I'm sitting in my car, in a lay-by, less than half a mile from my house, with my one year old asleep in the back. There's 40 minutes until I have to collect the three year old from nursery, which is about 2 minutes away. I daren't try to go home, because the small one will wake up as I lift her from the car, so I'm taking my 40 minutes peace right here.
This got me thinking about how long I've spent in lay-bys in the last 3 years. Maybe longer, because I sure used to take a nap when I was pregnant and still driving all over the country for my job. It adds up to a lot of time! When I was pregnant with number two, and my then 18 month old had stopped taking any naps other than car naps, it was almost every day!
Those lay-by naps have been an important part of my survival strategy for the last few years. I don't think you've known tired until you've known mum-tired. Pregnancy, new baby, teething baby, pregnancy, non sleeping baby, night terrors, anaemia, I don't think I've had a good nights sleep in over 4 years. Here, just in case it helps you, is how I survive.
Always be ready for the nap.
If, like mine, your kids no longer nap particularly regularly, you need to be prepared to use the unexpected nap when it happens. At home, there's always something to be done as soon as you get that chance, but don't waste it. Do something you can't do with them awake. Even if it's just sit down and drink a cup of tea while it's actually still hot!
Out and about, it's a bit more tricky, but I've learned to be prepared so that I can still take advantage. As soon as I notice that they've both fallen asleep in the car, I pull over in the next layby. Honestly. Then lock all the doors, grab something soft from the back (there are always cushions and blankets in our car, but a coat or soft toy will do), make yourself comfy and take a nap. Or at least close your eyes for a bit.
If we are out and about walking, or in town, and they both fall asleep in the buggy, I head for the nearest cafe or park and sit for a bit. I've got the kindle app on my phone, so I've always got something to read, or I could write a blog post of course! I've usually got a little pouch somewhere in my bag, just makeup bag sized, containing a little hand sewing project. I am always ready to seize the opportunity for a few minutes 'me' time.
Always have coffee.
Ok, not always, but if I'm going out for long enough that I think there might be a chance they will fall asleep, I often pack a coffee. I've got one of these one cup flasks that seals tight, so it can get thrown into my bag without leaking, you drink straight from it and it keeps a cup of coffee perfectly warm enough for a good 4 hours or so.
Get out of the house every day.
There are days when I just can't face the thought of cleaning the high chair, and the floor underneath it, even once, never mind 3-4 times in a day! On those days, while the kids have their breakfast, I make us a packed lunch and a flask of coffee and we head out. Often, I'm not even sure where we are going - just so long as I don't have to clean up afterwards. Last year, we had an annual pass to Woburn Safari Park, which I highly reccommend, if you are nearby. They put the pass in the name of the toddler, and then any adult can get in with them for free. That meant it was a good place for Daddy to take them at the weekend too, to give me a break. If you've got a pass, you don't mind if the animals are all hiding, or it rains, or your toddler has pee'd in her sixth pair of pants that day and is now wearing her younger sisters leggings, which only reach her knees, in the dead of winter, and the little one is wearing nothing but a nappy from the waist down, and lots of blankets, and therefore you have to come home after half an hour. (totally happened)
Now that the weather is getting better, I will start doing this again, because the supreme benefit of a picnic lunch is that you leave the crumbs behind you. Plus, it gives me an excuse to get one of these. How cute??
Surround yourself with good friends.
I have such a fantastic support network of friends. I am fortunate that we are all of the 'we are in it together, let's support each other' mentality and not the 'competitive, super judgemental mom' mentality. If you've got any of those in your circle of friends, ditch them. Immediately. Seriously, this job is hard. You don't need 'friends' that make you feel like you're making a hash of it.
The more the merrier.
For some reason, I find a house full of kids easier to deal with sometimes than just my two. That does not mean there will be more added to our family. No thank you. But invite other kids around and usually, their mums come too, so you can have a natter, and the kids play together and demand less of your attention. In theory, anyway.
Always have music.
Never underestimate the power of music. If my kids are getting kranky in the car, playing the 'In The Night Garden' soundtrack completely calms them down. If you can't bear plinky-plonky lullabies, search for 'Rockabye Baby' on iTunes. They do lullaby versions of all the artists you love, so that at least you can sing along.
If it's not calming, but entertaining they need, a quick game of musical statues or bumps can come from nowhere, if you've got their favourite tunes in a playlist. Of course, they love songs from their favourite films (we must listen to Pharrell's Happy, from Despicable Me, at least 4 times a day) but also britpop and rock anthems, that they can shout along to, or bizarrely, Lola seems to love dance music (which neither Joe or I have ever been particularly in to, so goodness knows where that comes from).
Always have distractions.
If we are out for the day, or going anywhere I might want the girls to be quiet for a bit, I make sure we have distractions with us. This is obvious, you always take a toy, or a colouring book or something, but keep your eyes out for little things to stash away as surprises for these times. A rummage around in the bottom of my changing bag can usually result in some stickers - useful as prizes for the musical statues, or a 'see who can be quiet the longest' competition, but I also have a stash at home of little 'stocking stuffer' type things, that I've picked up on sale, or in a charity shop or something, so that I've got something to reward good behaviour with!!
Always have snacks.
Goes without saying. Kids are hungry constantly. The very second that my kids realise they are hungry, they get incredibly kranky. Healthy snacks, especially tiny ones that take ages to eat, like yoghurt raisins, have saved me from more tantrums than I care to think about.
So that's about it I think. My little saviours. I am sure you've tried most of these already, but even if I've suggested one new thing, or reminded you of something you used to do, I might have saved you from at least one headache!
What are your top survival tips? Got any new ones for me? I'd love to hear them.