Coping with the chaos of kids

By on December 29, 2009

Meet the Juggler…

I have the world’s coolest stroller. A four-seater yellow affair that drives like a Porsche, steers like a Merc and takes corners at high speed like a Formula 1-something or other. Into this fabulous vehicle I regularly throw four of my five children (the fifth of course has been trained to push), and so we go about our daily lives in Komaba. But to say we are the town freaks, the “circus-on-parade,” a gawk-at-the-gaijin fest, would be an understatement. Our family situation is unique. And though I am biased on this, my kids are really cute. But for the longest time, they actually thought that “kawaiiii” was some sort of greeting!

This circus act, however, is our life. The “juggling” is done by the mother (me!) trying to balance the emotional and educational needs of five young children still all under five, making sure there’s enough hugs for everyone, enough milk for breakfast, correctly sized towels for hoikuen, sufficiently cute bentos for yochien and then smiling politely when someone suggests that I have ‘stopped working’. Yes. That’s me. A lady of leisure. A mother of five young kids in Tokyo.

I’m not claiming to be a domestic Goddess, nor would I ever claim to know the first thing about parenting. Me and my hubby are making it up as we go along! But here are some things that have kept me and my family (relatively) sane and functioning over our time in Tokyo.

Be prepared

When Monday morning arrives, I don’t know a single person in the world that is happy to see it. It kicks us out of bed, out of our mellow weekend mode and hurls us into another week of hectic activity. But for those of us with children, Monday has to  start on Sunday evening. Anything you can do to prepare for the awful arrival of Monday morning, should be done. If there are crèche bags to pack, do it the night before. If there are lunches to be made, when possible, do it the night before. Getting the kids’ clothes ready the night before might sound extreme, but it saves time in the morning.

List on the fridge!

In our house, if it’s not written on the fridge notice board, then it’s not happening. It doesn’t exist. Husband’s birthday included! For each and every child in the house, make sure that you have a place (fridge or wherever) that you can note upcoming weekly ‘big events’. Anything from the parent teacher meetings, to Playdates, to football club or swimming or ballet. Write it down! I have undying faith in the written word.

Play dates

In another life, when I was young, free, and single, if I heard the term ‘playdate’, I naively and rather condescendingly thought that this was all mothers with young kids did. It never occurred to me that arranging time to play between kids was extremely difficult. All mums are busy. All mums have their own schedules and things to do and activities to get to or clubs to attend. But if you can figure out a “playdate” with one or two other kids during the week, maybe after school or crèche or in the morning if the kids aren’t in daycare, all parties involved will be thrilled. Playdates are an excellent way for mums to have their children happily occupied while they chat and watch and supervise and rant and make plans and gossip and rant some more and maybe drink some tea. Playdates are not just for the kids! They are an essential part of Mum’s social calendar. Write it down, ladies. On the fridge…


Growing up, I never knew the meaning of a nanny or babysitter. It wasn’t part of my country’s culture at the time. So in my adult life, when I came to the point of needing an extra pair of hands just to get by, I was very reluctant to seek out some help. Luckily, those around me were wiser and so I was introduced to a woman who has since become my saviour. Thanks to my helper, I can now bring one kid to football, while she minds the other. Or I can bring the three older ones to swimming while she minds the youngest. It is thanks to her that my husband goes to work each day in a perfectly-ironed shirt, and occasionally I can even get a haircut!

Living in Tokyo, we are a million miles away from our friends and family, and therefore have no ‘help’. Whatever the reason, I know we have been truly blessed with our helper, who smiles through all the madness. Even when my children are being truly monstrous, she is a bastion of calm, serenity and reliability. She makes our family life work.

An old-fashioned date

Every Friday night, every mother in the world deserves to be wined and dined. Or whatever takes your fancy. Beer and bowling? Tapas and salsa? High tea and a game of pool? Popcorn and the cinema? Whatever it is, us mums need to get out and about, too. Pencil yourself in a date on Friday night (put it on the fridge list so that it will actually happen!) and then swipe your partner’s iPhone and type yourselves in on a date. Dig out the daring high heels, dress yourself up in your glad-rags, don’t forget to wipe the snot off your shoulder where your youngest child has drooled, and go out and have a fun and romantic evening with the man of your dreams. If you’re lucky, like me, it’s your husband. Sometimes, amidst the chaos of our lives as mothers, we forget where, why, and with whom it all started.

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About Dana Killalea