” from the main suitcase as necessary.
If you have children in multiple age ranges, you can pack a distraction bag for each age segment. I had a travel-sized diaper bag for infants, something for preschoolers that included car-friendly toys (no noisy whiz-bangers please!), and something for early elementary ages. These magical bags could produce silence whenever the sounds of boredom began.
Baby Carriers Are a Must
How do you manage five little ones with four (or two) hands? A baby carrier is a must. I found that my back appreciated a wrap-style baby carrier better than some of the other carrier with smaller straps. It was so much easier on my delicate back to have a wrap-style carrier, compared to holding a baby cocked on a hip, held on one side, or cradled in my arms trying to juggle other kiddos, packages, and bags.
With a wrap, I was able to center the baby’s weight, have core support, and spread the load across my entire back and body. Then, if I need to snag a wayward toddler or bring in some holiday packages, I totally can. My husband prefers a front carry style with smaller straps that keeps him cooler than a wrap, so it’s worth spending a day before you start your holiday travels to see which baby carrier you like the best. Once you find one you like, be sure to bring it.
Give Them Responsibility
I find that it really helps if each child has something they are responsible for. When they are concentrating on their special task, it can make visiting family out of town and all the traveling awkwardness of road trips with kids much easier.
Sometimes it might be that an older child is a “buddy” for a younger child and the one who accompanies them to the restroom. A younger child might be responsible for helping pick out and pass out snacks or drinks. One child maybe gets to clean the windows when you stop for gas or help fill up the car. Not only are you giving them something new to think about, but you’re keeping them busy as well. Win/win!
Know the Laws About Breastfeeding
If you are a breastfeeding mom, it’s worth taking a minute to look up the laws and regulations about breastfeeding for the states you’ll be traveling to and through. It’s unfortunate, but breastfeeding harassment sometimes happens as I know firsthand. No one expects trouble, but all it takes sometimes is one really ignorant person to turn a quick pit-stop-potty-break into a nightmare for your family. Understanding what your rights are in the various areas, you plan to travel through will go a long way towards giving you the confidence and knowledge to handle any potentially awkward situations that might arise.
Remember the Reason for the Chaos
Sometimes when I feel myself getting snappy and short-tempered with the larger-than-average to-do list, I find that it helps to shift my focus. Focus on the benefits and the good memories you are creating as a family. The kids won’t always remember the presents and the extra things they got, but they will remember the people they connected with, the family traditions, and generosity of the season. If you are a family of faith, instill that into your activities with your kids and you’ll find you have less time to feel stressed. I have found that it’s hard for me to be complaining (and for the kids to be whining) if we are singing Christmas carols together.
How do you minimize the stress of the holiday season with your little ones?