What does it take to keep a family on track?
Does managing a large family mean you have to be a supermom?
Or do you just need the right family management tools?
I’m a single mom of 6, and some days it feels like I’m juggling a dozen balls, while somebody’s greased them. While some days, I feel like everything’s clicking and working perfectly, most days, I’m just barely keeping everything in the air. And some days, I drop a few things, and they hit me on the head.
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:
- running this blog — and my other blog XeraSupport
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.
Fortunately, there are tools to help me stay on top of everything!
1. First, I have a planner
A calendar, planner or agenda is essential to family home management. You need a control centre, where the doctors’ appointments, the kids’ lessons or sports, and the bill due dates live.
No matter what kind of planner you use, having one that keeps you up-to-date with the family activities is one of the most important family management tools you can have.
2. I use technology to my advantage
The second of my tools that I cannot live without is my smart phone. 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 phone helps me stay on track with alarms and reminders. I can keep up-to-date with my business and my clients, and I can write blog posts on the go. I can share, like, tweet and pin in the few minutes I have between dishes, diapers and long division.
3. I take the work out of daily decisions.
I use a variety of planners and lists that help me track and maintain the daily decisions of running a home and large family. When your life is consumed with decisions, sometimes it’s less stressful to get things decided ahead of time, as much as possible. So I use specific family management tools to prevent decision fatigue.
First, I use a menu plan.
My meal planning system takes care of any last minute stress. I know exactly what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner on any given day. And I know that I have all the ingredients I need to make what’s on the menu. It’s all matched up with our weekly and monthly activities and appointments, to help manage my time better.
Second, I use a chore plan.
My chore plan system reminds me of what needs to be done every day. Since all the daily chores are in rotation, there’s no trying to decide on what has to be done now, and what can wait till tomorrow. I just look at what’s next in rotation, and I know that everything will get done in its own time.
Third, I have consistent house rules and routines.
My children can repeat the house rules perfectly, because we say them over and over again. When the rules (and the consequences for breaking them) are consistent, there’s no struggle to remember or to discipline.
One of my rules is that there’s no fighting or whining allowed. If one of my children starts whining, I assume they are tired, and I insist them go have a nap. Other rules involve putting away toys when they are finished with them, and doing “room chores” (making the bed, taking out the trash, etc) before breakfast.
Having routines makes life predictable.
And predictable is easier to manage.
Routines are one of my most important family management tools. Knowing that school always follows chores that happen after breakfast means my children and I move relatively smoothly from one activity to the next, with minimal fuss. It’s rare that anyone is caught by surprise, because we follow the same pattern day after day. And that means transitions are easier and everyone feels more secure.
Is it family management tools or just natural talent?
Some would say it’s natural talent. But good family management tools can help any mom, whether you’ve got 1 child or 10 children.
Tools aren’t just physical planners or lists, either. My family management tools include processes and techniques that help me keep on track.
1. Learn to prioritize
There’s a lot to do! And no one person can get it all done every day. So I prioritize my to-do list, based on the season and deadlines I may be facing.
Every night, I spend a few minutes looking over my planners and lists, and consider what’s on my schedule. I choose 3-4 different tasks that I put on my target list as goals to accomplish the next day. Then I put 2-3 more on a separate list, as “would like to do, if I have time”. Often the “would like to do” list becomes my priority list for the day after.
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.
3. Delegate whenever possible.
I’m not the only one who lives here. And it’s not my job to do every little thing! I do myself and my children a disservice if I don’t ask them to help out.
So my chores, meal planning, and even school preparation tasks may get delegated to one of my older children. And this is a fantastic thing. Not only do I get help with everything that needs to be done around here, but they get experience and practice with life skills.
4. Take breaks and refresh
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 (or 3). Occasionally I’ll watch a favorite TV show or go somewhere I enjoy most, without an agenda in mind. And 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. And I occasionally spend an afternoon playing a video game.
Rest and relaxation is important for anyone. But even more so for the super busy mom. It’s one of the most important family management tools that keeps me fresh and creative for every challenge that comes my way.
Family Management Tools Make Parenting Easier
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 family management tools and the passion to make it all work. I also have the right supports, for me, in place, and I continue to develop the systems and routines that help keep everything in order.
Managing a large family is challenging. For more tips, read: Strategies from CEOs
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