We are a family that loves to travel. We scour the deals and make sure to allocate our vacation days wisely. Sometimes we take our children, but more often than not, we leave them behind. I didn’t go on a plane until I was eighteen, and my eight-year-old will be going to Israel for the third time this summer, so I don’t feel like they are being too deprived by having to stay behind when Mommy and Daddy jet off for a few days of alone time.
Some of my siblings feel the same way, and join in the excitement of planning fun vacations. However, as soon as the tickets are booked, the next big question is: who can watch the children? There’s always a multitude of options, but this time, when my sister and brother-in-law went to Israel for a sibling’s wedding, we tried something different. She hired a babysitter to watch the children from when they came home from school until bedtime and then the babysitter brought them over to my house. They would spend each night with us and I would send them off to school the next morning.
This was a major money saver for my sister who only had to pay the babysitter for four hours a night, and absolved me of the chaos that comes with after-school play and homework.
Here’s how we did it, and you can too!
- In my house, I usually insist on my children helping me with chores. This can be stressful, because they don’t always want to do it, but I rationalize that in the long term it’s worth it, because soon they will do the chores without me nagging, and learn good middos by helping keep the house clean. When we have guests over, the only thing I insist on is no fighting. As long as everyone gets along, my children can still receive stickers on their chart. Although I love my nieces, and nephews, they are not my children. Therefore, I did not insist they do anything at all. Instead, I created a special chart just for my children, to help them share their toys, beds, and mother with others. All the clean up now fell on me, but I think that was a fair trade.
- We should always be preparing ahead, but now, with seven children under the age of eight, the practice was non-negotiable. All backpacks had to be completely prepared by the door, with snacks, mitzvah notes, tzedakah, signed homework, library books, special projects, etc. Cereal, bowls and spoons were put out the night before.
- After the children did their nightly toothbrushing, I squeezed out toothpaste on the toothbrushes for the next morning. After the showers, everyone put on their underwear, sox and tzizit/tights under their pajamas. Clothing was laid out in a specific place. When the children woke up, they quickly took off their pajamas, and put on their clothes. They formed a line, used the restroom, and washed up. Then, to breakfast they went. The children only ate what I left out; it was not the time for special breakfast request. If they didn’t want the breakfast I put out, they must not have been hungry.
- Bedtime was challenging, especially as there were more children then beds. I found the easiest way was to separate them by age, and put them to bed two at a time. I read them one chapter from Savta Simcha, sang Shema and HaMalach, and let them pick out a CD. Keeping the older children up just a bit late, but insisting that they stay quiet and read to themselves on the couch, put them into a restful mode, and they were soon ready to go to bed themselves.
- The children go to three different schools, with four different bus pickups/drop-offs. That could be a huge pain. So I decided to take them all out of the house at the same time. This way, we all waited for each bus in turn, without me having to run back and forth to pick up the next shift. Thankfully, the weather wasn’t too extreme, besides for the massive piles of snow, and the children enjoyed waving each other off.
- The babysitter did homework, dinner, and baths with my sister’s children, and dropped off their dirty laundry for me to wash. I did laundry every day, and folded the clothes right back into each child’s pile. Although they were essentially wearing the same three outfits, at least the clothes were clean.
The one change I would try to implement for next time is to have this move-in during the summer or spring, when the children only need one pair of shoes, and don’t come with all their accessories of bulky coats, hats, scarves and only one glove. I can never seem to keep their gloves together.