There is a little voice in all of us that wishes we could have a litter of kids. We know that sounds bonkers because, well, even after two kids you start to lose all memory of what sleep looked like and what sanity felt like. But then they get a bit older and miss you those moments of toddlerhood. You crave it. You get all-broody and start to give your significant-lover (read: partner) that look of “shall we?”
The problem is… okay, there are a few problems. Not problems but thought-processes you have to go through, starting with the pregnancy and the birth and all the demands a baby makes on your body, before cascading down to the madness that would ensue. Parents of two can cope because they are equally matched. Anything more and you become outnumbered, and that’s what most brooding parents get stuck on. It’s the being outnumbered. It’s the staying sane. It’s finding a way to survive. It’s about finding organisational strategies. It’s about embracing the chaos.
That said, we still struggled to understand how those at the top of big families managed to do it, which is why we went and spoke to a few parents with massive broods and got their secrets to raising a happy household.
So, without further ado, here are some sanity-savoring tips and tricks that could see you increase your brood or just help you out with your current squad. It’s your call.
- Everything Relies On Organisation
Life with a big family is crazy. It has to be. It’s a house full of so many different personalities and wants and needs and idiosyncrasies and voices. It has to be crazy. So, to bring some order to this way of life, you need to find ways to stay super-duper-organised. Put a huge family calendar on your kitchen wall, a magnetic one, so that you can keep up with everyone’s mad schedules – school plays, doctor’s appointments, gym days at school, birthday party invites, which kid plays which instrument on which day, absolutely everything. But don’t stop there. Add all this to your Google calendar so that it syncs with your partner’s calendar as well. That way you will both know what is going on. If you don’t, then you’ll have to get used to calls from the doctor asking why you missed another appointment and the headmistress at school asking you to stop by with the right instrument. It all works if you are organised and a magnetic calendar / Google calendar is the best way to do this.
- Ready Up, Routine
We love to honour the privilege of spontaneity whenever we can. It’s that hope every day will be different and life will be exciting and all of that. However, when you have a large litter (or even just two of them) routine is not to be overlooked, undervalued or ignored. No way. Routine is good, it’s as simple as that. In the same way you need to slurp on coffee first thing in the morning, your youngest needs to chug on milk from a bottle. The reason is simple: you’ll both be in a foul mood if you don’t. We all need routine, even if they are just small routines. We all need them. Adults need them, teenagers need them, toddler needs them and babies need them. It could be the bottle in the morning, breakfast at eight, doing the laundry afterwards, enjoying a mid-morning dog walk, getting the kids a snack at snack time, doing dinner at half five, a bath and a story before bed, anything. By having a routine, you’ll know where you are with everything and drastically reduce the chances of missing something. It will also make the rest of your life easier. We’re not going to say it will make life a doddle. It won’t. But it will make it so much easier to tackle.
- Food For Thought
The more you can plan your food trips ahead of time, the less time it will take and the fewer mistakes you will make. Look, life is going to be busy enough without you having to go grocery shopping three times a week because you forgot this and that. Instead, what you want to achieve is a single grocery trip once a week. There are ways to master this and one is meal-planning. If you know what you are going to eat ahead of time, or if you have a pretty standard meal routine, then try getting your groceries delivered and saving your grocery list so you just have to press “order the same”. The other thing you can do is know where to get the best deals from and that could mean becoming a member of a big wholesale store. The organisation doesn’t stop there because when you get back to the house, you should get into the habit portioning your purchases into freezer bags so that it is all that little bit more manageable. If you really want to up the ante, buy foods that are easy as main meals and great as leftovers. Yup, we’re looking at you chicken drumstick.
- Make Harmony Happen
The bigger the family the more compromise you need to make. That’s a fact. It’s gospel. You need to find a way to balance everyone’s wants and needs and reduce the chance of any fallouts or arguments from happening. That could mean having a couple of rooms that have televisions so that the older kids can watch what they want while the younger lot can enjoy something more suited to them. It means investing in some internet with some superhero speeds, especially if it comes with free Netflix and Showtime, which is possible with https://www.suddenlink.com. Of course, it’s not just about screen time and all that. It is finding a way for your kids to play nicely on the trampoline together and having a method of rotating their chores so that no one person is stuck with the really-rubbish chore all the time. This is going to need some serious patience, a lot of trial and error and, most importantly of all, some regular family meetings to see how you can make happiness easier to achieve.
- Get Out And About
Don’t call us out on this one, but it seems we’ve gotten a little more uptight as parents. It used to be so much more liberal and carefree (without actually being free of care). Nowadays, though, we’re a little scared of letting our kids play outdoors by themselves – even in kid-friendly gardens – or taking our little ones out in the cold because it’s cold. Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t find ways to stay indoors and go insane when you could be outside and getting that blast of fresh air we all need. And if you still think this is bad advice, just think about parents in Alaska. If you think parents there keep everyone indoors until it gets warmer you need to think again. They just get dressed real warm and get out there. Do the same. You’re asking for a headache if you don’t and that’s because the toughest moments of parenthood will come from being cooped up. Rain or shine, freezing cold or sleeting, get out there with them. You’ll be super happy you did.
- Pitch In, All Of You
You know that age-old adage about many hands making light work, it was right. Yes, it was your choice to have a massive brood of kids, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep that household running and that’s why everyone needs to chip in. The best way to do this is to have a chore chart – one the see’s regular rotation. Not only will this teach your kids how to be more responsible, it will help them set goals and finish jobs and it will mean you have more time to spend with them instead of just cleaning up after them. Now, the big hurdle to overcome is getting your kids on board with this. Given they are chores, though, this is not an easy ask. Our advice: link said responsibilities to privileges. It’s about rewarding helpful behavior and setting consequences for those that don’t find a way to help. However, it’s not enough to just ask kids when you need something done – they’re room-exiting ninjas able to sense when this time is about to arrive in their lives. Instead, have a visible chore chart that keeps them all accountable – tasks that they are tasked with or else. It will make your life infinitely more simple, that’s a promise. It lets your kids they can get their chores done whenever it suits them, so long as they get them done.
- Just Say No
Okay, we know this sounds rather pessimistic and that we should all find a way to say yes more often – and we should. But there is also a need to say no without feeling guilty, like when the school phones you up to ask if you can bake a few dozen cupcakes for a fundraiser or volunteer to lead this or that. We know it’s good to volunteer and put your hand up and all that, but not if it is going to make your crazy life even crazier. In those times, you need to know when to take a pass.