When you parent a lot of kids, you tend to garner comments about the size of your family. See, people assume fewer kids equals easier parenting. Parents with partners aren't outnumbered by one or two children and even single parents have two hands, so it must not be so bad. But once you hit three, the comments start rolling. At three kids, I started hearing things like, "Boy, you have your hands full!" and when we hit four, all bets were off. I've gotten everything from "I don't know how you do it!" to "You have a lot of kids- do you think this is a fair price for families?". I don't know what it is about having multiple children that makes people think it's ok to comment on the size of your family, but typically I just respond politely and leave it at that.
These comments can sometimes be snide, but are more often made by well-meaning strangers, people we know, or parents who have fewer children and think they would be overwhelmed by more. The truth is, even though we are a large family by today's standards, I can think if at least three families in our tiny school (think fewer than 200 students) that have more kids than mine, and back in the day, 4 kids would have been easy-peasy.
Honestly, no matter how many kids you have, or how old they are, parenting is hard AF. And the things that make it hard are constantly chnging. When my kids were little, parenting was hard because of the constant physical needs. They needed me to do or help them do everything. And when you are elbows-deep in kids all day, with no adults in sight, that can be really draining! Now that they're older, the challenges have changed. They no longer need me to do ALL.THE.THINGS., but they definitely need more emotional support (remember puberty? and high school? and love and broken hearts and trying out for teams and trying to get into colleges and all the things? yeah, be ready!), and they need to be taken EVERYWHERE. Seriously, everywhere.
The older they get, the crazier their schedules get, so it makes me laugh a little inside whenever people ask me how I keep it all together. Because, in all honesty, I'm really not. Most days, I'm just faking it and hoping no one will notice all the things I missed... like vacuuming up the dog hair that's been smeared on our carpet for the past two days (can I tell you how much I hate dog hair?!), or you know, bathing my younger kids every couple of days, or being on time. To anything. Ever. I haven't quite given this one up, and I'm trying to get better, but it takes a lot of planning and cajoling on my part. In fact, I'm counting it as nothing short of a miracle that we have made it, dressed and fed, to the bus stop on time all year long (who care that we're only two weeks in?!).
Which brings me to the one thing that adds some semblance of together-ness to my life and that is: MY PLANNER. You know I love organization, and this is the one thing that helps me keep it together. I've always been a calendar/planner/organizer kind of girl, and it's one thing I can't be without!
Now, I know that a lot of people think planners are boring, but there are so many different kinds out there, and so many different accessories, that they can be a thing of beauty. In fact, over the years, mine has evolved from a calendar into something more like a calendar/to-do list/menu planner/ home binder/scrapbook all in one. It's now kind of like a cross between an organizer and a bullet journal- something I wish I could do, but find that it takes up more time than I have, despite all reassurance that bullet-journaling is quick an easy (it's the layouts that get me- i just spend far too much time making them perfect!).
So, what, exactly, do I use that makes this so amazing? Read on for some tips!
1. Find One That Works For You: Maybe you need lots of room to write, or perhaps you prefer something compact and easy to carry. You might want only a monthly lay-out, or a weekly lay-out, or maybe you're like me and you want to have both! Spiral bound, or one that you can easily rearrange. Only a calendar, or one with additional sections for budget, workout/health tracking, and more, I've used a lot of different planners over the years, and it took me a little while to figure out what I needed. There are lots of options out there, whether you want to purchase a pre-made one or download templates to print and make your own! Think about your needs.
2. Color Code It: I color-code calendar entries. I've designated a specific color to each family member so that I can quickly glance at my calendar and know which activity belongs to whom. It makes it so much easier to find things and, honestly, it's kind of pretty to look at!
3. Make It Fun!: I love all the sickers and stamps that are out there, and I use them to help me designate special events, work items, to-do lists, menu plans, chores and more. I use fun binder clips to mark current week's sections so I can flip to them quickly and easily. Plus, the organizer I use has add-on pages for home planning, fitness tracking, notes and more, which make it easy to customize.
Recently, my planner took a step up to "scrapbook" when my kids and husband gave me a Polaroid Instax camera for Mother's Day. The prints are the perfect size to fit in the boxes of my calendar, so whenever we have an important event, or just something I want to remember, I snap a picture and add it to the book.
4. Keep It All Together: I keep everything- except my pens and planner itself (those travel with me everywhere I go)- together and easily accessible in a basket on my desk. Any time something comes up, I add it to my planner.
5. Communicate It!: Having myself organized is only half the battle! If everyone else, particularly my husband, doesn't know what's going on, we're still a mess. So, once a week, I transfer everything that everyone else needs to know (i.e., our dinner menu and weekly activites) to the two chalkboards I have designated in our house for those purposes. This way, we're all on the same page
So now you know my secret! Hopefully these tips help you, too!