If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “You’ve got your hands full”, I would be a rich woman. Walking the streets with my little family in tow is getting to be a health hazard. Lots of people ask me: “how do you do it?”. I just have to of course, but some days it is a real struggle just to get from breakfast to dinner (without throttling at least one child).
Over the last 5 years I have learnt a thing or two that makes being the Mum of three gorgeous boys and a fantastic girl a more enjoyable task. I am no expert, and there are many Mums out there with much more on their plates than me, but these things work for me so I thought I would share some of them with you.
1. As much as I rebelled against it at first, routine has made my life a lot easier. When children know what to expect, there is less questioning and more doing and that means that we all get through our daily chores in a more peaceful manner. Recently, I started a ‘Morning routine checklist’ for my Kindergarten-aged boy and that has made him more independent and created a less stressful environment for everybody. You should try using one if you don’t already.
2. I try to give attention to the children who are doing the right thing, rather than the ones who are not. I find this means that the kids don’t usually misbehave just to get my attention.
3. I am acutely aware that each child needs to spend time with me (or my husband) alone. I do this through a variety of means including incidental one on one time and planned one on one time. We stagger the kids’ bedtimes, make use of the daytime naps that the twins are still having and split activities at the weekend when both parents are around. I am also working on a few family ‘rituals’ around birthdays and other important days so that each child has input into family celebrations and ways to feel special.
4. I have had to lower my expectations about the state of the house. I know this is hard for many women, but it has really made my life a lot less stressful. I focus on the essentials of housework only (washing clothes, doing the dishes, cleaning the toilets –did I say I had 3 boys?- tidying up toys and a ‘hot spot’ declutter for 5 minutes a day). The floors and bathrooms get a good clean once a fortnight (by my cleaner who I scrimp and save to pay for) and the rest is done only when the mess drives me nuts.
5. While I have very limited ‘me’ time, I do exercise 3 times a week. Just 30-45 mins (usually running), which I do early in the morning before the children are awake. Honestly, I think this has been the difference between going insane and being fairly in control. Eating well is easier for me when I exercise. I have more energy. I am less tense. I am a nicer person to be around. It is totally worth making the effort.
So there you have it. My top five tips for managing a tribe. Well, that’s how I do it anyway.
What things do you find helpful for your family? Do you have any organisation tips that you could share with us (Note: I give no advice about organisation as this is definitely not my forte)?
*This post was first posted on A dose of Dannie in October 2010.