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Trio Of Kids

Since I had my third child, everyone I meet - friends, colleagues, neighbors even - asks me, "How are you coping?" I say, "Great, it's not that difficult really!" And they look at me in disbelief. The truth is, it really is not that difficult. I've learnt to lower my expectations about what can I do around the house.

Forget about expecting a spotless home - it's okay if the beds are unmade in the morning; I'll get round to them if I have time later in the afternoon. Toys all over the house? I bought more storage containers so I can throw everything in; no need to expect to sort them out neatly.

Lesson 1 - Delegate

But chores aside, how do you make the transition from two to three kids? The trick, I found, is in getting the oldest kid to help out. Ben, my five-year-old, is mature enough to help me fetch things, answer phone calls and take messages. It helps, too, that I encourage him to take care of himself, like cleaning up after `big business' in the toilet.

That turned out to be harder for my parents to accept than it was for him! Feeding himself at meal times is still a challenge, as he tends to dawdle. Watching the two younger ones when I'm busy? He's a born dictator. He simply loves bossing them around!

Lesson 2 - Multi-task

Another way I coped was to do two things at the same time. When I'm breastfeeding eight-month-old Jeremy, I also play with Tessa, who's two-and-a-half. She's happy just to have someone sit and enjoy her pretend tea session. Or I read her a simple book.

Lesson 3 - Quality, Not Quantity

It's almost impossible to spend quality time with all three kids at the same time, so I don't even try. I just take one kid, or two, at a time. For example, dinner time is bonding time for Ben. I switch off the television and sit with him when he's eating. We then prepare for his weekly spelling test.

This is normally a fun time as I get him to write the words out, and we draw pictures using the new words learnt. Or we practise writing on a large doodle board or on mahjong paper, so he gets to move around as well. If I have time, I write crazy sentences with his spelling words and create blanks for him to fill the words he's learnt.

Grocery shopping is also an opportunity to have some fun with the two older ones. Ben prepares a shopping list and goes round the supermarket looking for items. Tessa sits with me in the shopping cart and as I pick up my items, I play "What's this?" with her, showing her toufu in a box, raw fish, or even kiwis. Tessa finds it fun to see the food she eats in its original form or packaging, while Ben enjoys going on a treasure hunt in a supermarket.

Lesson 4 - Get Help

Having an extra pair of hands is a godsend. I hired a domestic helper when Jeremy was born. It helps that someone else is worrying about what to eat for dinner, and ensures that the house is clean and clothes are ironed. But when it comes to caring for the kids, that's my job. Having said all this, I couldn't have managed without the selfless, unstinting support of my husband, parents and in-laws.

As a working mother, it isn't easy coping with career and children. I try my best and though there are tiring times when I wish I'd stopped at two, as my two older kids grow up, it gets easier to manage all three. These days, when I look at Jeremy, I see a little Ben or a baby Tessa in his crooked smile or unhappy grimace... and I'm really glad I went for three!

Help For Fussy Eater

  • Never bribe or force a child to eat. If he doesn't like a certain food, clear it away. But don't let him fill up on snacks or sugary juices between meals
  • Never use food as a punishment, reward or threat. It can cause eating problems later in life.
  • Set a good example by eating a variety of healthy foods. Ask your child's admired older siblings to do the same.
  • Introduce new foods by letting your child eat one or two small mouthfuls. If he does not want to eat more, just calmly clear the food away.
  • Keep introducing new foods. Studies show that children often have to be introduced to a new food about 10 times before they'll try it. Stay calm, this fussy phrase will pass.

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