Back when I only had two babies (16 months apart), I was just winging it. At that stage, aren’t we all? I mean, you have a baby, the nurses help you out for a couple of days, and then they send you home without any grown ups to make sure you’re doing it right.
If you’re lucky, you have family members to lean on. (Or call every 20 minutes to ask what you should do next. Not that I’d do anything like that.)
Slowly time goes by. Eventually you’re able to get longer stretches of sleep. You might have more babies. And after a while, something clicks. You learn to let go of unimportant things, and cling tightly to ideas that are proven winners.
I’ve mentioned this before, but when you reach baby number four, you start to get the feeling that you can actually handle this mothering thing. It isn’t the scary thing that always seems just beyond your grasp anymore.
Large family mothers have to run their families in a way that looks different from most smaller families. Sharp, but workable, ideas are born out of necessity. In fact, all mothers can learn a thing or two from large family mothering.
9 Large Family Mothering Tips You Should Use Today
Here are some of the ideas that mothers of large families depend on to make life work.
If you have a large family, the work load is large. Every person needs food, clothes, stuff and time for education and activities. But that doesn’t mean that Mom has to be the one to cover everything. Kids are capable of making their own lunches (even as young as kindergarten!).
They can set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. (Though some kids will need more incentive to listen to the alarm than others!)
And many chores can be done by the person who created the chore in the first place. If a child can operate a tablet, they can operate a broom. Depending on their age and maturity level, my kids are able to care for animals, empty and fill the dishwasher, sweep floors, put away their own laundry, and even make supper.
Meanwhile I catch up on my soaps and eat bonbons. Just kidding! When the kids handle some of these chores, that frees me up to catch up on extra laundry, do a deeper cleaning of a room, declutter, and other bigger chores that I wouldn’t want young ones handling. It also gives me a little breathing room in my day so I don’t turn into a Mommy Monster.
Speaking of decluttering, that’s a must in a large family home. Unless you live in a mansion, fitting a large family into a smaller house is tough. There’s no way to keep everything that comes through the door and have a grip on your sanity.
Large family mothering demands a good decluttering on a regular basis. I always have a garbage bag in the corner of my dining room that is headed to a donation pile somewhere. Every day I keep an eye out for anything that no one uses. If we’ve outgrown something, it’s gone.
With every pile of laundry, I usually find something that is outgrown or needs to be thrown away.
Our family enjoys the simple things in life. The more we say “no”, the more we appreciate those little things that usually get lost in the chaos.
Instead of taking a trip to a pricey amusement park, we head to a local (free) park. Rather than going to the movies, we stay home and play board games. This saves a ton of money and has been essential to helping us get out of debt. But we’re still making great family memories.
Rather than making elaborate Pinterest worthy meals, we stick with tried and true favorite recipes. We’re able to eat a delicious variety of foods without breaking the bank.
When there’s a small holiday like St. Patrick’s Day, we skip the fancy leprechaun search with golden coins and other gifts. Instead, I treat the kids to their once a year box of Lucky Charms.
4. One on One Time
When you have a large family, it’s important to make one on one time a priority. We love to do things as a family, and I especially love that my kids can usually find one sibling to get along with during their day. But I want to be sure to give each of them my undivided attention on a regular basis.
We do this in a variety of ways. Don’t assume that one on one time means taking kids out for a special day filled with expensive meals and tickets.
Some ways we get in one on one time include:
- taking one kid with us to run errands
- asking one child to help me make dinner
- writing in a special mother/son journal
- playing some one on one basketball
- redeeming a free meal coupon they earned at school
- just sitting down to talk
5. The Calendar
I think most mothers of large families have The Calendar. This magical calendar is what keeps the family from missing important things. If The Calendar is lost, Mom is not going to be happy.
Some moms will even color code the calendar to see at a glance who needs to be where. My oldest child is yellow, so I know that he’s the one that needs to be at practice tonight at 6:00.
I used to write all of this on the wall calendar in our kitchen. But now I’m a huge fan of the Cozi calendar. Cozi gives me the chance to color code everyone, but I can also access the app from anywhere. That’s handy for making doctor appointments or setting reminders for myself right away. (No more lost scraps of paper reminders in the bottom of my purse!)
The fact that Hubby can see the calendar is a nice bonus. He knows what we need to juggle each day and can try to avoid busy days for his own appointments.
6. Problem Solving
Who has time to solve every little problem for their kids? I didn’t sign on to be the full time family judge and jury. And if I solve every problem for my kids, what am I teaching them? A lot of reinforcement that they should run to me every time they have trouble in their lives.
I’d rather teach them how to deal with a problem as it pops up. When I catch someone solving a problem, I praise them. It can be as simple as picking up the trash that missed the can the first time. Or as complicated as sharing a beloved toy. The more I compliment this behavior, the more they use it.
7. Plan Ahead
The more planning you do ahead of time, the easier life gets. Look at your calendar on Sunday evening. That will give you time to grab that gold paint your son needs for his school project (rather than rushing out the night before and paying double).
I have a general meal plan. I never sit down and say “We’ll eat spaghetti on Monday, chicken tacos on Tuesday” etc. But I do write a list of 14 meals I can make in the next two weeks. Each day, I pick the meal that sounds good or is easy for a busy day.
Planning ahead means you have snacks for the cheerleaders, breakfast foods for everyone, and the uniform is clean for today’s game. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
8. Know Your Dailies
I have four things I must do every morning to keep things running smoothly.
- Unload the dishwasher that I ran overnight. If necessary, reload and run again in the late morning.
- Make my bed (This is where I fold laundry)
- Wash and dry 3 loads of laundry. (Preferably get it folded, too!)
- Pick out supper from my meal plan list early in the day to avoid 5:00 burn out.
If I don’t get much more cleaning or general homemaking done on my busy days, that’s ok. Because I’ve learned to…
9. Let It Go
Repeat after me: You are one woman. You can not do everything. Don’t believe it when the world promises you that you can.
You’ll have seasons of life when you’re exhausted from growing or raising a baby. Times when someone is sick and it takes all of your attention. And life will throw you unexpected curve balls. That’s when you let go of the cobwebs and homemade desserts.
Because you’ll also find times when life is flowing smoothly. The kids get older and can care for themselves. You’ll find the time to read books and learn a hobby.
If you can’t learn to release some of your type A tendencies, you’ll make yourself and everyone around you miserable. If you don’t learn this sooner as a large family mom, you’ll learn it the hard way later.
Take a cue from these large family mothering tips and make life better.
Even if you don’t have four or more kids, you can borrow ideas from those of us who do. It’s almost like having a family member to call!
Be sure to check out How to Organize a Large Family in a Small House.
We need a 10th tip! Share your best large family mothering tips in the comments.