I've been working really hard lately trying to find my new "normal". With four young kids (three not yet in school), my life feels so very different than it did 5 years and 3 kids ago. With one kid I felt overwhelmed most of the time, party because I was newly married and very young but mostly because being a mom is incredibly hard. Harder than I imagined or dreamed. But better too. With four kids, being a mom is still incredibly hard. It is a very different hard though.
With one kid, I juggled all the demands of mommy-hood with the dreams and desires I had for myself. With four kids, I still juggle - but now I juggle karate and dance schedules, mountains of laundry and more meals and snacks than I ever would have imagined. And nowadays, my desires for myself seem more simple - like getting a shower everyday, or being able to get through an entire meal without having to share what's on my plate.
With one kid I had a big fat list of eager sitters who couldn't wait to watch my little princess. With four kids I have to beg, bribe or blackmail people to watch my four crazy drama queens. Don't get me wrong - I have really good kids. More than once I've hugged one of my sweet girls in the grocery store while whispering in their ear, "thank you for not being THAT kid!" I think people are just intimidated by the sheer number of them. I get it, though. Sometimes they scare me too.
So, in an effort to create some stability and structure, we've introduced a new family/household schedule
I've tried this before, but was pregnant at the time and couldn't stick with it (I'm not much for structure). So far we're about a week in and, although I haven't stuck with it as much as I have wanted to, it's been pretty good so far. I think the kids are even enjoying knowing what's coming up. I'm a little embarrased that I never have put this together before now!
I've also made new chore boards for each kid and hung them up on the wall. We've always had chores but usually went week by week telling each kid what their chore was for the week. I like this ALOT better. Each kid has a morning and an evening task every day and a weekly task each week. They may change occasionally, but probably not very often. They are doing MUCH better doing chores without me asking (or bribing) (or griping) (or having a meltdown). Here are their boards (the four white boards surrounding the calendar and schedule):
I've also been looking for a way to help them understand that their attitude matters - so I made a Family Values board and hung it on the wall too. Everytime their attitude or actions are an issue I take them to the board and we talk about the Family Values and why what they're doing is not in line with the things we value as a family. I've only had to do it a few times, but I think it's already starting to sink in!
I've also been working hard on meal planning and couponning and all the other tedious things that make me wish I had a personal assistant and a personal chef (and while I'm dreaming, a maid!). There are a couple of websites that I use at least weekly - sometimes daily and I LOVE them! Here they are - check them out and see for yourself how they'll save you both time AND money!
http://www.plantoeat.com/ - this is a subscription based website (but it's super cheap) and it saves me buckets of time in planning meals! You can add recipes from all over the internet with an easy little button you install on your toolbar and then add them to your personal meal planner (click and drag!). You can even add notes, other ingredients, etc. From the recipes, it compiles a list of ingredients needed and sorts them into categories so that you can either print a grocery list or just pull it up on your phone and check it off as you shop! Seriously!! I am madly in love with this website!
http://www.thegrocerygame.com/ - another subscription based website (but totally worth the price). If you're going to coupon - this is the way to do it. All the major work is done for you - saving you tons of time! You pay by the store for the coupon/savings list. I use the Walgreens list and the Alberton's one. I routinely save at least 50% on my groceries by using this website which more than pays for the subscription!
There are tons of other websites that I love and use weekly, but I'll save them for another post at another time.
All of the above is just my way of taking back my life and my home so that we can find order and peace in the craziness of a larger family. I hope that some of it helps you find peace and order in your own family life whether large or small!