Often I forget that not everybody has 9 children. I know that sounds crazy- but having a big family just feels normal to me. We simply have more plates to set at the table, more laundry to wash and more laughter to be heard. I couldn't image life any other way.
So when I feel the stares and hear "Boy do you have your hands full" for the 300th time in a week- I guess I start to realize that maybe our life is not as normal as I thought. :D
Last week I had a reader email me and ask me to share what our everyday life was like. Share how we manage life with nine kids and get it all done- their schedules, household chores, time together as a couple, individual time with our kids, extra curricular activities, quiet time, grocery shopping, doctors appointments and even blogging.
First I want to start by saying that we by no means 'get it all done' like I wish we could. Often times there are more dust bunnies than I want to admit. Often times the laundry and stacks of papers pile up to an overwhelming amount. I guarantee that if you stopped by our house you would definitely find way less than perfection. And, I am okay with that. Because perfect people are over rated if you ask me- and it's no fun to be around them. ;0) Anyway, if having to have it all together and having to be perfect would mean we would adopt less- then I don't want anything to do with perfection.
There was a time where I would have measured my success in life the way the world does- a big house, new car, dinner on the table by 6:00, size 5 jeans, and being the very best at it all. But the Lord has taught me that those things were really all about 'me' and not at all about Him. He taught me that He doesn't need a perfect person for the job- because HE is perfect. He just needs someone who is willing (no matter how imperfect they may feel).
In all honesty, even when we had two children, I had days when I couldn't get it all done. Days were I forgot things and days where the dishes piled up. Days where I didn't know where I would fit a dentist appointment in- let alone time with the Lord. That is just a part of living. We try our best- but somehow we cannot seem to get it all done just the way we'd like.
I realize that I am not really answering the question of how we 'do' life as a big family- but I really wanted to remind other mommies that none of us have it all together all of the time- and that's okay. Remembering back to my childhood I can't remember if my mom always had the laundry caught up or if my dad always got his to do list done... what I remember are the times my mom spend reading Raggedy Ann and Andy to me snuggled in her bed. What I remember are the times that my dad took me up on top of the grain elevator in Illinois he managed and we would stand side by side and look at the world below. Those are the things that mattered- that I felt safe and loved.
Now to try to answer the question...
Over the years I have learned to say 'no' a lot. Even though there are LOTS of good things I could choose to do with my time- I have learned to stay focused on the things that God has for me. So while being involved in the PTO is a good thing- if it isn't what God has for me right now at this time in our lives, it is okay to say no- and not feel guilty.
Chore wise- at our house everyone is involved. I believe it is my job as a parent to teach my children to be responsible and teach them to have pride in their work. Every person, from the smallest to the tallest at our house has jobs they can do. We work together to make our home run smoothly. We do '25 thing pick up' often through out the day to keep the house uncluttered. I also think it's important to teach them how rewarding it is to serve one another. Makes for a good spouse one day as well. I think a lot of times parents believe if they 'give' their child everything and 'do' everything for their child that they are being 'good' parents. I believe that in reality we are just robbing our children of becoming self sufficient and teaching them that the whole world is there to serve them. Can you imagine being married to someone like that?
Another thing we keep to a minimum is extra curricular activities. While we all want our kids to discover their strengths and talents- I think that often times we go overboard. Our kids are run from soccer practice to singing lessons to boy scouts. This allows little time for family and for just being a kid. Families spend huge amounts of money each year on lesson and more lessons- and our kids are run ragged- while quality time with their parents is lost.
As for grocery shopping. We try to do the big once a month shopping- and use a monthly menu. You can see a sample here. In between we just do a quick stop when necessary for milk and fresh produce. We keep meals simple and everyone helps with the cooking and clean up. I also use the crock pot as often as I can.
Todd and I are also blessed with some amazing big kids who love to spend time with their younger siblings. We are able to occasionally get away for a quiet dinner together or even just a walk- although we try to never take advantage of that. Our big kids are just that- kids. And, it is our responsibility to be parents- we do not expect them to be constant baby sitters.
Another thing we have always done is have early bed times. On school nights the little kids are in their beds by 7:00 and can read (or look at books if they are too young to read) until 7:30- then lights out. That gives us time in the evening alone.
To ensure we have enough one on one time with our kid- we often have a different child stay up with us for that 30 minutes between 7 and 7:30 and we just spend time cuddling and talking with them. When Carson first moved into our family we did that a lot with him. We would rock him and sing to him and just tell him how much we loved him. While he loved his new siblings we really wanted him to get a lot of one on one time with just Todd and I. It really paid off and he has bonded like a champ.
All in all, we just do what works best for our family- and some time that changes. Some times we need to take a step back and reevaluate the way we are spending our time and ask God what He would have us do with our day. Ask Him to show us clearly what is most important to Him. With our oldest in college we know how quickly the times goes and we try to see the gift in each day we are given- even when we mess them up. ;0)