Balancing the Busy-ness

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I found this piece I wrote 8 years ago.  Back then I had a 5 year old, 3.5yr old and 21 month old.  I smile and chuckle as I read this, remembering the busy-ness of having 3 children under 5.  I think now how it is still very busy, but a different busy.  Now I have a almost 13yr old, 11yr old and 9yr old.  Things have certainly changed, and it reinforces how seasons come and go.  I hope you enjoy some of the tips I learned in balancing a busy life!

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Daniel, Elizabeth and Alex 8 years ago, in 2010. One of my all-time favourite photos of them.
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Taken Christmas 2017, Peel Forest, Canterbury, NZ

Its only 11 am, the kids are hungry – one is bouncing, one is clingy and one is grizzly. The lounge floor has everything imaginable on it – toys, wipes, dolls, clothes and weetbix!  The bench – well you can’t see the bench for all the dishes! Washing is piled on a chair for folding, there’s washing in the machine and in the hampers.  The cat needs feeding and the chickens are pecking at the door to get it.  It seems for a minute you have a moment where you are viewing it all and feel utterly overwhelmed.  I have 2 questions – how did it all get so bad in such a short time, and how come its 11am and it feels like I have achieved nothing??!!  How often as mums do we feel that!

Society expects more and more of us, and that alone can be overwhelming.  Society expects that we will display children with clean faces, impeccable clothes, hair done in a salon style, perfect manners and totally compliant.  We should attend coffee groups, music groups, gymnastics, swimming and ballet.  We are bombarded with advertising for learning aids, to make sure we start teaching our babies to read from the time they are born! We are encouraged to take our kids to the library, playground, museum and so on.  As adults, we are expected to volunteer, give money, take endless surveys on the phone, be involved in a church, community group, and maybe work to provide money to live up to these expectations.

Now all of these things are good, but how do we manage the busyness of life as a mum, wife, and maybe a professional?  I have a few things I have learned, but always find hard to apply in every day life.  I might remember to apply a few of them at a time, and only wish I could achieve all of them all of the time!  But I think we need to give ourselves a break sometimes.

But as I write this, my darling middle son is sitting on the side of the chair beside me with an arm around my neck and giving me kisses on the cheek – and well…it can all wait!

  1. Prioritise
  2. Have time with God, personal devotionals
  3. Be a part of a church / community support group – the support and love you can give and receive is phenomenal.
  4. Have regular dates with your husband / partner
  5. Make sure you are spending quality time with your kids.  They love you to simply be present with them, playing with them, interested in what they are doing.
  6. Get plenty of sleep, regular food and water!  I need the push to go to bed early, so if a child wakes, I am not a mess the following morning!

Now tips for coping with every day life, these are things I have found helpful, and wish I could keep up with all of the time.  But some of the time will have to do.

Kitchen

  1. Do dishes as you go, don’t sit down till the dishes have been done after a meal. The minute I sit down, I know I won’t get up and do them!
  2. Cook-up day. On a day you feel up to it, have a cookup day where you cook maybe 3 large meals, but double it, and freeze them.
  3. If cook-up days don’t work, when cooking dinner, double the recipe and freeze half.  Cooking extra to have in lunches the following day is great.
  4. Kids can help too – I have 3.5yr old child clearing dishes off the table after a meal, and 5yr child wipes the table. The job is not done perfectly, but at least it is cleared! Oh and by the way 21 month old’s job is to take nappies to the rubbish and pop the odd bit of clothing in the washing hamper.

Laundry

  1. When washing is clean and dry, I have a medium size laundry basket for each child and their clothes get folded and put into it.  Then if I don’t have the time to put the clothes away straight away, at least the basket can go straight to their room.  I’m starting to teach my 5 yr old to put some clothes away – she’s getting quite good!
  2. Buy shirts that don’t require ironing!  (lifesaver right there!)
  3. I have a laundry hamper in the laundry with 3 compartments.  Whites, coloureds, and the other one takes towels, t-towels and woollens in winter.
  4. We have a laundry tub in the hall that all 3 children have learned to put their dirty washing – even 21 month old Alex know what “put it in the wash” means!  From there I put it into the main laundry hamper when I do washing.
  5. There is a laundry hamper in the bathroom, and one in our bedroom.  So when I come to do washing, I have 3 spots where I have to collect washing to take to the laundry.  I have found these 3 key spots keep control of the dirty washing.

Lounge & bedrooms

  1. I struggle with the lounge! To keep it toy free, I have moved most of the toys to Daniel’s room, and everything has a place.  So when it comes to tidying time, the kids generally know where everything goes. If they want to play with lego for example, they just go and bring the 2 drawers into the lounge and then when finished it all goes back.
  2. I bought cheap 3 tier bookshelves, and stacked them on their sides.Makes good cubby holes for toys and books, and has made tidying easy.  I also have the plastic bins that are devoted, for example, to cars and trucks.

Paperwork

  1. Uggg.  Paper.  Deal with mail as soon as it comes.  Either put it in the recycling, file it or I put it on my folder by the computer to deal with later.
  2. I have a folder that holds all the bits and pieces that come into the house.  It has dividers, and saves losing pieces of paper around the house.  Also if hubby needs to find info, he can usually find it in the folder. There is a section for preschool information, and soon I will make up a school divider.  I will have a pocket for Elizabeth, Daniel and Alex (when they start).  There is a phone list section, church section, etc

Meals

  1. Recipes – I have a book I stick recipes in, and have a list at the back of meals that the kids have really enjoyed. When I am in a rush, it is easy to look at that list and whip something up that I know they will eat.
  2. I try, emphasis on try, to sit down and plan meals for a week – if I can, before grocery shopping. It helps us cook rather than revert to takeaways when tired.  I try to use what’s in the pantry to make grocery shopping go that little bit further.  I have a single page divided into days, and I can plan what the main meal is, maybe what to bake eg loaf, planning lunches etc.
  3. I have a store on the bottom shelf for packets of baking needs. When my container runs out, I fill it from a packet on the bottom shelf, then write that ingredient on my little whiteboard for the next grocery shop.  I hardly run out of ingredients any more!
  4. I transfer the grocery list from the whiteboard to a shopping list where I divided it into fruit/veg, dairy, bread, baking needs, meat, etc.Makes the shopping trip easier.
  5. 2 words…Slow Cooker. I love mine and use it a lot!

So back to 2018 – some of those things I still use 8 years on…maybe I don’t have a pile of clothes per child on the floor in the lounge for them in the morning.  But I still try to menu plan, I still LOVE the slow cooker, and a grocery list on the fridge door.  But now, I am so lucky in many ways…

  • The kids can empty the dishwasher and put away, usually without fighting (but that’s not a given)
  • The kids will sometimes put on their own load of washing (gasp..I never thought that would happen!!)
  • The older two can be left with minimal supervision in the kitchen to make a cake or cook their signature dinner.  I LOVE that!
  • They now have specific jobs on cleanup day, including vacuuming, floor steam-mopping, bathrooms and toilets.  (They get $5 a week after doing the big jobs)
  • We have them on rotation, one week each for feeding the chickens and collecting eggs.
  • I still struggle with the lounge
  • I still struggle with paperwork…
  • I still get those hugs and kisses from my now-bigger-children…so it can all wait!

Elizabeth Daniel Alex paddling pool 2010

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