As a mom of many, I often get this comment “I don’t know how you do it!” or asked this question “How do you do it?” I always struggle with a response. Most of the time I want to say “I just do.” Sometimes I do say that. Sometimes I give some other short answer about organization, letting stuff go, etc. Sometimes I get a little snarky and reply with something like “ignore my kids, yell at my husband and live in filth.” Now, while all of the above responses are true to some extent, it’s not really the whole picture.
So how DO I do it? I have five children, 2 dogs, a variety of fish/bugs/critters depending on the time of year and a hubby that travels 4 days out of the week for work. I take 3 graduate level classes, teach a Sunday School class at church, volunteer in a management position for a local mom’s group and occasionally babysit. And I don’t have any family around to help – they all live far away.
So how DO I do it? There are a variety of answers I could give. And some days I do it all much better than others. There are few tips of the trade, learned in the trenches, that I think are useful for most any family.
- I don’t do it alone. Even though I don’t have family around, I still don’t do it all alone. I rely on teachers, neighbors, church family and a REALLY GREAT babysitter. I give each person in my child’s life the freedom and the authority to do their “job” with my child. If s/he’s acted up in class/church/scouts/lessons/playtime, I expect the adult in charge to discipline as they see fit. I trust people. (I know there are people who have difficulty with that, but I’m a go with your gut kind of gal. If my tummy flips when I meet someone, I keep my kids an arm’s length away. And I choose activities carefully. And I ask my kids questions to learn more about what goes on when I’m not there.)
- I let things slide. I’m not a meticulous housekeeper. There is dog hair and crumbs on the floor, there are almost always dishes in the sink. Clothes sit clean and unfolded in baskets for a couple of days. Toys scatter the house. Our home is lived in. It’s not a showplace, its home. We do life here. We bring dirt in (along with various nature collections) and we make messes. It’s really okay. Most everything will clean up. I don’t do every chapter of reading for school either. I do need sleep and I can’t get everything done all the time. Sometimes doing something half-way is better than not doing anything at all.
- I focus on relationships. Yes, I can be a task-master. My kids do have chores that they are expected to do, but in the end, we really try to be more about the relationship than the task. But always, always, I remember, I am their parent and not their friend. My goal is bigger than getting my feelings hurt over being called “mean.” My friendships are more important than TV shows or books. Loving and helping others is more important than organizing my pantry.
- I guard our schedule. My kids do one activity at a time. We don’t run about every night of the week. I fiercely protect family dinner time. I try to maintain bedtimes. Even though I try to be flexible (I’m still working on that part), I find it incredibly important for my wellbeing – and the predictability of life for my children – to stick to a fairly consistent routine. We rise early and go to bed early.
- I live with grace. I mess up – a lot! My spouse messes up. My kids mess up. We are all human. In the end, for us, it’s about living with the grace given to us by God through Jesus Christ. We are a family of faith and living in the grace and love of that faith is the biggest key to keeping us grounded and sane. When we mess up, we know that we can be forgiven – by God and our imperfect family members as well. There are many times a month when I ask my family for forgiveness. The kisses and hugs I get tell me that maybe, just maybe, something is working well.
So how DO I do it? I’m continually trying to fully embrace the woman, wife and mother that I was designed to be. I know my gifts and talents and use them. Am I organized? I’ve been told that many times. Am I efficient? I try to be. Those are gifts that I have been designed with, so I use them to the maximum capacity I can.
How can YOU do it? That’s hard for me to answer. I don’t know what your gifts are. That’s a first step. Sure the things I talked about above will work for most people. If you are creative, be a creative parent. If you are adventurous, be an adventurous parent. Know who YOU are and go with it. Guard your relationships and your time. Live within your financial means, but be generous with your love. And most of all, live in grace.