I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘mom of many,’ but just a few years ago my three kids were all home and I had to keep them busy and alive from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I can scarcely remember those days, and honestly, I’m not exactly sure how I did it. Even today with two of them in school full-time and the youngest in half-day preschool three days a week, I can hardly manage the mere five hours between school and bedtime (forget all day on school breaks!) It’s a full time job dragging them all over town on errands, trying to keep them from killing each other at home, or driving to three different types of summer and after-school activities.
So, what about those large families with four, five, or (gulp) six or more kids? After a while, you know that they must have developed some brilliant systems to keep sanity in their homes. In fact, I think there are some lifesaving tricks that those of us with smaller families can learn from these exceptional, professional moms of many!
Clothes in Boxes
I have friends that adopted twins only five months younger than their third biological child, so the family essentially had triplets. Three cribs crammed into a tiny bedroom didn’t leave space for a changing table, much less dressers. Solution? They stored all the clothes in labeled economy-sized diaper boxes under the cribs and on shelves. Do you have multiple kids in a small room? You could totally do this with different sized Rubbermaid bins as well.
Our contributor Carrie first turned me on to this one when she wrote a post about it. I love it! Super cute and helpful when lost in a crowd at the Zoo or Children’s Museum. Plus several more sweet benefits from a mom of many!
A Kid for Each Day of the Week
My friend with seven kids came up with a brilliantly fair way to divide the things that all siblings fight over. Seven kids for seven days. Each day a different kid takes turn picking the music on the radio, helping mom cook, or passing out treats. Those of us with fewer kids could do this, too. Oldest takes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and youngest gets Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Mom gets Sunday (Hallelujah!!!)
With multiple school-aged kids coming home with a million papers, different library books, and varying assignment due dates, there has to be some organization. Carrie found some great tools for organizing all this stuff with labels, dividers, and even creative supply caddies for homework. Read this blog post for all the details.
Hands on the Shopping Cart
This is a lifesaver for my friend with TWO sets of twins under four (or for any mom with more kids than hands!) Whether at Trader Joe’s or Costco, each child’s hand needs to be attached to the shopping cart at all times. You could also use this trick with a stroller, too. Genius, right?
For moms with older kids, this one is a must. How to handle the before/after-school madness? And all that stuff?! First-off you need the space…either a mudroom or a large entryway near the door you come/go. A line of labeled cubbies, shoe racks, and coat hooks work beautifully for backpacks, muddy boots, and dripping coats (hello, Portland eight months out of the year!) Make sure to install them at a level where little hands can reach them. Don’t have the space for an entryway? Check out this mom’s closet makeover!
One of my friends has six boys. Yes, you heard me right. SIX. Poor dear washes a lot of mud, grime, and stank each week. So, when adding on to their house recently, they put the boys’ room right above the laundry room with a built-in laundry shoot. You can still do this, even with only one boy!
Ending Mealtime and Clean-Up Madness
Every day is a battle in my home over who gets the pink cup, the blue bowl, or the Minnie Mouse plate. Times three meals. So how does a mom of many set the table without meltdowns or doing 58 loads of dishes? Some say they only have plain, identical cups, bowls, and plates. But for those of us who foolishly thought the rainbow IKEA dishware was a good idea, we assign (see #3) a rotation of colors. One mom friend stores the day’s dishes on top of coasters labeled with each child’s for use at all three meals.