Juggling children, newborns, housework, feeding people, homeschooling, and more can make a mom feel frazzled and overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be that way! This season of mothering children is a precious time in our life and we should be able to enjoy it.
My husband and I have had ten children in 16 years, which means that the level of my productivity changes regularly! When I’m in the early stages of pregnancy or in the weeks before and after the event of birth my productivity in the home is at an all time low… because my body is needing to use that energy to sustain a brand new life! In those times I enter “survival mode” and set everything extra aside.
During any season, however, there are some basic things you can do for a successful day.
1. Start the day by drinking a glass of water.
Hydrate your body after a long night without it! Water is necessary for every one of your cells, tissues and organs to work properly. You will feel better and have more energy if you keep up your water intake.
2. Get fully dressed
If you were going to a job away from the home you would dress yourself in a presentable way. Your job within the home is surely as important! Even when I’m in the middle of morning sickness I try to get dressed. I might feel sick and exhausted, but making an effort to look nice makes me mentally feel more able to handle the day ahead.
3. Make the bed.
Just as getting dressed and putting on some makeup can make you feel more equipped to tackle your day, a tidy bed gives a sense of accomplishment. Making the bed takes minutes, but it can be an encouragement to you every time you walk into the room. Last night we had a child crawl into bed with us, which meant that this morning he was still fast asleep when I got up for the day. By the time our bed was empty I was bustling about, taking care of my many morning tasks. As I breezed through my bedroom sometime before lunch I glanced at the bed and was tempted to just leave it a crumpled mess (after all, we were halfway through the day!). Instead, I grabbed the covers and started pulling them up. It took just a minute or two, but the room immediately transformed into a place of greater order and peace.
4. Prep for dinner in the morning.
Know what you will be making and then check for ingredients so there are no 5:00 surprises! Make sure that you have any meat thawed out that might still be in the freezer… or get it out right now. See if there is anything you could prep now that would make life easier later. For those of us who like to be more spontaneous in the kitchen and not plan your meals ahead of time, it can be helpful to keep a list of meal ideas in the kitchen so I can look it over when I need ideas.
5. Keep a running to do list as you go throughout your day.
A mom has many thoughts competing for space in her brain! I carry around a little paper notebook so that I can immediately jot down anything that comes to mind (and have the satisfaction of crossing out the finished items!
These notebooks are perfect for the job. They are as small as a cell phone and durable enough that you can stick them in your pocket and carry them around with you everywhere, yet cheap enough to be able to use them up quickly and move on to another (as you will!).
This notebook is my memory! Any thought of “this needs to be done” that pops into my head as I’m going throughout my day immediately gets written down. This accomplishes two things: it ensures that it won’t be forgotten, and it removes the burden from my shoulders of feeling like I have to hold everything together.
I currently have several categories on the different pages in my notebook: Social (people I need to call or things I want to share online), Errands (actual places I need to go) Buy (purchases I need to make aside from my grocery list) and Do (things around the home that need to be accomplished.
If you have a moment throughout the day of feeling overwhelmed with the tasks before you, take out your notebook and as you walk through your house or outdoor space, write down things that you see needing to be done. You can then take this list and add names next to the items of any children who are able to accomplish some of the tasks, and make note of those you need to do yourself. It will help ease your mind and give you focus on how to a productive “work time” as a family.
Why use pen and paper instead of the note taking app on your phone? I find that phones are just too distracting. If I pull out my cell phone to make a purchase on Amazon, for example, I can end up checking the weather… my email… instagram… etc! and before I know it I’ve spent 30 minutes during a time where I should be productive elsewhere. Instead of taking this risk, write down what needs to happen when you think of it during the busyness of your day, then during an allotted time get on your phone and make it happen.
6. Block schedule your day.
When you are at home all the time with children it can be easy to let the little moment to moment things run your day instead of you be intentional and in charge of what happens when. I found that it was too hard to keep up with a detailed time schedule, but a block schedule is simple and achievable! To create one, think of the things that need to happen in a given day. Imagine your ideal day (keep it realistic!) and the order in which things would happen. Then block out big chunks of time (several hours) and list the things that belong in each.
We have a morning block, where mom gets up and ready for the day (has quiet time, get dressed, makes breakfast, preps for dinner, etc) and kids work on their morning checklist. Next comes our school time. This includes a family subject we do together, individual school requirements that the kids can do alone, and eating lunch (an informal event at our house!). The afternoon block is a time that the youngest ones nap and the other kids have leisure to work on any delight directed learning, go outside, play a game, etc (after they’ve finished up their required independent work). Mom can get things done on her list and work on any projects at hand. The later afternoon block includes a family tidy up of the house and getting dinner made. This is the time that I will often let kids watch a show. Our final block of the day has us eating together and then doing our after dinner chores before we all head to bed at our respective times.
7. Set yourself up for the next day before you go to bed
It is so much easier for me to have a productive day when I’m not first dealing with the remains of the day before. After dinner chores for the entire family help to reset the kitchen for the next day. The teens take turns doing dishes as another child helps put away any leftovers and clear the table. We do a quick pick up of the general living areas of the house and sweep the main floor. I take a little time to prep food for the next day and mix a sourdough recipe so it can ferment on the counter overnight. I will also put a load of clothes in the washing machine so that I’m one step ahead when we do laundry the next morning.
When it doesn’t go smoothly…
There are days when things do not go smoothly. You might have a morning where a child is needing a LOT of character training and you find yourself spending all your time working with them. On those mornings remember that you are doing a work that is more important than any to do list. Eliminate any “extras” you’d planned to accomplish and know they’ll get done another time. Perhaps you were up all night with the baby and feeling exhausted the next day. You may need to take longer to do your morning tasks that day and just save your family subject for another day (this is where the benefit of year round schooling comes in!) Sometimes we go to an event as a family and get home so late that I send everyone to bed. Or we may just have an off day and the resulting evening mess becomes too much to clean up for a tired family. In those situations I just allow the routines to be set aside and take care of the extra emotional or physical needs of my family. I know I can give myself extra time the next day and bring the children along with me as we do what is needed to get back on track.
Have patience with yourself and your family as you begin to make changes toward a more productive day. There is room for growing and learning both for mom as the manager of her home, and for the kids she is guiding. Keep incorporating one good habit at a time into your day and over time you will develop a routine that suits your family and blesses you all!
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