I hear it every single time I take my kids out in public, without fail.
“How do you do it with five kids? I can barely handle by two!”
I always answer back, “I just do it!” And that's the simplistic truth. You do what needs to be done because it is your responsibility. Each time we have another, child I feel like I can't possibility stretch (physically with my big belly or emotionally) any further, but I do! We all do.
However, that isn't to say that it is always easy. It isn't. It can be pure chaos, and as our family has grown I've had to grow and rearrange with it. Not just the bedrooms, but how I live my day-to-day life. It has taught me priorities and demanded changes to be made to keep afloat (but by no means do I have it all figured out).
This is what helps me do it, and it can help you whether you have one or nineteen.
The command center
We have a small hallway on the way to the garage that has become the command center of our home. Without it, I may drown in school items. It has:
- Cube shelf, which serves as cubbies for my children's book bags, markers, and other items
- Glass whiteboard (which I put printables behind to write on and white away easily)
- Wall filing system for school forms or mail coming in
- Large whiteboard calendar
- Lots of printables, whether for meal planning, my kid's daily check lists, or inspiration
Chronic lateness runs in my genes, unfortunately. Having children made that exponentially worse! It takes us all a good 20 minutes to actually get in the car sometimes between making sure I have everything plus the three buckles I currently have to clip. As a result, I've learned the value of preparing ahead of time. The kids have their clothes picked out the day before, having diaper bags always replenished, and doing lunch boxes the night before all help make the mornings much smoother. I'm wanting to expand and start meal prepping so that dinners take less time and therefore less pizza is ordered.
I'm a type-A person. Lists are my jam. Checklists tell me everything I need, from what's on my grocery list to my top priorities for the day. The home command center really helps with that visual I need, and it feels so good to wipe those items off my board! My kids also have a checklist for after school to complete before they get free time (things like getting their snack ready, clothes picked out, and one chore), which helps me not to remind them a million times.
Write everything down
While this world now is very technological, I still write everything thing — in multiple places. If I don't, I forget. We have a large calendar to see our family schedule at a glance. I also keep a fun planner that I can be creative with on my desk, and a home management binder. I do still use my iPhone to plug in appointments so I can see those at a glance when I'm out and about — and it reminds me to get ready to leave the day of. So needed.
Ask for help
I've learned to not be afraid to ask for the help when I need now, especially when I am pregnant or have a teething baby and I'm just exhausted. I've had friends come clean my house, make me freezer meals, fold my mountains of laundry, take a few kids for the afternoon so we could have a little quiet, and grocery shop for me. Having a momma village is a beautiful, beautiful gift — both to receive and give back when I can. And, always take up offers from the cashier at grocery checkout to unload the bags in your car!
I had to give up a lot of my crunchy ways the more my family grew because it was just too much. One sacrifice was my many things reusable, from cloth diapers to plates. Sure, we still have our regular set of dishes and cups, but to cut down on the never-ending dishes we switched to using paper much more often. After my last baby, we used everything paper, from forks to bowls, it was awesome. Down side? Someone has to take the trash out more (better than washing two loads of dishes a day though).
Use your helpers
Having lots of kids means more messes, unfortunately. But it also means more helpers! We are still working the kinks out of who should do what and when, but right now we have them do one chore after school, and on weekends they help with the massive house clean up to prepare for the next week. Yes, my kids still pitch a fit and whine as if it is killing them most time, but we want them to know that being a family is teamwork.
Make time for myself
My postpartum depression after baby number three taught me the importance of my own time. I was giving and giving without replenishing myself. Eventually I had nothing else to give! Since then, I now take at least one night a week to leave the house. There is something magical about breathing different air. Many times I meet with another momma for dinner and have a real conversation, or just sit at a coffee shop and write. I take little moments for myself as well throughout the day, in those rare moments of quiet and I can breathe — usually when they are content watching a show (or 10).
And honestly, I can't forget to include how having an amazingly involved husband is a huge part of “how I do it” with five kids. He's an expert at entertainment and super fast at tidying up. I still have moments of feeling crazy and questioning “why do I have five?!” but the truth is — I felt inadequate even when I had just one child. With any family size, it all works out somehow. Maybe that means some things are sacrificed, maybe it means that I ask for extra help some seasons, and give up my crunchy ways. Maybe we slack off and then we re-learn how valuable being organized is.
I “do it all” with five the same way you do — learning and stretching as I go, day by day.