Every family is different, but moms of many have great advice for keeping things sane on the home front.
The daily life of every household is inevitably traversed by storms. These are alternated with brief intervals of a lull, when a maximum of chores must be done to face the next set of challenges, like the return of kids from school and the inescapable succession of homework, bath time, dinnertime, etc. Laura, whose oldest child is 7 and youngest is just 3 weeks old, serenely proclaims, “Chores that exhaust me most are the ones I wasn’t able to do!” Below is some advice about organizing a family from moms of many.
Finding the best ways to organize yourself
Nadine is a secretary. The hardest years, when her kids depended on her for everything, are now behind her: “I had to prepare everything before I left home. My days would begin at 6 a.m. Now that kids are bigger, I’ve got 30 extra minutes of sleep in the morning.” It is only through planning and organization that Nadine was able to face the multiple challenges in her daily life.
Anne, the mother of seven, believes that a mother has to plan out things the same way we ask kids to plan out their schoolwork. “If you don’t anticipate the 6 to 8 o’clock evening rush, you’ll be submerged by it,” she says.
Olivia is also looking for ways to save time during this busy interval when many tasks need to be performed. “When kids get back from school, the food is ready,” she explains.
“Just because you’re a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you don’t need to be professional,” adds Anne. “You have to be very demanding with yourself, give yourself objectives and priorities.”
“To structure yourself, to know what it is you want to do, you need to see beyond the repetitive tasks. You can’t do everything,” warns Anne. “It’s hard to accept, but it is very important to realize this.”
This is doubly helpful in allowing you to get organized and move forward.“With each child you get better at it. In the beginning with just one, I was overwhelmed, now that I have four, I even have time for myself,” observes Olivia.
To be organized you can’t waste too much time thinking. Anne advises, “Write it all down.” Where should you make notes? On the indispensable whiteboard in the kitchen, the post-it in the hall, a notebook, your cell phone, etc. The main thing is being able to access the notes easily.
To get yourself organized, it’s important to know yourself. First, in terms of how your body works: “I don’t plan on any activity after 8 p.m. in the evening,” says Olivia. “Generally, I am too tired and I need a good night of sleep. I also see to it that I can spend one day a week without the kids — I need to breathe. I take this opportunity to go out, do my shopping, see friends … Kids have dinner at my friend’s house and the next day I take hers.”
For Elizabeth, a mother of three, relaxation consists in reading professional magazines and watching news at night.
Knowledge of your own temperament, your moments of weakness, as well as your strong points, is also fundamental to get the most out of your life. The same applies to children.
“I know that in the mornings, they don’t like to be rushed,” confides Nadine. “So in the evenings, they set out their things for breakfast and this way in the mornings, they can start eating without me. Same thing for the school bags and the clothes. We have stopped racing against time since I realized that I should ask them to prepare everything the night before.”
The communication at the heart of the family unit
For Mary, organization goes hand in hand with communication. The atmosphere in the house depends on it.
“It’s crazy how little people say about what they feel,” she says. “You get back home in a black mood after a day of work and you see something unimportant that drives you crazy, for example a schoolbag in the middle of the corridor. You say nothing about it, but the whole house charges with electricity. You turn on the first person to come into your cross-hairs … In these cases, you must explain yourself, tell calmly how you feel. More often than not, the mere fact of doing so could be liberating.” She also has a big notebook where the family jots down the comings and the goings of each and every one, the addresses where family members might be reached, etc.
You may also need to call upon your imagination.
“Each family must find its own set of rules. My four daughters, for example, have set up a schedule for when each of them uses the bathroom they share. Ever since, the day starts more calmly,” says Mary. “The best way is to call a family meeting when there is a need. You expose your problems and solutions begin to quickly emerge. Kids have greater sense of imagination than all of us. We brainstorm together.” In the beginning, Mary thought a family must be ruled with an iron fist, but in time realized she didn’t need to run such a tight ship. “We’re a team where each comes with his own kind of resourcefulness,” she says.
It is also because she is concerned with her children’s development that Elizabeth has cut back on her cleaning service. “Today, the kids are all pitching in. This is the biggest progress we’ve made in terms of education.”
Even if they’re still young, Olivia asks each of her boys to help out. Her oldest three are in charge of mealtimes.
There are as many solutions as there are families when it comes to being organized. The fridges of some are covered with schedules. Others like Anne don’t appreciate overly restrictive lists, preferring flexibility and teamwork. It’s the contribution of each person –and the serenity of a mom! — that helps the children mature.