“How do you handle being a doula and having small children? I couldn’t do it.”
I hear this regularly, but even more so recently. My boys are ages 3.5 and 1. My husband works full time. I work full time from home. We homeschool our 3.5 year old. And this year, we’re trying to grow as much food as we can for our family, to last through the winter.
So how do we do it? Well we’re really busy, but still try to find time to take it slow. We try to find balance, while building our careers. And that, ladies and gents, is a load of idealistic BS. We’re about as balanced as any busy family with small children can be. Some days I think I’ve got things under control, and there’s a solid rhythm to our days. Other days, it seems we are juggling too many things and the kids need to stop screaming at me.
A typical day is typical in waves. I nurse the baby as we’re both starting to wake up. Fifteen minutes later, when we’re both awake, he will act as if we haven’t seen each other in days and need to be nursed and held again. Sleepy togetherness is completely different than awake togetherness. We all congregate in our tiny kitchen to make eggs, get caffeinated and prepare lunches. My partner leaves for work, and we either leave at the same time to go to the YMCA (free babysitting, what?!) or to Forest Playschool (an awesome outdoor Waldorf program). Maybe I’ll read a birthy article, or take care of some doula business on my phone. Since I’m always on-call, I obsessively check my phone. But since I’m a mom, sometimes I see the message and forget when I have to wipe someone’s nose or help put shoes on.
We’ll return home sometime in the early afternoon. We will all be tired, need to pee, and carry a ton of stuff (and heavy humans) into the house. I’ll set everything down, including the baby who will protest, and beeline for the bathroom. Following will be one of the more challenging parts of the day as we get fed, settled, and try to put the baby for a nap. Transitions are always the toughest (basically breakfast, lunch, dinner, leaving and returning). Once we’re settled, I can usually finagle at least 30 minutes to straighten the house. In all honesty, sometimes I pretend the mess isn’t there so that I can sit at my computer and catch up on some doula work.
In the late afternoon, we head back to the kitchen to prepare dinner. This usually involves my 3.5 year old asking for a snack while wildly light sabering the baby in the gentlest manner. The baby will happily unload the recycling bin, the tupperware drawer, the refrigerator, and the dishwasher. It’s not necessarily in that order, but it is systematic. He’s the most consistent one of all of us.
We sit down to dinner at 5:30 or 6:00pm. We have a lovely ritual of lighting a candle and sitting at the table together. We read a blessing from A Grateful Heart by M J Ryan, or make one up on our own. On the days that we manage to straighten up, clear the table and sit down together, it feels magical. On the not-so-magical days, there’s all the above mentioned items strewn about the floor and a pile or two of papers on the table. It doesn’t matter. We take the time to enjoy each other and appreciate what we DO have (not focusing on the chaos). It is our one time to sit together as a family each day. And it is short lived. The kids may only sit for 5-10 minutes. But what a glorious 5-10 minutes it is!
Chaos will resume shortly, with the whole bath, potty, brushing teeth, jammies, bed routine. If we’re extra lucky, we’ll sneak back out of the family bed to answer emails, write a blog post, take care of business or read. If we’re smart, we won’t stay up too late doing these things!
Today is Day 2 of World Doula Week! In honor of WDW 2015, I am participating in the World Doula Week 2015 Blog Challenge. Check out the challenge’s home page to see what other doulas are writing about. The posts may have similar topics, but each writer’s style and flair will shine!