In addition, since coming to Kotzebue I have begun babysitting full time for some other kids...
Here is roughly what my normal weekday looks like:
Babysittee 1 *"Pink" arrives (girl, age 2 1/2)
*Lest anyone think the color assignments are sexist, I actually just let each kid pick their favorite color from the options available.
Babysittee 2 "Orange" arrives (girl, age 2 1/2)
*To further validate the fact that they picked their colors, I would have given her green, but she picked orange, so that's how it goes.
story time. I may not do a ton of formal organized playtime, but I try to make sure to read a few stories to the crowd every day.
10:30 or so
snacktime all around
12:15 or so
Babysittee 3 "Blue" arrives (boy, 4 1/2--sibling of Orange). His mom brings him from morning preschool, and also takes Bear back to afternoon preschool. Before Orange and Blue started coming, I used to pack up Bear, Eagle, and Pink onto a 4-wheeler to take Bear to class. It's much easier now with the carpool, although I now have so many little ones in the house that it's nigh on impossible to pack everyone safely onto the 4-wheeler if I did need to go somewhere. (This got tested last week when there was a last minute fallthrough from my after-school carpool, and I had to pile everyone on in a hurry to go get Bear after school. However Wolf was home in time to come along and help hold everybody on. In case you lost count, the 4-wheeler was laden thusly: me, Eagle strapped on my back, Orange sitting in front of me on the seat, Wolf in the back center with Bear on one side and Blue on the other, and Pink on his lap... yes indeed, that was 7 people on one 4wheeler, and most of them under age 5. Welcome to the Alaskan bush!!)
everybody finishes lunch. Theoretically all the 2year olds take naps. Some days this goes better than others. Bear is off at preschool, and Blue usually watches a movie or plays lego video games. Assuming everybody naps, I get in a couple of hours of school work. Depending how well they are getting along in the morning, I sometimes can work then too; but much of it falls to evenings. Hubby gets two evenings a week to work on his classes, and I get two.
3:30 or 4pm
Bear and Wolf get home from school, the littles have mostly wakened up (or I wake them at this point).
Snacks for everybody usually again
Work on making dinner
All the babysittees go home.
Feed my family dinner
Enjoy the fact that I do bedtime with only my own kids instead of all the extras. ☺
I am making $400/wk with these kiddos, which allows me to have a date with my spouse EVERY weekend. This is priceless, as we have not had regular dates in five years. It also allows us to save up a bit, with the intent to be able to have a big long fun road trip/vacation next summer without going into any debt. We have bills enough to pay off right now, and the idea of being able to get ahead rather than just making ends meet is very exciting.
Of course, then there are the actual logistics of having five kids under 5 in the house for 40+ hours a week. Sometimes it feels overwhelming--they can move fast and if they split up they can sure make a lot of mess in a very little time. Pink seems to be fond of books but not careful with them, so I have to keep an eye on her lest she rip them (she's damaged a couple). Eagle enjoys recruiting people to help him pull things off shelves. Pink and Eagle (and sometimes Bear) like to take off clothing... I can deal with this so long as they leave the unders/diapers on, but Pink went through a bad spell a couple of weeks ago... yeah, right now I'm pushing a strong must-wear-clothing policy. It IS below freezing outside folks. But we got some new stories and a little indoor trampoline that's good for everybody's wiggles, and I'm thinking of ordering one of those little fabric fabric tent&tunnel toys (I figured the babysitting income included some budget for broadening the toy selection here!)
I have learned some things by having this many little ones.
Firstly, if I had twins or triplets, I would change some of my parenting techniques. I would push for more of a schedule for my littles, rather than following theirs so much. I like the flexibility and non-stressed nature of just going with the flow, but with a stack of kids I kinda need them to nap around the same time or else they'll wake each other up!
Secondly, diaper changes. I line the three diapered ones up, and change them one after the other. The cost of electricity here is so expensive (50cents/kwh, which is quadruple what we paid before), so I switched Eagle to disposables. I feel guilty almost every time I change him that I didn't stick it out with cloth, but ultimately the cost of just drying the diapers would have cost more than disposables, and he's near potty learning anyway. So I line up the kiddos and change one after the other. They each have different brands of diapers and wipes, and that has been quite educational. I can share a couple of tips:
- Only huggies brand wipes are worth anything (the others it takes twice as many wipes to do the job, so they don't end up being cheaper, and they are not as soft).
- And when it comes to diaper brands...Frankly, I can hardly tell a difference between the expensive huggies, the cheap luvs, and the super-expensive 7th generation organics. They all seem to do the job equally well, and they all seem equally soft (as paper diapers go at least). So there you have the extent of my feelings on disposable diapers (and seriously, if you can line dry, or your electricity is normally cheap, I still recommend cloth!)
And finally, this is the brilliant bit of organization that makes mealtimes and snacktimes more or less sane. I cannot take any credit for this, it was my mother's idea when she had 4 kids under 5 (although she wasn't babysitting any of them!):
<------I got this set of little plastic ikea dishes/utensils from ebid, and everybody picked a color, and now I always know what belongs to whom. I can rinse things off but usually only need to really wash them once a day--even though we have multiple meals, because I can always tell whose is whose. The bowls are about custard cup size, so it's good for little ones. The plates are salad/dessert plate size. The cups I actually don't use so much, because the little ones have sippy cups... but the forks and spoons are great.