I'm always told I have my hands full & asked how I fit it all in. The word 'Supermum' is often bandied around. Am I a supermum? No way!
This is a fairly new blog category I've been including in snippets of posts but I've been wanting to write more about for some time because its not only great for us to remember & explain how we manage, [mostly fumble through] but its good to record the good, the bad & the challenging. My blog is already about recording our lives. Our life is far from perfect but we are mostly happy & grateful for what we have.
There have been major hurdles & now we are living the quiet after the storm. And I think, entitled to enjoy each other. This blog is a celebration of that. Except that it is not so quiet around here at all. How's the serenity? Well, there isn't any. So I wanna talk about that too!
So do we have all the parenting answers? Nooooooooooooo absolutely not. The term 'supermum' makes me feel nothing less than imperfect, a fraud & totally insecure. We don't do it perfectly. But we are getting better at what we do, just in time for the ball game to change & we embark on the next phase [ primary school years! ] & we're starting to feel completely unskilled yet again.
Meanwhile, we work hard & we try not to sweat the small stuff too much so I won't have very many long whingey posts [who wants to read that?] but I do enjoy writing about some of the complexities of our routine & some of the things I think we are ok at. Of course there is always room for better, for more... but we like to take opportunities to relax sometimes & so choose to let go of some things. At the very least, after reading my family & parenting stories, maybe people can get a laugh in their day at our expense or share stories of how family life is for them.
A stickler for best practice, continuous improvement & systems... I love hearing about good organisation & I love improving how our household runs. Even with a family organisation ticking over nicely though, there are 5 children living here so its often that our best laid plans & rules fall in a big fat heap.
At home right now however, we are mostly on top of things & have a nice rhythm going. But there are still a million things to be done & dreams we are chasing. And of course every new age & stage the small humans go through, theres new excitement, challenges & things to learn from.
Yes there are 5 of them that we love, 5 mouths to feed, 5 of them to answer constant questions & needing individual attention/conversation, 5 of them to teach both important & trivial lessons to, 5 of them to clean & clothe and 5 to tuck into bed. But adding an extra child each year for 5 years, on average, it really did happen all so quickly & operating in survival mode pretty quickly turned into managing a somewhat experienced production line. We got practiced!
Here's how that happened.... Basically, if we want to get on with our day or get out of the house then we need to be efficient at doing so, or we don't do, or go. Sacrifices & compromises are part of our daily routine. If we take too long on this, it means we don't get to do that... We have to live with guidelines, rules & be brisk about some stuff so that there is some time for living. Maybe that sounds a bit machine like to some. I guess it really is. For instance...
I've never had a toddler that was allowed to have 30mins to do a tantrum filled & laboured clean & dress in the morning. We just don't have that time & everyone knows it. Charlotte was born when Georgie had only just turned one so many of our routines very quickly ran like well oiled machines well before they had any real personality/attitude/spirit to add in to the mix. One of the few advantages of having a perceived [by some] less than ideal 3 year gap between children. But one advantage I'm happy to have. Our kids knew the deal from birth [!!], they get on with it & then we can all eat or all play or all get out of the house or whatever it is we want to achieve. Except when that all falls in a heap too and someone vomits all over their clothes or we've misplaced a shoe....
And thats not to say there have have not been tantrums in our house or blunders by all of us [learning opportunities] - of course there have been millions! But they generally centre around sharing/playing issues or as a result of little ones being overtired.
I think you basically adapt to your situation and you fill the time slot you have with what you settle for. I see it all the time. When we are in the family change room after kids swimming lessons, I see pairs of loving parents fussing over their little one & filling their time slot lovingly drying off their child, the child running away & they play chasey & then they get back to it and then they'll pick up a top & have this big struggle with the child who doesn't want to wear any clothes... meanwhile we've dried and clothed 5 children & are walking out the door.
Yes maybe we are missing out on some loving & tender moments between parent & child as we dress them but we'd prefer to get the processing done & then have those loving & tender moments while we are playing together, relaxing together, eating together, shopping together. Not that we aren't 100% in love with our children as we dress them!!!!! Just that we get them dressed and move on! So we just do things differently I guess. No right or wrong way with this stuff.
Am I making sense? The routine stuff of the day when there's multiple children, needs to just get done so we can move on to the living bit. Otherwise it would end up being frustrating & labour intensive. In our opinion, for us.
So as for the 'processing' part, yep we have mostly found our groove & we've developed efficiencies.
Individual attention is by far the most major challenge. I try to steal minutes, to squish them, tickle them, smooch them, listen to them & tell each of them how much I love them, every day. Building self esteem & confidence & a 'can do' attitude is important to me & I like to boost them whenever I can. Bedtime is the most oh-so-important catch up time in our day and I can make up for any imbalances in individual attention. I spend time with each child, whether that be story reading, talking, cuddling, or all 3. But I do bed on my own for all 5, so there are nights when a story doesn't happen too. Not ideal, but its reality. If I have less minutes than usual or Buddy is acting up I'd rather do more loving & talking than use most of the time I have on a story.
The kids all love that connection at night but they know I have to work my way through..... I start with little Mister and work my way up through the ages. Its possibly the biggest downside to having a big family, the individual attention, and there is never enough spare minutes in each day that match to the time I would like to spend with them. We do the best we can. Quality not quantity and all that... And its not as bad as it might sound..."minutes".... I am with the kids all day everyday, and the school kids, all afternoon & evening, its just that time is shared for them all. I guess too, they have never known anything different.
A Perfect Home.... what is that?
I am a tidier person than Jeff. He does not see mess. He likes cleaning the kitchen after meals and he is master of the laundry washing. I am eternally grateful for that. I like to clear the decks in the house throughout my day but things build up if I take a day or two off and then the tidying & putting away of 'everyday living' requires a decent 1-2 hour effort.
I find it is much easier to have the philosophy of never walking past something that needs to be carried to the next room or up the stairs. And that is my prefered method for keeping things acceptable. Sometimes however, I'm busy, sick or just want time off so I take time off. And thats ok too. For the most part, the house is cluttered, but it is organised the way I like it. As kids go through ages & stages, play areas & adult project areas need to be updated/changed/hidden away, so there is always some project or area around these parts that needs attention in addition to the daily stuff.
Jeff piles clean laundry in baskets or IKEA bags into our bedroom & they cause me angst. Sorting, folding & putting away clothes has not been a favourite task of mine, yet its a necessary one for the household to run effectively. About 3 or 4 months ago, when I think I reached a new all time high of 6 baskets of laundry requiring attention, I decided to surrender, put on a movie & tackle the task at hand. Actually, it was kinda fabulous. Its now one of my fave housekeeping things; to take time out in my bedroom, sort & put away the laundry whilst watching a movie! I usually do this on Saturday mornings. Georgie is becoming a real doll & is happy to take the basket for the big girls room & put it away. She is a gem.
I like my kitchen clean, I like my floors done semi regularly, I like my toilets & bathrooms clean, although our ensuite - used by all - always the last on my list to get attention. The dinner table gets wiped, the floor gets swept & vacuumed. The rest, well we try to keep up as much as we can.
Dusting? Ironing? Cleaning windows? We are not familiar with those activities. Perhaps when the children are in highschool, we will all do better. We do them as required, usually for visitors.
We all would rather live, rest, play or make than have a perfect house. So the compromise is made. Its not just 7 people living in our home, dust bunnies live with us too.
Rules... We have them.
I don't know how things work in other households, this is what we have formulated over the years, as necessary, from what we know & have experienced. The things we respected from our own childhoods, from what we see in the movies, from reading some parenting books. Our rules are clear, consistent & continuous. Everyone in our house knows the rules, well Bud is learning & the others will push boundaries sometimes & pretend they didn't know, but they do. They are mostly a collection of little rules for little people. No doubt things will get more complex as the kids get older & the boundaries & guidelines & rules & expectations all grow & change & many things will drop off the list as we don't need to be so prescriptive.
Now, our kids weren't trained in little people house rules in 5 minutes, its been an ongoing effort every single day. They all forget sometimes & they are all reminded. Sometimes we are too tired to push something, but for the most part, having rules allows us the freedom to relax, live & play safely, nicely & responsibly without confusion. Once the rules are set, we can get on with the living. Outside of our general house rules, there is room for a whole lotta love, a whole lot more crazeeeeeee, fun & happiness.
Here's our rules:
The house is quiet when a baby is sleeping.
No violence. No running or throwing in the house.
Playing rules - Kids are encouraged to sort out their own squabbles & reminded of our rules. They are given every opportunity to resolve things, apologise, try and work it out with our help but if things can't be sorted or someone digs their heels in, these playing rules are how it goes down:
- Exclude kids from an activity & its either over or the instigator sits out.
- Everyone gets to choose their own character in role playing, if we end up with 3 princesses & a puppy dog in a wedding story, so be it. Story is made up around that.
- Fight outside & annoy the neighbours & thats it, everyone inside.
Make mess, you must help mum tidy it up.
If you are playing dress ups, clothes go onto the stairs so they are easily found after play.
At home, kids wear clothes of their choice from the home clothes drawer. When we go out, I choose from the going out clothes, although the big girls are starting to choose their own going out outfit, which is totally fine as long as its weather appropriate.
No food in kids bedrooms.
Kids clear their own dishes from the table to either the kitchen bench or the dishwasher.
If you escape to play during meal times, food will not be waiting when you return.
Between meal times, the kitchen gets closed. We relax this somewhat on weekends.
And when Jeff is home for tea, he likes this rule... "when having dinner, the TV is definitely turned down" - I hate that rule & weekdays when its just me & kids, we generally do not have TV during dinner. But when Jeff is home on weekends, he is usually catching up on TV sport results that he has already been checking continuously throughout the day on his iPhone even if he has been watching same on TV all day - of course?! Because men need to watch sport continuously right? Grrrr - To keep the peace, I let it slide. See, imperfect.
Bedrooms to be tidied before bed every night. I allow few exceptions. Its a good habit to get into & clear room = clear sleep I reckon. I do not expect the same of myself however. Very undisciplined.
Bedtimes are 7pm for the twins & we are starting to allow the big girls somewhere between 7 & 7.30pm depending on how the little ones go down.
While I am putting Bud to bed, unless you are bleeding or the house is on fire, do not enter his room. Read or play quietly in your bedroom.
I think thats about it.
Not sure if these seem harsh or not but we want to raise our children safely, respectfully, to have good manners & be mostly disciplined. These are things we hope will stand them in good stead to become good citizens, good employees & good future partners. We'll see. We may have it so wrong. Perhaps we shouldn't be strict about bedtimes and let them choose their own natural sleeping times. Perhaps they should be allowed to mess freely without tidying. Who knows what is right for the children? They don't know and we are just doing what we think is a reasonable model.
So there you go, we are far from perfect & we are certainly making things up as we go along. Our ideals & best plans have been bent, thrown out, updated & improved as time has gone on. And even now, with our eldest only 6, still a little person, house rules are broken & scheduling doesn't always go perfectly to plan. But we do aim to achieve what we set out to achieve & usually if something goes pear shaped, we can make up time or help the kids get back on track pretty easily by being a bit flexible.
As I've blogged before, on weekends, we like to throw many rules & our schedule out the window & relax a bit, but to get through our busy weekdays, we find having a good routine & clear direction for the kids, keeps us all mostly in check & hopefully gets us through. Having time off or down time on the weekends helps us recharge for the coming week ahead.
Do you know any real supermums or superdads? Ones that have a perfect house, happy & polite kids AND a happy marriage? Do these people actually exist?
Thanks for sticking with me until here. I'll leave you with one last thing with you to ponder...
"A real woman always keeps her house clean and organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She's always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone.
Who else suspects they might be a man?" - author unknown.