I hear it all the time. "How do you manage to fit it all in?"
I think that people assume since I have many children that I must somehow be more together because of (or in spite of) it. Or more insane.
Either way, I have been around the block a time or two and have a lived a few years, and have acquired some knowledge. Last night at my son's soccer game, I had more than one parent ask me how I keep on top of all the scheduling of family activities and still fit in other things besides (like sleep!), and still stay somewhat coherent.
Well, here are my top ten tips for getting things done, and staying organized and on top of most things.
1. WRITE IT DOWN!!!!
I cannot stress this one enough. We have six children involved in various sports and school activities all year round. Both my husband and I have two jobs. I have a cheap desk calendar nailed to the kitchen wall, and it's my life line. I keep everyone's sports schedules written down, days off of school, birthdays, appointments, and anything else I can possibly think of written on that sucker. I don't have fancy color coding or anything like that, but if it's not on the calendar, it doesn't exist. I also carry a purse sized calendar with all the same information written down that I carry with me so I can check it when I need to.
You might wonder why I don't keep an online calendar so I can access it anywhere? I don't have internet access on my phone. Yep, I use a regular old pen and paper!
2. Do laundry whenever you notice it.
This may seem silly. But I could easily do 4-5 loads of laundry daily. So for me to get even remotely on top of it, I must do it whenever I can. I switch it when I wake up, and right before bed. I switch it once or twice during nap. I dump it all on the couch and fold after school when I have a couple of extra pairs of hands to keep the littles out of the pile. Then everyone is there to put their folded pile away before going off to their evening activities.
3. "Snacky" meals.
What is a "snacky" meal, you may ask? Anything snack-like that contains enough food groups to keep me from feeling guilty about late or rushed meals. Here's a sampling from one of our "snacky" lunches:
1 slice lunch meat (no bread -- it was still frozen)
2-3 cheese curds or small slices of cheese
half an apple, sliced
4 saltine crackers (wheat, of course, I'm not a total monster)
1/4 cup raisins
milk or water
4. Pack heavily, but keep it in the car.
I don't carry a diaper bag very often any more. I have a regular stylish purse, but it has several big pockets, and zips shut.
In it, I carry:
*Lip stuff (whichever gloss or balm I am enamored with at the mo')
*Brush, makeup-y items
*1 diaper, wipes case and a small wetbag (I can fit either a sposie or an AIO in my purse, with a wetbag only big enough to hold one diaper)
*Wallet, cell phone, a pen
*Facial tissue pack
*Feminine products (never leave home without these...speaking from personal experience, here *shudder*)
Anything above and beyond these, including more diapers, extra clothes, diaper ointment, toys, snacks, etc, can be left in the car for a shorter trip, or the extra bag can be taken along on a longer trek, with a quick transfer of wallet, keys and cellphone. I almost always have the van, whether I have the kids or not, so I always have a stocked diaper bag in the van.
Holy cow, I could not do it without a strong network of carpoolers. With several games and/or practices all week long, some all in the same night, I literally can't be in three places at once. Well, not two, either, for that matter. So a big old shout out to all my carpooling peeps that keep my kids safe yet active, and mostly punctual.
It pays to return the favor, and we try to be as helpful to others in this arena as they are to us, as well. It's not always possible, though, which brings me to my 6th tip...
6. Gift cards!
Do you know how many birthday parties we go to in a year's time? Gift cards, my friends, gift cards. And, they work great for the carpooling peeps, see #5 above.
Store boughts are great, but who has time to shop for Johnny down the street when we may have more than one party in a weekend? And if we made all our own gifts, I would be taken downtown for some child labor issues. We do make our own cards, though. $2.50 for something that will get (hopefully) recycled immediately? No thanks. People are far more likely to keep a hand made card.
7. Be flexible.
Yeah, yeah, a flexible person who is willing to bend their schedule to fit it all in is important.
But you have to be flexible. Every try to pry the wedged sippy cup out of the back seat with a baby in one arm, a diaper bag slung over your shoulder and a toddler holding your pant leg while you talk on the phone and try not to spill your Diet Coke?
Stretches, yoga, pilates; do whatever it takes. I mean it.
8. Learn to let it go.
Don't sweat the small stuff. You'll have fewer wrinkles, more fun, and less laundry. And you might enjoy your kids more.
9. Love your neighbor.
Especially the one that watches your kids for you when you are inside trying to make a phone call in peace, or making dinner without little ones shouting at you that they're "starving, mom!" Don't forget the gift card...
10. Forget the deadlines, and learn to say no.
If you work from home, work when you can, and don't worry about deadlines. You work at home for a reason. It's easy to get caught up in meeting deadlines, but in the end, your family is the root of it all. I don't mean don't be punctual and professional. I mean tell people no when you can't fit it in. Be honest. If you can't get that custom order done, just email your customer. You will be forgiven, because chances are, they are a parent, as well. Don't take on more than you can reasonably handle, and love what you do. If it isn't fun at the office, it will really suck at home.