Managing Life With Little Ones: An Overwhelmed Mother Inquires

“Kelly, would you please post about how to manage life with several little ones?  I often feel so overwhelmed and it looks like everyone else has it all together. Will you offer some tips?”

I’ve gotten several versions of this email lately and so I thought I would answer the best I can.   I think it’s important to understand that not one of us has an identical situation or is in the exact same season of life, and not one of us has it all together.  We can learn from each other, but it’s fruitless to copy.  We need to begin with the prayer and pursuit of maximizing our time based on our specific circumstances and adjust our expectations accordingly. We need to avoid comparing (though we all do it, don’t we?)

But practically speaking, what can a mother do to maximize her time?

  • Multi-task. Most mothers are natural at this anyway, but sometimes a deliberate effort can “multiply” your time.  For example, I  may ask a child to narrate his reading to me while I wash dishes or hang up clothes in my room.  I have found that stretching/exercising is a great thing to bring the little ones around for–it doubles for focused time with them, maybe while the older ones are doing their chores.  Sometimes we practice math facts while running errands.  I always try to do a chore if I’m talking on the phone too.
  • Pare down the schedule. For us, this is a biggie.  Often when people ask me, “how do you find time for A,B or C”, it becomes easier to understand when they find out we don’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities.  We are blessed to have our music teacher come to our home, as well as our art teacher, which are our only “extra” things.  We spend very little time driving around to this or that which allows for a lot of time for other pursuits.
  • No TV. We watch movies on selected days of the week, but we don’t have the temptation of watching regular programming because we don’t have it ;-)  It would be a huge weakness for all of us if we did (we discover that on vacations), so we did away with it a long time ago.  You’d be amazed at what can be accomplished without it!
  • Delegating responsibilities. Don’t underestimate what your children can do, and don’t rob them of the opportunity to do it!  I heard of one mom who made the bottom drawer the silverware drawer.  Her 4-year-old was in charge of putting it away and setting the table with it.  She felt so big to have her own job and it was one less thing for Mom.  As a general rule: don’t do what a younger child can do.  Also, it’s more efficient in the long run to take a little extra time now to train a child how to do a job properly. You are the manager; that doesn’t mean you do all the work.
  • Maintain Realistic Expectations. I had a relative who pulled all her furniture and all her kitchen appliances out and cleaned underneath them once a week-the stove, the refrigerator, everything.  That’s taking the house cleaning thing a bit too far, in my opinion, and will most likely absorb time that could be better spent elsewhere.  A tidy home is good, but obsession is a problem.  Choose a few times in the day where everyone tidies up and try not to stress about messes in between.  Lay down some basic rules:  put one group of toys away before you play with another, take your plate to the sink after meals, pick up your room before bedtime, or whatever rules work for your home.  And then relax and enjoy this season with little ones, knowing one day you really will miss the Play-Doh smashed into the carpet.
  • Define areas of stress and seek to change them.  Noise is a big stress to me, but we have 8 children; what’s a mom to do?  We continuously work on “inside voices” and calm play.  This doesn’t mean they can’t laugh and have fun, but they understand there’s a difference between inside and outside.  I’ve been around children who were just in the habit of yelling, screaming and running inside (and of course they carried that habit into other public places) and such behavior is only the fault of the parent who allows it. Moderation should be taught early and includes a reasonable expectation that our children know the difference in inside and outside volumes and are able to exhibit self-control.  It should simply be taught as an expression of “loving your neighbor”.

Some moms get their time sucked up by chatty (but dear) friends during school hours.  An older mother once told me that she absolutely didn’t answer the phone before noon, and that doing so made all the difference in her home.

Some moms find meals an especially difficult time.  What are some ways you could prepare ahead to make this an easier part of the day?  (Have one cooking day for the whole week?  Simplify your meals for this season?  Barter meals with a friend for something else?) When our dish washer was broken we mostly used paper plates at my husband’s insistence that it was worth it.  Whatever works!

Identify the areas in your home that cause the most stress and ask your husband to help you find a solution.

These are just a few of the ideas I gathered from  my own experience.  It would be helpful if you all shared how you maximize your time and avoid “overwhelmed syndrome”.

68 Responses to “Managing Life With Little Ones: An Overwhelmed Mother Inquires”

  1. Narelle says:

    Yes!! x 6 for me – all those work well here! Especially the ‘don’t do it if a younger child can do it’… that frees me up HEAPS. I recently wrote on my blog the children’s chore lists and I realised there is VERY little I do all by myself – they strip a bed, I put the sheets back on.. I don’t take out rubbish, recycling or compost, my 7yo is learning to vacuum and my 8yo the dishes and soon the bread making and so on. even the 2.5yo does a decent amount!

    Also
    -cook double
    -declutter
    -keep healthy

  2. Deanna says:

    Wise words of advice. I know a mom of 5 kids, all older,the youngest is 11 who does everything herself….I think for her it is a control thing, but she makes me exhausted. Plus not everything gets done that she would like because she can’t “do it all”.

    I learned years ago the maxim of the youngest who can do a job, should do it! It has helps us with 6 kids so much, and the kids all know they are contributing to the household!

  3. Melissa says:

    Just this morning my 10,8,5 year old sons have cleaned their room from the weekend and dusted/vacuumed it, took out the trash, and dusted the living room. It is not hard for them and they don’t mind having a plan. I have 5 kids in my home right now. (10,8,5,11mo., and 5mo.) Maximizing time by your ideas is great! I would stress not taking on too much to your schedule. Just say no and keep the HOME in homeschool if you homeschool. If you don’t you should want to be cutting back so that your kids can spend more time at home. These short 18-20 years are all we will have them in our home. Then our home will be empty and we will wonder where all the mess went?

  4. R. F. says:

    I have 4 children ages 6 and under. Multi tasking is a must, as is having children contribute to the house work. The kids are in charge of feeding and watering the dogs, feeding the fish, making the beds and vacuming the bedrooms to be done as soon as breakfast is over, before we start school for the day. While the children are working on school lessons I can prepare for dinner. Today I am making split pea soup, while I am busy with the chopping, my six year old can practice his reading to his younger siblings.

    Also before bed everyone pitches in about 15 min. to make sure the whole house is picked up of toys, shoes, clothes, book, etc. So we start the day with a tidy house. To me that makes all the difference in my day. Starting with a clean slate!

    Today is also grocery shopping day. Yes, all four children go with me. Everyone I know says I’m crazy. But guess what, since we have to do it every week, my hildren know how to behave in stores. We almost always recieve complements on how well behaved they are.

    Don’t underestimate what your children can do to help. They will rise to your level of expectations. If you don’t think they can do it, they can’t and won’t, if you think they can, they will eventually learn.

  5. Great tips Kelly. I think we have all been conditioned to the idea that the house stays clean because most people leave their houses all day and are only there in the early mornings and evenings and weekends. That is not reality. Not participating in too many extra curricular activities is a must …and extra homeschool support group meetings/playdates as well. Also for those who’s husbands want to keep the TV for news or sports …I found (by the hand of God) a TV armoire on clearance that had doors with brackets on front. The brackets had holes in the handles. We bought it specifically so that we could put a lock on the doors….and mom is the only one with the combination. : ) God provides answers when we specifically pray for them with an willing obedient heart to respond in faith. Faith is obeying God regardless of the circumstances or consequences.

  6. Katie Grace says:

    These are all great tips but I think what many women who are inquiring about “feeling overwhelmed” really mean is “How do you do it when you ONLY have little ones?” New mothers who have several little ones “in training” are the ones who usually feel the most overwhelmed and like failures. They are still learning to get it all done. Also, it seems just when I get a schedule that works well, we enter a new phase – new baby, potty training, homeschooling, going from 2 naps to one!

    I currently have a 2 1/2 year old, a 17 month old, and am 6 months pregnant. Although my oldest does have things that she helps with, she is still learning how to do these tasks which means that I am still teaching her to do these tasks. Honestly, it is quicker and less frustrating for me to do these tasks myself – IF my goal is to keep my house clean and decluttered. BUT, if my goal is to train her to do these tasks correctly, so that it will pay for years to come, it becomes worth it.

    Also, I am the only one here with my small children most of the time. I have to keep them underfoot while I do most of my work. They do play for short periods of time in their room, but 15 minutes alone seems to be their current limit. There is no one else to fill the sippy cup, chop the apple, wipe the nose, or take the oldest to sit on the potty. It’s just me! I read all the books, teach all the skills (no older child to use as an example – yet) and do all the household chores. Even if my oldest is helping, I have to be right there training her the correct way to do a task. It seems no amount of multitasking allows me to get it all done most days.

    This season of life is brief but can feel overwhelming. I have a few things that I have do to help me be more efficent. I have a schedule, have trained my children to nap at the same time, and do my laundry and ironing only on Mondays and Tuesdays. I combine all my errands and do those once a week. I have a specific meal plan, with simple meals and often double and freeze if I can. I also make a list each morning of three non-necessary things that I would like to accomplish during that day. It may be something as simple as sending a card to a friend, calling my grandmother, or sewing on a button – but it gives me a goal for the day. I try to do those tasks each day in addition to the necessary things. This lets me feel like I do more than just clean house, mother my children, and cook meals.

    I have also learned to use my time without my children to do things that are very difficult to do with them underfoot. They will visit their grandparents usually one day a week (for atleast 4 hours). I use this time to work on sewing projects, go get my hair trimmed, or go to my OB appointments. Once a month, I will go have a lunch date with my hubby. Otherwise, they do everything with me. Yes, it slows me down, but eventually it all gets done…just usually not all at one time!

    • Alison says:

      Thank you so much! That is what I was thinking! When I talk about being overwhelmed by little ones, I mean toddlers and younger! Where you really have no help. My oldest is 2, so I don’t have older kids to help with the chores. I love this post and the information and encouragement provided, but I need specific advice/help for when you only have very young children, so you really are doing it all yourself. It can be extremely overwhelming, especially when you hear about other moms talk/explain how they do it with multiple kids, but they always have older children who can help. I already don’t talk on the phone, don’t watch tv, and hardly go anywhere, but I don’t know how else to maximize time at home when I have an infant that has to be held and a toddler that needs me all day long. I love this post and hearing what the other ladies have shared. But, I too, would love to hear about how you all did in when you only had children in diapers. Thanks!

      • R. F. says:

        My oldest is already 6, but it wasn’t that long ago that I had two under the age of two. At the time I was also babysitting daily for extra money. An average day left me with 4 children under the age of two. The only way I could keep my sanity was to keep the mess to one room and limit the number of toys in that room. I had baby gates put up in the living room and had a laundry basket of toys, and that was it. The way my house was set up, I could see them playing from the living room while I was in the kitchen making lunch. After lunch I trained them all to nap at that time. I used their nap time to clean the rest of the house.
        Basically the house was unused except the living room for about two years! I had set times that I checked everyones diaper, and brought them all to the bathroom while someone was being potty trained. They learned from each other.
        I would start a load of laundry early in the morning before the children woke up (another key, as hard as it is, try to wake up and get yourself ready for the day before your children wake up.) As soon as they all went down for nap I put the laundry in the dryer, did some cleaning, by the time I was done with a little cleaning I folded the laundry. By this time children would start waking up. Back to the living room we would go. Every once in a while I would do more cleaning while the children were awake and would include them. I would give them each a baby wipe and we would clean walls, furniture, even floors with those wipes!
        I worked in a daycare before I got married and had children. As much as I hated it, I learned a lot about having several little people around without being overwhelmed. You need to get what you can done while they are sleeping, and not worry about what doesn’t get done. Also put them to bed at a decent time. Try to stay awake an hour after they go to bed to spend time with hubby. Ask him if he can help you clean up the clutter for 15 min. before bed.
        I’ll try and think of some other things too, if I can remember.

      • Word Warrior says:

        Katie Grace & Alison,

        Great questions to raise. I am NOT a great one to answer because my oldest was 5 before my my second was born, and she was a “natural born mother” and was a lot of help.

        But, I do want to offer a word of encouragement here…

        KG said: “I try to do those tasks each day in addition to the necessary things. This lets me feel like I do more than just clean house, mother my children, and cook meals.

        Whatever you do, try to keep the right perspective, which is counter-culture, about your role. “Just” cleaning, mothering and cooking is a big, glorious, necessary and full-time job. If that’s all you get done, that’s enough. That’s perfect.

        If we’re not careful, we can get sucked into a “drudgery” mentality which makes us feel more overwhelmed than we should. If you go to an office and you tasks pile up on your desk, you simply work diligently and do your best to get the most important things done. What doesn’t get done today will still be there tomorrow.

        As mothers and wives, we need to understand that yes, it’s work. And it’s hard sometimes, but it’s good work and it’s work that will be eternally rewarded (as well as earthly) when we keep the right attitude and “do it heartily as to the Lord”.

        We must all guard against the culture’s message of “getting bogged down with menial tasks”. Motherhood is not menial, just difficult. Press on! The fruit of your labor will manifest.

        • Word Warrior says:

          I also wanted to add that in a day where family isn’t as available as they once were, hiring a “mommy helper” may a blessing. I would caution though, that I don’t think a mommy helper should be used if you simply want free time, going back to the reality that this is our job. But if for one reason or another you are doing all you can and still feel overwhelmed, having someone come help once a week could be a healthy solution.

        • Katie Grace says:

          I think my statement may have been misunderstood or maybe I used a poor choice of words to try and explain my point. I would however like to clarify what I meant.

          Maybe what I should have said was that sometimes I can get so busy doing the “must-dos” as a wife and mother that I don’t allow myself time to do the things that enhance the lives of the people I serve. I don’t take time to write in my children’s journals, order and send pics to grandma of the girls, call the friend who just had a new baby, or take the time to go have lunch with my hubby. These things can get pushed aside in favor of the things that seem more pressing. Before I know it two weeks have passed and I have been so focused on the work on my “desk” that I failed to notice the people who work around me. Yes, my getting my work done is benefical to those I work with but sometimes they need more from me than that.

          The reality is that right now with the ages of my children and being pregnant – the “must-do” tasks can easily fill up my day to the point that nothing else will get done – Nothing creative, nothing enhancing, nothing that feeds my soul or the souls of those I love. If I don’t try and make time to do other things (reading and commenting on this blog included), I will get to the point where it may feel like the only things I do are cook, clean, and be mommy. I may begin to feel isolated and alone. That IS a dangerous place to be because I may start to listen to the culture that tells me that I am wasting my time, talents, and education doing things that don’t really matter. I loose my perspective.

          I think many mothers of multiple small children (stair-steps) in the early years feel like they need to just survive this time. I want to do more than survive – I want to cherish and enjoy it. Sometimes that means that the tub doesn’t get a good cleaning but every other week and that sometimes we have pb&js for supper so that we can run and play in the fall leaves with daddy. Sometimes that means putting down the broom and sitting on the sofa with my little ones and reading their favorite book 6 times in a row – complete with sound-effects!

          I agree with you on not listening to our culture that devalues motherhood and SAHMs, even within the church. But, I find it is also difficult when you go looking for encouragement and only find information from the perspective of mothers with older children who have passed this stage of life. It is really hard when you do it all – day in and day out. (Not that I don’t find encouragement in your blog and a few others I frequent OR that your stage of life doesn’t have your own set of challanges that I have yet to arrive at). Those of us who have multiple littles at home are still learning. We are learning to potty train, to multitask, to budget our time and money, and to just get it all done. We can sometimes feel like we are failing because no one really says the truth – that it’s hard, that you need all the help you can get, and that everyone has to sacrifice certain things to do other things.

          • Word Warrior says:

            Katie,

            I understand what you are saying…those are important thoughts and I’m sure it is very challenging in those early stages. I think you are doing the right thing–attempting to enrich the lives of those around you and not merely survive. And it’s significant that you pointed out that it may be as simple as a note or email to minister to someone. It doesn’t have to be a huge effort to be a real blessing.

            I am so proud of all you mamas who persevere and who have such a heart for your families, even though it’s hard, often thankless work. I truly believe the feminist movement received so much momentum because the bottom line is, most women find it more difficult to fulfill their roles at home properly than to just leave and escape it all. It wasn’t hard to convince women.

            But if you have chosen to stay, be encouraged; seasons change, you will get better in certain areas, God will be glorified and the fruit of your hands will be praised.

      • Katie Grace says:

        Alison,
        I’m right here with you and right now I am burning my precious nap time! I am learning everyday. A few other things that work for me:

        I keep a list of things that I need on the fridge and add to it as needed of things that we don’t purchase often, like lightbulbs or ink pens. When I see that I need something unusual on my next shopping trip, I add it to the list. I also put down things my children need (ex. tights or pink socks) that way I already have my list when I go shopping for all the odds and ends.

        I also keep a “honey-do” list on the fridge for my hubby. He works so much that his home time is limited but there are a few things that he does when they need doing. An example would be changing the lightbulbs in the ceiling fixtures. We have tall ceilings and I am a very clumsy pregnant woman so I don’t get on ladders while pregnant! I just write down the stuff that needs done and he will get to it when he has the time.

        I also try and rest some during naptime. Right now, being anemic, I actually nap some during naptime! But this helps me be refreshed when my girls wake up and are themselves refreshed and ready to go! If I work myself non-stop during their naps, then I am stressed and tired when they wake up. I know this is counter-intuitive (“I can get so much more done while they are sleeping”) BUT for me it pays in the end! I have more energy and a much better countenance if I rest my mind a body a bit in the middle of the day.

        I asked my hubby a while back what were the few house cleaning items that he really liked done consistently. His list was short and simple. I try and make these few things a top priority. I was surprised that the things that were important to him were often the things that I skipped – ex: making our bed. For him that says comfort – a made bed when he climbs in at the end of the day! Honestly, I had been letting that go some in favor of more demanding tasks. But taking that 5 minutes to really make the bed – throw pillows and all makes him feel like the bedroom is clean!

        We also pick up three times a day – before lunch, before supper, and at bedtime. This keeps the toy mess managable.

        These are just a few of the things that work for me right now. I try to not get stressed over the state of the house. If everyone has clean underwear and something healthy to eat – then the day has been a success in my opinion.

        • Alison says:

          Thanks, Katie Grace! I appreciate your suggestions – I have a similar list on my fridge! My kids don’t nap every day, so I don’t even get that time to rest or clean or whatever, which is frustrating. Sometimes it seems like other moms of young ones have everything together and that they have perfectly clean homes, make every meal from scratch, get up hours before their children to get more accomplished, and have enough time to look fashionable with their hair done. From the handful of moms I know in this stage of life, that is just not feasible. Many nights, I barely get enough sleep to function properly. Like you said, I do need to “survive” this season, but I also want to enjoy it with my children, because time goes by so fast. It is just not realistic to get everything done each day. But, I also don’t want to live in a messy, cluttered house – that would make me feel worse. And I also don’t want to sacrifice all forms of contact with the outside world. I wish there was a place to go to get numerous practical suggestions, advice, and schedules of other moms’ days and how they do it. It seems even the awesome mothering books and blogs that I have read don’t really touch on this early season of motherhood with multiple littles. It is encouraging to hear that other moms are feeling the same way. Thanks! :) And, thanks, Kelly, for your wonderful blog. It always makes me feel encouraged to come read your posts!

          • Amanda says:

            Alison,
            I hate to “get into your business” but I also had 2 under 2 (not sure how many you have right now) and man I wish I had Kelly’s blog back then (just 2 short years ago)! One thing from your comment stuck out at me: you mentioned that your children don’t nap every day and that you barely get enough sleep. I would urge you to make sleep for your family a top priority. Gary Ezzo’s Babywise was very helpful to me since I had no experience with babies and I used it to successfully train 3 children to sleep through the night by 10 weeks of age as well as having regular (my mother says “rigid”) naps. I truly believe that it is easier for children to play independently and obey when they are well rested and it certainly make’s mom’s job easier too! If you feel like it’s too late to train your children to be on a more regular sleep schedule then I would still make them stay in their beds at naptime whether they sleep or not. You need that “downtime” in the afternoon regardless and they will come to appreciate the time to themselves (after the bouts of screaming have passed) and probably start sleeping every day if you’re consistent. A consistent (within 1/2 hour) beditme at night helps too. I have found that the better they sleep during the day, the better they sleep at night, and the better they do the next day, etc.

            I hope I’m not being too in your face but I have watched several friends struggle with sleep deprivation and not enjoying the little years all because they were philosophically opposed to Ezzo and refused to tell their children when to sleep, or felt powerless and at the mercy of their children’s whims on naptime. And if you’ve heard all this before and have other opinions, I apologize, and can offer you reassurance that my oldest is 4 now and it is soooo much easier once they can bathe themselves! And feed the cat!

          • Katie Grace says:

            Allison,
            I know how you feel. So many of the other mothers that I know seem to have it all together, but I do not personally know one mother with two only a year apart (like myself) and one on the way. I will have 3 under 3 when our son arrives in February. I remind myself that it is just silly to look at another mother who has a five year old, a two year old and is expecting and think her life resembles mine in its current stage. My children can do almost nothing for themselves – dressing, grooming, feeding, pouring their own drink, even getting in their cribs.

            I will say that the sleep thing has been my greatest challange. When my 2nd arrived, she was a non-sleeper from the moment she drew breath! At 9 months old I began training her to nap at the same time as my toddler – one long afternoon nap. This took me 17 weeks of daily work. I kept her awake in the morning by keeping her busy, and after I put my toddler down for her nap, I rocked her to sleep. It was a long process and I almost gave up many times. Eventually, she learned to go to sleep at naptime just like her sister.

            Our current sleep schedule is this: up at 7 am, nap from 1 to 3, and bedtime at 10. I know, mothers everywhere are gasping in horror at such a late bedtime. We have tried backing it up but it only makes them get up earlier or wake up in the middle of the night. I’ll take 9 hours of sleep if that’s all I can get. I do not rise early before my children. I usually have only 5 to 10 minutes before they are up. I have downtime during naptime and usually take my bath before my bedtime around 11. I don’t run around cleaning and such after they are in bed. That is time for me to spend a little time on myself or with my husband. Sometimes I read a bit, but usually I just enjoy the quiet time. In fact, I will step over 3 toys that got left out on my way to bed and won’t worry about it one bit. My work of keeping house is done for today.

            All in all, I just have to try and evaluate and try again. I try and focus on one major thing at a time, which right now is potty training my oldest. When we have that down, I’m getting rid of the baby’s pacifier. Then it will be time for a new baby and everything will change again. I just do the best that I can do and thank God that I have a husband that understands that and is encouraging. Besides, he would much rather have my full attention after the children are in bed even if it means stepping over a few toys on his way out the door in the morning!

            • Sarah Lownsbery says:

              Hi Katie Grace!
              I was in your shoes not too long ago :) I had a two year old, one year old, a newborn, and a deployed hubby! Let me tell you from experience….it is not possible to get it all done. Some things will suffer! Seriously, when I was pregnant with number three my house always had toys on the floor and it seemed like the garbage always needed to be taken out. I also had anemia during my last pregnancy so my two little ones and I would climb on the couch and as long as I was with them they would fall asleep. All of my neighbors knew that from 1-3 pm the kids and I were asleep and not to bug us. Having this two hour nap helped me to stay up a bit longer than my little ones at bedtime (maybe an hour). I went grocery shopping once a week with my kids and other than that the only thing I committed myself to was a weekly bible study group for moms, and the park behind our house. I know it is hard, but one day your kids will be a bit older and you will miss it. My kids are now 6,5,and almost 4 and I wish I would have taken the time that they were little to teach them more about cleaning up after themselves :) I will be praying for you and Allison because I have been there not to long ago and I know it is hard!!
              Blessings,
              Sarah Lownsbery

            • Charity says:

              Katie Grace and Alison,
              I am another mommy that had three little under 3yrs, so I understand as well where ya’ll are coming from. When this baby is born I will have four under 5yrs. When they are little like this (and I know a 4yr old can do much more for themselves than a 2yr old)it is as you have said KG, the stages/schedules are always changing. You are potty training while you are nursing while you are reading a book to them, all the while sitting on the bathroom floor looking at how dirty it is in there because you haven’t had a chance to clean it! All that to say, I know exactly where you are coming from, I only wish I had someone I could talk to face to face for encouragement. The loneliness and overwhelmed feelings I had in that stage led me to the internet in search of other families living a lifestyles similar to ours. I thank God I found this blog :)

            • Alison says:

              Thanks again for writing! It is so nice to hear what you have to say and some of the other mamas, too. It made me feel encouraged that I am not alone. I will pray for you, especially since you are pregnant and very tired, I’m sure. If it makes you feel better, my husband’s cousin has a 3-year-old, 2 year old twins, and a 2 month old – so 4 kids under 4! Yikes! I always try to think of her when I feel overwhelmed! ;) This is such a wonderful community of mothers. It is great to hear about others’ lives.

  7. Sarah says:

    “Not one of us has it all together” = my favorite sentence in your post.
    The missing the play-dough part? I had a hard time believing that one. :~)

  8. ladyscott says:

    Here’s another one, Ask for help! There may be a season in your life (like in mine now) where help is needed. Perhaps your husband has to work longer hours, or got shipped out of town for a time or has fallen ill, or you have fallen ill, or whathaveyou. I have a saying that goes, “If you have the nerve to tell me that I can ‘let the house go’ during this trying time, then get over here and clean it for me.” Frankly, when you’re sick, pregnant, or otherwise overwhelmed, it does NOT help to live in filth and disorganization.

  9. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this! I really needed it today.

  10. Avaya says:

    There is truth in the old saying that it takes a village to bring up a child. I come from a large family. In my grandmothers’ time, they had several kids, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc pitched in so that young mothers with several little ones were not overwhelmed. It was automatically assumed that people would cook for each other and care for one another. However, in today’s world, that sort of support does not always exist.

    • R. F. says:

      Yes, definately ask for help. My sister-in-law and I use each other. When she needs a break I help watch her kids and my kids have a chance to play with their cousins and vice versa. It really helps to find another stay at home mom that can help you.

  11. Krissa says:

    It might be our job, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Mommy Helper if you’ve reached your limit. Everyone has limits.

  12. Charity says:

    This post is a great enncouragement to me. I have no relatives to lend a hand or offer encouragement. Relatives on both sides are very unsupportive and only discourage and tear down in any conversation. I have no church family, no prospective “mother helper” to hire (although the thought of this makes me uncomfortable anyway). My husband works very long hours, (which will change within a few months). I am not saying any of that to complain, I know this is right where God has me for the time being. My children are 4 1/2 yrs, 3yrs, 1 1/2yrs, and I am 5months pregnant. The days can be long and tough, but lately I have learned to let go of alot of things that make me feel like a failure and to focus on what makes me a success to God.

    I do not typically feel overwhelmed caring for my children, it is the housework, or I should say, the *undone* housework that makes me feel like I have failed for the day. I want tthe house to look perfect when my husband finally arrives home from a long day at work. But for me to even come close to that, then I would have to leave our children uncared for, unread to, unfed, unclothed, unpotty trained, and feeling unloved! I do my best on the housework, with my children by my side, helping as they are able and I have cheerful attitude (I don’t want them to think this is an awful job!). But when I have to choose between sweeping the kitchen or reading and snuggling with my children, then I choose my children, knowing that the crumbs on the floor will wait and that I have chosen the best thing and that the Lord (and my husband) are pleased.

    My children are big helpers and are being trained to do chores and such, but there is still quite a bit that they aren’t physically capable of yet. My oldest (4 1/2 yr) daughter is such a wonderful help, and has always been a little mommy to the other two. She was a big sister at 16months old and even then was a big help by putting diapers in the trash, bringing me a burp cloth etc. I am very glad that we have trained them from the time they began to walk, to throw things in the trash, put their toys away, and other seemingly small tasks. Our 1 1/2 yr old little boy is at a huge training stage where I am teaching him to not yell when he wants something, but to say please…to be patient when I am fixing their plates at meals and not sit there yelling to have his plate filled…to put away the toy/s he was playing with, etc, and it is so neat to see my little girls jump right in there and encourage him to put his toys back, and tell him, “no, don’t yell. say please?”. All that to say that training them while they are very small will be a help in itself.

    When I cook, I nearly always cook double. The freezer is my friend :) It is great to have a meal on hand that can be pulled from the freezer to feed my hungry family when more important things have kept me from the kitchen. Also, it nips the temptation of picking up something/,ordering out in the bud and keeps our budget on track.

    I really don’t have anyone to talk to on the phone, except my husband, and he can only call once, maybe twice to check on us each day. I stopped answering phone calls from relatives several months ago, and that has helped me greatly, since they were only causing strife and tearing me down. I am kind to them, but I do not have to listen to trash and hateful talk, and since there is never anything wholesome or edifying coming from their mouths, the phone isn’t answered.

    I only get on the computer (online) when my children aren’t awake (nap time, and mornings when I am up before them), and I limit my time. The internet is a great tool for families, but it can suck alot of your day away, just like TV (which we don’t have, but we do movie nights every now and then).

    Sleep, (and lots of it!) keeps me on my toes and helps me to be a better wife and mother. Between a thyroid disorder, and pregnancy, I have to take my sleep pretty seriously. I don’t function well without it, and am much more emotional, and prone to discouragement when I am under rested, neither of which make for a pleasant wife or mother.

    I have also found that how I eat effects how I feel, which can really effect your day a great deal. I am no health expert, but I try very hard to feed myself and my family yummy, healthy foods that keep our bodies going strong and feeling good.

    I know I can’t “do it all”, and lately have learned that it is okay. I am right where God wants me and I want to honor Him in this busy and sometimes overwhelming stage of life. I am so blessed to be a wife and mother. I pray I will never forget that and I pray that one day I won’t be bothered at all to have a little, or a lot, of undone housework…after all, it will still be here long after my children are grown.

  13. Margaret says:

    Excellent advice. I think one of the best pieces of advice is teaching children to work with you. It can be a pain when they’re younger, but when they’re independantly able to help out with the household upkeep, life is so much easier, and there is more time to spend with them doing fun stuff.

    Also, working hard on independant self-care. Wow, life began changing dramatically when my kids could potty and dress themselves, get their own socks on, and a little later their own shoes on. I still supervise and check that things get done, but it is such a difference when I had to dress, shoe, feed, wash, potty or change three children at once before I could even think aboug going somewhere. Some of that is age, but you can certainly help the process along with teaching and with giving them lots of opportunity to practice. :D

    One thing I would advise overwhelmed moms to avoid doing is judging other moms as “having it all together”. We don’t. And most likely those moms you look at and thing have it all figured out are wondering how other moms they know do it. ;)

    Right now, I feel like I’m on vacation. Our circumstances currently mean that I have lots of help. My kids are 3 and older, fairly independant, and enjoy outside play. There’s a safe place for them to play where I can keep half-an-eye on them, and nice neighbor kids, so when the weather is nice there are hours and hours where they don’t need my full attention. So I get a lot done that I haven’t been able to do before, including lots of stuff that is fun and enjoyable for *me*. That’s going to change in a few months, when circumstances change again, and I’m sure life will change again if God gives us more babies. So I am enjoying this time, but I know that there will be more seasons in my life where I just need to buckle down and persevere for a while.

  14. Oh my! Does this discussion bring back memories! I am past the stage of having little ones, but I certainly remember the feeling of drowning in the “To-Do” list.

    What stands out to me in reading over the replies is “balance”. My focus had to be on striking an acceptable balance between all the different tasks. That’s what so many of you are saying.

    Personally, I am a very visual person, so clutter makes me nuts. And sometimes that was all that was done before bedtime rolled back around. That had to be okay for that day.

    My first two were extremely demanding babies, including some chronic health issues. Hearing the discouragement in the voices of you young mothers makes me wish I could give each of you a big hug and help you around your house for a day. (Any of you live in west Texas?? :)

    For me,sometimes just listening to and singing along with praise music while I was working gave me an extra boost. Definitely, praying without ceasing and just telling the Lord that I couldn’t do it all helped. It still does. He knows. And when I lean on Him, He directs my steps, teaching me to discern wisely among my tasks, and multiplying my efforts by making me really efficient. When I learned to value even the smallest increments of time in my day by accomplishing even baby steps toward a goal, it was amazing to look back and see just how much actually was accomplished.

    There were days when I just threw up my hands and gave up. But those grew fewer and farther between as He Faithfully carried me.

    Hang on! He is Sufficient.

    I am praying for each of you who are in the middle of such an intense season that His Peace will wash over your spirits and that you will know His Sufficiency throughout your days (and nights). May even your most intensely trying days be covered with an anointing of Joy. May you be strong for your tasks and may He teach you new ways to accomplish more with less.

    Your tasks are sowing seeds into these precious eternal beings the Lord entrusted to you. There is nothing more important that we can do with our days in this season than to serve our families and raise up our children to honor Him. It is worth every ounce of our beings.

    Those of us in the next stage are cheering you on!!!

  15. Word Warrior says:

    I had a teensy bit of additional advice: sometimes rethinking a particular area about its practicality can be helpful. I’ve mentioned this before, but we don’t give our children baths every night–sometimes it’s several nights. They aren’t nasty, and if they need sponged off in between, that’s an option. (Summer if different than winter.) I know a mom who has such a rigid bath schedule that they actually plan events around it (??) That is unthinkable to me.

    Maybe there are other areas that could be re-thought as well???

    • liz says:

      I totally agree with this. My kids are older now, but my 12 year old is disabled and has physical abilities of about a 2-3 year old, so I can relate a bit. When they were younger (and even now, to an extent) I did not do a daily bath for them. They are very healthy and have suffered no ill effects. Also, it was a true epiphany to me to not wash towels every day. Now I let them dry after a shower and wash them twice a week. That little step was such a timesaver. I am sure there are other things as well.

    • Charity says:

      Our children are not bathed every day…they never have been. For one, they all have excema which becomes terrible if they have daily baths, especially in the winter. Also, since my husband works too long of hours to be home at bath/bedtime then it is me who would be bathing them daily. Their tub in very deep so they must be lifted in and out. I have bad scoliosis in my lower back and have suffered herniated discs twice since having children, both times leaving me unable to walk at all for at least three months. It is quite difficult to care for small ones when you are scooting around on your bottom just to get from room to room in your house. It would be too much physically for me to bathe three littles, daily, so I am very thankful that it isn’t necessary! They are quite clean being bathed every 2-3 days ;)

    • Margaret says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only person that doesn’t have a daily bath routine. :O My children have African heritage, and thus African skin. In dry PA winter, their skin would end up in horrible condition if they were soaked in soap and water every night.

      I definitely think it’s worth going over expectations when life is overwhelming. There may well be things that are cultural, or come from family culture, that are just not necessary, and add to the burden.

    • Carmelita says:

      This made me laugh. My in-laws (even the little children) all take two baths a day. It is a requirement. One in the morning after rising, and one in the evening before going to bed. You can imagine their chagrin when I told them that my children did not have to. To this day they still do not agree with me. Niece and nephew are even required to shower in the morning if they are going to the beach for the day.

      • Word Warrior says:

        Holy Cow. Is it a phobia? Bathing that often isn’t even good for you.

        • Carmelita says:

          No, not at all. My dh spent most of his childhood in Haiti, and his parents were big on bathing. I can understand lack of AC, sweating all night, etc. but here in America, for the most part, one bath a day would suffice. I think it is something that became such a habit that they now think it is still needed (they all live in America now). I never realized all the cultural differences until after we were married. :)

  16. Becky says:

    Kelly, you said, “A tidy home is good, but obsession is a problem. Choose a few times in the day where everyone tidies up and try not to stress about messes in between. Lay down some basic rules: put one group of toys away before you play with another, take your plate to the sink after meals, pick up your room before bedtime, or whatever rules work for your home. And then relax and enjoy this season with little ones, knowing one day you really will miss the Play-Doh smashed into the carpet.”

    What if a woman has a husband who requires a home that is spotless? I have three young children (ages 16 months, 4 and 6) and we homeschool. It really causes me a great deal of stress. I find myself not wanting to do anything really “fun” in school for fear it will cause too big of a mess. My children aren’t allowed to do anything “messy” like play in the bathtub, play with playdoh, even paint. I find myself utterly unable to enjoy this season of little children because my husband wants our house to look as if there aren’t any children living here. Any advice??

    • LucyT says:

      My advice would be messy play on a schedule that can be cleaned up before hubby gets home.My husband freeks about tub time if its messy and craft time.We just do it when he’s at work.He loves the painted homemade cards.He just can’t stand the mess or noise.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Becky,

      Oh boy. The advice I have for you may or may not work in your case, depending on your husband.

      I asked my husband your question. He said, “if it were us, I’d want you to sit me down and explain that you are doing your best, but that it’s far more important for you to be working on the characters of our children rather than putting a movie on for them to keep them from messing up the house and so you could clean.”

      He said the bottom line is that “he needs to get over it”, and he means that in the sincerest of ways ;-)

      Obviously this is where your attitude as you approached him would be of vital importance. I would think he would be responsive to a loving, sincere appeal. Is that an option?

      • Becky says:

        I’d like to preface this by saying that very early in my marriage I made a decision to not say anything negative about my husband to anyone we know. I don’t do it on facebook, in letters or e-mails, on the phone or in person. I feel comfortable sharing this here because it’s unlikely anyone here knows him.

        I don’t think your suggestion would work, Kelly. I’ve tried explaing to him before that it’s hard to have fun with/teach the children and keep a spotless home. His response it to compare our home with other families. The problem is that the homes he compares ours to don’t have small children, or they don’t homeschool, or both parents work and the kids go to school so no one is in the house for the majority of the day. When I try to point out examples of homes we’ve been to where the mother is at home with the (young) children and/or they homeschool, he says something like, “I just couldn’t live that way” (referring to the condition of their home). When I am ill he doesn’t complain about the house falling behind, but the second I’m up he complains about what a disaster it is. I had an unexpected, unwanted cesarean with our first child and suffered from depression, and just a week after leaving the hospital he came into the room one morning terribly upset about how messy the house had become.

        I deeply love and respect my husband. He’s an amazing father. I just don’t know how to get through to him without seeming like I’m trying to change him, control him, or boss him around.

        • Becky says:

          and p.s. I wish my husband could meet your husband. I’d love to have another man tell him to “get over it” ha ha :)

          • Word Warrior says:

            Oh Becky, I wish I could just hug you. My second thought had to do precisely with “other men” encouraging your husband. You know I’ve said before, there are so many principles from God’s Word that must work together for everything to work–and this one’s no exception.

            I don’t know your situation, or your husband’s or church’s. But I know for us, my husband is constantly admonished by the “older, wiser” men in the spiritual leadership at our church to “love your wife as your own flesh” and treat her as the weaker vessel. (That’s not an insult for you feminists reading ;-) That’s a blessing to a wife where a husband learns to show more grace in a situation where he may be likely not to.)

            So, though it’s hard to really orchestrate, I will pray that your husband can come under some godly mentoring and someone could encourage him in this area to give you additional grace.

            • Julie says:

              We have 5 that are 7 and under and 1 that is due in a few weeks. I usally buy paper plates when pregnant. This saves time and helps a lot. We do cereal for breakfast and what I call cans for lunch. Often when my husband is not home for lunch we open the pantry and everyone picks a can of something. We usally have beans, corn, greenbeans, peaches, pears, pineapple or what ever else happens to be in the pantry. This fills up my boys and usally I only have 1or 2 things to microwave. Limiting toys also helps. Right now we have a Lego duplo bucket and a few cars. Not much to pick up. I Also nap everyday, my 2 1/2 yr old does not, he stays in the room with me and plays with legos or watches a movie.
              Becky I would pray that God changes your husbands heart. It could take a year or more. Also maybe you can make a room where you can have arts or toys and just shut the door. My husband is okay if he does not see the mess.
              My little ones love to vacuum, especially my 2 1/2 yr old. Get a vacuum with a hand held section and let them vacuum the kitchen/dining room floor. It has worked so well, sweeping is to hard, after you start vacuuming the mess you will not like to sweep any more either. Little ones can also “mop” the floor if you give them a wet washcloth. My boys love this and sometimes they will do it on there on just to play with water. You will still need to mop but not as often because most of the mess is up.
              Julie

    • Christie P says:

      My thoughts and prayers are with you, Becky! I too feel sometimes that my husband is a bit over the top about this or that and am tempted to sit and wish he would change. But I have to live under the knowledge that God has chosen this man for me and He is good and my husband is good for me (and my children). May the Lord give you such a heart to serve him (even in his idiosynchrosies) that the cleaning is a JOY to you!

      Maybe my husband is a bit like yours – he tells me that he cannot think, his mind cannot function if there is excessive clutter around the house. When he was single, everything was perfectly in it’s place (a bit OCD) and yes, that is unrealistic when you have littles, but instead of just being unrealistic, perhaps your husband, like mine, loses his edge and finds himself unable to lead, to function when mess and clutter are around. So perhaps the cleaning and decluttering is actually a ministry to him to enable him to be the man you need him to be.

      And maybe arts and crafts can be done in the garage, driveway or back patio (on sunny days) where the mess can be hosed away! ;) OR, why not? Declare afternoon art and bath time! Tape paper to the walls of the bathtub and let them paint to their hearts content followed directly by a bath! :) I’ll pray the Lord to show you some creative ways to let them get messy! :)

      • Christie P says:

        oh, and an afterthought, we joined a local homeschool co-op that meets one day a week. My 5yo does her art there – because I’m such a structured person that I would never, on my own, get out the playdough and finger paints! So maybe that would be an option too! (and yes, I go to the co-op with a 2yo and 8mo in tow – and coordinate the nusery there. :) )

        • Mary Jo says:

          Christie P,

          I found both of your comments to be full of wisdom. I especially appreciated your encouragement to see these areas as ways to minister to our husbands. (We are HIS help-meet, after all)

          And I agree: dragging out paints and plah-doh is the last thing I want to do, so the-once-a-week co-op is awesome for my girls too. But there are other ways to get around this problem. In conjunction with your art/bath suggestion, I have put the girls in swim clothes on a warm, summer day and let them paint cardboard boxes in the driveway. When they were finished, the hose washed the whole mess away and my beloved came home to colorful boxes and happy girls– but no mess!

          As wives, we need to remember that our husband’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. We can talk to him, nag him, drop subtle (or not-so-subtle)hints– but we can’t change his heart! Only God can do that. So, pray for him constantly and seek for ways to minister to his needs, as Christie has suggested.

          Another thing that we often forget is not to compare ourselves by ourselves. Just because “Suzie’s husband doesn’t mind the mess” doesn’t mean her husband doesn’t have other “glaring faults”. Wives that compare their husband to their friend’s husband, are tearing down their house with their own hands. And although asking a question, in a forum like this, can be helpful, each of us needs to make sure that we keep bitterness from seeping into our hearts and lives, as we read the comments of others. There is NO SUCH THING as a “normal” family! We need to get that through our thick skulls or we will never truly appreciate the blessing God has given us!

    • Lindsey says:

      Hi Becky,
      I am right here with you! We have a 5 year old, a three year old, and a 10 mo. old. I have a wonderful, God-fearing husband who also likes a tidy home. I do not have a perfectly clean home, but I have found a few things that work well for us. We have a schedule of basic things we do each day that I try to stick to-Mon.=laundry done and put away, Tues.=grocery shopping and items put away (and anyone with littles knows this can take the whole day to do! That’s why I try to schedule a whole day for it :) Wed. dusting, Thurs. vacuuming stairs and all rugs (this gets done as needed sometimes throughout the week-my little ones like to help with vacuuming), Fri.-clean bathroom (little ones pick up rugs to mop, spray floor with a mixture of vinegar and water, and mop), Sat.-help hubby with whatever he wants to do. That may not sound like major housecleaning, but when it gets done on schedule, most of the time, it keeps a relatively clean house. Please note this is just what works for us. We like to play music and sing while we work-and so much can be learned through music that you can “count” as part of homeschool-scripture memorization, there are learning songs about just about everything-check the library for suggestions-I like to look through homeschool catalogs and then check with my library to see if they have any of the cd’s-…Also, I save the “major toy pick up” for late in the day, near when my husband will come home. I like to use laundry baskets for toys. After “toy pick-up time”, I can throw the basket in a closet and shut the door. I try to straighten up, sweep and mop kitchen floor right before he comes home. Sometimes children will help with that too by spraying kitchen floor with water/vinegar mixture while I mop. They may not do it perfectly, but it gives them a way to help and when they’re older I assume they will be able to do it well just because they have been around me while they’re little. Then I try to do dishes or load dishwasher too-that makes the kitchen look much nicer! Again, please note we’re not perfect and all these things don’t get done everyday, but I think my husband is pleased with our progress in this area-I have to stay focused and not get on the computer too much during the day or get caught up in little things that can take my attention away from what I need to be doing during the day-Please know that someone else out there is doing the same things you are during your day. As my son is just 5, I do his lessons in the afternoon right before clean up time. He likes things short and sweet:) I also like books on tape/cd for when I need to just get something done (without little hands “helping) quickly. I also get those from the library. I hope I haven’t rambled too much-I’m in the same situation you are and have, by the grace of God, found what works for us. I try to cheerfully focus on what my husband likes me to do, and I find joy in keeping things simple and being his helpmeet. It’s God’s way and it is enough for me. Sending much love and prayers your way. …and one more thing-I love those “Color Wonder” posters where the markers only color on their coloring pages-not cheap, but clean and simple way for little ones to make something. I use the Joann’s coupons to try to get them for 40% off when I can.

  17. Mandi says:

    Kelly, I think you’re just great… I love these kind of posts (and the commentary that follows)!

    Here’s some little things I’ve learned over the last year with my 4 little ones 7 and under and one on the way.

    The bath advice is so true! I’ll also wipe down the bathroom while little ones are in the tub and they follow my little simon says game on what body part to wash.

    Our littles are all close in age, so we have a “community’ underwear drawer and a community pj drawer (which has basically evolved into oversized t-shirts). This helps a ton with space saving, and my 2 year old is able to put away the underwear and pjs (which are also “folded” by him as well). They each have one drawer that holds all of their clothes for the season. They may organize their drawer as they wish, but it must be organized. Oh, and the set of drawers is in the hallway across from the laundry room…not in their bedroom which has helped a ton!

    Some of mine naturally gravitate toward joyful bedmaking and actually enjoy making my king size bed! I let them. Others, not so much. Some love to sweep. They all love to clean the bathroom. I find if we’re all working in the same room together, there is a much happier tone to our work.

    If i see the windows need to be done, we’ll get out the paper towels and windex and do that.

    I’ve tried to be a list person. I’ve tried to be a scheduled person (with certain days for certain chores)…

    But for me, just doing what I see needs to be done has been the way to go. Instead of having a list glaring at me for all I didn’t accomplish, I can make an end of day mental list of what I did accomplish. For example, the kids and I folded the 5 loads of wrinkled laundry that has piled up on our guest bed for the last week and had a great talk and laugh over some things.

    Today, I felt rotten. We had school in bed. The kids relished the fact that they got to have dry cereal in cups (which my 5 and 7 year old prepared proudly and served breakfast in bed).

    The kids used their getting out of tub time to mop my bathroom floor with their washcloths before throwing them in the laundry.

    The play room door just got shut so I didn’t have to look at it. We’ll get it tomorrow.

    The kids just don’t nap anymore. :( But we have rest time… all together. We workout…all together.

    Storage bins for books are the best. Even crawlers can help with that.

    Keeping shoes just outside or just inside the entryway can be a big saver on sweeping/mopping.

    And i’m rambling… I feel you, ladies with lots of littles! Just pray and breathe and enjoy this fleeting moment! That toy room can wait til tomorrow!

    Oh, and my days go so much better when I spend 5 extra minutes making sure all the senses are being tickled… good smells, soothing music, soft blankets, atleast one candle lit…

    • Word Warrior says:

      Mandi,

      Excellent, excellent advice! And I’ve seen you in action–you’re such a sweet mama! It is as you say: balance, perspective, letting some things go, enjoying the moment, and making it work!

  18. Dawn says:

    Sometimes people think I am so amazing for having 10 children. But when I had my 2nd child, my oldest was 3; when my 3rd was born, I had a 7 yr old and a 4 yr old. You ladies with lots of really littles and no biggers are my heroes. I can’t imagine the exhaustion you must experience.
    I would be hard pressed to give advice to you; rather, I think you are doing an awesome job just because of what you’re doing!!

  19. Lisa C. says:

    I think everyone’s advice has been so great, and the advice given is definitely some suggestions worth implementing. I have five children 7 and under, with the youngest being 18 month old twins. When they were first born, I bought a Moby baby wrap and “wore” a baby for quite a few hours a day. (It was so easy to put on, even though all of that cloth looked intimidating) This freed my hands to fold clothes, make lunch (be careful around the stove :>), homeschool with free hands, and do other little things that are hard to do when holding a little one. I would even wear my wrap at church, so I could worship with both hands lifted high! Be encouraged! I try even now to remind myself that one day before I know it, I will miss the sound of little feet pattering around the house, and little voices calling for “Momma”.

  20. Mrs. Klause says:

    I have found that making meals more simple has been very helpful in our home. Specifically, breakfast….
    Breakfast cannot be an event for us. We cannot spend an hour in the kitchen (right now) and still be able to progress through the day like we need to. So, I set out a continental breakfast (if you will) in the mornings before anyone rises up. Then, when each child wakes, she can go and get her nibble and proceed with her morning business. This has made a HUGE difference in our home!!! There is always fruits and nuts out. Sometimes I add muffins or toast. Other times I will have scrambled or boiled eggs ready to serve themselves. Sometimes cereal… Whatever it is, they can easily get their own breakfast. The children are not necessarily left to themselves to eat all alone at the table (my children are 8, 5, 4, 11 months) but this frees me up to keep moving forward. It has also been helpful in that my 8yo (3rd grade) can get up and eat and get started with her schoolwork and chores much more easily.
    :)

    • Word Warrior says:

      Love this tip. We eat a lot of cereal for this same reason. Almost any of the children, down to the 4 year old, can help themselves as they rise, while I tidy up, drink coffee, tend to the baby, etc. I know it’s not the healthiest though, so I may consider your suggestion. I second the notion, breakfast can’t be a big event for us.

    • Charity says:

      Awesome suggestion! This would probably work really well for my family when my children are a little older. Thanks! :)

  21. Heidi says:

    Kelly

    “we don’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities”

    Is there really other families like our’s? Glad to hear other families like to be home…Oh, Piano teacher comes to our home, too…ha!

    Great post, Kelly…

  22. Rebekah says:

    I find that a keep it simple approach works perfectly for me and 3 kids under 3. I noticed alot of women skipping naptime with the kids, which I think can be a big mistake! I divide the day in 4 portions. The first half is from 5 – 12, the next from 12 to 2, the next is 2-6 and the last is after husband gets home and we work together. I have daily goals that are my first priority: dishes, tidying, reading to my kids, showering etc. Then I pick one thing I need to accomplish like, cleaning the bathroom, or mopping floors. I include the kids in these jobs as much as possible. When pregnant or nursing a new baby I try to nap with the kids everyday. I really try not to do chores during this time. First off, it is a very easy way to get new baby on your schedule if you just lay down to nap after lunch. Naptime keeps me in a good heart. If I’m not tired I pray or read or work on a project that brings me joy.
    After nap I like to just spend time with the kids, maybe doing a few little daily priorities like chopping veges, or washing up dinner prep dishes but not much else. We try to go outside for exercise.
    When my husband gets home I try to have my agenda out of the way, so we can only eat, play and work on bedtime together. We have a good time. kids are normally asleep by 7:30 or 8
    The rest of the evening is for my husband and I.
    It is more important to my husband that the kids are well trained and well disciplined and that I am joyful and rested than that the house is perfect or that dinner is on time. Most days the dishes are done and the laundry is at least folded and we eat dinner on time.
    Put your time into training your kids to behave and be loving, and it really pays off. Set a LOOSE schedule and REALISTIC goals. Ask your husband what is important to him for sanity, ask yourself the same question. Remember that your investment in your relationships is more important than the work. Eliminating chaos with the kids and spending time together makes any house, no matter the toys on the floor a blessing to be in.
    Also, even an eighteen month or 2 year old can be a helper if you are willing to do a little training!

  23. Natasha says:

    I have two girls ages 4 and 3. It was really hard when they were under two and esp bc I had two autoimmune diseases. I had zero energy.

    I read “The baby whisperer” By tracy Hogg. It was the only advice I needed about sleeping schedules etc. It helped tremendously. I didn’t bother reading about any fast ways to keep the houseclean and multitasking etc. I also at the time didn’t have a dishwasher or a washer and dryer and at we have only one car.

    I gave my kids baths everyday. Honestly, I loved the whole bath routine. I would put the girls in their cribs while I jumped in the shower to wash off really quick, then I would take a bath with them. I can’t sit on the side of the tub hunched over bc I have a bad back. It was a nice calm time for us.s I sleep better when I am showered and nice and clean. I usually lit two candles and used some nice Johnson&Johnson Lavender bath wash and we just took our time.

    If my husband was home to help with bath time then I would take a shower and hold one baby at a time and wash them and sing to them. Then after the 2nd one was washed, I could take a long shower by myself while the hubby played with them. My girls still remember this and when I have time Ill shower then one at a time and sing that same song.

    I always felt bad too because I didn’t have the time to send birthday cards, make phone calls and to just be encouraging to those friends and family around me. But then I got over it. I realized this was a special time and everything else was just going to go on the back burner for awhile.

    I also only went grocery shopping by myself and I didn’t use coupons. It was way too much of a hassle and too time consuming. We are a one income family and are not wealthy. Before grocery shopping I’d buy a coffee for myself and a doughnut or some kind of treat to eat while i shopped. I went after the girls had gone to bed and hubby was home to watch them. It was an enjoyable time to myself, and sometimes I would bring my ipod and listen to music while i shopped.

    My babies went to bed at 7pm,( read babywhisperer book ;) and my hubby and I had 3 blissful hours to read or watch movies together while we ate some good dessert.

  24. Gayle says:

    Great suggestions (in the post and in the comments). My heart goes out to all the Mamas with only littles. That is a tough, but very sweet season. My advice is to become friends with Mamas that have older children (like me!)… I love, love, love all of my friends with only littles and so do my big children. It’s a nice thing to give them a break because, around here, many hands make it easier to entertain them for awhile.

    Also, Kelly, I see that you mentioned guarding your phone time, and to that I would add watching our time spent on the computer, as well. This old box can be one of THE biggest time-suckers ever if we are not careful.

  25. kasey g says:

    I have a proven suggestion. After reading(Duggars. 20 and counting) book a few years ago i found that Blanket time works wonders. I have two very active boys ages 4 and 2. When we are out or mom needs a time out i pull out there very small blanket and they get to chose one quiet toy or book to sit with. They are up to 20 min right now and this has been a life saver. The boys sit on the blanket for there time with no talking or being silly. Also if the toy suddenly flys off the blanket they do not get it back. I started out with 5 min then worked up to 20. I would love for them to be at 30 min but we are getting there one step at a time.

    We love Blanket Time:)

  26. 1. We use part of the driving time for school. My oldest takes his memorize work there or we do music appretation with classic radio. just know i am teaching the differences between synphony, concert and sonata, and all that in the car.
    2. i go to a bible study for ladies once a week. an elderly lady watches the children. my oldest does his copywork there and some drawing. i think i should hire that lady, because my son does a much prettier job with her than with me…
    3. i read the Bible aloud to the children while they eat breakfast. i eat my own either before or after.
    4. this morning i was sick. my oldest was doing school in bed with me.

  27. 5. I forgot to add that i do some of my own stuff during homeschool co-op. i have been able to mend socks, read and organize papers there.
    6. I only iron couple times A YEAR. Yes, my husband is a blue collar and wears a uniform that get cleaned at work.
    when clothes come out of the washer, i strech them with the hand as good as i can before going in the dryer. i also hang many.
    7. my husband does most of the groceries right after work because the supermarkets in that area are much better than in our town. that saves me a lot of time too.
    8. i only wash when the wash machine is going to be full.
    9. i do not change the children sheets every week.

  28. Taryn says:

    stevenandersonfamily is an interesting blog. She is expecting their sixth child. For anemia I cooked more meals with beef(iron). We didn’t keep toys(no Disney, Sesame St.,etc.) in bedrooms(4 boys,2 girls). I try to be a minimalist-it just feels neater- We on purpose don’t have a hutch in the diningroom,etc. Now I watch my granddaughters(2,18m. and 9m.). Homeschooling(mostly Abeka) is 8:30-11:30-core subjects(since 1985- this will be our last year). Don Aslett’s books at the library have helped-especially Clutter’s Last Stand. We don’t celebrate Halloween or have any “holiday clutter”. We just try to have a safe, happy home with a big table and lots of chairs. I am not a fan of caged pets, the pet industry or expensive vets. We have had cats and dogs. I never iron or use coupons. Alexandra Swann’s book-No Regrets- about how her mother homeschooled her and her 9 siblings helped. home-school.com has Joyce Swann’s articles. The Duggars’ book was very good. On the walls are two clocks, mirrors, a map of Long Island and King James Bible Scriptures- no wall clutter-even in the bedrooms. I do use index cards for lists. We use soap-free bath products for the children or just water. I have a short nap every day. We never did “time-out” etc. We just try to make good memories.

  29. harshika says:

    A little late in commenting here, ok, very late but I’d like to throw in my 2 cents too! I read all the comments with great fascination…and am seriously impressed with some mommies out there! Surely, it’s only God who can enable them to have multiple babies at home and still be able to have their sanity intact. I have just one lil boy, 2.5. Much as we love babies, we decided to take a break untill the next one because I really,really freaked looking after just one! I have diabetes and am overweight which leaves me with not much energy. And my body really needed to recover from the c-sec and the weight gain. So this year we are finally in a better frame of mind, body and spirit to try and have another one.
    We are Indian christians living in the middle east-Dubai, UAE. Love it here. But living in the desert means sand and fine dust-lots of it. So vacuming and mopping everyday is non-negotiable. If I dont, we will be heading towards respiratory issues…which is quite common amongst children here. Living in AC 24/7 doesnt help either. We get domestic-maids very easily here but I just chose not to have one so that I wont sit on my butt whole day. Now, with my boy what works for me is that he gets up rather late in the day- 11.30am. Which means he goes to bed very late, never before 11.30pm. Yes yes!! That late! This is probably because of a typical middle-eastern/asian culture/weather thingy. We have long days and short nights unlike the colder countries. So the sun rises early and sets down late. Its still bright around here untill 7.30 pm during summers. Plus coupled with extreme heat, the general population tends to keep late hours. Evenings are more vibrant here because the day time is simply too much sun! Everyone heads out for family fun in the evenings to the parks and beaches. Schools start late although not too late either. Every outdoor activity including work comes to a screeching halt betwen 12-3 pm. Infact, its a govt law that nobody should be expected to work outside during these hours except the cab drivers who ofcourse have ac cars.

    Why do I mention all this? Well because in the overall scheme of things, this works great for me. With my son getting up so late in the day, almost all my work gets done even before he is up. I rise at 5.30 am and by 11.30 I am done for the day-yayyy! This includes sweeping, mopping, dusting, cleaning toilets, washing the apptt balcony, watering the plants, cooking breakfast,lunch and dinner(from scratch)-everyday/each day. I cook all 3 meals during this time itself and reheat when it’s time to eat. My husband carries his breakfast and lunch to work as he is a mad-busy-workaholic attorney. I dont know if letting the kids sleep in late will work for any mommy here because it depends on the weather/school going age of the children etc. We are in a different world/time zone altogether, so I must not impose! Amazing how God has created this mindbogglingly diverse world hey?

    At the risk of repeating myself, let me sum it up as to how and why my son’s sleep schedule is a godsend:

    1. the heat and weather wont let him out anyway-compare it with terrible snow in your region???
    2. he isnt going to school yet, so sleeping in late isnt an issue. When he starts school ofcourse things will change but if i have a 2nd baby soon, i will be praying only and only about it’s sleeping habits.
    3. The general population folows this trend, so when he is up and bright to go out and play in the evening, so are his friends and other toddlers his age.
    4. He is a real good sleeper- 12 hours straight at night and one hour nap in the afternoon. Only prayers helped me in this, honestly!
    5.**Sometimes I combine a grocery trip with another mommy in our building complex and have my driver take us. We shop in peace while the driver keeps an eye on our kids. (I am not showing off about the driver bit btw, pls remember fuel and labour is veryyyyy cheap here. Gas is cheaper than water guys!)
    7. Because the majority follow the same rythm in their houselholds, we sometimes swap meals/baby sitting service. If I am sick, i know at least 2-3 mothers who will have had lunch ready around the same time as me and simply ask them for extras. Please ask for help, dont be shy. If some mommy has an appointment she can leave her baby with me cos she will know my rotuine too. So the idea is to identify atleast one family with a similar routine for easier times when daddy isnt around.( and to bless a neighbour in the process)
    8.Must say, make sleep a biggie for the kids esp if they are under 3….around here, for all mommies, night sleep schedules and afternoon siesta are a huge,huge help. I cannot imagine what would happen if my son didnt allow me that big block of time in the mornings!! However, in colder countries I suppose,you have to make the best of the much lesser daylight hours…and probably kids dont get so tired either?? Around here, go out for 10 mins and you will feel you are in hell, so imagine what happens to the lil ones!
    9.I am going on for too long and realised that I havent helped much…please feel free not to publish this comment!And err, awesome blog….lurveeeeeeeeeeee it!

    cheers,
    harshika
    dubai

  30. harshika says:

    10, Cannot resist my mutlitaking tip- on a typical day, you will find me with a facepack-ironing-oiled hair/ painting my nails while in the car/folding laundry while listening to audio Bible, taking a shower and washing out the toilet while at it/ mending a button on husband’s shirt while making my son colour/ dusting while on the phone with mom/keeping away the laundry while something’s cooking on the stove/giving myself a mini-ped while son is in the bath tub/washing the balcony while watering the plants/ sorting my closet bit by bit while ironing and putting away the ironed clothes/swapping a recipe or a paedratician’s name or some fun stuff while meeting other moms in the park and my son is playing..etc. Boy, I sound demented now!

  31. Kay Jay says:

    Hello! I am a SAHM of 3 children (boys) 3 1/2, 2, and my youngest and only girl is 8 months old. I constantly feel like I am trying to solve one of those square puzzles where the pieces are intact and slide around with one missing in the bottom corner, by this I m ean that as soon as I get one area of my home squared away then it messes it up somewhere else and then I go to fix that area and mess up what I just worked so hard to clean in the first place. I would just like to have all of the pieces in the right places so I can focus on my children and then begin a regular schedule to keep it all that way day in and day out. I am so behind that I become very overwhelmed.My boys are very destructive and as much as I try to properly discipline and get them to help out, they are still so little that it is relentless right now. I use cloth diapers which save money, but take more time and energy than other diapers. I only have two in diapers and 2 year old is definantly read to potty train because he will not leave his clothes or diaper on. My husband works night shift as a police officer and requires a lot of sleep, so doing things before 2pm during the day is challenging. Most days I find myself doing what I can and getting frustrated and then just sitting on the couch to watch my boys play while I nurse and tend to my daughters needs and then work on lunch and try to quietly clean the kitchen which is open to the living room. If you all haven’t heard of the FLYLADY which has wonderful plans to get things done you should check that out at http://www.flylady.net It helps give me structure and an idea on how to do things, but I still struggle so much. Prayer and love for my children are what gets me through. I would like to have another child before we call it quits but I must get things straightened out first.

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