A wolf, a sheep, and a basket of cabbage

Do you know this puzzle? A man has a wolf, a sheep, and a basket of cabbage and he has to transport all of them across a river but his boat is only big enough for himself and one of the items at a time. He’s got quite the dilemma.

He can’t leave the wolf and the sheep because the wolf will eat the sheep. And he can’t leave the sheep and the cabbage because the sheep will eat the cabbage. But all of them have to get across somehow without anything being lost or harmed in the process.

That’s sometimes what this momming of two kids feel like.

I never know whose needs should be met first.

Last night, Dan worked late so it was my first attempt at handling bedtime with both of them. Bath was easy, relatively speaking. But bedtime, actually getting Joshua into the bed, reduced me nearly to tears.

The evenings are Emma’s witching hours. By about 8:30 she’s DONE WITH ALL THE THINGS. She wants to be swaddled and nursed until she falls asleep (which might not be for another hour and a half some nights).

Joshua wants books at 8:00, followed by prayers, followed by one of us to sit with him for a minute or two while he winds down. Then he’ll say “Mama close the door” and that’s the cue that he’s ready for sleep.

Emma can make it through one book, maybe two, but by prayers it’s like we’ve called an old priest and a young priest and they’re on the way with the good book and some Holy Water. There is no sitting quietly with him with her in the room. And he just doesn’t understand.

I felt like such an awful mother last night. She was screaming but he’d grabbed on to my arm and refused to let go and then he started shoving a stuffed Cat in the Hat in my face as a way to make me stay with him. And I just kept trying to leave.

He acted out as a way to get my attention before bed and all I could say was “I’ve got to go put baby sister to bed. Please let me go put baby sister to bed.” All he wanted was me and all she needed was me and all I could think about was how high, exactly, my blood pressure was at that moment. Because good God his room became a furnace awfully quick.

He said “mama don’t cry. I made you sad. Don’t be mean. Be happy!” And all I could say was “I have to go” while trying not to cry harder because of his consolations (which are, quite honestly another post for another day and an area where I think I’m setting him up for therapy).

Some say that we should always put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others. In that case, my need to pee or flee trumps their need for whatever it is they need right then.

Others say take care of Joshua’s needs before Emma’s because he’s able to remember and putting him off will cause resentment. Oh, god, resentment. Do I have enough material to write about that for a month. Dare I say it, but Emma’s existence alone seems to be causing resentment so shouldn’t he be learning about waiting and delayed gratification?

The part of me that is set on fire by the sound of the Angry Cry says Emma’s needs come first. Otherwise she’s a screaming ball of fury with her heart set on burning my soul out of my body with her baby rage.

It’s quite the conundrum, and it’s causing me more than a little anxiety.

So, moms of more than one, how do you handle this sort of thing?

Wolf, sheep, or cabbage first?

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  1. 3

    Stephanie says

    As you know my husband travels a lot. So I do bedtime solo 75% of the time. I make it a team sport. I ask the toddler to be my helper. I give him specific tasks. Then while he does them I nurse the baby and put her in the cosleeper. Then I take the toddler to his room for 2 books, prayers, and cuddles. Once he is asleep I make sure the baby went to bed. If not I nurse her again.

    My goal is to always keep it to an hour. I figure if I can put the cbaby in her cosleeper we are good. Even if she doesn’t fall asleep she is compressing and usually quiet. If she start screaming while I am putting him to bed he gets an extra book.

    Then I enjoy a few mins of quiet before I head to bed too.

  2. 5


    My husband works nights…. one week it’s only 2 nights. the next week it’s 5 out of 7. He leaves the house at 5:30 pm and comes in between 6:00 am to 8:00. I have 3 little boys so I know this feeling well. First, it WILL GET EASIER! I know that doesn’t help you now but one day it will just be easier. Keep that in mind.

    As for who do I choose, I rotate. But I’ve gotten in a pretty good routine with the boys. My olders two ( almost 5 and 2.5) are normally good about getting in their beds and being quiet and giong to sleep. Our routine is dinner, a short tv show, baths, brush teeth, puzzle or book and bed. Like I said normally they will go down by themselves and go to sleep but on the nights they don’t….. we all pile up in one room. I make a pallet on the 2 yr olds floor for my oldest. I sit in a chair and nurse the baby while the 2 yr old is in his bed. My oldest will always go to sleep first. My middle with talk to himself for 10 minutes to 30 minutes and finally go to sleep. I will nurse the baby to sleep and just sit in the chair until they’re all asleep. THEN I put the baby to bed, come back for my oldest and put him in his bed. Close the 2 yr old’s door. The night is then mine.

    As for as resentment, that just comes with having siblings. that’s why we have to make sure each child has their special time with mommy and daddy. My husband and I take our older two on “dates”. …. not together but just by themselves. they get to pick the place to eat and then we’ll go to the park or a local baseball game or to the airport. Just depends on the child. Don’t put more stress on yourself than need be!!

  3. 6

    Jenn says

    Here’s how it goes here:
    Physical needs first, emotional needs second.
    I am probably a bad guy for saying that, but the fact is that you have to deal with physical survival needs over emotional needs always. Everyone’s fed/diapered/brushed and just fussy? Take turns.
    I have to admit that I have it pretty easy with B. He’s home every single night…but that’s not to say that all three kids can be pacified with him. Some nights it’s a Mommy-fest around here and he won’t do (and vice-verse, minus the boob thing). If everyone’s had physical needs met, time goes to the fussiest, with promises that we’ll “be right back” if we exit the room. We do come back. But usually they’re asleep.
    A big point to make is that as everyone gets older, it gets easier. They want more alone time. They are willing to wait quietly for a longer story time while you’re getting the younger one settled. Bedtimes end up being different times. A (gasp!) schedule sort of creates itself. Promise.
    There will be crying for sure.
    But there will be SO MUCH MORE– smiling from just having someone sharing their experience, someone who loves them, someone who is their best friend.
    Please just trust me on this. It’s not easy. I gave the eye roll and the “yeah, right” so many times when little B was a baby. But by S? I knew it was true. Siblings are such a blessing.
    And also hell on parents.

  4. 7


    I want to quote Darius Rucker and say, “It won’t be like this for long.”
    I know it’s hard. But you are doing fabulous.
    Is it possible to try an earlier bedtime for Emma? Doing so helped Evelyn sleep longer (weird, I know, but it worked!) Otherwise, do not stress. He is fine. She is fine. You are fine. You’ve got this.

  5. 8



    This is what it is like when Cort is gone to class at bedtime.

    I cannot do all the things.

    Yet I have to do all the things.

    I don’t have an answer for you. We struggle through it every. dang. time.

  6. 9

    Mungee's Ma says

    I’m still trying to figure out how to handle it. I think our first littles and second littles were born around the same time.

    Mungee usually goes to bed around 7:30 and Little Brother stays in the den until 10:30 or 11. He chills out in the bouncy seat. I never take him in Mungee’s room when I’m trying to put her to bed. Sometimes he’s sleeping or just content bouncing, sometimes he’s screaming. If he’s screaming, I’ll try to sing and read Mungee’s books louder so she doesn’t hear him and get distracted from going to bed. And once she’s ok with me leaving the room, I’ll rush to him to get him settled down. Such a juggling act!

  7. 10


    I feel ya. It gets so much easier. My strategy has been to make solo feel as tho he is priority….even tho most of the time I’m tricking him into believing it 😉 on the nights I do bedtime alone, i keep solo’s routine as much as possible, usually bringing baby into bed with us to read stories etc.

  8. 11


    I let my son watch Donald Duck videos on YouTube (on my laptop) at my feet while I rocked/nursed his sister to sleep. They are 3.5 and 11 months now and it’s a little easier but I really hate it when I have to do bedtime alone!

  9. 12


    Okay so it is hard… no questions asked. Here is what I did. (Cate goes to bed much earlier than Brady right now so it is EASY!)
    I would put Cate downstairs in her swing, chair or something… and I would meet Brady’s needs upstairs 100%. I figured if she was clean, fed, and crying then I had to be okay with it. Brady needed me too so Cate had to fuss for a bit. It sucks and is hard to listen but the reality is that I knew I had to get Brady asleep and then I could focus on Cate.
    (I am sure someone will blast me for this but it is what worked for me)

  10. 13


    If I have to do bedtime by myself, timing depends on when the 8mo needs to eat. Sometimes she eats first and the 3yo stays up a few minutes later than usual. Sometimes I have to cut the 3yo’s routine short due to screeching that could cause the neighbors to call the police or DCF. (Mostly, the 8mo is in her bouncer for big sister’s bedtime.) It comes out about even how many times the 3yo has to sacrifice her routine versus getting to stay up late with an extra snack, so she’s become pretty understanding. There is only one mama who must love on two fabulous girls and sometimes it just can’t happen at the same time.

  11. 14


    It’s a crap shoot basically. For us, before Cole was mobile and/or had a steady bedtime, I put him in a rock n play or something while I did bath, stories and brushed teeth with Chessa, then I went to Cole. When he started going down around 7 or 7:30 and her at 8, I told her she was a big girl and could play quietly in her room while I gave Cole a bottle and rocked him to sleep. Now they are closer in schedule, so I do baths together, put them both in PJs, then Cole goes to bed and I read Chessa a book and put her to bed, negotiate another story, a song, a hug or seventeen kisses to get her to not yell and cry and wake up her sleeping brother and THEN i drink a large glass of wine.
    My point is that A) for us as soon as I found a routine it lasted about two months before it needed to be changed. and B) there’s only so much of you to go around. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Your kids are fine, you’re doing great. Even if some nights there’s enough screaming and crying to send you for the nearest hill.

  12. 15


    My husband works 12+ hour days 75% of the year. And when Kenley was little? I was reduced to tears over the very same thing. My mom told me “Put the important needs first.” Since I was nursing Kenley, Brayden just had to fall in our routine most of the time. Bedtime was the hardest. He didn’t NEED one more book as much as she needed to eat from me. I was solely providing her nourishment so that need came first, as hard as it was. Eventually, Brayden got over it. We did a NEW routine so that he didn’t feel left out. And when K slept during the day, I tried my hardest to ignore laundry/dishes for 15 minutes so we could play together uninterrupted.

    It is a hard balance to find. And yes, there will always be mom guilt. But it won’t last. :)


  1. […] We could just get a sitter for Joshua and take Emma with us. She would be free. She would probably sleep the whole time. I only have a teeny, tiny emergency stash in the freezer. We cloth diaper and that will be a pain in the ass for a sitter. Bath and bedtime with both of them is a nightmare. […]

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