Large Family Household Management: the Tools of the Trade

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Do you have to be SuperMom?

Does managing a large family mean you have to be a supermom or just need the right tools? My oldest princess says I’m a supermom. And my mother thinks I do the impossible every day, and says I intimidate her. My ex assumes I can handle everything and anything. My daughter’s doctors and specialists are impressed on how organized and seemingly-on-top-of-things I am.  Personally.. I feel like I walk a tightrope, while juggling flaming sticks and razor-sharp blades. One false move and everything will collapse. I think I’ve been blessed with the right tools and the right attitude to get everything done.

If I stop to think about everything I must manage daily, I get overwhelmed. I don’t say this to brag — I’m terrified! My list includes:

  • raising 5 children, all on my own
  • the shopping, cooking and cleaning up after said 5 children
  • the laundry (the mountains of laundry)
  • training my kids to mind their manners, get along with others, & take personal responsibility for themselves
  • educating those 5 princesses in the basics of the 3 Rs, along with a smattering of other things
  • imparting to them a value system and an appreciation for God
  • handling and parenting a hormonal teenage girl, with ADHD
  • dealing with and trying to communicate with a special needs little girl
  • refereeing so my children aren’t driving each other or me crazy (easier said than done!)
  • medical, vision and dental appointments for 5– complicated by the extra needs of a special needs child
  • driving 5 princesses to the various sports, activities and lessons that make life more interesting
  • financially managing so that those princesses are housed, clothed, fed and have heat, lights and water
  • communicating with clients and potential clients, that pay me the money I have to budget with
  • marketing and advertising my services so that I have new clients
  • my blogs and all that goes with them
  • sleeping, eating, exercising, taking my vitamins and drinking water…

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It gets pretty crazy around here.

I don’t do everything as often as I’d like. I don’t do a lot of things every day and I don’t everything well. While I do attempt to stay on top of things … like any balancing act, sometimes I lean in one direction a bit more than another.

There are a few tools that I have that help.

One of my tools is my Planner Pad. I absolutely depend on this. I’ve gone ahead and ordered next year’s already, simply because I cannot function without it. It holds my to-do lists for my business and my home, and all the appointments for my kids, my business, and our homeschool life. It is also control-central for my financial papers, medical forms and anything else that is in my “current” file.

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The second of my tools I cannot live without is my smart phone. Currently I have a Samsung Galaxy, and I love it. It has my emails, all my social media, my camera, my messengers, my music, my kindle, my radio apps, my podcasts and of course, my phone. This thing is pretty much glued to my hand. (Yes, I’m addicted.) Even my kids know that mama’s phone is going to be on me or near me, and can’t be touched without permission.

My third secret weapon is my menu plan. When your life is consumed with decisions, sometimes its better to get some things decided ahead of time. I plan out a menu weekly, and while I’m planning our food, I’m also reviewing our schedule — what days we have activities, medical appointments and my work schedule — so that I plan my meals accordingly. It’s not a good thing to plan to make roast chicken on a day where I’m only going to have 30 minutes between a work call and my daughter’s swimming lesson.

Another of my tools is this chore plan. It’s free, it’s fully planned out for the year, and it helps me make sure that everything that needs to be cleaned, gets cleaned, at least semi-regularly. I customize it a bit, but generally, it’s just a checklist. (No, I don’t have a maid! Workin on it tho..)

Natural talent?

So how do I do it all? To be honest, I’m not really sure. I think some of my ability to handle this much comes from the fact that processing, reading, writing, and decision making is very fast for me. That’s a natural talent. I’ve always been able to read very quickly (and I mean, very quickly. A 200 page novel will take me about an hour.). I type almost as quickly as I can think, so I’m able to keep up (that’s what instant messaging before smart phones when you’re a teen does, lol!). I have some natural gifts that let me accomplish tasks easier and faster than some others.

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Multitasking

I multitask a lot. I know, I know, a lot of experts say you shouldn’t multitask. But I don’t have the luxury of NOT multitasking. Currently, while I’m writing this blog, I’m also folding laundry, checking in on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and saving future content to share later to my OneNote. It’s rare (and relaxing) for me to just sit and do one thing.

Multitasking works best when you pare up mindless tasks with things that require concentration. So I can work with my children on their lessons while also editing pictures for my blog or social media feeds. I can exercise and write at the same time. I can fold laundry or do dishes while listening to a podcast or webinar for my own research.I’ve actually found that I can learn more, faster, and remember it better when my hands and eyes are occupied while I’m listening.

Take Breaks

Finally, I take breaks, regularly and frequently. I’m often working late at night, after the kids are in bed, so on the weekends I don’t have my children, I will deliberately be lazy and sleep in, and take my time getting up.  I will take a day or two every month and read a fiction book, watch a favorite tv show or go somewhere I enjoy most, without an agenda in mind. I indulge in good chocolate — I get a mocha while I’m out, so that I can enjoy the moment’s pause to sip it — I occasionally spend an afternoon playing a video game.. all so I can unwind and rest. This keeps me fresh and creative for every challenge that comes my way.

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Not for the timid

Parenting alone or parenting a large family, working from home and homeschooling all at once is not for the faint at heart. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with the natural talent, the tools and the passion to make it all work. I also have the right supports, for me, in place, and I’m working on the systems and routines that help keep everything in order.

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