Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Do You Do It All?

I was asked this question yesterday, and so, while I realize there may be some of you without children at home that read this blog, I wanted to address this question here, as I hope there are younger women reading that may be wondering this and that can be ministered to by reading here today.

With 8 children, this is a question I get every once in a while. :-) The honest answer is, I don't! In the spirit of complete transparency, this is something that I continually struggle with. While growing up, household matters didn't mean much to me. I loved my horse, and had every intention of spending my life raising and training horses, so why did I need to learn how to organize, clean, cook, etc.? Well, I have mastered cooking! And interestingly, in the smaller things, I really am pretty organized, but overall, I am not. (Still haven't totally figured out how that works, but...) So, often my house is cluttered, the floor might need to be swept, there are dishes in the sink, and there is laundry waiting to be done. However, I do have my moments, and my housekeeping skills really have improved over the years. So, I will share what I have discovered and what I am still working on.

My first encouragement is to keep a good attitude. This can be extremely difficult! It is so easy to slip into martyr mode. "I just swept that floor and now you've tracked mud in!" Try, as much as you can, to keep your focus off of yourself. Be creative in thinking of ways that your responsibilities can be made joyful and not "chores". Do them as unto the Lord ~ because that is what Scripture commands us to do ~ in *everything*. If your children are little, spend time just enjoying them ~ you do not realize how quickly this time will go. Before you know it, you'll be watching them leave, ready to start their own households. In the moment, it often seems as if time is dragging, but trust me; it's not!

Next, determine what is *most* important to get done. Sit down with your beloved and see if there are one or two things that just say, "clean house" to him ~ and determine to make sure those are done everyday. Then, decide if there is something that just really pulls on you if it's undone. Does a sinkful of dirty dishes make you feel defeated? Then make sure they get done! Do you feel overwhelmed if there is more than a load or two of laundry waiting? Then make sure the laundry gets done. The reason for this is simple. If you have a newborn, or two or more little ones, you very likely are not going to get everything done. So, you want to prioritize what needs to get done for your beloved's comfort and your sanity. Remember, you want your home to be a haven for him when he gets home from work.

After you figure out what needs to get done, then determine to let your little ones help. :-O I know, it can be scary! And, it will take longer. However. Your children will not be children forever. You are training them to be adults. This doesn't mean that they never get to play, but it does mean that they learn to contribute to the household. Even a child as young as 15 months can learn to pick their toys up. As soon as they are mobile and understanding what is said to them, you should begin training. Be simple and direct and work alongside of them. Josiah is 2 1/2. If I say to him, "Pick your toys up." Nothing happens. If I say, "Si, pick up your boots. Now put them in your basket." He picks up his boots and puts them in his shoe basket. The same goes with the rest of his things. Little ones long to spend time with you and to help. Take advantage of that and train them while they are young. Initially it will take longer to complete your tasks, but in the long run, it will free you up. It's also important because sooner or later, you may find yourself out-numbered! This is not a bad thing, however, it is nigh unto impossible for one person to keep up with multiple people's clutter, especially when there is laundry, cooking, and possibly schooling to get done as well. Planning is important, because if a little person is helping you peel potatoes, it will take longer to get supper on the table. You may also have to lower your standards somewhat. Not that you shouldn't encourage them toward the best they can do ~ but a little person isn't going to sweep as thoroughly as an adult, but it will come in time.

As they get old enough, start turning some responsibilities completely over to them. When my older boys were about 8 and 9, I taught them how to do laundry. I gave them a day of the week, and they were responsible to get their own laundry done. Now, all 4 older boys take care of their own laundry. This doesn't mean that I never do their laundry, but for the most part, I don't. I still have plenty of laundry to do, mine and my Beloved's, the girls', Si and Ezra's and the household laundry; but it helps tremendously that the older 4 boys can take care of their own. Wow, reading what I just wrote, I realize it's time for Kathleen to learn to do laundy. This is something else I am discovering. I taught the older boys to help, but I haven't done a very good job with the younger ones! I had help already, so it just didn't occur to me. :-/ Now, the older boys have jobs and are in sports and are just gone: a lot. So, I am left with mess makers, but not mess cleaner-uppers. :-) So, we are working on this once more. Another laundry tidbit is to put a load in before going to bed. When you get up in the morning, switch it over to the dryer and start another load. I have a dryer which has a drop down door, so I fold clothes as I take them out of the dryer. That way, I never have baskets of clean but unfolded clothes sitting around. If the clothes in the dryer have been sitting for a while, I turn the dryer back on for a few minutes to fluff, and then fold.

Perhaps meals are what gives you fits, either because you don't like to cook or because your dealing with morning sickness or a new baby in the house. If so, then consider cooking for more than one meal at a time. If you are making a casserole, make 2 and put one in the freezer. My Grandma used to make huge batches of chili and freeze it, or it can be canned. You can make soup and freeze or can it. Our local market puts hamburger on reduced price about once a week. If I get into town on that day, I try to buy several packages. I'll bring the hamburger home and cook it all up, divide it into meal size portions and stick it in the freezer. Then it only has to be thawed and heated ~ it can be thrown into soup, a casserole, spaghetti sauce, etc. You can do the same thing with chicken. There are several different once a month cooking books out there, but you can do something similar without the book. If you can, spend a day or two canning up dry beans. They are cheaper than "canned" beans and if you home can them, you get all the convenience of store bought, but without the additives and for a fraction of the cost. Spend some time thinking about ways to make your time in the kitchen more efficient while still providing nutritious meals for your family.

Now obviously, things have to get done. If you have prioritized, and still are not getting to everything, then take one day a week and make sure some of the "leftover" things are getting done as well. But remember, the housework will be there tomorrow, this moment you have a sweet little one that wants nothing more than to sit on your lap and have you read a book, or to play with you, whether it be with toy cars or having a teddy bear tea. Don't miss your child's intimate moments because there was a little dust on the piano.

If you are an older mom, whether of many or a few, please take a moment and leave a comment sharing how you have "done it all". God has given you wisdom, share with us! Thank you.


Tammy said...

I recently told a friend of mine who is about to have 9 children that it wasn't until I had 3 then 5 then 6 then 8 children just what it meant to rely on God's strength. This sounds like a funny statement, but it's true. Relying on God is just how I do it.

I DO get this question a lot and here is a post I wrote regarding it.

Molly Randolph said...

Great post!

2 things I try to do everyday to make the house seem "tidy" is: make the bed and keep dishes out of the sink. I used to rebel against the *made bed*, since I would be getting in it to sleep later, but really does make your room look more organized. (Takes the focus off lots of stuff on the floor, too. LOL!)

Keeping the sink cleaned out really helps with sanity in the kitchen as well. You don't feel so overwhelmed gazing at mounds of dirty dishes. (BTW, Praising the Lord for the new dishwasher!)

Hope this helps!
Many Blessings,

Faithful Legacy said...

Fantastic post, Tracy. I agree with everything you wrote.
I have 3 children. I have found that as they are older, they are a tremendous help with chores. It teaches them responsibility, gets them used to working so that in their adult life they won't wonder why the dishes don't wash themselves, and it helps me in a mighty way. Also, when the children are young, keeping them working with you has a two-fold purpose. One, it is slowly teaching them to fold clothes, pick up, wash dishes, etc. But, two, it is keeping them from making another mess elsewhere while you're doing the cleaning! That is so frustrating. So, having littles "help" (even when you feel like it isn't) is at the very least doing damage control, while at the same time spending time together. You can sing, memorize scripture, etc. Little kids can deliver laundry to proper rooms much faster than mommy can if you are making a game of it.
Prioritizing is key, as you said. You simply must decide the most important tasks and let the rest go unless you discover some free time. Keeping up with easy meals, most of the laundry, and doing the best you can with dishes and a quick swipe of the bathroom will go a long way to making you feel as if you are doing okay.
Keeping yourself from sitting at the computer, TV, books, etc. when you are feeling overwhelmed also helps. It is easy to be overwhelmed and want to "escape", but it will only make things worse. Make yourself get up, tell yourself you will work for X number of minutes on whatever is most pressing. Most often it's the "start" that is the most difficult--once you are in the sink of sudsy water, it's not too hard to finish the job. But even if it is, at least you have gotten something done, not just wasted your precious time on an escape.
Those are some of the thoughts off the top of my head for "doing it all". Remember what God commands us to do--love our husbands,love and train our children, and take care of our homes. If we keep that in mind, we should be able to find a spare minute here and there to take care of what needs to be done, without neglecting our loved ones.
Jill J

Anonymous said...

You can only do so much. I only have one at home now, but I work from home full time, run several online events, homeschool, blog daily, write articles several times weekly and run a podcast every Thursday. You can't do it all. Some things have to slide and others require help from my dh or my son. We all work together toward the family goals. It's a team effort.

Safe Thus Far said...

I also get asked that question regularly. And the answer for me is, "Not all at once." Yes, I homeschool, cook, clean, do laundry, sew, bake bread, scrapbook, blog, garden, read theology, etc. But it's kind of like the circus guy who spins the plates--only I'm not quite as talented. I can only spin a few plates at a time. The others just crash. Then later on I clean up that mess and spin some different plates for a while.

For example, cleaning the house. I can homeschool and keep several rooms of my house clean at the same time. But Thanksgiving's coming, and guests will be staying here. So more rooms than usual need to be clean, all at once. And in order to accomplish that, we will have to take a couple days off of school. School will have to come crashing down, so to speak, so we can spin the whole house clean.

I wish this were a more inspiring or encouraging answer, but this is all I've got for now.

Thanks for the good post, Tracy!

Susan :)