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All the time I hear:
“How do you do it?”
“How do you manage it all?”
“I don’t know how you do it; my two (or 3 or whatever number) drive me crazy.”
So, I’m sharing with you today how I make it work, or how we make it work rather, in our large family.
Guess what. It’s not because I’m super sweet, unbelievably patient, and unnervingly calm and all that flattering stuff. Nah, it’s cooler than that, and supersedes my inability to hold all my crap together.
Every single day I fail at making it all work, at managing all these little and not-so-little (😭) people. Some days are much less of a failure than others, but lots of days, it can get pretty ugly. I am angry and impatient, frustrated and sarcastic. Some days I don’t know how we made it to the end. Some days, it’s moment by moment, and that’s just the truth of it. However, there are a few things we have found that currently work well for us in surviving the days and managing our large family. Here you can catch a snippet of my crazy days.
Managing our large family
In order to make things work and work even remotely well, we have to work together. We are a team. There’s no possible way that I could do everything that needs doing on a daily basis if it were just me running the show.
Our large family day:
- get all those monkeys motivated each morning and unwound each evening
- plan & cook 3 meals a day (yes, 3 since 10 of us are here all day, every day)
- grocery shop for said planned meals
- do laundry – an average of 10 loads a week for our family of 10
- nurse the baby
- homeschool the 6 oldest, keeping while the 2 youngest from jumping on the bed
- keep the house at least somewhat clean
- squeeze in exercise
- spend time reading my Bible because all this falls flat if I don’t
- work on something, anything, that stretches my mind
I realize that many of you do the same things. every.single.day! Some of you have more children, some don’t homeschool, some might not meal plan, and some probably work outside the home (you are amazing, working moms!) but all in all, we do the same things day in and day out.
Routines HAVE to be in place
First and foremost, routines. Routines are not optional. They are necessary to managing our days. Personally, I’m not a schedule kind of girl. I’ve tried, and failed, but I have realized that while still dictating our day, routines give me much more wiggle room. Schedules are strict and binding, and honestly when you are kind of a perfectionist, they make you feel worse about yourself if you don’t stay on schedule. No ma’am. That’s not for me.
Ok, stop rambling and give the run-down:
Mornings are for school. We have a morning routine that I’ll spare you the details of, but it involves getting ourselves ready for our day. We split up, putting the little queen down for her first nap; oldest two off to school in their rooms or college or work (what???); middles and littles at the table with me. Usually, the middles and littles finish school by lunch time, and the bigs are back at it after lunch while the littles are down for rest time.
Rest time. It changes so much as they grow, but right now a movie or legos or a game on the kindle, or sometimes even a nap (they are still little, ya know). I work; the bigs work. I help them with school, as needed. Right now, rest time isn’t a beautiful thing. We can’t seem to get in a good groove or a settling new normal, so if you have ideas, I’m all ears!
After rest time, those who are finished with school have free time. I start meal prep for supper around 5:00, so that we can eat soon after the hubs gets home from work. If we don’t eat early, our evening gets away with us really quickly, and that’s no fun! We eat by 6:00 most days, but as the days get warmer and longer, that’s much more difficult.
After supper, the rat race really begins. All the kids except the littlest have chores, so they all attend to those. We recently changed our evening chore routine to our “10 Minute Clean Up.” That is working amazingly for us because it’s SO fast and everyone is involved. Score!
Then’s there’s baths and bedtime routines. At the end of it all, I’m pretty wiped out, but I cherish the time I get to spend with my most favorite person in the world, my hubby.
Making it work in our large family
Maybe that doesn’t sound like much. Maybe you are making do just fine, but I get bogged down in the crazy of it all. And it does get crazy. Here are a few things that make me not so crazy or at least help the insanity level.
- I meal plan. It can be tricky to manage, no doubt, because I have tried and failed time and time again. For now, it’s working, and working great.
- We pick up toys, books, blankets, and whatever else is in the floor before rest time (most of the time) and before bedtime. With everything picked up, it feels clean even if it’s not actually spotless (which it’s mostly not).
- My big kids are mostly independent in their school work. And they help me grade papers and pretty much anything else I ask them to do. (They do grumble sometimes because they are, well, teenagers.)
- The bigs also help with the littles by helping me keep tabs on them in our big ole yard.
- They help with chores, too, in a big way!
- I fold laundry as I go. No letting it pile up, and the kids each have a laundry day on which every kid (except the 1 year old) participates.
- And the key…we make those littles and middles be in bed by 7:30 with the bigs following at 9:15. They don’t have to have lights out, but be in the rooms by then so that mama and daddy can chill and chat for a bit. UPDATE: We currently suck at getting the kids in bed early. But I’m really kind of ‘eh’ about it and not spazzing about it too much.
So, how do I make it work? *I* don’t, at least not by myself. There have been many tears and frustrations that sent me searching for answers in God’s Word, books on managing it all, mommy blogs, large family blogs, and mama friends. My husband has heard more grumbling than any one person should ever have to endure. We have made many changes, some good, some not so good. We are figuring it out as we go.
As the kids get older, I feel like I am finally doing more than merely breathing, showering, feeding babies. That’s a good feeling! How about you? Are you managing with all your monkeys just fine, or do you struggle like I do? I know the answer for us: grace. We have to give ourselves grace and just keep on keeping on.