In the hectic mayhem of raising a family of rambunctious and growing children, one often forgets to breathe. Not literally, but taking a moment to relax and rejuvenate often falls by the wayside. Clinging children all clamoring for your attention tend to drown out your own thoughts. Whether the kids are hanging on your legs or bickering with each other, they all want your attention. The more children you have, the more important it is to do two things: 1) spend one-on-one quality time with each child; 2) spend time by yourself recuperating.
To address the first item of importance, don't be too discouraged by the term "quality time". When there are several children in the house, it is easy for the older ones to be unintentionally ignored because the younger ones are more vocal in their demands and helpless by themselves. Oftentimes, the bickering, whining and complaining from the older children - or any children older than the babies of the family - is brought about by a desire for attention, even if that attention gets them sent to time-out or results in punishment. Every child wants to know they are loved. They will act up if they feel there is a competition for your affections. While sometimes there are children who require more specific attention than others - infants, sick kids, etc. - it is equally important to remember each of your children individually. Spend quality time with them. Read stories together. Play a board game. Spend a few minutes listening to what they did during the day. And while doing things all together is essential to the familial unity, try to spend time with each child one-on-one. It doesn't have to be more than a few minutes. Just make sure that those few minutes belong entirely to you and the one child. Don't let yourself be distracted by the laundry or making dinner. By giving the child your undivided attention, you make them understand their importance and how much you love them. They know that you are interested in whatever they're doing, and they will thrive on the chance to spend some "alone time" with Mom.
In addition to the one-on-one time each day, it is often beneficial to institute a Mother/Daughter or Mother/Son day or night once a month. Take the time to spend the day with one child per month. If you have older children who can watch the younger kids, maybe you could spend the day out and about. If not, try to set aside a few hours where you will have little or no interruptions. Ask your child for suggestions about what they'd like to do. You'll be surprised how easily (and inexpensively) kids can be entertained. Take a drive to the park and feed the ducks. Spend time creating your own story book, complete with illustrations. Toss a football across the backyard. You can even let them help you with your work - kids love to help stir the pasta, squish the cookies, and splash water as they "wash" the dishes.
Throughout all of this, keep in mind the most important reason behind the Mother-Child time. You want to show each child individually how much you love them and how important they are to you. I know this can be difficult at times, especially in large families, but that doesn't make it any less important. Rather, the more children in your family, the more important this special time together becomes. You can't be everywhere at once, and often your kids will clamor for attention when you're in the middle of something, but if you try, they'll clamor a bit less and bicker more infrequently.
Moving on to the second important moment, take time for yourself. If anyone's job is close to that of a superhero, it's the job of a mom. You have to rescue your kids from scary monsters and cuts and scrapes. You have to comfort them when their tiny worlds seem to be crumbling, most likely because someone took their toy or pulled their hair. You have to instruct them in the ways of becoming an adult. You have to patiently watch as, for the millionth time, your child dances around the room. You must sacrifice your wants again and again as the children grow. First, you wake up several times a night when the baby cries. Then, you put off getting together with your friends because you have to drive this child here and make sure that child gets there. And just when you think you have a moment, you have to keep going because one child is having a meltdown while another bounces up and down with too much energy.
In the midst of all this sacrifice that comes with one of the toughest jobs in the world, we often forget to stop and breathe. Yet taking time for yourself - whether it's a few minutes or a precious half-hour - is one of the most important parts of your day. Your children will benefit if you have time to repair your frayed nerves so that you stay away from the snapping point. If you sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, you can avoid reaching a boiling point of pent-up emotions. Children, of any age, run the gamut of emotions every day, from screaming to angelic, and bickering to best friends. The roller coaster of a family often takes you for a wild ride, complete with upside-down spins and twirling, hair-pin curves. So shut yourself in your room. Give yourself five minutes to just sit and focus on not doing anything. Believe me, it may not seem like a long time, but those few moments are surprisingly rejuvenating and can spur you on to continue with your hectic job. Besides, when you take the time to simmer down any angry emotions towards disobedient children, it becomes easier to recall how much you truly love them - and how you wouldn't trade your life for a million dollars. So stop and breathe. Give yourself time so that you can, in turn, give even more to your children.
To recap, give time to your kids and to yourself. Spend quality time, i.e. schoolwork doesn't count, with your kids. Try to spend time with each kid by themselves. Make sure you take care of yourself. If you can accomplish these moments, your family will be happier, and you won't have as many frayed nerves or stressed muscles. And hang in there. Implementing alone time doesn't happen with a wave of the hand. It takes time and effort to develop a routine. Taking time for yourself or for one person out of a busy day is harder than it sounds; however, it is possible. So believe and breathe.