Tuesday, September 5, 2017

8 Things I've Learned as CEO of a Big Family

I like to joke that I'm the CEO of our family, but seriously. I am.

Of course Phillip and I are equal partners and all that, but it doesn't mean we do the exact same things. Because I'm the one at home, he mostly counts on me to figure out what keeps our family of 8 running smoothly, and over the years I've learned a thing or two about what works (and what doesn't.)

Most of these are applicable to all families of any size, but when children outnumber the parents 3:1, they're critical for day-to-day operations.

#1: Have a weekly meeting with your spouse.

Every Sunday night, Phillip and I sit down for what we call "the executive meeting." My eye starts to twitch if we miss one week, and if two weeks go by I start questioning every life decision I've ever made.

We go over the calendar so we know whether I need to be home Tuesday morning for the furnace guy or he needs to come home in time to take someone to soccer practice.

We touch base on house projects in progress and fun things we want to do with the kids, and put the next steps on the calendar. None of it happens if we don't do this.

#2: Keep a running grocery list.

It works for some people to run to the store for a couple of things every few days, but not for me. With a bunch of little kids, one quick trip takes forever, and then I'm crazy at the end. I want to get everything in one trip per week, and that's it.

So we have a running grocery list. Everybody in the family knows where it is, and they know that when they want something or especially when they use up the last of something, they need to write it on the list.

Verbal requests to me do not count. If it's not written on the list, don't expect it to be in the house this week, period.

#3: Carpool like it's going out of style.

It took me a while to accept the idea of carpooling. Other parents seemed perfectly happy to drive their kids all over tarnation and back, and I felt like I should be, too. But with multiple kids in activities that often conflict in time and location, asking for rides occasionally was a sheer necessity.

Then an amazing thing happened: the other parents started asking me to give their kids rides the next time. I'm beginning to think that none of us really like all the taxi driving as much as we pretend to.

One thing I know for sure is that having a big family requires organization. Here are some tips and ideas I use in order to get 6 kids dressed, fed, and wherever they’re supposed to be every day. I really couldn’t live without these large family hacks! #bigfamilies #largefamily #parenting #familylife

#4: Designate a place for your kids to put papers for you.

For the same reason they only want your undivided attention when you're on the phone, kids always wait until you're simultaneously feeding the baby, making dinner, and performing open-heart surgery to give you 5 notices from school and ask you to sign a field trip permission slip for the aquarium.

It's for that reason I have an inbox sitting on our computer desk. It's literally a wire inbox from Staples like you would find in an office. At those moments, it's a lifesaver to be able to say "write your initial on the corner and put it in my inbox."

The kids rarely even need to be told now; they just inform me that there's something from their teacher in my inbox and I'll get to it when I have the time. I try to at least rifle through it once a day.

#5: Harness the power of many and work together.

They say many hands make light work, and it's absolutely true. When all of us divide and conquer to clean the kitchen after dinner, we accomplish in 20 minutes what would take one person an hour or more. I try to extend that principle to as many things as I can.

These are 8 things I do to keep my family of 8 running smoothly. Most of the time, that is.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Whenever the house or the yard is out-of-control messy, I round everyone up and we all work on one area at a time to put it back together. It's amazing how much 8 people can get done if we're all working hard.

This is one of those times where the numbers totally work in your favor.

#6: Find schedules and routines that work for you.

I don't have time to follow each kid around all day asking, "Did you do your chore? Did you do your homework? Did you put your backpack away? Did you practice piano?" I know, because I used to try.

When I realized I was asking the same exact things every day, I wrote them all down and posted the list on the wall. No more nagging and micromanaging. All I have to ask is one catch-all question: "Did you do your list?" and that's it.

Listing the steps for things you commonly do  bedtime, getting ready in the morning, coming home from sports practice  and posting them somewhere (with pictures if you have kids who can't read yet) saves you a lot of repeating yourself. Not all, but a lot.

#7: Develop your family identity.

I'm not a huge believer in one-on-one "date nights" with each of the kids. Most often we're doing stuff as a family, or at least in a group of 3 or 4. Not only does that give siblings a chance to bond (more on that in a second,) it also gives our kids a sense of family identity.

I think in any family, but especially in a big family, it's important that kids feel they belong to something special. In my experience, Family Identity = Having Fun Together + Establishing Regular Traditions. Going camping every summer, singing the same ridiculous song at bedtime every night, or having Taco Tuesday are all examples of regular traditions.

Once I randomly brought home pomegranates from the store and we happened to eat them on Sunday, and before I knew it the kids were all looking forward to pomegranates on Sundays. That didn't last forever, but for as long as it did it was strengthening our family identity.

#8: Never underestimate the power of siblings.

I used to be so wary of making my older kids feel like they had to parent the younger ones that I made sure they never had to do anything for each other. It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized they actually like helping each other and were doing it when I wasn't looking, anyway.

When I started paying attention I noticed that when one child teaches another something, they both seem to get more out of it than if I'd done it myself. When my son gets the baby dressed he feels proud of the outfit he chose and they get time to play while he's doing it. My oldest is better at helping her sister with her math homework than I am, and it makes her feel smart.

I shouldn't go overboard and book a weeklong vacation to Bora Bora just yet, but I've realized that everybody wins when the kids get regular chances to help each other. It just happens to help me out, too.

These are 8 things I do to keep my family of 8 running smoothly. Most of the time, that is.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Above all, the biggest thing I've learned about big family life is that if there's one thing that's constant, it's change.

Systems that work now will fall apart later, and others that don't fit in your life right now might when your kids are older.

But for now, these are 8 ways I'm keeping this crazy train on the rails.
One thing I know for sure is that having a big family requires organization. Here are some tips and ideas I use in order to get 6 kids dressed, fed, and wherever they’re supposed to be every day. I really couldn’t live without these large family hacks! #bigfamilies #largefamily #parenting #familylife

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PurpleSlob said...

Wow!! These are great!! I wish I had some of them when I was the Mom.
But, I am asking the PP to help PPJr! It's so great when they laugh together, and play together!!

Unknown said...

Well Done! I always thought of our family as a family of six (note to self: 6 kids + 2 adults = 8) Totally missed out on the FAMILY OF EIGHT thing!
9. Whenever doing laundry, always do another load, gotta do 2-3 daily.