But what if…? A guide to managing difficult parenting situations

Parenting is hard work. We know that don’t we. In fact, be wary of any parent who won’t admit to that – they are lying! Yes of course it is ridiculously rewarding and heaps of fun too, but you can’t escape the brutality of it at times.

tired children

Different parents will find different aspects of parenting challenging. What goes well for one parent, might be a total nightmare for another. We are all different, our experiences up until the point that we became parents were different, and therefore our approach to parenting will also also differ.

The other thing that can differ is how parents manage with different children, so for example what works with their first child might not work the same with a second or third child. Parents are constantly modifying their approach and learning to flex.

raw motherhood

One of the biggest things that parents seem to struggle with are logistical things. For some, this happens after their first child is born, for some it’s when that child is on the move, and for others it’s the point when there are other children in the mix.

For some parents its a struggle to even have a shower for example with a toddler. You might have exhausted all of the methods of containing them for a short while, so you can wash your hair – but don’t let them loose unless you want to be scrubbing make up off the walls for the rest of the day.

The tricky thing is that these difficult parenting situations are not even one offs. As parents we are continually juggling our lives, our commitments and the needs of all our family members. We are surrounded by tricky situations on a daily basis but we just have to deal with them as best we can and move on.


During each of my pregnancies I was consumed by planning how I would manage in all of these everyday situations. I wanted to be in a position to know how I was going to get into the shower everyday and get to and from school or activities and appointments with the children before all of that happened. I knew I’d need to do all of that on my own so I was all about the plans and systems – I literally have a system for everything to make sure that what can be done with one child can still be done with four children.


Here’s an example of a few common situations I’ve found myself in over the years.


This can be a tricky one to manage sometimes when everyone needs to be in different places and someone is poorly, sometimes I’ve had one sick child, two needing to get to school, and one to playgroup. Only once have I ever had four children all poorly at the same time thank goodness. I’ve had two of the children poorly during the night a few times, and again all four only once.

Some nights the sh*t hits the fan and you just have to accept that you are going to spent all night going backwards and forwards. Sometimes that is just how it is. Remember as long as the night feels it wont be forever.

If you have to go out in the car take a sick bowl and plenty of baby wipes plus a towel and a change of clothes – you just never know. Keep Calpol in your bag or the glove compartment of the car perhaps.

After school activities

With four children we have a number of after school activities in various locations on during the week. Often one child has something on after school which means there is no time to go home. It’s all about planning ahead, I try to think about the timings, how long the rest of the children will need to wait and what could be done during that time.

So for example, I would look for parks in the area, open spaces to run, take tablets, drawing things, books, use the time for doing extra reading, catching up with each other and doing homework. Basically, distract everyone from the fact they are waiting and use the time productively.

With a range of ages we have situations where perhaps one of the older children has to be out later but the other three need to be getting ready for bed, or perhaps one has an after school activity and the others have to wait – at some point during this wait at least two of the children waiting will require a wee, poo, snack or probably all three.

I carry a potty in the car, take emergency snacks and drinks and if out late to collect one of the older children, I prepare in advance and get the little ones ready for bed. If they fall asleep in the car then so much the better as they can just be moved into bed. Bonus!

can't sleep?

Moving about

Getting from A to B with children can be a nightmare. Whatever system you come up with will have to change and flex depending on the ages of your children and their rate of development.

When my youngest was born I had a 15 month old, 6 year old and 8 year old. For me personally I opted not to go for a double pushchair as I had previously found them impractical, and my youngest had silent reflux and needed to be kept upright as much as possible. I opted for a single pushchair for my toddler, the baby in a baby carrier and one older child each side of the pushchair. This was the best way for me to get around when not in the car.

You have to find what works for you. None of my children have used a pushchair beyond 18 months so there has been a lot of carrying, and of course ‘wrestling’ along the way. Toddlers almost never walk in the direction you need to go.

As the children got older I frequently had  two toddlers who both wanted picking up at the same time – toddlers won’t wait, no matter how much you try and insist it will be their turn in a minute, sometimes you just have to suck it up and pick them both up at the same time, they will be happy and you are having a workout – bonus!



Mastering it on your own

Some parents have considerable, sometimes daily help and support from extended family in ‘running’ their own family. Whilst this might be welcome, I honestly think as a parent you have to learn to master everything on your own, without relying on anyone else.

It doesn’t mean saying no to help when it’s offered, but it does mean you are able to function independently of any additional ‘help’. Anything is possible with a good system, whether you have one child or ten children – you’ve got this!


But what if…..?

Look, there are always going to be nightmare days, nightmare situations, days when you weren’t prepared for every single eventuality, days when everything goes wrong, but honestly you have to try and laugh them off.

Most of the time it’s nothing a bit of disinfectant, some baby wipes or a spare pair of pants won’t fix, and if all else fails, there’s always wine or chocolate.

Tomorrow is a new day.

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