Friday, April 20, 2012

The care and keeping of a large family - errands/schedules

As I mentioned, I get asked all the time how I do "it." This is usually followed by something like, "I can barely keep up with my two!" My usual answers are that God helps me, and that you just sort of get used to it - and that's the truth!

One HUGE advantage over the earlier days of my parenthood is that I am now a stay-at-home-mom. I have a friend who works and has a larger family than I do, and I wonder how she does it, but I suppose the answers to that question would be a lot like mine. You just rely on God and do it. Still though, I credit my at-home status as a big reason I am not in the funny farm. And as much as I loved and miss homeschooling, having those 4 free hours each morning until my kindergartener comes home makes a huge difference for me. During those hours, I get my laundry done, get meals made and prepped, generally pick up the public areas of the house (no major cleaning), and run errands. I don't know how I'd manage if I suddenly didn't have that time available.

One other thing that helps me a lot is that I've gotten much better at using my time wisely, and a crucial component of this is my phone. When I got my iPhone for my birthday last year, I felt guilty and like it was an unnecessary indulgence. Now, I don't know how I lived without it. There is so much I'm able to do in little chunks of time that I would never be able to do without it. When I'm sitting in the car and waiting to pick up children from school or various activities, I can do anything from pay bills, to plan meals to work on my Sunday School lesson. The calendar feature is particularly helpful to me. When I make any appointment, it goes straight into my calendar with the appropriate reminders to occur later. I also use my alarm clock feature to remind me of all kinds of things - to go over spelling lists on Mondays, to get the kids to practice their instruments each day, to take kids to dance, and even to have our evening scripture study and prayer. If I'm sitting in the doctor's office, I can pass the time by reading, record my check payment when I leave, and enter my follow-up appointment into my calendar. Those little things would stymy me before my phone. I was always forgetting things!

And my kids' schedules? No way could I keep track of all that I need to without my phone! I used to use Managers of their Homes and make a printed schedule at home, and it was helpful, but when I was out of the house I was helpless unless I brought my big schedule folder along. Now, each Sunday night when we have our family devotional, we take ten minutes and talk about everyone's schedules for the coming week and make note of anything unusual coming up. This is the time when we go over track meet times and science fair projects and the older kids' work schedules. I tell my kids all the time, if it doesn't go in my calendar, it ain't gonna happen. ;o)

Routines are a big help to me, and I try to do things in the same way each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. It's harder to forget things that way, plus I find I do things more quickly when I do them in a familiar sequence. Routines are settling for our kids, too, particularly those who came from orphanage settings and whose caregivers and schedules and surroundings were always in flux. They take comfort in knowing what to expect each day, and in being able to look at the menu and see that dinner really is coming. Being a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants parent would not be good for the kids we have.

Since I get most of my work done in the mornings, my afternoons are pretty free to deal with homework and getting the kids to their various activities. I usually need 20-30 minutes to throw dinner together, and then most of our evenings are blissfully pretty uneventful. I'm usually in my room by 7, and then I can relax for a while. We have prayer and scripture study each night around 8, and then our elementary school aged kids go to bed. The older kids put themselves to bed around 10. I remember when we had only 6 kids that our evenings were often complete chaos with varying bedtimes and overlapping activities and homework crises and emergency trips through the McDonald's drive-thru. It's very rare that anything like that happens to us anymore.

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