How should we hack motherhood for a happier family?
Being a parent is always challenging, in every situation, no matter if you have one or more kids. Being a parent in a large family is even more: it is a unique lifestyle, that is not for everyone, however, it is not the number of kids that define what kind of parent you are.
With many kids, a parent experiences such highs and lows, maybe even all at once, which you could not have even imagined before. I believe that having many kids makes you normal, you don’t have time to think, you just have to do things and that is it.
As a parent in a large family you have to accept many things, you have to let go of others, and in many cases you have to make a compromise in order to make the family operable. To not just survive our family life but enjoy the moments of it, I have learned how to use a “healthy neglect”: I taught my kids how to accept that because of the many tasks and to-dos, the world does not revolve around them.
Organization, flexibility, humour
In my opinion, without organization, flexibility and humour, no family can operate effectively. Organization is key, but if we can’t be flexible enough, then everything will come crumbling down (and if we live with (a) kid(s), this happens frequently), so without flexibility we won’t be able to move forward.
If something is not successful for the first time, we should try it a different way, because if we refuse to change the original plan, chaos is going to develop. As a parent with children, it is very good to have a plan for achieving our goals, but since plan A isn’t enough, you should always have a plan B, moreover, if you have many kids, a C and a D won’t hurt either.
I often get asked how I manage my time, how can I fit it all in? Let’s start with the latter. No way, it doesn’t happen. I don’t think that I should fulfill the super mom – super woman – super wife’s holy trio, that the media shows us. This was very easy for me to do, as I have no chance of succeeding in this, and I will leave the pressure to others.
Besides letting go I learned how to work in the matrix, how to group my work and how to actually use multitasking and not just talk about it. (I also bought a time machine… oh, no, that was just my imagination.) In order to handle the at-home tasks, I had to accept that in our home there is a crowd everywhere, there are a lot of things to do all the time: the clothes that have to be hung up, folded or ironed, the laundry, the toys that are left all over the place, the dirty dishes and the kids.
Handling the crowd is only possible one way, and that is handling the problems and tasks – sometimes the kids as well – in groups. If I argue with them about the toys, socks and studying equipment that is left around everywhere all at once, then I save time, I save my voice and neighbour as well, 2in1 – and I am trying to finish many things at one time.
A technique that I found very effective was grouping tasks that are similar and can be done at one place (washing the dishes – washing the clothes – drying them; packing stuff away – organizing – collecting the laundry; cooking – baking – planning the menu) I try to do tasks that are outside the house in one run and I have a fix maximum time for each group, and I am trying really hard to observe these properly. However, I use flexibility here as well, I don’t let organization win over me, I let myself be spontaneous, because sometimes letting loose inspires the biggest, the best and most go-ahead things and ideas.
Let’s take another example now, heading out the door with the kid(s), that every parent has to deal with and is a real challenge. We make it easier by having personalized boxes in the hall – we have the kids’ kindergarten signs painted on them – in these, we put the things needed for heading out ahead of time (smaller sized ones, so there will be enough left for everyone and they can all serve themselves) pieces of clothing according to each season: a hat, a scarf, gloves (autumn – winter), a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent (spring – summer), a hair comb and tissues. A few smaller toys can also be put into the boxes, these are extremely important for the little ones, because these make them feel like they are at home, and heading out the door is much easier this way.
I left the most significant one for last: without humour it makes no sense at all.
We could be worrying about getting a call, that the running competition is at a new location, but Big Girl can’t go there alone, but in the meantime I have to take Four to the psychologist, and I am already seeing the text that Smallest has a fever and has to be taken home from the kindergarten, and I know that Husband is unaccessible due to his work. And I can’t let Big Boy handle his ill brother, especially because we should also make a stop at the doctor…and then, right at the border of insanity, I see Middle One’s keys on the radiator in the hall.
This could make me very irritated, but that wouldn’t help me. It is true, that laughing doesn’t help solve the situation either, but at least I feel more comfortable and then the solution can come earlier.
Time to be serious! Finances
I am stricter when it comes to finances, as lots of kids require a lot of expenses.
In order to make the finances clear, I use an online household diary: in the beginning of every month, I write down our incomes and prospective expenses, I try to balance these two, and I always make sure to put aside a smaller amount for unexpected situations (sickness, unplanned school programs etc.)
A fix amount – this has been the same for years – always goes to our savings account, we use this to finance larger expenses with the flat, a family holiday or the car.
We try to teach our children how to be cautious with money, this is why pocket money is a part of their life from the beginning of school. When preparing the family budget, I make sure they are part of the planning process, so they see that money is not unfailing, they see what things are more important to spend money on and how to give up certain things if it does not fit into the budget, and how we can finally end up purchasing them (saving money, rational planning, management, backscattering of unnecessary spendings etc.)
Ever since I have had kids, I have learned to not stick to conventions: the conversation at the beginning of the day can be done while I am folding clothes in the household room, it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the breakfast table. Pairing socks is the perfect opportunity to play Twenty Questions, moreover, packing can also be a game, if the objects are playing Hide and Seek, and we help them find the best hiding place.
I always try to stay away from looking perfect (no matter how much the media is pressuring perfection, the effort you have to put into being perfect, let it be about being a parent, being a woman or our own body image) instead, I believe in family made for a family. Every family is an individuality, just like the people who are living in it as individuals. I take this into consideration when I am planning our life and this lets the members of the family do their tasks and live their roles the best way possible.
When everything is hard
No matter how prepared and strong-willed I am, I have moments when everything is hard, when chaos is taking over, when the thing I’d like to do the most is to run until I reach Narnia and never look back. This comes with motherhood and being a parent. This has to be experienced, but we should never forget that with a kid, life is a big adventure, with many kids it is a next level adventure, but what is the aim of life if not overcoming obstacles? With organization, flexibility and humour! Motherhood rocks, with many kids it rocks hard!
Successful mothers are not the one who have never struggled, they are the ones who never give up despite the struggles. (Sharon Jaynes)