Archive for February 2015

Balance and Discipline (2): Work

February 13, 2015

It seemed in the past like I would be really productive for a day or a week, and then something would derail me and I would just zone out while the house fell down around me.  Or I would only do the work that I wanted to do (like homeschool prep) rather than the work I needed to do (like staying on top of the checkbook and bills).  I now know that part of this was probably a low-level of depression that I lived with for years, but that is (hopefully) all in the past.

So, as a reminder this is my new schedule that I’ve been trying to assimilate:

DAILY SCHEDULE
Morning Prep
Coffee & Morning Prayer
Dressed for the Day
Schoolwork (8:30)
Lunch (11:30)
Chores (12:30)
Cassidy Nap (1:30)
Coffee & Afternoon Prayer
Dinner (2:30)
Recreation (3:30)
Chores (4:30)
Evening Prayer (5:30)
Snack
Recreation
Bedtime Snacks (8:00)
Bedtime Prep (8:30)
Bedtime Routines (9:00)

If you notice, I have two hours slotted for chores at 12:30 and 4:30.  By chores, I mean housework or other things necessary to keep the household running (bills, phone calls, homeschool prep).  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean these are the only times that I’ll be doing chores.  Part of my Morning Prep is unloading the dishwasher while I wait for my kettle to warm up my coffee water.  Part of my Bedtime Prep is loading up the last of the dishes and running the dishwasher.  And I spend at least two hours each day homeschooling.

There are times during schoolwork when the kids are working quietly, and they don’t need me hovering at the table.  I try to use these times for switching out laundry, cleaning out the sink, or other easily interrupted chores (if I’m not having to use that time dealing with the preschooler and toddler).  And if we happen to finish all of the schoolwork before 11:30, then I expect myself to work on chores until 11:30.

Another part of the equation for balancing work is setting up realistic To Do lists for each day.  There are some things that are just a given for everyday (like dishes).  Laundry usually takes 3 to 4 days during the week.  Then there are the things that come up that are time sensitive, like appointments that need to be scheduled or garbage that needs to go out.  There are also the things that ideally would get done, but life will go on even if they don’t.

I also need to be aware of how much time each chore will take.  Preparing for the next homeschool quarter can take at least 2 hours of work, so that’s not a good day to plan on switching out the kids’ seasonal clothes (another multi-hour/multi-day chore).  Some days might have four big chores on the list, and some days might have ten short chores on the list.

It is really easy to get over-whelmed with the amount of housework waiting to be done at any given time.  I could do nothing but clean my house for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there would always be something that still needed to be scrubbed.  With five kids in the house (most of whom are home all day every day), keeping the house at a basic level of cleanliness is a Sisyphean effort.  I have also had to accept that my goal right now is just to keep things from getting too gross.

Disclaimer:  My kids are spoiled and do not have regular chores (other than putting away their laundry).  It is something I have tried to institute from time to time, but I haven’t had the energy and strength to be consistent.  However, there are times over the course of a week when I expect them to help out.  And in general, I try to teach them to become self-sufficient and clean up after themselves.

So, my goals for balancing my work load on a daily basis are to have realistic expectations for my To Do list, to plan on about 2 hours of chores per day, and to not allow myself to get over-whelmed into trying to do everything or to feel guilty for the things that don’t get done.

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What’s It Like?

February 6, 2015

I was at lunch with a friend one day, and she asked me, “What’s it like to be the mother of five children?  Really, what’s it like??”  I could understand her curiosity since she is the mother of an only child.

She was totally correct in her guess that it is exhausting.  I admitted that the hardest part is the never ending demands.  Someone always needs/wants something:  drinks, food, diaper changes, television/computer time, something to be fixed, something to be found.  There are some periods in the day when I can not sit down for more than five minutes at a time.

But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I think I could paint a clearer picture.

What is it like to be the mother of five children?

  • Loud:  The times of quiet are very few and far between.  Kids are always screaming, laughing, screaming, playing, screaming, crying, screaming, and fighting.  If nothing else there is the din of two computers and a television, usually turned up loud in order to be heard over the constant chatter.  And did I mention the screaming?
  • Messy:  I’m not just talking about the basic mess that any person or people make just through the course of living life; I’m talking extreme messiness.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that most of my kids are still very young.  Hopefully things will get less messy as they get older, more responsible, more competent, and more coordinated.

    But there are constantly toys everywhere, crumbs and half-eaten snacks everywhere, spilled drinks everywhere, crumpled tissues and paper towels everywhere, shoes and jackets and clothing everywhere, and scratches and crayon marks on the walls and furniture everywhere.I try to make rules to keep food and crayons in the kitchen, but the moment you blink the kids become as stealthy and lethal as Weeping Angels.

    doctor_who_weeping_angelsSome of the kids are more helpful about cleaning up their messes than others, but training them to clean up messes properly is as much of a chore as trying to keep up with all of the messes that need to be cleaned.  I’ve learned from my friends, though, that this is pretty much par for the course for large families.

  • Challenging:  Being a parent to any child is challenging, especially for those of us who really take our parenting job seriously (some would say too seriously).  It’s a challenge to try to find that right balance of discipline and freedom that will allow your child to follow her dreams, pursue her talents and interests, play to her particular strengths, and overcome her particular weaknesses in order to assist her in becoming the person that God designed her to be.

    When you multiply that times five, it becomes even more worrisome and intense.It’s really hard when each child has different needs, wants, temperaments, and personalities.  Just navigating dinner can be a mine-field when you have one child that won’t eat tomato sauce, one that won’t eat meat, and one that won’t eat anything but crackers.  You try to be fair to make sure that one child isn’t constantly receiving special treatment over the others, but sometimes allowances have to be made for age or circumstances.  While the constant requests and messiness are physically exhausting, this balancing act is mentally exhausting.

  • Funny:  There are several times a day when the kids are just funny.  Sometimes it’s a little one just being cute because of their age, saying funny things or being silly with their little chipmunk voice.  Sometimes it’s an older one with a rye observation, cheeky quip, or intentionally exaggerated reaction.  Sometimes dinner is like an HBO comedy special (with less cursing).  There is a lot of personality and a lot of laughter in our house.
  • Sweet: One of my favorite things is watching my children enjoy each other’s company.  They love each other, they hate each other, and they love each other.  I live for those moments when they are playing well together: sharing an adventure on Club Penguin, playing with Barbies or Little People, or engaging in pretend play as superheroes or puppies.Sometimes I’ll walk in the living room to see some combination of kids snuggling together under a blanket while watching television.  Especially as a homeschooling parent, I get a thrill when I see one kid teaching another kid how to do something, whether it’s U.S. geography or how to put on their shoes.All four older girls are constantly looking after their youngest sister, making sure she doesn’t put a choking hazard in her mouth or comforting her when she is being whiny.  At times they even look after and try to soothe each other.  There is always someone willing to give or accept a hug or a kiss.  There is always someone ready to snuggle as soon as I sit down on the couch.  I’ve never been so popular in my life.  Sometimes this can get a little over-whelming, but most of the time it’s just sweet.
  • Passing:  I am very aware that the days are passing too quickly.  It seems like just yesterday that I was bringing my oldest home from the hospital, and now she is 12.  It won’t be too much longer before she’s as tall as me, if not taller.  (We actually can wear the same size shirts sometimes!)  My youngest, who is probably my last, is already two.  She’s becoming less of a baby and more of a little girl.  I’m almost done with sippy cups and diapers.  Before I know it she’ll be too big for me to carry in my arms with her head on my shoulder and her soft hair caressing my cheek.  It’s bittersweet.One day they will be all grown up and moving on with their lives, and my life won’t be quite so loud, messy, and challenging.  Instead of a bunch of young children, I will have five adults whose company I can hopefully enjoy as friends.  Oh, I am sure that I will still worry about them, and I hope they will still accept advice and guidance from me at times.  But I won’t be so physically responsible for their health and well-being ever day.  I will be past the point of worrying that every parenting mistake I make will scar them for life.  The time that they were children will have been a small part of the time we will have had together.