The Me Time Bandaid

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Categories Babysitting, Finances and Saving, Going out, Making Time for Me, Organization, Parenting, Time ManagementTags , 1 Comment

Like most parents-to-be my husband and I envisioned what our life would be like after the arrival of our fraternal little bundles of joy with keen optimism. We decided that our version of parenthood would involve a budget that would always include a babysitter fund.  We were happy to accept hand-me-down clothing, take more local vacations and make other financial sacrifices as a trade for some more time to ourselves as a couple.

A month before Molly and Jack’s c-scheduled arrival we opened up an account with a nanny site and posted an advertisement for a handful of regular babysitters.  I wanted a sitter who would be available during the day from time-to-time so I would be able to get a break or a nap when my husband was at work and another sitter or two who would be available for our evening date nights.  The well-thought out plan allowed us time to receive resumes, review them together towards the end of my pregnancy/ first few days of the twins’ lives, schedule phone and face-to-face interviews and then test out our sitters while we went out to a restaurant walking distance from our house, so we were nearby.

A few days after our new family returned from the hospital my husbands’ grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse.  He received a call from his father urging him to head to the hospital immediately at around 2:45AM, while we were finishing up a middle of the night feeding of Molly and Jack.  Chris drove to the hospital while I put the kids back to bed and waited for his call.  He returned home, just after breakfast and the family had already begun to make funeral arrangements.

2.5 week old fraternal twins

Molly and Jack were barely a week old and we both knew that it would be difficult to manage their care at a visitation and a funeral.  We hadn’t even called the babysitters who had applied to care for Molly and Jack and over half of our family would be attending the funeral.  On the night of the visitation, less than two weeks after their birth, we separated from our newborns for the very first time, under the charge of my best friend and my brother.  I believe I provided a laundry list of highly unnecessary instructions and then we took a deep breath and we left our children for a few hours that evening. We came home to sleeping twins and our babysitters watching a Storage Wars Marathon on TV – hardly the difficult situation that I had written a novel to prepare them for.  The next day we left Molly and Jack in the care of my parents, and a significantly shorter set of “care” instructions, while we went to the service and the visitation (but not before a milk pumping pit stop).

We knew that we’d be leaving the twins under the care of others early on, however we certainly didn’t think that we’d be doing it that soon.  We both wish that Great Grandma Hazel had been able to meet Molly and Jack and we are so thankful for the people in our lives who stepped up during our VERY early days of parenthood.

When we interviewed our sitters and left Molly and Jack alone as intended that fall, it was just a little bit easier knowing that we had done it before.  We still have two of our original babysitters who have cared for Molly and Jack since they were just a month old and nowadays they look forward to their time with their sitters just as much as we enjoy getting out for a date.

To view a post I wrote on my personal blog on interview questions to ask a potential babysitter click here.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Working from Home Full Time

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Categories Balance, Childcare, Divorce, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Making Time for Me, Routines, SAHM, Time Management, WorkingLeave a comment

Four years ago, we were preparing to send our children to kindergarten when my soldier husband received orders to move over 500 miles away. We had about 2 weeks to uproot and move, departing the day before the children were to have started school with the children in the neighbourhood. We even knew their assigned teachers’ names. This is fairly typical for military families, but not for us. In my 9 years as a US Army fiancée and wife, this was the only PCS (permanent change of station) I moved for. While my husband went on overseas tours (two to Iraq, one to Afghanistan, and one to Korea), I had stayed put.

I figured that my run as an enlisted wife with a career was over. I prepared to hand in my two week notice. Instead, my employer offered to keep me on as a full-time telecommuter indefinitely. I jumped at the chance to keep a job I loved while keeping my family intact. Instead of spending 45 hours a week in and around the office, I would be working from home, making myself available through email,, Google Chat, instant messenger, and telephone. I took a couple of weeks of leave to pack and rent out our house, find a place to live, make the move, deal with an unrelated family crisis, and unpack.

I initially intended to put my daughters in an after-school care program so that I could work from as I had from the office, knowing that my children were well cared for. However, it turned out that El Paso childcare culture wasn’t one I could get on board with. The one after-school program I could find that met my hygiene requirements was untenable. The children ran mostly unsupervised and were fed candy and soda. I couldn’t bear to allow my children to continue there after the first few weeks brought no improvement. I made the previously unthinkable decision to work full time without childcare.

I know that many parents work full time from home with children underfoot. For me, the nature of my work, my parenting priorities, and my own nature wouldn’t have been able to make it successful if the children weren’t in school for a good part of the day. However, with kindergarten in the mix, the schedule worked out.

6:45 am: Put the children on the school bus for an unnecessarily circuitous but serendipitously long bus ride.
7:00 am: Get online and start work. Thanks to being just over the time zone boundary, this is 8 am at work.
1:45 or 2:30 pm: Take a late “lunch” to drive to school and retrieve the children. This got a little squirrely while the kids were in different grades and got out of school at different times, but we made it work.
3:15 pm: Get the children set up with a snack and craft.
3:20 pm: Get back to work.
4:00 pm or 4:45 pm: Sign off for the day. Snuggle with the girls and thank them for being so mature.
5:30 pm: Prepare dinner.
6:00 pm: Family time.
8:00 pm: Send the children to bed and prep a crafting project for the following day. Take care of housework and try to prop up my failing marriage.

I lucked out, between my incredibly supportive coworkers, the time difference, public kindergarten, the long bus ride, and my daughters’ maturity. I was especially grateful to have kept my job when, 7 months after our move, my husband left me. Thanks to working from home, I had a career, salary, and community to fall back on. I will be ever grateful to my team’s faith in my creative scheduling and commitment to my job.

Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Mommy’s Workout Time

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Categories Childcare, Health, Lifestyle, Making Time for Me, ParentingTags 2 Comments

I work in IT and spend my day at a desk. Like many people, I have to exercise for both physical and mental health. I’m not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. Without an effort to get myself moving, I wouldn’t get any exercise beyond that provided by housework and playing with the kids.

Structured exercise classes are what work best for me. When my kids were younger, I was reasonably good at using exercise DVDs to keep myself moving, but I’ve since become a member at a local gym. At a bare minimum, I make it to Saturday morning full-body weight class. In a great week, I might attend 4 workout classes spread over 3 days.

When I had infants and toddlers, it didn’t even occur to me that going to a gym was an option. The gym at work didn’t provide childcare and it never occurred to me that other gyms might. I was pleasantly surprised that the local gym had dropoff childcare for children of all ages, included in the base membership price. I haven’t seen the infant room, but I’ve really liked the indoor playscape made available to younger children and the video games, air hockey, and craft centres in the room for older kids.

In addition to having plenty to do while I’m exercising, my daughters are also learning that it’s important for adult women to take care of our bodies and health. I’m sure they see how much my energy suffers on the rare week that we have to skip a gym visit. They’re such active children now, but I hope the example of mommy’s workout will stay with them if they pursue more sedentary careers in the future.

Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What About the Older Children? Childcare During Childbirth

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Categories Birth Order, Birth Stories, Childcare, Community, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Pregnancy, Twinfant Tuesday2 Comments

We had returned from the hospital after receiving the most incredible news. In approximately six months’ time we were going to become the parents of twins! I was going to be a Mummy to four children!! We felt overwhelmed, excited, nervous, scared, and curious! I think I felt every emotion possible that afternoon.

Looking back to when I become pregnant with my first child, I remember my worries and concerns so clearly:

Was my baby healthy?

Was labour going to hurt?

Was I going to get fat?

What buggy? Cot? Bottles?

Seven years later as a pregnant mother of two children my concerns and worries could not have been more different. In addition to the health and wellbeing of my unborn babies, at the forefront of my mind were my two children and who was going to care for them when I was in hospital giving birth to our twins. I knew at that point that carrying twins meant that I was at increased chance of having a C-section. For me, that would mean a longer recovery time and the need to make extra arrangements for them.

Arranging the care of our older two children was our priority and it was something that we began to plan for more or less straight away.

These are my top tips for putting a plan into place for childcare during childbirth.

Make a List

We made a list of everyone who we could call on for help with the children if we needed too! At the top of our list were our parents. They would have been our first choice, but it just so happened that my in-laws were taking a holiday when the babies were born. My Mum works full time so was unable to take sole responsibility. We filled our list with Aunties, Uncles and Godparents.

We are lucky to have such a big family and support network, but as soon as we announced the news we were pregnant with multiples we were inundated with offers of help from friends and extended family members. We could have filled our list ten times over.

Have a Plan A and B, … C, D, E, and F

The morning I was due to be induced with the babies, we had everything figured out. The children knew exactly where they were staying, who was collecting them from school and nursery, who was driving them to their out of school clubs. I was happy, relaxed, and confident and ready to meet the two newest members of our family.

But I wasn’t induced on that day! They didn’t have enough room or enough staff in the hospital to perform a safe deliver. I didn’t end up giving birth until the following day!

Be prepared for every eventuality. Make sure your children and the people who are caring for them are aware that everything might not go to plan. I was due to be induced so I had an idea of when I was going to have my babies. Still, being pregnant with twins puts you at increased risk of premature delivery. The timing of your babies’ births could be very unpredictable.

I was lucky to get to nearly 38 weeks with my babies but many Mums of Multiples don’t make it that far. Having someone on the end of the phone that you could call upon at short notice or a neighbour who lives close by would be ideal.

Inform School and Nursery

Our daughter’s nursery was fantastic around the time the twins were born. She was able to do extra days at short notice and we were able to collect her later during my pregnancy when appointments at the hospital ran over. My son’s school showed the same support and helpfulness. After the babies were born, the sincere offers of help we received from school were a great comfort. Knowing they were there if we needed them was priceless, especially through those first few tricky weeks.

Be Prepared for a Caesarean Section

The chances of having a normal delivery compared to having a C-section with twins is around 50/50.

Even if, like me, you plan to have a normal delivery, making arrangements for someone else to do the school run and help out with your older children for at least six weeks following the birth is a necessity. I was lucky. I got to have the birth I wanted and was fit to drive and do the school run not long after. Still, my husband had previously rearranged all his working hours for those first six weeks to make sure he was on hand to do school runs and chauffeur our little ones to after school clubs.

We had lots of offers from our children’s friends’ parents, who were eager to help us out with school transportation. Sometimes even now I will get someone to come and sit with the babies whilst I quickly dash out to collect our little boy. Anything that makes life easier is a good thing!!

Prepare Your Older Children for Change

Having made a plan for the care of our children, I felt content and happy with knowing who was going to look after them. My other biggest concern was how my little boy and girl were feeling about the arrival of their new siblings. Our little girl had limited knowledge of what was going on.

She knew that mummy had a big belly and there were two babies living in there. I knew that their arrival was probably going to affect her just as much as much as our little boy, if not more. I couldn’t talk through her worries or her concerns about the situation as she didn’t fully understand.

We read a book called I’m Having Twins by Paris Morris.

I'm Having Twins by Paris Morris can help prepare your toddler for the arrival to two new babies.

It’s a book that tells the story of a family having twins from the perspective of the little girl. It’s a book I would definitely recommend. Both our children enjoyed it. It is aimed at children a little older than our then nearly-two-year-old but our daughter still loves the story 10 months after her twins’ birth!

Our little boy was initially really excited for the arrival of the twins but as my due day approached he expressed concern about how our life would continue as before. We were open and honest with him and explained that life was going to change, but in a positive way. Children are extremely resilient in the face of change.

Although we are always advised of this, as parents we can’t help but worry about the impact that huge life events are going to have on our little ones. As a parent who has already been through this, I can assure you that when your twin babies do arrive, your older children will adapt and they will take all the changes that there new siblings bring in their stride. In fact, less than 24 hours after the babies’ homecoming our eldest two children were more concerned with planning a trip to the park.

Kerry Shaw's older children adjusted remarkably quickly to the addition of two new babies to their family.

We’re ten months on from the birth of our babies. It’s very hard to imagine our life before. Our little girl, I’m sure, does not remember life before and our little boy is the most wonderful big brother. He absolutely adores his siblings and for a child that’s gone from been an only child to having three siblings in less than two years, his attitude and resilience to change is remarkable.

As for all the worrying I did, it was completely unnecessary. If I could give one piece of advice to every expectant mother, it would be to try not to worry. The children you already have will exhibit strength, resilience, and an ability to adapt to situations that really will have you beaming with pride. Maybe you’ll feel, as I do, as much pride in them as you have in yourself for giving birth to multiples!

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Toddler Thursday: Preparing at home for the NICU stay

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Categories Childcare, Family, Household and Family Management, NICU, Organization, Singletons, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers1 Comment

prepareAfter finding out I was expecting twins my brain started spinning. How would we fit in our current car? What about bedrooms? How would my 38 year old body handle this pregnancy? After I adjusted to the idea many of my initial worries disappeared, but one didn’t. How would our barely two year old Oliver handle things if our babies had a lengthy NICU stay? I had a history of preterm labor and had had all three of my boys at around 37 weeks.  That’s not very early, but I was worried that my body would kick into labor even earlier while carrying two babies. Sure enough right around 28 weeks I started having contractions and my Dr. put me on Procardia. I quickly realized I would need to prepare Oliver for not only the babies, but also for the time that I’d inevitably end up away from him. To complicate things my mother (who is our primary source of childcare) has a chronic illness that makes it difficult to predict how much help she will be able to provide.  In the event that she became ill at the same time the babies were still in the hospital I’d need to have things ready for someone else (who may not be familiar with our routines) to step in.  Eeeeeeek! No pressure, right?

Since Oliver isn’t in school or mother’s day out he spends the majority of his time at home. I knew that I needed to focus most of my energy on creating an environment that would keep him busy and allow him to be as independent as possible. I also wanted to simplify things so that whoever was caring for the boys wouldn’t have as much to clean and keep up with. The first thing I did was purge the playroom and kids’ rooms of any toys they hadn’t played with in awhile, were broken, or sets that were incomplete. I was brutal and got rid of almost half our toys. I was surprised that the kids never mentioned things were missing. After the clean out I sorted the remaining toys and put half away in a closet so they could be switched out periodically. This served three purposes. It made it easier for the big kids to keep things put away, it kept Oliver interested in his toys, and it kept him from being overwhelmed. By limiting his choices he actually started playing with his toys instead of doing what I call the dump and run (where toddlers pour all the toys onto the floor only to walk away without playing) After our playroom was organized I started on our back yard. Once again I got rid of any toy that was broken or in bad shape. I added new sand and toys to our sand box and made sure we had plenty of bubbles and sidewalk chalk. One addition that worked surprisingly well was a plastic easel. We kept it on the patio and would put paper and paints on it as needed. Oliver enjoyed being able to paint whenever he wanted and my mom loved that clean up was so easy. My husband did a safety check and made sure our fence was secure and the play scape didn’t have any loose nails or splinters. My goal was to make our backyard another place where Oliver could play independently and be safe.

I knew having a schedule would make it easier for Oliver during our NICU stay. Thankfully we had already established a routine and flow to our day (It kept my type A personality happy). As we got closer to the babies coming I typed and printed our routine and added it to our household binder (more on the binder later). The further I got in my pregnancy the more tempting it was to let our schedule slide. I was so tired and achy that I reeeeeaaalllly wanted to throw it out and let Oliver sleep late in the mornings and fall asleep wherever he happened to collapse at night. For the most part I tried really hard to stick to our routine knowing that it would make things better for everyone later.  We started practicing what Oliver should do after we ate (put his plate and cup in the sink), where he should put his dirty clothes, where his shoes were kept (the basket by the door), and how to get to the “approved for Oliver” snacks in the pantry. While helping him learn how to be more independent certainly made things easier for whoever was caring for him I was also hoping it would increase his confidence. Going from being the baby of the family to the middle child of five kids was going to be hard. I hoped knowing what to expect and how things worked in our home would help Oliver find his new place.

Knowing I’d be hard to reach in the hospital I decided to make a reference book for our family. I was worried that there would be a question and nobody would be able to get ahold of me. After looking at several examples on pinterest I decided the household binder was the format I liked best.  Our binder is organized by the topics: schedule, food, school, miscellanious phone numbers, and in case of emergency. The schedule area holds our daily schedule and all our routines are written out. This served almost as a script for our day. For example if my dad wasn’t sure what bedtime or bath time looked like for Oliver he could read about them before hand. The food area holds ideas for breakfasts and lunches, take out numbers, and a grocery list for items we typically need every week. The school tab is full of the bigger boys’ school information (schedule, phone numbers, lunch menu, and teachers contact information). Miscellanious phone numbers included the numbers to our plumber, air conditioner repair company, our pediatrician, and various friends who know the kids and could help if needed. I really thought I was going overboard adding this tab, but it turns out my parents needed it! While the babies were in the NICU our air conditioner went out. August in Texas is brutal and thankfully my parents were able to get it fixed quickly. The emergency tab holds copies of our health insurance card and a generic letter giving my paremts permission to seek medical care for the kids. I also included directions to our pediatrician and the closest hospital. While my parents knew most of the information included in the binder I wasn’t sure who else would be caring for Oliver and the bigger boys. Now that we are home and settled the binder serves as a great resource for our baby sitter.

Rhodes and Laurel were born at 34 weeks and spent two and a half weeks in the NICU. Thankfully Oliver and the bigger boys did beautifully while we were gone. My mom did become ill in the middle of our stay but continued to help out as much as she could.

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Childcare Costs

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Categories Childcare, Education, Infants, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Working8 Comments

Handing our children over to someone else’s care, especially when it’s for a full work day, is no small thing. Ideally, we want care providers to be our partners in raising our kids. A great childcare provider doesn’t just make sure that children are safe, fed and clean. She also nurtures children’s curiosity, character, and overall development. He communicates with parents about what he has observed during the day and honours parents’ desires and wishes for the care of each child.

Teacher and toddlers from daycare costs from hdydi.comChildcare providers don’t earn much, especially given the pricelessness of the duties we entrust them with. At the same time, childcare is incredibly expensive. It constitutes a huge proportion of a two-income or single parent budget, especially for young parents at the beginnings of their careers. Unfortunately, we have no magical solution to make childcare affordable, although we can tell you what we did to make ends meet and why we decided to invest in childcare.

In this post, Sara and Sadia try to present the realities of childcare costs in the US and Canada, since we were both shocked by the sticker price and its impact on our lifestyles.

The Reality of the Costs of Childcare


daycare costs from hdydi.comWhen my daughters started public school, it felt like I got an enormous raise. Daycare got cheaper as our girls got older–prices tend to decrease by $10-20 per month per child per year of age–but the first year was a massive shock to the bank account. Two infant tuitions in the Austin suburbs came out to US$1650 a month, more than our mortgage. That was 7 years ago, so prices have gone up since. The US$1500+ didn’t include add-on options that became available at age 3, such as soccer lessons, gymnastics time, computer classes and Spanish activities.

I honestly don’t know how I would have made ends meet had I not still been married. We needed both incomes. Full day summer childcare prices for elementary-aged children are comparable to that of infant care, and I confess that this summer was financially challenging on just my income and the child support payment that my ex-husband provides. I really couldn’t have done it without the promotions and raises I’ve earned since my daughters were born.

The irony is that we had researched childcare options and costs. It was only after we decided that we were at a point at which we could afford daycare that we attempted to get pregnant. We just hadn’t budgeted for twins.

The care my kids received was worth every penny. I hadn’t realized going into it that childcare would be our family’s largest expense, but in retrospect it makes sense. Hiring the right childcare provider is an investment in my children’s future, not just their professional success, but also in their personal successes and sense of self. We got back a lot more than we paid for: lifelong friendship and mentoring, people with a real stake in my daughters’ development, and a healthy, happy, wholesome start. A couple of weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter J had a theological question she didn’t feel that I was answering adequately, so she sought one of the staff members from her old daycare to discuss her concerns with her.

What saddens me is how little childcare providers are paid. I don’t know whether it was the financial structure of our program alone or whether this is typical, but I learned from one of the assistants I hired occasionally for evening babysitting that she earned less than $10 per hour caring for my children in her regular job. She was assisting 20 hours a week in the infant room at a program that was open from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm. In short, the people caring for my children wouldn’t have been able to afford to put their own kids in the program.


Costs of ChildcareBy the end of 2013 we will have spent over 30K in daycare for our 2-year-old twins, also significantly more expensive than our mortgage. When we were expecting we saved up money to help supplement my 13 months at home with Molly and Jack, (luckily Canadian benefits granted me 50 weeks of paid leave at C$501 a week and I used paid vacation for the remaining month). What we didn’t expect was to be living on an even tighter budget once I went back to work.

When you combine the immense daycare fees, cost of transportation to and from work, along with business clothes, some weeks it often feels that I’m quite literally working for very little money. On days when the washer has broken and you are about to tear out your hair in frustration it helps to think big picture. This is the most expensive time of our life (until we have two children in college 15 years from now), we just need to grit our teeth and count the days until full day kindergarten – 700! (but we’re not keeping track).

Why We Made the Decision to Go Back to Work


I never considered being a stay-at-home mom. For a few months, we toyed around with the idea of my now ex-husband being a SAHD, but that wasn’t for him either. For him, his military career is more than a job, although he is loathe to admit it. Serving others through his army service is my ex’s calling, and he’s really good at it. He would have never been able to live with himself if others were fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan while he changed diapers.

Childcare Costs from
Photo Credit: ForestForTrees

I have an intense personality and my extroversion is off the charts. Even during the 8 weeks between my daughters’ release from the NICU and my returning to work, we were out and about all the time. With my husband away on training, and later on deployment, it was just me and the babies in the house. I needed adult contact, adult conversation, and adult challenges.

I wanted to be able to be the best mother I could be. For me, that involves finding fulfillment and challenges outside my children. Having my own intellectual and social needs fulfilled by my job, I can focus on being for my children what they need me to be.

Perhaps the scars of my turbulent relationship with my mother have made me this way. I just don’t want my children to ever be burdened by my needing them for fulfillment. They should be free to explore their own lives, not spend their time validating mine.

There was also a financial aspect to my returning to work, although money never mattered enough to us for that to be a primary consideration. Enlisted soldiers in the US army don’t earn a whole lot. I was the primary earner in our family, thanks to a higher level of education (my MA to his high school diploma) and my job in software.


I love my children immensely, and with costs considered we seriously thought about one of us staying home for a few years to be with the kids, but when I took up a part-time contract with my work during the last six months of my maternity leave I remember how much I missed my day job. I missed my connection to the outside world, my former self and my career aspirations. Part-time work would have been an ideal balance for home/work life, but living in a big city, with little to no part-time daycare options and having a job I love this was not a feasible option for  my husband or I. When I returned to work full-time although their were struggles, especially related to illness in the first six months, I was more focused when I spent time with my kids. I wanted to read the extra story at bed time and I wanted to build Lego towers with my kids because time was limited I made sure to make it quality time over quantity time.

Tips to Make it Easier


We cut our non-childcare expenses to the bone. We cancelled our landline telephone and used our cell phones only, with no data plans. We cooked all our food at home and packed our lunches; we couldn’t afford to eat out. My ex sold his beloved gas-guzzling 1968 Cougar and bought a more practical car. I worked through the night while breastfeeding to make up the time I missed at work when the babies were sick. While our neighbours hired cleaning ladies, we didn’t. We didn’t have cable TV, go to the movies or go shopping beyond groceries and clothes for our growing babies.

Teacher reading to kids: daycare costs from hdydi.comMy employer provides an option to set up a dependent care flexible saving account. In essence, my employer sets aside US$5000 of my income to be spent on daycare before calculating my income tax. This has the effect of putting me in a lower income bracket for the purposes of income tax, reducing my tax burden. As I spend on daycare through the fiscal year, I send in receipts to prove where that money has gone, and the FSA management company reimburses me from the money that was already pulled out of my paycheck.


Financially we had to make some cuts to our cell phone services, cable and other frills so we could make it work.  We also sold a bunch of items we didn’t need any more to help with the initial pinch.  Big hurdles were when the kids got sick and we needed to make other arrangements during the day.  Having family members as emergency back-up, flex-time at work or sitters who you can call in a pinch (at an added expense unfortunately) helped us survive.  Knowing that there was an end date and having supportive people around us made the adjustment possible, I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.

What Other Options Are There?

There are programs out there intended to help reduce the financial pressures of childcare. There are tax rebates and assistance programs, although the latter involve huge amounts of red tape and often have internally inconsistent rules.

Centre-based care isn’t the only option. In-home childcare can be cheaper than centre-based case, but you’re dependent on the availability of a single person. You might be able to barter for care, providing your care provider a place to live and having her “pay” her rent in childcare hours. If you have family nearby, perhaps you can get free or greatly reduced care from them.

There’s the most obvious answer, one which many of us MoMs have chosen: one parent stays home and makes a non-paying career of being his or her own childcare provider. That comes with its own financial challenges, particularly if you were accustomed to living on two incomes.

We’re not experts here, just two moms who’ve felt the pinch. Please tell us how you address the issue of childcare costs for your family.

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From the Archives: Childcare Expenses

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Childcare for twinfants can easily cost more than your mortgage. We don’t have any straightforward solutions that will work for all families, but many of The Moms have talked about childcare expenses and the different available options, over the years. Check out these posts.

Tell us about the childcare solution that has worked for your family.

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How to Afford Twins: Bringing in Extra Income

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With two or more blessings coming into your life at once, cutting back seems the obvious route to go when figuring out how to afford twins or more, but sometimes it just isn’t enough, especially if one of the parents is now at home with the kids.  That is why you may want to consider bringing in extra income, because every little penny helps.  *Please be aware some of the links below are ldskatelyn’s affiliate or referral to afford twinsDonate Plasma

Not everyone can qualify to donate plasma, and not everyone should or will want to (I have personally never done this), but if money is tight you might want to consider donating plasma.  You can help others and make a good chunk of change for going regularly.  It can be $15-35 per visit, or more.  To learn more check out and find a center near you.

Sell Your Stuff

Ebay, Craigslist, consignment shops, the newspaper, pawn shops, and yard sales are all ways you can sell things you already have and make some extra money.

Childcare at Home

As a mother of multiples, you already know how to do crowd control, so what’s one or two more kids around the house?  And an extra playmate for your kids might actually give you a break. Look into watching a friend’s children, or a neighbor’s child, or check local listings in papers, craigslist, and on sites like  There are dozens of childcare websites out there, and lots of people looking to find affordable childcare, that perhaps you can help fill.  While I once looked into doing this, the thought of watching someone else’s child for 40+ hours a week, on top of my own, felt super overwhelming.  Know your limits, and know how many hours a week you’d be able to offer childcare in your home, and what to charge.

Independent Beauty or Other Sales Consultant

There are still several companies out there that still sell their goods through an in-home sales consultant.  Some of these companies are Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Thirty One, and Lia Sophia.  So, if you love make-up, jewelry, kitchen appliances, storage containers, or purses, you may want to think about reaping the rewards monetarily from your love affairs.

Tutor or Teach

Were you a brainiac in school?  Did you excel in a certain field?  Do you do a craft or have a skill that could be shared with others?  Then think about teaching or tutoring.  Whether a cake decorating class, keyboarding 101, Zumba, math, or piano lessons, there is probably a need out there for you to fill.  You can try offering your services through places like and your local newspaper.  There are numerous tutoring websites and networks out there for you to apply to be a tutor on.  You can check with local craft stores, gyms, libraries, and even nursing homes to see if they would pay for you to teach a class.

Online Survey Sites

While not a great source of additional income, it is an easy way to make a few extra dollars.  I have signed up and used various online survey sites, and my favorite one has to be But, there are dozens of survey sites out there, some better than others.  What I like about Valued Opinions is they offer cash, not points, in return for taking surveys.  I like cash.  I like knowing exactly how much I will earn from each survey I take, so I can gauge if it is worth my time or not.  Another survey company that does cash payouts is MindField Online.  Other survey sites I’ve used are Toluna, which offers by far the most surveys, increasing your chance of being able to take them and earn.  (See THIS post I wrote about how some survey sites compare.)

Rewards Search Engines

Did you know you can be rewarded for searching the internet?  Yes, just for doing regular searches in a specific search engine can mean a little extra cash!  I have used swagbucks for probably two years now.  You can download their search toolbar and make them your default search engine. Swagbucks doesn’t reward a set amount per search, and is a bit hit and miss, but typically awards 6-10 points at a time.  Points or swagbucks can be redeemed for an array of different gift cards and other rewards.  I most often cash out at just 450 points for a $5 Amazon gift card.  They also offer tons of other ways of accumulating points as well, like 10 points for using a coupon printed from their site.

Another search engine you can do this with is Bing. Bing Rewards also allows you collect points for using their search engine which can be used to cash in on gift cards and other prizes.  Honestly, I haven’t used this very much at all, but I think I may start.  Bing is a much more powerful search engine than the growingly popular Swagbucks website.  My husband, for instance, hates using swagbucks to search for things because he doesn’t like that results he gets.  Also, earning is simple with Bing. You earn 1 credit per 2 Bing searches, up to 15 credits a day.  If you got 15 credits a day, it would only take you 35 days to cash in a $5 amazon gift card.  Whatever you prefer, it is a simple way to earn without having to spend any extra time.  You’re going to do internet searches anyways!

Cash-Back Online Shopping

This is one of my very favorite ways to bring in a little extra money.  I feel like I win the lottery each time I do it because I save even more on my bargain hunting online.  There are many cash back online shopping sites, and I use three different ones.  Why three?  Because sometimes one will have a better deal at the moment than another and not all websites have contracts with all of them.  And will do 110% Price Match Guarantee (which I have used numerous times). The three I use are, Ebates, and UpromiseUpromise – The Smart Way to Save for College is a free service, and by adding your credit, debit, or grocery card means that you can begin saving money for college every time you shop at participating retailers.  However, you can always just cash it out too.  Upromise offers 5% cash back or more on just about all of their online retailers.  Not all online retailers (like Amazon) are connected to these cash back websites, or only offer cash back on certain purchases.  Always make sure the check the fine print.  So, before you buy something online again, STOP, and shop through one of these sites!  It’ll be like getting the tax back on your purchases!

Baking and Cooking

Do you love to cook?  To bake?  Then maybe you should think about doing it to make a little extra income.  Cupcakes and specialty cakes seem to be all the rage.  Offer your services to friends and neighbors who will be having a themed birthday party soon or online.

Photography or Art

Are you an artist or a photographer?  Think about offering your services and creations to others.  There are lots of local venues and markets for artists to share and sell their goods, as well as bigger art fairs.  You can take requests and do commissions, a guaranteed way to make money. Or, create several works and take them to a fair or art show and try to sell them. Or think about opening an etsy shop with prints of your works.

Etsy Shop

Do you have a crafty hobby?  Do you already spend time creating?  Then you might want to think about starting your own business via etsy.  Etsy is a great place for creative people who also know how to operate a small business.  I have known many people to be very successful etsy sellers. It isn’t for everyone, as it is indeed a business and can be time-consuming and expensive to start up in the beginning, but can be very fun and rewarding!


Everyone is passionate about something.  And sometimes that passion can be profitable.  If you love writing, social networking, websites, and graphic design, you may want to think about trying to make money from blogging.  There is never a guarantee return with blogging, especially as more and more blogs start every single day, but there are tons of resources out there to help you try.  Also, the more focused your niche (your hometown, animal photography, Atkins dieting, whatever) the more likely you can be successful.

What have you done to bring in extra income to afford your twins (or triplets)?

ldskatelyn is the mastermind behind this week’s theme week of saving money, trying to help others learn how to afford twins.  She loves saving money and making ends meet and is so excited that she is sharing some of her knowledge with others this week!  She blogs about her family and parenting over at What’s up Fagans?

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(Un)Foodie Friday: What I’ve Learned from a Lack of Family Dinners

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My daughters attend a YMCA after school program located at their public elementary school. At the end of the school day, when the other kids rush off to their parents, my girls and their friends head over to the school cafeteria to check into after school care. Well, this year, their teacher often lets them help around the classroom with her daughter, M’s best friend, so my twins can avoid the check-in chaos in the cafeteria.

(Un)Foodie Friday: What I've Learned from a Lack of  Family Dinners from
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

New this year, they’ve started offering children dinner at 5:30. The kids who are still there are fed food from the next day’s school lunch. It’s a win-win situation. The school’s food doesn’t go to waste and the after school kids don’t get crabby from hunger.

When I picked up J and M on their first day of second grade, I was surprised to learn that they had already eaten. Part of me was sad that we wouldn’t have our family dinner together. The lack of family dinner went against one of my core parenting philosophies. I was miffed not to have the opportunity to assure my children a homemade meal in which every ingredient was high quality and nutritious.

It took me less than a week to fall in love with dinner at the Y. We suddenly have an extra hour or more together in the evenings. Instead of a mad rush to make and eat dinner, check homework, and get ready for bed between 6:30 and 8:30, we have time to talk and play between the homework check and bedtime routine. Instead of hungry, grumpy kids who haven’t had a meal in nearly 7 hours, I have happy, energetic little girls bursting with news from their day.

We get home and there’s no sense of urgency. Once the girls put their backpacks away, our time is our own. One night this week, J sat down with her knitting and phoned her grandmother while M and I read, snuggled up on the couch. Another evening, M entertained us with a high energy 45-minute rendition of Feliz Navidad, switching between a hairbrush and a remote control for her microphone and her sister’s head and mine for percussion. Last night, M spent an hour telling me, in great detail, all about her PE lesson, while J played with our cats, drew ducks and swans, and worked on some optional math homework. I can’t remember the last time M told a complete story on a weekday, in her own way without me trying to rush her along.

There’s been a lot more laughter in our house since the school year began. There’s been a lot more singing and dancing on weeknights. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time; I can fold laundry and dust while I’m talking to my daughters. I now wait until they’re in bed to eat my own dinner.

Providing excellent nutrition to my children has always been high on my list of priorities, but I’m now reevaluating those priorities. Nutrition is important, of course, but the school lunches aren’t awful. Yes, they’re mass produced and include some processed foods, but there’s a large number of dishes produced from scratch, and they, like me, include a whole grain, protein and vegetable in every meal. Far more valuable is the time I spend with my kids, and spending it over food didn’t work nearly as well for us.

I say good riddance to weeknight family dinners, and welcome weeknight family time.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at and Multicultural Mothering.

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When Toddler Became a Preschooler

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Toddler started preschool on August 1st. Though it wasn’t time yet for me to return to work, I wanted to make sure she got a few days with me nearby just in case. I didn’t know what to expect, especially since she would be napping without me away from home, which was something she’d never done before. Suppose she started to panic and freaked out when it was time to sleep? Suffice it to say that I was anxious.

The only other time she’s been in the care of someone other than her parents or grandparents was briefly about a year ago. Last summer when I was about 5 months pregnant with her siblings, we tried sending her to a daycare/preschool. The thinking then was that I wouldn’t be able to take care of her at home along with infant twins, so she would need to go somewhere else. In case I was to choose to be a permanent SAHM after the twins were born, I wanted to free up my mom to go back to a full time job. We also thought maybe it would be beneficial for her to interact with some other kids. So I decided to try it out for only 3 hours in the mornings. I would get up with her to get her ready, Daddy would drop her off on his way to work at about 7:30am, while I went back to sleep for an hour or two (I was so exhausted all the time), then maybe run some errands before picking her back up at 10:30 to come home and nap at 11.

We only lasted two weeks on this arrangement. The teachers were very loving, everyone spoke Mandarin, all the kids were super well behaved there… but ultimately we still felt our daughter was too young to be without us. My mom agreed, so we brought her back and she’s been home for another year (back with my mom for the 6 weeks of school I taught last year). I didn’t plan for it to be so long, but it turned out that Husband stayed home for 3.5 months after the twins were born (long paternity leave, then a job change) and was a great help. And though twin babies plus Toddler is definitely no joke, with not a whole lot of income or any extra time, I just didn’t get around to figuring out this school thing. But it was great. I got to experience all of Toddler’s age two: I was able to take her to Mommy-and-Me and swim lessons, I got to watch her become her own little person, and I was present to shape a time that I feel is very critical developmentally. I’m so glad that is how things worked out.

But now she’s three, I’m going back to work, and this summer keeping her home was feeling like I was holding her back. She’s ready, has been ready actually for quite a while now, for the more structured environment of school with peers. I was still a little reluctant, because I knew that she would be picking up coughs and runny noses from school, which she would then bring home and give to her baby brother and sister, and of course I would miss her terribly. Even worse, I would no longer have complete control over what she did every minute of every day. But I definitely couldn’t give all three kids to an aging grandmother, much as I wanted to. And mostly, she was ready.

So, I researched and visited many preschools. In fact, I visited her preschool no less than 5 times, at various times of day, and spoke with all of the caregivers. I took her along with me most of those times, so she became pretty familiar with the teachers and layout of the school. Actually, the last couple of times she was reluctant to leave, because she wanted to stay and play.

My biggest concern was the napping. I thought maybe I would ease her into being able to sleep there without me by sending her only half day for a week, staying with her for the first few mornings, and then transition her to full day. I figured since she’s so independent, once she was comfortable and trusted her teachers she would shoo me away. I had a couple of weeks before school started, and I didn’t think it would take that long. But the director of the preschool cautioned me against that plan, and all the teachers advised me against it as well. Apparently kids are much more adaptable than adults, and it is better to just let them figure it out on their own. I didn’t want to unnecessarily prolong her adjustment, so I agreed to full day from the start.

I was careful not to let my anxiety show of course. To her I always discussed the whole school thing with lots of excitement, making a big deal about how she’s such a big girl, and that all her friends from Mommy-and-Me are also going to start going to big kids’ schools. I told her that sleeping at school will be so fun, and she’ll have a little cot just like camping. And she would get to run around, and there would be snacks, and she would make new friends, and when she was tired from playing Mama would come and pick her up. I wasn’t so sure about all of this myself, but I guess I was a pretty good actress because she didn’t show any sign of apprehension.

The first day, I waited until 9:30 to drop her off because I still felt a true full day was a little too harsh. She was excited in the car on the way there, chattering about this and that. We had her blanket and a sheet for her cot, a cup with her name on it, and a change of clothing in a bag. It was pretty bulky, but she carried it out of the car on her shoulder like a big girl. Then she ran ahead of me toward the gate of the school. I followed behind, but before we even got there she turned around and sternly said to me, “Bye Mama! I don’t want you come in.”

Wha??? I really thought she must have meant something else at first, but indeed she wanted me to leave. I told her I had to walk her in so I could sign in and say hi to her teacher, which she then let me do. Upon entering she immediately ran to pick a cubby for herself, placed her bag in it, and then she was off to play. I was barely able to get her back for a hug and kiss before I left. I drove all the way home shaking my head in disbelief, and I still can’t believe that happened.

Since then all mornings are Huggy-huggy-kissy-kissy-loveyou-bye! There were a few days when she was confused why she was going to school every day instead of twice a week like Mommy-and-Me, and a couple of mornings she asked to go with DiDi MeiMei to Grandma’s, kind of teary-eyed. But really she’s done incredibly well. My own transition back to work is still ongoing, but hers has surpassed all my hopes. No behavioral incidents, eating great, fully independent in the potty, and happy all day long. At 4pm I pick her up every day, and she gives me the wildest greetings, yelling Mommy! and taking a running leap to jump into my arms. We recount what Mandarin lesson she’s learned that day on the drive home.

Despite all my earlier trepidation, this was the right move for us.

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