Friday, June 3, 2016

Large Family Matters: Parenting Young Children While Successfully Managing Your Home

 Here is the question I will be answering this time:
"I was wondering if you had any insight to those hard years when you have a lot of littles [only] but still need to teach the foundational subjects.  I'm looking for practical helps.  I'm really struggling right now.  My children are 11 mo., 3 yrs, 5 yrs, 7 yrs, and 9 yrs. old  No matter what I use as far as [homeschool] curriculum, it's the day to day management of home, cleaning, school, training, nursing, putting out 'fires', etc. that I can't seem to get a handle on."  ~ A Mom

I would love to sit down and talk with you, and through the internet I am kind of able to do so!  *smile*  With the wonder of the internet I am able to not only talk with you but also other moms who can answer my own questions and help me with the things I'm working on as well.  Out of one such relationship the idea was born to share both of our experiences with you; answering questions we get together.  We get to have fun writing about the issues that mom struggle with and you get the benefit of two perspectives on the same subject.  If you would like more of these dual-answered posts you can click on our topic, "Large Family Matters."

Sherry Hayes of Large Family Mothering and I are calling our team writing project "Large Family Matters".  As the name implies, we will be writing about large family matters because large family matters to us and to many of you.  *smile*

First of all, may I just validate these moms in feeling that this season of having a bunch of little muffins and no big helpers is a lot of work *hugs* - but the fruit of your efforts when children are just a little older can be so very sweet.  I remember it clearly.  I was so busy, really doing everything myself.  *smile*  And life is still very busy for me today as a mother of 9, but now some of our "littles" have grown to become great contributors in the family functioning, which is so good not only for practicality, but for their own character.  

Here is what I would encourage you to consider doing as a mom of many "littles", and in this order:
  1. Make sure you get enough sleep
  2. Spend time in God's Word every morning
  3. Drawing on husband support
  4. Eat healthy foods
  5. Implementing some child management strategies
  6. Implementing a weekly routine
  7. De-clutter and organize your home
Now I know this looks like a lot of huge things to tackle - please try not to be overwhelmed!  *smile*  And I know that just finding the time to seek help for yourself by reading posts like these can feel overwhelming in itself.  Just take one piece at a time, and each one can improve life and your outlook on it and help you get to the next step.  I also hope that mine and Sherry's posts can bring you vision and hope for your future, which in itself can lift one's spirits.  

I'll expand on each of these steps below, but here's the reasoning of this approach:  (1) Getting enough sleep can help you feel like you can cope with life in general.  This means getting to bed at a decent hour so that you can rise early and get a good start; and it may mean taking a nap daily.  And (2) you'll then be able to stay awake for some time in God's Word every morning, starting your day off with the Lord who loves you and can guide you.  His Word will bring direction, information, peace, blessing, and strategy.  (3) Eating good, whole foods will bring you more energy, vitality, and minimize your time in the kitchen because your children won't be hungry (or falling apart) so often.  (4) By implementing some child management strategies you can keep kids safe and your house from being destroyed while you're adjusting to a new life approach.  *smile*  Now, (5) you need a proactive plan for your entire week.  Instead of reacting every day, hoping that the important things get done such as meals, quality time with kids and husband, and a clean home (which rarely do happen in reaction-mode), you can budget your time, and make sure that all the important things get done every week.  Then (6), when you can plan a daily time to work a bit at a time on de-cluttering and organizing your home, then you can move yourself towards maintaining an orderly, pretty stress-free home, instead of drowning in it.  And (7), my husband, Bob, encourages you to ask for support from your husband, as you take on a new plan for your family.  Now I'll break these steps down in to more detail for you - don't worry.  *hugs*  *smile*

1. Make sure you get enough sleep 

I'll tell you up front, this takes discipline.  *smile*  You may not realize it, but it does.  Because staying up late to watch TV, or do projects that you never get to otherwise, will not serve you well in your daily responsibilities.  Of course there needs to be time to rest and relax, though!  It's important to have a balanced life.  But there must be time for that during the day time, or early evening, or weekend, so that you can get to bed in time during the week to enable you to get up early in the morning.  It's important that you be able to stay awake to have time with the Lord every day because He loves you and He will guide you in all of your decision-making.  It's also important that you have a shower before the children are up (*wink* yes, you heard me correctly), and do some morning tasks such as making the bed, opening up the window blinds, making coffee if that's what you desire - getting ready to receive and serve your little crew with dedication, commitment, and a smile because you're well-rested and ready.  When a mom is rested, the world is a new color.  *smile*  It's the beginning of being a mom with vitality.

Here is some good information on sleeping better:  how to make your bedroom a better place to rechargeHere's one of my posts on why getting sleep is valuable and how to accomplish it with a family of any sizeIn fact I'd like to recommend a blog to you on this subject called, The Well Rested Family, by sleep expert Malia Jacobson.  


2. Spend time in God's Word every morning

This is so very important.  I've heard it said many times that it is the most important thing you can do to improve life in general, for anyone (but of course you need to be able to stay awake to do so, which is the only reason it is second on my list for you).  Through God's Word you can receive encouragement, direction, ideas, learn to prioritize, make decisions for both yourself and your children that are honoring to the Lord - which brings blessing.  We can get a better perspective when we spend time with the Lord.  

You do not need a book study or store-bought study with homework to follow.  Just read part of His Word - His letters to you - every morning.  Without leaning on the Lord's strength and direction you are trying to do life on your own, by yourself.  But there is no need for that.  If you're not spending time with the Lord every day of course you're feeling like you can't do life!  You can't!  Without Him.  *hugs*  But with Him,
"[You] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [you]." ~ Philippians 4:13

3. Drawing husband support

My husband, Bob, suggests also requesting support from your husband for both mom and children. For example, he could take the children out for a little while even if only for a drive in the car so that mom can have some quiet time, maybe a nap, or time for home projects, etc. It's good for the kids to get out anyway and they will love exploring the world with dad. If nothing else it will give mom a chance to get a breath. We have done this Sundays after church or occasionally on a Saturday. Sometimes Bob will take the kids out for a little walk on the bike path near our house, or he's taken them to a state park to build a camp fire, or to explore the woods. These times even if they're only for an hour or two make a huge difference for me in recharging.

4. Eat healthy foods

I grew up eating healthy food and learning all about the benefits of it, and have done even more research and learning in my adult life.  Mine and Bob's most recent discovery is Green Smoothies, and "Whole foods" as a category - and by this I mean whole grain and whole wheat, raw vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts.  These enable people's bodies to feel satisfied for long periods of time, they are filling, energizing, helping people feel alert and awake, and just plain good in general!  *smile*  Processed foods made with white flour (which turns to sugar when it hits our saliva) and sugar sap people's energy, make their brain tired, weaken their immune system making them vulnerable to sickness and much worse, and result in feeling hungry again in about 90 minutes. Many people even find themselves addicted to sugar in their diet, and this is a very powerful and detrimental habit for a mom and her family.

If you desire to serve your family meals four times each day - breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner - and not be spending unnecessary hours in the kitchen, and have children who are satisfied and feeling good longer, whole foods can get you there.  We eat at each meal until we're full, and then we leave the kitchen until the next meal.  Done - movin' on.  Don't get me wrong, I love to cook - but I do not like to waste time being in the kitchen all day long unnecessarily.  *smile*

5. Implementing some child management strategies

Now we are all about training our children to be obedient, but we have also found that when there are lots of little ones in a family it can be hard to keep up with the speed and magnitude with which children can get in to trouble.  We have 9 children close together in age, and the youngest four were all born within 22 months.  It really feels like quadruplets with that part of the group.  And when one gets in to trouble, the other 3 are right there to multiply the disobedience four fold in just seconds.  It's one thing to train one baby or toddler towards safety and obedience in the home; it's a whole different ball game to train a bunch simultaneously.

So when the Lord blessed us with these little muffins so close in age we had to start thinking about parenting a little differently than we did with just two children.  We needed to start implementing some child management strategies to save my sanity.  We began using baby gates, door knob locks, cupboard locks, and adding additional structure in their day to help the children be safe and productively occupied.  Now the children still have plenty of opportunity to learn self control around the house with opportunities to reach books, desk/office supplies, kitchen utensils (safe ones), etc., and when we get a handle on those a bit then we'll remove some of these child safety devices so that the children can continue developing self control and not need these extra things.  But I've not been able to do it all simultaneously without the help of some child management tools.

Below, for example, you can see how we used to put up a baby gate at our bedroom door which did a few things for us.  It provided a sanctuary for mom and dad so that the master bedroom is not full of toys and child-proofing because children do not play in there; it gave me a place to allow the twin babies to have some floor time without the risk of being run over or played with carelessly by well-meaning young siblings; and it allowed our small home to still feel open with the doors open.

For more detailed information on how we imlement child management strategies you can read my post on productively occupying 3-year-old boys, and my posts on scheduling, namely productively occupying young children.

6. Implementing a weekly routine

This concept of having a weekly schedule has literally changed our life:  how we approach the daily needs and responsibilities, and acquire balance in life.  Time to work and time to play, time to rest, time to exercise, time to read, homeschool, do a hobby, clean the house, serve outside of our family, build a marriage, etc.  It's all a matter of budgeting one's time, and prioritizing in advance when everything will get done.

When I had our third baby I cried out to a dear friend for help with how to do life, she pointed me to Steve and Teri Maxwell's books, namely The Managers of Their Homes.  Their book teaches people why scheduling is God's best plan for them with tons of scripture pointing out why.  And then the Maxwells walk a person through, step-by-step, how to put together a weekly schedule for any type of family:  rural, urban, farming or not, large or small.  Anyone can apply these principles and have success when they decide to embrace it and dive in!  *smile*

Now you may be thinking, as I've heard countless times, "But I'm just not a scheduled type of person; I want to just wing it and take life as we go."  Well, here is a post I've written for you to read then, Scheduling and routines:  you can't have your cake and eat it, too.  Here I will lovingly walk you through coming to see how some sort of plan for your days is really necessary, how it will bless you, and bring great freedom to your life.  And if you would like to see examples of the schedules we used to use when we only had real young children, you can do that in my post, Scheduling:  Just a Few Kids.

A weekly schedule can also bless your marriage greatly.  With a weekly routine you can have the home clean and dinner prepared when your husband arrives home from work.  You can have a smile for him (no small feat, I know), and be ready to have some daily quality time when he gets home from work.  I've heard miraculous things from couples who have embraced having a weekly schedule!  Marriages can be transformed, and many people we've known have even decided that they would like to have more children (where before the husband was too overwhelmed by the home, children, and marriage to be open to it!)  Bob and I choose to make marriage a high priority, and this can make life so very sweet, as the Lord intended it to be.

With a plan for your week you can learn how to get it all done.  *smile*  You can learn to be proactive with your time and energy instead of reactive, which takes way more time and energy.  To live live ON PURPOSE.  I have written many posts on scheduling and routines if you would like to read more.  To read much more on this topic you can go to "Schedules and Routines".  *smile* You can go,
From this... this.  *smile*

7. De-clutter and organize your home

This is typically a great need in families, and even more so with many small children that we're trying to provide for.  We pretty much all tend to collect way too much stuff, and the more children, usually the more stuff.  *smile*  But there's hope!

Believe it or not, you can have a home that is uncluttered, spacious feeling, orderly, and fairly easy to maintain.  I'll show you how to do so, and suggest the learning of some new habits that can set you in motion for a new life style.  We live in an 1100 square foot home (plus a 2-car garage) with 11 of us in our family.  You can take a tour of our home if you would like.  *smile*  It's not fancy, but it is not chaotic either, and it feels spacious for it's size because we keep it very uncluttered and organized; and it is truly our favorite place to be.  (Not that it doesn't get covered with toys and activities when the kids play, but when it's time to clean up everything gets cleaned up and everything has a "home".)

The reason I have made this step last is because once you have put in to place these other steps then you can have time and energy to de-cluttering and organization in your home.  You can take one step at a time, one room at a time, and have a certain block of time to dedicate to it every single day.  *smile*  I'm telling you, this can transform a home in a huge way.
I do specify de-cluttering and then organization in that order because it can be a fruitless effort to try to organize a space when it is full of things that one doesn't need.  And it takes too much time to manage too much stuff.  But you may be asking, "How do I know what to get rid of?  Where do I begin?"  I will show you.  *hugs*  With lots of pictures, and ideas, and resources.  Being disorganized is a waste of our time, our energy, and our finances. 

I have written many posts on organization and de-cluttering a home.  It is truly my passion!  I would rather organize than eat!  *laugh!*  Here are a few links to some of my posts if you would like to look in to the when's, why's, and how's of de-cluttering and then getting organized.
You can also go to the Topics list near the top of our blog home page, on the right hand side, and click on "Organization" to see a list of all of my posts on this topic.  But again, take it one step at a time.  Try to see the trees through the forest.  One step, one room at a time.  And you and your family will be delighting in your success before you know it!

I know that this is a lot of information when you're on the front side of it. *hugs*  And I know that I linked to a lot of additional posts to read.  But this was a big question, and again I'm trying to give you hope and encouragement that there is a way, and vision for how it can be done.  I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to give you patience (with both yourself and your family as you adjust), and perseverance, faithfulness to do what you can towards your goal each day, and to try to keep your eye on the end goal.  Life will still be busy with a passel of little muffins, but it can be doable, manageable, balanced, generally peaceful and enjoyable.  You can feel successful at the end of your day, and rest knowing that the things that didn't get done that day have their place on a different day and will be accomplished as well.  Have courage sweet friend.  The Lord is with you.  This is one of my very favorite verses in the Bible,
"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."  ~ Isaiah 41:13

Here is a suggestion for how to begin approaching any of these 7 areas I've listed.  Use a "snow ball approach".  For example, for de-cluttering don't just jump in and take on the whole house, or even the garage (the largest area of the house and the most complex).  *wink*  Write down small steps for yourself for how you might progress.  Like this.  Goal:  de-clutter every room of the house.  Start with the main floor rooms.  Beginning with one room, or even just one small space such as a closet or a kitchen drawer.  This will bring quick success and encouratement.  Work for 15-30 minutes every day.  Once you've done this for a few days, you'll increase in ability and pretty soon you'll have more time to put towards it because you've gotten faster and better at it and you have a little more time on your hands because there is less clutter to manage in your home, and you could work for 30-60 minutes.  See how it snow balls?  *smile*

Blessings on your efforts with your family,


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