Tips for Surviving the NICU with Older Kids at Home

Daneen 300x300Today’s post comes from our Preemie Parent Mentor, Daneen! She’s mentors parents coping with ROP and many other issues related to premature birth. To connect with her, click here.

Before the NICU experience, I felt quite confident (well mostly) as a parent of our 9 children. Then the premature birth of our triplets happened and everything began to spiral.  Does this resonate with you? I will share the tips that got me and our family through it.

Let me give you some background on our family.  We were the parents of 5 sons (ages 16, 8, 7, 5 and 2) ad 4 daughters (ages 16, 14, 11, and 2).  Life was hectic but good.  We got pregnant with triplets and they were born barely the 1st day of our 23rd week, 2 sons and 1 daughter.  I would like to think of myself as an organized person.  It’s just how I do it with a larger-than-most family.  But I had no idea what I was in store for.

Younger children:

Well we had 3 younger children at home and our daughter needed me at the NICU.  What should I do, I thought? Being with her was the only solution that I could handle at the time.  So I hired a babysitter to come to our home every morning after I got the older kids off to school. And I went to the NICU in the morning until the older kids got home from school. Normally I am a protective mom.  I changed. I lightened up.  I had to for the survival of us.  As long as it was safe, I allowed the babysitter to do what she wanted with my 3 youngest kids.  I lucked out as she was awesome and did a great job.  And out of that experience, I learned that my kids are actually fine without me for every second.  My advice…let go and get the help you need.  Hire help for your younger children.  They too, will survive.


This is when I started my “new” system for laundry.  Had to be simple, right? Instead of putting all the laundry together, I had 2 separate baskets at the top of the steps in the upstairs hallway.  One was for darks and one for the lights.  When the closed were put in baskets, they had to go in the right basket.  The load for that morning was put as soon as you walked on the top of the stairs.  My husband was assigned to put the laundry in the washer before work.  Yes, he can do this and it will only take a few minutes.  The babysitter put the clothes in the dryer and sometimes folded which literally was a complete godsend to me at the time.  When I came home, the older kids all each took their laundry and put in the drawers in their rooms. It was simple and it worked.


However many kids you have that are school age, get bins. I got those plastic type ones you can hang on the wall. When each child got home, all the  papers I needed to look at were placed in their bin.  As for homework, the older children helped the younger children.  It was a temporary solution and it worked.  I was physically there at home every day when they came home but emotionally I was out to lunch.  I found myself in a fog haze much of the time.  I struggled with the stimulation from my other kids as I was used to just sitting quietly in the NICU all day.  Coming home to chaos was way over my head. Which leads me to…

Things to help you unwind.

You think you do not need this.  You do.  Trust me.  Make it simple.  Whatever it is that brings you a tiny bit of comfort and relaxation.  For me, I was at NICU all day and then came home to be with the older kids to complete some of the tasks we mentioned.  Then every night (except Sunday), me and my husband would go back to the nicu to be with our daughter.  We did not get home until about 11 pm most nights.  In that little bit of time in between, I would put my pajamas on.  It made me feel cozy and comfortable and relaxed.  I would put soothing music on in the car ride up and back.  That helped to calm me.  Sometimes I would arrive at the NICU in the evening only to find I still had my pajamas on!  Okay, I’m not perfect.   None of us are.  And it’s all OK. Whatever helps you to relax, do it every single day.

The kids’ extra curricular activities:

If at all possible, I would cancel anything you signed up for.  If that’s not possible, carpool.  My oldest daughter was in basketball and was committed to it.  So we found a ride home for her for every practice and game.  I was sad I did not go.  But honestly, there was no way I could. The ride we could for my daughter is now her husband! This is not the time to try and bake cookies for school, sign up for soccer and volunteer the school committee.  It has to be a balance.  For me, everything came off the schedule except basketball for my oldest daughter and youth group on Sunday nights.  For us, that worked.  Keeping it simple is the way to go!


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