Family life is usually utter chaos, and finding balance is nearly impossible. Adulting while working (inside or outside the home), managing a home, and parenting/chauffeuring is darn near impossible. Honestly, trying to maintain order in that kind of chaos should come with a black box warning that it may lead to certifiable insanity.
No time for insanity though because that 0% offer on the credit card is expiring and needs to be transferred, and the one pouch flavor that the baby likes is being stocked today and I need to be there when they open to get all of them. Oh, and my daughter has promised that I will make 200 cookies for the bake sale this afternoon at 3, but she also needs to be at dance by 3:20. Come to think of it, I should really deal with that message from the principal asking me to give him a call about an “incident on the bus,” and this morning I noticed a really evil smell emanating from the dishwasher while texting my husband that I urgently need him to snake the tub “drain” as it is no longer “drain”ing.
Do any other parents feel like they are losing their minds?
I tend to get overwhelmed when my life careens out of control, so I have worked very hard during the past year to come up with little things that I can do to keep me from feeling like I am totally losing it.
Here are 5 ways that I preserve myself in this out of control world:
1) A Family Calendar.
Keeping track of who needs to be where when is crucial. I think most busy families utilize some type of calendar system, and if not how the heck do you do it? We use a shared calendar app as a real-time foundation to our scheduling madness, but we also sit down every Sunday and review the week. We write down appointments, who’s picking up whom, and pertinent due dates or school events. I am a bit of a “Type A,” and fully admit that I may overdo the calendars (we have 4), but they give me a sense of peace and control and takes less than 15 minutes, once a week. Calendar management meetings with my partner also ensure that we regularly communicate about what our three children are doing, and make sure that we are coordinated and in agreement.
2) Daily Chores.
No, not for the kids, but that’s a great idea for another post. I am talking about adult chores. My partner and I agreed on a set of 5 chores that need to be done every day in order to prevent total chaos from reigning. Finding balance, for us, means that every night, we see that the kitchen is clean, living room picked up, bathrooms wiped down, mail collected and gone through, and animals fed and watered. This may seem like a lot to take on, but doing it every day makes it eventually become a habit and really takes very little time. One cleaning hack that has helped me stick to the routine is making my own cleaning wipes. I leave a jar in the kitchen to wipe down the table and counters and one in each bathroom to do a quick wipe down of the toilet, sink, and vanity. This takes about 2 minutes, per bathroom, per night. These simple tasks have helped me to feel that the house is not going to implode around me. Though there may still be a visible layer of dirt on the kitchen floor and unidentifiable stank coming from the dishwasher, in our house, having these few things done makes our home feel “liveably clean.”
3) Family Meeting.
We hold Family Meeting every Sunday. During this time, we address any household business, whether it be lunch preferences, weekly schedules, or even the airing of grievances. The kids are also encouraged to bring any issues they may have to the table, including whining about something the other did or even extending bedtime. The kids love it because generally, we don’t say “no” at Family Meeting. There is always hope and room for them to present evidence to support whatever they are requesting- be it a curfew extension or buying a new video game. This sense of empowerment keeps them excited about the meetings. Their engagement promotes the democratic process and encourages growth mindsets. As an ancillary benefit, it also gives me a line to use the rest of the week, “Why don’t you bring that up at Family Meeting?” Win-win I’d say.
4) Daily Projects.
I am not talking about big home improvement projects or other huge undertakings. I am talking about the small projects (less than 30 minutes) that you notice occasionally, but never get done because there is never any time. For example, my silverware drawer was out of control, so I noted it as a project and organized the silverware in about 8 minutes. That is all it took. You can also break big projects into smaller chunks so as to not be overwhelmed by a huge time commitment. I have been trying to copy recipes into a recipe book that I got as a gift in 2008. I finally started just writing 2-3 recipes a night on the nights I select it as my project. It will take a while, but since it’s already been 9 years, I don’t feel a lot of pressure anymore.
5) Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping.
This may be the most life-changing practice that I have adopted. Every week, my and my partner sit down and plan the week’s menu- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I then hang it by the calendar. The older kids can read it, and therefore stop asking me “What’s for dinner?” This in and of itself has significantly improved my happiness. I also have to include a “this document is not binding” clause, but maybe only my kiddos are junior lawyers-in-training. From the menu, I make a grocery list of exactly what ingredients I need, and what part of the store to find them in, thanks to a fabulous grocery list template. This whole process takes about 30 minutes and saves me money, time and the need to think at all about meals during the week. Doing this, I am able to buy food (mostly local and gluten-free) for a family of 5 (including 2 pre-teens) for less than $200/week. The kids still occasionally complain about dinner, or some part of the menu, but you can guess my response. “Why don’t you bring that up at Family Meeting?”
As a bit of a control freak, having kids has totally messed with my sense of order. I often feel overwhelmed and like “if I could just have 10 more hours a day” I could accomplish everything I need to do. These tricks have helped my house run a little smoother- or at the very least make me feel that’s the case. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.