Monday, April 22, 2024

Carolyn Hax: Is life with young children still a race to the bare minimum?

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyne: Are parents of young children necessarily exhausted even though they are doing the bare minimum all the time? My children are 3.5 and 1 and my husband and I both work full time. We have a reasonable amount of child care and paid help (no family nearby), and we take care of daily chores, but I still feel like there’s no time beyond, so I always play catch up.

My husband insists that’s how it is with little kids. His work schedule varies from week to week, while mine is stable, so while he does his part on his light weeks, I cover some of his heavy weeks, and he also needs time to rest. And I’m the one who cares about the mess that accumulates, like the kids’ clothes and toys that are too big to sort and give away, but also our stuff that we packed up when we moved and most of which we now owe leave.

We have another move planned for next year, and I’d like to have cleared out as much as possible by then, but I just can’t find any motivation at the end of a long day. Should I just wait until my kids get a little older?

— Exhausted parents of little ones

Exhausted parents of little ones: I’ve said it before, if each co-parent feels like they’re doing 100% of the work alone, then that seems okay.

I found life with small children completely exhausting. Not everyone has this experience, but I think those who do can pretend to be perfectly normal.

I’ve also discovered that tasks that I can’t cope with but can’t put off forever become (more) achievable when broken into short, daily, scheduled intervals. For example, 15 minutes per day for decluttering, with two days off per week for good behavior.

· What struck me in your note is “I’m the one who takes care” of sorting, donating, etc. While this may be true, it doesn’t make it any less of a HOUSEHOLD chore. So unless your husband takes on a similar task, this isn’t necessarily a problem that will go away once the kids are older. What has helped my family is making a list of ALL chores, based on how often they need to be done and how much work they represent. Then we separated them.

· Does he give you time to rest during his “normal” weeks? Please schedule personal time to recharge. It will get better, but in the meantime, you need to take care of yourself. Don’t be a complete martyr.

· Make an appointment with your doctor for a complete assessment. Have your thyroid checked. Make sure your doctor does a full panel and not just TSH. Also have your ferritin levels checked. Low iron can affect energy levels, as can low B12. Have all of this checked.

· You are not crazy; the fatigue is real. When I was at that point in my life, I would set a timer for 15 minutes or whatever, do as much cleaning as possible – clearing the table, boxing Goodwill, making snacks – and try to get it over with. that. This way I didn’t feel like there was one more thing to do that would go on forever. It’s better.

· Do what you can, then move into acceptance mode. It gets easier in some ways, harder in others, as the years go by. One thing you can be sure of is that things will change.

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