Slightly overwhelmed here
I’ll be honest. Parenting six on my own is a little bit harder than I expected. When my 5th child was born, I didn’t skip a beat. We just picked up where we had paused and kept going. And my life was as busy then as it is now — 3 months after my 5th princess was born, my marriage ended.
But this newest little princess seems to have thrown me for a loop. Maybe because we’re not in that “in-between” small and large family status, but officially a “large family” (according to popular usage). Or maybe it’s because I’m 4 years older than I was when my last child was born. Having a child in your 20s is very different than in your 30s!! Or maybe it’s just because I’m sleep deprived, and my brain can’t cope with keeping track of everything and everyone.
So I mentioned that I’m sleep deprived. I’m averaging about 5 hours sleep right now, in between feedings. I rise for my day at around 6:30 am, after my daughter’s 6 am nursing session. I usually run a load of laundry, and fold it while I shower and dress. Then I spend about half-an-hour writing, with my juice or breakfast shake, for my blogs and emails. (If you aren’t signed up to my email list, you can do so here!)
I wake up my girls around 7:30, and make their breakfast while they dress and do their “room chores”. Room chores are the three things I have trained them to do before they leave their room in the morning: make their beds, tidy their rooms and take out garbage and laundry. Each of my 4 middle children share a room with a sibling, so one of the pair is in charge of the laundry, and the other gets the garbage.
While the girls’ are eating, I make their lunch for later. Making lunch first thing in the morning means that I can devote my attention to their school right up to lunch time. When we break for lunch, there’s no prep needed. We just heat and serve. It’s been a huge time-saver. What’s for lunch? Well I use my Practically Painless Meal Planning System. No decisions for me first thing in the morning!
When breakfast is finished, my girls and I clean up. My oldest does the dishes and takes out the garbage and recycling. My 2nd wipes the table and chairs. #3 has counters, stovetop and cupboards. The fourth helps put away the food. And even my 4 yr old 5th daughter helps with wiping down her booster, and any spots on the floor and walls that may have gotten spilled on. I’m usually nursing the baby and directing. After everyone’s done though, I go in and sweep up, spot mop, and ensure all the jobs were done. The kitchen usually only takes about 15 min to clean up, if everyone cooperates.
Then we tackle the rest of the chores. I use a chore planning system to keep track of what needs to be done every day. I hand out the cards to the girls, and they go take care of it. Every season I’m training on new chores, according to age and ability. For example, this fall, I’m teaching my new 6 year old (my 4th daughter) how to scrub down the tub. My 7 year old (3rd child) is learning how to carefully dust my treasures — my breakables. Even my 2nd child is getting better at organizing book and toy shelves.
Time for School
By 9 am, the baby is napping, and we’re ready for school. I do have a semi-dedicated space for this, so we all head over there, and I hand out assignments. I work one-on-one with my 4 yr old (JK), so she’s done quickly, and sent out to play quietly. Then I’m working one-on-one with my 6 yr old (Gr 1), and my 9 yr old (special needs, doing Gr 1). They do a lot of the same work. I answer questions for my 7 yr old (Gr 3) and my 13 yr old (Gr 8), in between working with the younger students.
Around 12:30, we break for lunch. The younger students are usually all finished school assignments well before lunch, but my bigger grades have a few more assignments yet. Since lunch is already made, we just heat and serve. While the girls are eating, I spend a few minutes prepping for the next day’s school, and tidying up our space. I usually also feed the baby.
After lunch and clean up, I usually have two, maybe three nappers. My 4 yr old still naps every day, and my 6 and 7 yr olds take occasional naps, depending on the activity level and their moods. Even my 9 yr old will need one sometimes. The children not napping are expected to have quiet time, either reading, playing on electronics, or playing quietly alone. Those with school to finish, will be working on that.
Quiet Work Sessions
I will get the nappers tucked in, before grabbing my own lunch, around 1:30 pm. Then I settle in for working. I check social media, work on my marketing for a few minutes, then work on client work. We all work steadily until around 4 pm — I pause only to feed the baby.
At 4 pm, we begin our clean up again. With this many people, frequent sessions for tidying up are required! My 13 yr old and 7 yr old help prepare dinner, which is usually a light, quick meal. We’ll eat quickly too, because 4 nights a week right now, we have activities in the evenings.
During the traditional school year (Sept to May), I get my kids involved in community-based programs. I aim for at least one activity for each child, and if I can combine, even better. This year, my oldest is doing a Cadets program and our church youth group, my 2nd is doing a special needs physical activity program, and a community based choir, and my three middle children are in our midweek church program.
Doing one activity per child does mean a lot of nights out! We’re out four nights a week this year, but that’s better than in previous years, where we were out mornings, afternoons and evenings, depending on the day. Having no day-time extracurriculars helps keep us at home, with a consistent routine for meals, chores and school.
Our evening routine is generally a light meal, such as soup or sandwiches, followed by a quick cleanup, change of clothes and getting out the door for whichever activity is happening that night. When we get back, I bundle sleepy children into pjs, brushing their teeth and getting into bed. The one night we aren’t out, I make sure everyone gets a bath! My older children have showers at other times in the week too.
Once the kids are all in bed, I usually settle in with a long feeding and cuddle session with my baby. It’s quieter, and she’s not as distracted then. She typically is asleep for the night (minus feedings) by around 9:30-10 pm. Then I get time to prepare to do it all over again the next day.
My evening, after-bedtime chores are varied. I try to get a basket of laundry folded every evening, for the girls to put away in the morning. I try to make sure the floors get swept and I have everything I need for breakfast in the morning. And I check my meal plan and pull out ingredients, putting them together by the stove (or in the fridge), for my lunch-making. Then I will finish up any client-related tasks that I didn’t finish in the afternoon, such as sending emails, updating invoices, and preparing my to-do lists for the next day. I’ll also pull out any craft supplies I need for the next school day, and check my lesson plans for anything extra.
I’m usually headed to bed between 11 pm and 12 am. I will wake and feed my infant before I go to sleep, and since she’s sleepy, that often only takes about 10 minutes. And that’s it. I fall asleep so quickly these days too.
Not enough hours in my day.
Honestly, there just aren’t enough hours in my day, some days — most days, it feels like. But I also know this is a season, and it will change quickly. As my baby gets bigger, her feeding times will stretch from every 2 hours, to 3 hours, 4 hours, and beyond. I’ll get more sleep, and that will make me more productive too. It won’t take me as long to complete tasks, as I’ll have more energy. But for now, I feel stretched, sleepy and slightly overwhelmed.