Keeping a Big Family on Schedule When You're a Disorganized Mom
If you’re like us and have more than a couple of kids, I’m sure people stop you and say “I don’t know how you do it!” I always say, “I don’t either!” just because I’m never quite sure what to say. We have lots of kids who have lots of activities, and I naturally sort towards being easily distracted. Growing up mainly as an only child, I tend to do better with only one thing at a time and I work better alone. As you can imagine, these are not assets when raising a large family. But over time, I’ve developed a few coping techniques that I thought I’d share today.
I make and freeze meals ahead of time, and then try to stick to a specific dinner time. Since I’m good at doing one thing at time, I try to batch my work and make several different meals to put into the freezer. I’ve learned that timing my cooking and getting it onto the table at a certain time just isn’t one of my gifts…I will have one thing made an hour before everything else and it will all be cold by the time I put it on the table unless I just make it ahead of time. Also, we pick one dinner time (for us it’s 6:30 unless we have a commitment) and try to stick to it. It’s too confusing for me to plan a different dinner time each day around our schedule; if we plan to eat at 6:30 and someone isn’t there because of an activity, he or she can warm up a plate when they get home.
2. I overestimate how long it takes us to get to school or other activities. When our older girls started going to school, I quickly realized how stressed it was making me to always be getting there just as the bell rings. To tell you the truth I don’t even know if their school has a bell, but you know what I mean. Something about the way my brain is wired would make me think, “It takes us 18 minutes to get to school, and school starts at 8:30. So we need to leave by 8:12”. This thought process is absolutely ridiculous, because anyone who travels half a mile with six kids knows you have to pull over at least once, and it takes forever to even get them all in the car. So we’d be pulling in on two wheels every morning, and my cortisol levels were probably through the roof. Now, we live further away from school and I’ve tricked myself by working backwards and just picking a time that we need to be out of the house. For us, it’s 7:50. So at 7:35 I start telling them it’s time to get in the car, and I make sure all 7 of them (don’t forget our exchange student, Diana!!) are all in and we’re pulling out of the driveway by 7:50. If I thought about it in terms of what time school starts, we’d be late every single day.
3. We keep all shoes, sports equipment, and backpacks right inside the front door. I’m actually sort of horrified that I’m putting this picture out there into the world like this, but whatever—real life. As crazy as this looks, there actually is a method to this madness: I make all the kids put every single thing right here. That way, when we’re leaving for any activity or for school, they know where to find it. It looks and usually smells TERRIBLE in our foyer, but for right now this is our system. Surely more organized moms would have this room looking tidy, but the premise is the same; if you store it by the door, you know where to find it. If they take so much as three more steps in any direction, all bets are off! You might never find that shin guard or lunchbox again, and especially not at 7:35 when the call to get in the car happens.
Our daily schedule usually looks something like this:
5 am: Joel and I wake up. Quiet time + coffee + prayer
5:30: Joel takes 2 of the girls to swim practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and they ride to school with friends
6:30: All kids wake up, start getting dressed, eat breakfast
7:00: I make lunches for Joel + kids (7 lunches!—leftovers from dinner or sandwiches)
7:30: Get Charlie dressed to go with us; pack his diaper bag
7:50: Leave for school
8:10: Arrive at school, drop upper school kids off first and then lower school kids
8:25-10: I exercise at the YMCA, Charlie goes to their child care room
10:30-12:30: Laundry, Dishes, Cleaning, Meal Prep
12:30: Charlie eats lunch and lays down for a nap
2:45: Leave to pick up kids from school, usually stay on the playground until 4:30 or 5 several days a week while older kids have chess club, tutoring, robotics, etc.
5 (or 5:30): Arrive home and put dinner in oven with enough time to be ready by 6:30
*6-8:30 on Mondays and Thursdays: Soccer
7:30: Baths/Showers start
8:30: Bed, older kids work on homework, Joel and I go to our bedroom
As you can see, I have to list out what time we need to do every single thing and when we can expect to be home, because we live a ways from town. If I don’t do these same things every single day at almost the exact same time, I get totally derailed.
What about you, Moms? Do you have to remind yourself when to leave and what to bring with you, or does scheduling and organization come more easily to you? Are you early, on time, or always late? Either way, as long as you’re fine with it; I think it all shakes out alright. I have found that my kids seem to find a lot of security in knowing exactly how the rhythm of each day is going to go, which means we’re all a lot more peaceful!