I've been asked several times before, "how do you do it all???" My first thought is "uh......I don't. If only you knew..." But then I realize I've asked and wondered that very same thing of other mamas at times when I only had 1-2 kids or days I'm so very overwhelmed or when we have something major going on in our lives. So I thought I'd give you three tips that I use to at least help keep my sanity. (although if you talk to certain people in my life, they may totally disagree with the fact that I have any left, but just ignore them).
1.) Breath and Speak Calmly
When is seems that chaos is winning, or disobedience and bad attitudes are prevailing, when I can't seem to get one single little job done because I keep having to stop to counsel a child, I've found that simply standing still for just two seconds, closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and reminding myself to speak calmly, it does wonders. Having those 2-5 seconds to myself, when I remind myself to be calm, that I'm dealing with the exact same attitude, or that they are still learning, and then actually following through with speaking calmly (even if I want to scream, pull my hair out, or go have a good cry), within a short amount of time, *I'm* feeling much calmer and the kids respond to that and start being calm themselves and/or behaving better.
If I'm telling the kids to behave and to speak nicely, but I'm not teaching them that with my actions, its pointless. I'm being a hypocrite. Its a lesson I'm constantly working on.
The next thing I do after counseling and discipling children, is to give tasks. It may be a play task, a simple job, or a more intensive job, depending on the situation and the age of the child. After everyone has fanned out and are using their energy for good, I feel like I won the battle with chaos. :)
2.) Plan, Plan, and Plan
I can't stress this one enough. Planning meals, grocery lists, chores, school, a general daily schedule......its a life saver. Having a plan of action gets it out of your head and onto paper and you don't have to actively think about it again.
I plan out a month of meals at a time and then I plan my main grocery list around that. Spending a couple of hours each month doing all that planning and thinking is a *lot* of work, but then I'm done with it. I don't have to stand there to figure out what we are eating and then figure out if I even have the ingredients I need for that meal. I simply look at my calendar to see what is for dinner, then get the ingredients out. Its very rewarding and makes you feel very awesome. :)
Every so often I revamp our chore charts, either because its simply not working anymore or because kids are ready to graduate to another job. Each child has their personal chores they do each day (bed, bedroom, teeth, dressed....) and then they each have 1-2 other jobs around the house. I also have a master chore chart that can be reused every month. I sat down several years ago and wrote down all the jobs that I wanted to see done, but that weren't getting done. I then broke them down into smaller jobs and assigned 2-3 jobs per day on the calendar. The first time we worked through the list, it seemed to take for. ev. er to get it all done and I had a hard time keeping up with other stuff too. But it paid off! The next time we did those jobs, it took even less time, and even less the next time. Soon, it was taking very little time at all. I finally felt that I had a grip on my home and that it was being kept (mostly) clean.
A while back I wrote up a general schedule for the day. It wasn't precise, just the order of events that I typically wanted to see happen. I didn't even assign times for it. I was feeling that I didn't know what we should be doing next and really felt at a loss, which wasted lots of time. Having a general guide for the day was soooo helpful! Every so often, I have to rethink it because our needs change, we add a baby, and it can be fun to switch things up too.
3.) Use Time Wisely
A good exercise to do is this - for one day, write down every single little thing you do. And the time it took to do it. Even changing a diaper should go on the list. Doing this takes time, which seems kinda silly when you're trying to figure out how to use your time more wisely, but trust me! Its a good thing! At the end of the day you can see exactly what you've done during the day and how much time you spent on each thing. I was surprised to find that I spent quite a bit of time checking email and Facebook. I was never on the computer for very long at all, but it added up fast. Seeing how you spend your day can feel like a slap in the face, but you can see the areas you need to work on a little bit. Sometimes its just a few things here and there you need to work on. Or you may find you're wasting a ton of your day. Either way, its a good exercise.
Once you've figured out what you need to cut out, work on, or save until after the kids go to bed, you can then start to implement a plan that you work out. Asking your husband for help with this would be amazing. Not only would you be utilizing his wisdom, but you'd also now be accountable to someone.
Something I've been doing for the last several years has been such a help to me and I *love* it. Whenever we go anywhere, even just a quick grocery run, I mentally figure out about what time we will get out the door, then add a few minutes. When everyone is mostly ready to walk out the door, but I'm still getting ready, finishing putting shoes on littles, or whatever, I start assigning things. "Abby, since you're 10, go in the Den and put 10 things away." "Felicity, go straighten the kids bathroom up." "Micah, since you're 4, go find four toys in the Living Room and put them away....WHERE THEY BELONG!" "Josie, go pick up (name specific item) and put it away...WHERE IT BELONGS....and NEATLY." (can you tell what certain kids struggle with? hehe) Having them do little jobs not only gets the house looking a little neater, but it also keeps them out of mischief when we are trying to leave at a certain time.
Find little things like that, that work for your family, and put them in to action. It helps the kids learn to keep things neater, to work hard, to be helpful, its helpful to you as the Mama, and it directs their energy in a good way. More importantly - it helps you (mostly) keep your sanity. :)