Thursday, January 21, 2016

How Do You Do It All?

Since becoming more active on Instagram, and sharing pictures from our life--both as a mommy with four kids, and as a DIY-er (fixing up and decorating our home!), I've been asked this question over and over: how do you do it all? How are you keeping up with everything?

My first response would obviously be: I'm NOT doing it all. There's no such thing as a "super mom," and there are MANY things (many good things!) I'm not focusing on at this stage of my life. 

Secondly, we struggle with all the same sort of things that any other family with little kids would struggle with! We might do things a little differently, and we have multiple little kids (I'm pregnant with #5, and our oldest is 5!), but we still deal with crumbs on the floor, and temper tantrums, and toilet paper unrolled all over the bathroom floor. And little kids playing in the toilet. 

I should probably add ONE more thing: the things we do now, work for us at this stage in our life. When I'm breast-feeding, or throwing up in the midst of a difficult first trimester, or when the kids are sick, or when Matt worked afternoon shift, we obviously had to switch around the things we did. So what I'm going to say below has worked really well for us, right now, and it may just work for you, too. But it also may not! Here are some suggestions, some ideas--and I hope they're helpful.

1. Form good habits--both for Mom, AND kids.

This is so huge for us, that I wanted to break it into two categories. First, for me as the mother. Good habits would include waking up every morning between 4 and 5 (please don't stop reading now! this is what I DO, and you don't need to do it, remember?), and showering before the kids wake up. Along with putting on makeup in the mornings, I have done these things every single day since Rachel (my oldest) was a baby. I get up- I get a shower- I get dressed- I put on makeup. It's a routine I've established, that makes me feel ready for every single day. 

Other good habits would include starting the laundry right after breakfast, or starting school as soon as I start the laundry. Habits can be very difficult to form, but I've found that once they're in place, you just get used to doing the same things every day, and it's no longer hard.

Ok, now habits for the kids: every morning, the kids wake up between 6 and 7, but they need to stay in their rooms until 7 (this doesn't happen every morning, but it's a general rule). They'll often turn on their lamp and look at books. At 6:45 (or around there), the girls get dressed and make their bed. Then it's time to come out and sit at the table for breakfast. 

After breakfast, Rachel sweeps the kitchen floor, Jemima brings the laundry baskets to the top of the stairs, and Matthias dumps the bathroom trash can into the big kitchen one. They have each had these quick chores for a while now, and it's just part of what they do every morning. Breakfast over- do your chore (and it takes them only a couple minutes each!).

Now for the "keeping the house clean" habits. We really have one rule for this, and that is: before you leave a room, clean it up. That's it. Does it happen perfectly every time? Of course not, but it's what we're aiming for.

Same goes for the girls making their bed every morning. Does their bed look perfect? No, but one of my favorite "mom" sayings is: It doesn't have to be perfect, but you have to do your best. 

2. Keep it simple. 

As moms, in this crazy and busy world we live in, I think we have the tendency to say "yes" to way too much, and take on way more than we need to. I've found that excess (whether it be too many activities or too many toys), leads to chaos--especially when you're dealing with a household full of littles!

Here are three things we keep simple in this house...

Toys for the kids. I've talked about this before, but we have one basketful of blocks for our kids, and that's it when it comes to toys. They also have a basket full of puzzles, and a shelf for their coloring materials (stickers, markers, coloring books, etc.). I've never found that the kids are happier, when there is MORE for them to choose from, and more for them to play with. 

Shopping trips, or leaving the house. Besides church (and socializing with family and friends) on Sunday, we generally leave the house twice a week--for grocery shopping, and to go thrifting. I'm not involved in mom groups, or tons of "extra" activities. 

Meals. I'm not "huge" into cooking, even though we try to eat healthy food. I usually plan ahead what we're going to eat for each meal, and then prepare for that in the morning--whether that means putting some meat in the crockpot before breakfast, or starting lunch at a certain time so I make sure it's ready. 

3. Stay consistent. For us, that means the same nap time and bed times every day. I feel like this is a similar idea to the "good habits" one I mentioned above--we all get used to a certain routine, if we stick with it for long enough. Since my first was a baby, she slept for two hours every afternoon. Whenever another baby came along, they were added to that same sleep schedule, so now we have 4 kids doing either "quiet play" (for the two older ones, who don't nap anymore), or "nap time" every day, at the same time, for two hours. 

For Rachel and Jemima, they have several activities in their room that are ONLY for "quiet play" time, so they LOVE this time in the afternoon. They also love the chance to play uninterrupted from their younger siblings! 

(I should mention that these two hours are so amazing for me as the mom, to either rest and re-focus, or work on a painting project, paying the bills, and so on!).

At night, all the kids are in bed by 7:30. (We happen to get up early, which is why they go to sleep early!)

We generally do the same things every day, in the same order. Breakfast, then chores, then start laundry, then I read to the kids (Bible, science, and history), then Caroline takes a morning nap while I start school with the older kids. And it goes from there. 

Another area we try to stay consistent would be having the kids obey us, every time. One of the things we're working on is the kids sitting still while watching a movie or reading books together... and teaching our kids is way more important than the book or movie. It's hard to be consistent here, because obviously our tendency would be just keep pushing through, give the child what they want so they'll just BE QUIET so we can HEAR the MOVIE, but obviously that's not best for the child or the situation!

So this is what has been hugely helpful to us recently, and I hope it may be encouraging to some of you!