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Now I’m A Parent Of School-Age Children, How Has My Life Changed?

I have been reflecting on the changes that have occurred over the past year. In September, my youngest child started school and I didn’t anticipate how much this one little change to our daily routine would affect us all. It signaled a new phase in our lives, both in terms of the children’s development and our parenting.

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School-Age-Parent

When you have a child, you quickly realise your life will not be your own anymore. You give yourself over to this tiny being, as a primal instinct takes over and kick starts a need to protect and nurture your offspring. Your life becomes a blur of changing nappies, feeding, nursing and nap times, in a never ending cycle.

You resign yourself to the fact that your hair will have to stay in a permanent ponytail because you don’t have time to do anything else with it, plus if you leave it down you run the risk of it either being pulled (really hard) or ending up covered in vomit. Showers are a two minute splash-down and make up is minimal; if you ever get the chance to go out, ‘getting ready’ doesn’t even come in to it. Your hands are permanently cracked and dried because you have to wash them so much and your eyes have suitcase-sized bags under them from all the sleepless nights. It’s physically exhausting.

But you get through it because you know that you have no choice. Your children rely on you and you accept that. You selflessly get on with the job in hand. But flash forward to stage two, which is where I am right now and it’s a different story. Gone are the days of nappy changing and routines. The children don’t wake up in the night anymore and in the morning they go downstairs and make themselves some breakfast. They can even put the television on, take themselves to the toilet and get themselves dressed. It’s a miracle! All the training has finally paid off!

Selfish Thoughts

On reaching this phase, I dared to have selfish thoughts again. I can read a book whenever I want to and I can finish it whilst I still remember the plot. I can drink a cup of tea while it’s still warm AND I can have a manicure if I want to. I can leisurely take my time to get ready if I am going out, plus (and here’s the bonus) I can have a lie in the day after. So much has changed in my life and after ten years of bringing up young children it seems as though I have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

But there are some things I hadn’t anticipated. Whereas the early years of child care were so physically exhausting, I hadn’t banked on how emotionally draining this next stage would be. Here are three very individual personalities, who all expect me to devote 100% of my attention to them whenever they need me. And as they are growing up, their emotional needs are growing by the day. I have a ten year old daughter, who is a hormonal ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. Her daily traumas centre on her appearance and her relationship with her friends. At the other end of the spectrum is my five year old son, who needs to know everything. His questions are endless and I can’t answer most of them because half the time they don’t even make sense:

‘Why don’t you know everything, mum,’ he will say.

‘Because I just… don’t.’

See, I can’t even answer that one. Then, somewhere in between, is my seven year old daughter, also prone to asking a lot of questions, but also likely to cry at the drop of a hat; emotional and inquisitive all in one.

The walk home from school has become a significant part of our day and one that I dread. After not seeing me all day, each child enters into a contest to see who can get the most attention, each feeling that he or she has something more significant or urgent to say than the others.

My eldest daughter usually has a crisis to talk through, concerning her friends. But whilst attempting to tell me, she will inevitably be interrupted by her brother, who has been building up a barrage of questions the whole day. Big sister will then snap at him for interrupting her and an argument will ensue, which usually results in her storming off in a huff because I am not listening to her anymore.

When I reprimand my son for interrupting he usually over reacts (as a five year old is prone to do) by crying and protesting his innocence. This results in my middle daughter crying too, as she hates to see her brother upset:

‘Look what you’ve done, you’ve made him cry. You’re so mean,’ she will say, through her tears.

I should add here that it takes ten minutes for us to walk home from school, and in that time I somehow manage to upset all three of my children. This happens on a daily basis and I’m not entirely sure how.

What needs to change? Well lots of things actually. Firstly, the children need to realise that there are three of them and only one of me. And I need to establish some rules or routine to try and give them equal amounts of my time. I had perhaps let too many selfish thoughts enter my head when my youngest started school.

Maybe I got carried away thinking about all the time I would have to do things for myself once again. I don’t want to lose that though, not now I’ve got it back after so long. But I am going to have to make some room in my emotional head space for all of us. Basically that means splitting myself four ways and I’m not exactly sure how I am going to do that.

Any ideas?

Nicola Young

Nicola Young is a freelance copywriter, with experience in all aspects of commercial writing, including articles, newsletters, press releases and web content. She also writes young adult and children's fiction and regularly blogs about her own family life.
Feel free to connect with Nicola on: Facebook | Twitter

90 comments

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  • Thanks for an honest post from the heart. My two are two and four, so only just starting to enter the zone you describe. (Though your description of parenting young children is spot on – especially the cracked hands!)

    But what I try to do is get a little time with each of them on their own – eg when 4YO doesn’t have an after school club, there is a half hour slot between picking her up and collecting 2YO from nursery where it’s just us and 2YO stays a bit longer at nursery on days I take 4YO to ballet. And as I only work three days, 2YO gets me during school hours on two days. Any chance of juggling after school clubs to get some one on one time?

    Good luck! X

  • I hear yeah sister!
    Just make sure you actually DO get some quality me time.
    When your rested your happier and your kids will be happier too.
    As a mother to 4 that has been the hardest lesson for me to learn.
    I put everyone else first and I got the back burner. I’m slowly getting better with that but it’s not easy!

  • I can certainly relate. I have 4 kids with my oldest being 17 and my youngest 1. My life has certainly changed although for the better in most case..The teenage years has been the most difficult though but it does get better.

  • Looking at my college teen now, it’s hard to remember how long ago it’s been since my daughter was a small, school age child. Gosh, time goes by fast.

    • It does. I have just put together a photo book for my eldest daughter. She is approaching her 10th birthday and it is of her first ten years. Looking back, I don’t know where the years have gone.

  • My son turned into a real handful at age 12 and it continued throughout his teen years. He’s since left the nest, and we have a fantastic relationship. There were times though back then when I didn’t think I was going to make it out without losing my sanity.

  • Handling our teenagers can be very trying. With my twins, I had double the trouble during teething and more. We just have to trust the process and keep on parenting. We do the best we can and our kids support will support us.
    You’ve written a great resource guide for all moms.

    Thank you!!
    Elizabeth

  • I stopped at one child and so I never had to deal with the competition thing. I also homeschooled my daughter so I always knew what she was up to and I was able to create a very close and loving relationship with her. Good luck – sometimes you will be crazy, but it will all be worth it!

  • Kids are fun, huh? I have 3 myself, no girls but the boys can get pretty emotional. I know as a parent you want to be there for every emotional “emergency” a child is having but a lot of the times the behavior can just be a way of getting attention. Many adults do the same thing. You can’t really feel bad about not knowing everything. Best of luck with your kids : )

  • i have 3 in school, although mine are in prek, 1st grade and 3rd grade. it’s always a challenge, and rarely is it the same from week to week. all i can say is keep doing the best you can. it’s all anyone can do!

  • Sounds like things in my house too! I have four children from an almost 13 year old down to almost two. It is crazy most days because my oldest is also hormonal, my boys are both always asking questions and my youngest is…well…toddler and you know how that goes!

  • I wish I had wise words. I have 3 – ages 8, 2.5 and 1.5. So right now, only one in school and the two youngest don’t understand that the oldest needs homework help, a reading buddy, someone to make lunch, etc. They want attention and I so wish I could just slice myself in thirds and have everyone cared for at once. I feel you.

  • Your kids sound so much like mine! (I have 2 daughters- 9 and 6 years old.) When both started school it was a HUGE change for me. I missed them so much! I thought that I’d have so much more time to do things for myself, which isn’t really the case for some reason. Parenting is hard!

  • My kids are in 4th and 7th grade. I do a lot of listening. Sometimes they want to communicate one sided. I let them speak and then add my 2 cents. They never like it but it comes from the heart.

  • You have a lot going on there. I can’t say I have much advice because I don’t have kids. My mom always went out of her way to make different times for me and my sister. She knew we were complete opposites and would take a little time to just focus on each of us and what was going on.

  • I have 3 kiddos so I feel for you. We have all been there. The best way I deal with it is to make sure everyone knows I missed them to and then we play a game of High- Low. Each take a turn and tell me the high point of their day and the low point. This helps them get full attention and after a while no interrupting occurred because they knew each individual would be able to tell me what they did that day. We then do a recap at dinner where even mom and dad join in and everyone gets to talk about their day with Dad. Good luck. It’s a tough job and the reward is priceless.

  • 100% with your statement that When you have a child, you quickly realise that your life will not be your own anymore. This we all learned when we grow parent. My mom use to tell me “You would know my feelings when you would be a parent” and I felt all her changes one by one. Its nice experience, good luck to you.

  • I feel for you. I also have three kids, a girl and two boys who are all young adults now. When they were growing up, their father and I separated and I was left with the task of raising them and earning a living. It was darn difficult! Three different personalities and only one parent. I was raised in a very strict family and I vowed that I would not do the same to my kids. I gave them independence coupled with responsibility. My daily mantra was “You are responsible for whatever you do. If you are caught in a situation when you don’t know what to do, always choose the door that says ‘exit'” My kids are very level headed and goal oriented. We still “argue” up to now, but it is only about trivial stuff – who’s going to do the laundry, missing socks, and fighting for the remote.
    Be more patient. That is a mom’s best friend. Hold your children close, it won’t take long when you wake up and see that they are all grown.
    We have been blessed to be mothers. God trusted us that much that he gave us angels to raise and care for.

    • Thank you for sharing this. I love your mantra and I completely agree with you.

      I do wish I was a more patient person. It is something I am constantly working on, but I will keep at it.

  • Hang in there. Just know there is no “rules” to raising kids. The challenge you are trying to overcome right now will be history soon & you will face another one. Its ok not to know what to do at first. Try not to be hard on yourself & just stick with what makes sense to you.

  • Oh my…I thought about these things for years. I have four grown children with two in college. The only thing I can say is nothing stays the same (ever), but enjoy where you are. It cost 40,000 per year per kid for college. If it’s not one thing its another.

  • Hang in there!! My three are younger than yours…. so far we are moving in tandem through life and tantrums but there are days I swear my ears are bleeding from the volume they make talking over one another or correcting one another’s behavior. It’s exhausting work, but I honestly believe we are blessed to be their mothers.

  • Looks like a challenging job to have a children. As they always say, it’s not easy being a parent, hearing your story makes me want to plan now how I should manage my future childrens! 🙂

  • I feel for you! I have two boys and one on the way and I never ever get a minute to myself…even now! My oldest will start school in the Autumn of this year and I’m anticipating the same as you’ve experienced. I love them with all of my heart and want to do the best I can…but sometimes I’ve got nothing left to give. I teach 32 children at school, but raising my own is much, much harder.

    • I respect you for being able to teach. Three is enough for me, let alone 32! Good luck with baby number 3. It adds a great dynamic to the family (don’t be put off by my moaning!).

  • I think you have all the right to wish for time just for you. And you deserve it. It even makes you a better mom.
    I only have one child, so I don’t have deal with jealousy issues, because that is what it sounds to me. But there was a time when my son would start to talk to me, and shouting my name or asking my help, just when I was talking on the phone. And it rapidly escaleted in screams, shouts, crying, mom you don’t care about me, why don’t you help me, situation.
    He started to do it also when I was talking with another adult in his presence.
    Finally I had to sit him down, lay out the law and explain that when I was talking on phone or talking with another person, he needed to respect that. It took some time but he learned it.
    I used a handsign, just the hand palm outwards, sort of talk to the hand move, with a stern look. If it didn’t help, I politely tell him to wait until I was finnished.
    If he started to insist, I would wait and look at him sternly until he was quiet and then tell him that he needed to be polite and wait his turn.
    It took some time but it did work. And he still knows to wait his turn.
    But what definedly didn’t work (and what I did at first) was to get upset and even yell at him. The situation would escalate really fast and we would be both feeling pretty desperate.

    • Why is itch at children always choose to start making a racket when you are on the phone? I remember that well. Interrupt-y-itis is also a common symptom that young children suffer.

  • That sounds incredibly difficult and must be a little frustrating; I wish I could help and give some tips but I’m only 19. I haven’t had me experience with kids yet; I wish you the best of luck!

  • That sounds incredibly difficult and must be a little frustrating; I wish I could help and give some tips but I’m only 19. I haven’t had me experience with kids yet; I wish you the best of luck!

  • Yikes! I’ve got nothing. I’m not a parent, by choice. I like my cats and when they fight for attention it’s adorable and I can just pet the crap out of both of them.

  • Finding a balance is VERY tough– I found there may NOT be time for each “daily” for one on one…but set aside an hour a day on different days as you “PLAYDATE” time for each and the time for you is VERY important too!!!

    • That is a good idea, but I think it will have to be scheduled in to the week rather than on each day. The three of them each do after school clubs on different days, so we are always running here, there and everywhere. I guess that doesn’t help either.

  • I think I like the physical demanding aspect of baby time over the emotional aspect of school aged! I know they don’t mean it when they say I hate you or you don’t love me! But it still hurts! I want to be their friend but I want to guide them too! Very difficult phase!

  • Wow, what a very drastically new normal you, and your three children, have to get accustomed to. I guess that’s a good thing to remember — that not only are you in an adjustment period, but so are each of your children. Hopefully together, you all make it through, and then onto the next milestone that throws your daily routine into upheaval. Something to look forward to!

  • I felt the same way! When my son reached elementary school I thought wow freedom! But it became a different kind of parenting. I find it more draining. There are mood swings, mean friends, hard homework, attention needed and it never ends. Hoping to find some kind of balance.

  • Each stage comes with its own challenges, that is for sure. Every time, whether I say I won’t do it or not, I find myself wishing for the next stage, then wishing I had pieces of the last one back… mine are almost grown now (middle teens) and I am a little wistful for the age where they thought I hung the moon! On the bright side though, I can see them becoming adults very soon, and at that time, I get to move onto the role as a friend and confidante, which is exciting too. My best advice is to just try to cherish each stage, despite the challenges, because it all goes so quickly. (and oh, the teen years will bring you back to the sleepless nights….)

  • Time passes so quickly. I look at my school age daughter and it seems like just yesterday she was born.
    Whenever I saw I don’t know something I always tell them “Let’s google it”

  • It’s hard to find the balance that’s for sure! I was happy when all four of the kids were in school, and then I went and upended that balance by having #5 7 1/2 years after my (previously) youngest! Lol!
    The best thing to do is try and have your you time when they’re at school, and then try and schedule mini-dates with them one at a time. They may not get 100% undivided attention every single day, but they’ll appreciate you trying to do one on one time with them. Even if it’s just a trip for an ice cream cone, or solo trip to the store with mom.

  • I homeschool my children plus I work from home so I totally understand this thought process, just in a different aspect. Although, it is a rare moment that I have any alone time.

    • It must be difficult for you all to have some space if you at home with each other all the time. I always look forward to the holidays for a break from the normal routine, but I am equally as ready to go back to it by the end!

  • I can completely relate to your walks home from school! As soon as my two girls are off the bus, the barage of vying for my attention begins! It is really difficult to share my emotional support and listening space with both of them when they each feel what they have to say is much more important than the other!

  • a beautiful read! takes me bacl to three years ago when my son started school. We both had separation anxiety at the start yay but now thankfully he is enjoying it.

    But there are still times though that I feel a pang of sadness whenever his bus leaves for school and I left alone to do the dishes and cleanign et al. Oh mothers…how we wear our heart out!

About Author

Nicola Young

Nicola Young is a freelance copywriter, with experience in all aspects of commercial writing, including articles, newsletters, press releases and web content. She also writes young adult and children's fiction and regularly blogs about her own family life.
Feel free to connect with Nicola on: Facebook | Twitter