Guest Blog: Stacey Podmore
Yes, you read right… 6 kids.
Some, well most, call us crazy but the simple fact is that we love kids. Although, we never set out to have half a dozen, once our first arrived we couldn’t resist adding more gorgeous children to our brood. It wasn’t until number six came along that we decided that our family was complete. Our family consists of five boys and one girl aged between 10 and 2 years including one set of twin boys (number 4 & 5).
Having so many children comes with busy, sometimes hectic days that could easily turn into a chaotic mess if the right systems aren’t in place. In order to keep the wheels in motion running smoothly, I have to stick to a fairly fine-tuned routine. This does not mean that day in and day out its ground hog day, it purely means that I have to have a plan for each day and I try to stick to it as much as possible. My husband is a shift worker, so our family has no choice but be flexible around his shifts and I therefore run the household accordingly to his roster.
I have always been a list maker; it helps keep me on track and stay focused as well as reduces my ability to easily feel overwhelmed. I have the usual shopping list, dinner planner, appointment & events calendar and kids activity calendar that we stick to, but I also have a to do / priority list where I write down those once off tasks that need completing but aren’t part of my every day activities. These are things that I can tackle if I have a small window of opportunity (aka spare time) other than my regular duties.
People always ask me how I get out of the house in the morning and to school / kindergarten on time. It’s fairly straightforward really..…If I’m organised, the kids generally are organised! Our kids have a clear understanding of what is expected of them each morning and since our older three have being doing it for a few years now it has become part of their regular routine and as the younger ones are always mimicking their behaviour, the younger ones have just learned from what they observe. Our four year old twins started 4 year old Kindergarten this year, so their morning routine has changed a little; as a result I developed a visual chart of tasks they need to complete each kinder morning. They followed this for the first term and now have a pretty good idea of what is expected of them in order to get to Kindergarten on time. I find the stricter we are with routine, the quicker the kids learn it and stick to it.
Our Daily Routine
Here is a brief snapshot of what our household looks like…
Our children aren’t allowed out of bed until 7am.
For the younger three kids, we have night lights, instead of clocks, set on a timer to go on when it is 7am so they know they can get out of bed. The older five kids all get dressed and have breakfast as soon as they get up. I prepare the twins and two year olds breakfast, but occasionally the older ones get everyone’s breakfast sorted, which is very helpful indeed! Teeth and hair follows, and then they pack their bags. We have a fridge in our garage that I put their lunchboxes in that I prepared the day before and as they keep their bags hanging on a hook in the garage it’s just a matter of putting their lunch straight into their bags. The older kids occasionally help with drying dishes but mostly I do the cleaning up whilst the kids continue to get ready.
All toys that have been taken out need to be put away before we leave and kids make sure their beds are made and rooms are tidy. I put a load of washing on once I have all the morning clothes to add to clothes from yesterday and the washing machine will finish in time to hang out it not long after I get back from the morning school/kinder run. Some mornings we have children’s activities on so the washing is hung out before the school run and yes, I wash every day, sometimes twice! We recently purchased a 10kg front loader to replace our 6.5kg front loader and I am still washing just as many clothes, it’s just the machine isn’t doing as many loads. I now do between 7-10 loads per week in my larger machine which is down from approx. 14.
I continue to plan my day as it goes to make sure I complete everything I need to, making it less stressful and as fulfilling as possible. So early morning (if I’m home) or by lunchtime I will have dinner organised. I also get the kids lunches for the next day sorted whilst I am making lunch for the kids who are at home. We have a no food packaging policy at our school, so I have made sure that I have enough containers to cover two days’ worth of lunches. At the start of the school week I make sure I have a plan of what will be in the school lunches for the week and have their snacks prepared already. I am not a fan of packaged or processed foods and try to consume them as little as possible, so everything is fresh, healthy and homemade. I have always been health conscious regarding food and as we have two children with special dietary requirements I find it easier to prepare the food myself as I know exactly what’s in it. I have a Thermomix which is my best friend in the kitchen. I find it doesn’t take me too long to pack their lunchboxes each day ready for the following day.
When the kids get home from school or kinder they know the first thing they need to do is unpack their lunchboxes and refill their water drink bottles ready for the following day. I wash their empty used containers and re pack their lunchboxes with the food I prepared earlier. Reading books are attended to straightaway and diaries signed and packed back in their bags for tomorrow. If we are heading out the door shortly after arriving home for an activity, I get them to take their reader with them in the car and read to me on the way there. Our kids are slowly becoming experts in being adaptable, juggling and multitasking when it comes to after school!
I’m a big list maker, which is mainly just for me to keep me on track as I am finding that my head can no longer retain all the info needed, and our kids have become accustomed to my lists. They like to see our schedule so they know what ‘exciting’ things they may be part of. This prompted me to create another list recently, a visible dinner planner for the week. I was getting tired of the kids constantly asking me what’s for dinner throughout the day, and even though the majority of the time I had already prepared it, I would answer with “something delicious” much to our kid’s discontent. The reason I do this is simply because I don’t want to disappoint them with my choice of dinner and then hear them complain about it or simply because I don’t have a descriptive enough name for my concoction. So, as we have a large glass splashback in our kitchen, my hubby suggested that I should write the meals and lunchbox items for the week in whiteboard marker on the section that isn’t near our cooktops. The kids love to be able to see what ‘delicious’ meals they have to look forward to for the week. So far they have accepted what I have listed and they look forward to being informed of what meals are planned for the week and more importantly, no more asking!
Every day is different with varying after school activities on, but the kids know exactly what is expected of them each afternoon. This doesn’t mean that the frequent firm prompting doesn’t go on. Like all kids, ours also can get side-tracked and at times I need to remind them what to do. I find that our system works well throughout the morning and afternoon routines if I gently coach them through it, that way they let me know what has been done, and I can remind them of anything and therefore generally nothing gets missed. Some mornings I feel like the whole neighbourhood can hear what is going on in our household as I feel like I constantly have to direct the kids on what needs to be done with my easily acquired loud stern voice. Like all families the mornings can particularly go pear shaped if someone, or all, are dragging their feet. I find as the year progresses and the kids get more tired and cranky I have to be more organised to ensure that the kids are kept on track with their morning routine.
My husband and I mainly complete the household chores. As I like an organised household I can’t function in mess so I like to make sure that the house is tidy the majority of the time. However, we have a rumpus room that I am a little more lenient about. We don’t have a chores roster but the kids are expected to pick up toys before bed, before leaving in the morning or leaving the house in general. We sort the clean washing into their piles and our kids are to put it away before bed. They have to make their own bed each morning, keep their rooms tidy and pick up after themselves. They also help with unpacking the dishwasher and drying the hand washed dishes. We recently got a three month old puppy which the older three kids have responsibilities with helping feed, walk and care for.
My number one secret to staying organised is to do your best to keep on top of it by continuing to plug away with what needs to get done, lots of small things add up to achieving lots. If I start to feel too overwhelmed with all I have to do, I make sure I write a list and just focus on one thing at a time. I get a real sense of satisfaction when I can cross something off a list but I can also get anxious if I don’t get the chance to complete anything on the list, so that’s when I pop the list out of sight for a short period until things settle down and I can get to it again. I’ve had days / weeks where I feel like I don’t even have time to make a list to help ease my stress, so I make a list in my head and when I get near paper and pen blurt it out on paper. This gives me a great sense of relief, as I feel like I literally free up space inside my brain.
I find it easier to tackle things like cleaning by doing a bit each day, as otherwise I would never have the opportunity to find the time to do a regular big clean once a week. So I do what is necessary each day to keep on top of it. This way I don’t become overwhelmed when the task then seems too big of a job when I can be so time poor. We have a cleaner who comes every 4-6 weeks and spends four hours cleaning. It is nice to have the house cleaned all in one lot, something I rarely get the chance to do.
When I am tackling a job, I always find myself thinking of the next thing that needs to be done. This helps me prioritise my time, stay focused and keep on track especially if unexpected things pop up. The lists and constant thinking helps me not ‘drop any of the juggling balls’ which helps ensure that nothing gets forgotten. I’m one of those people that loathe forgetting, missing or running late for anything! Some days I can find it draining having to feel like I need to be on top of everything but I have just learnt to accept that it’s the only way I can function without creating too much anxiety for myself, plus, being busy generally means increased productivity and I thrive on the feeling of achieving something regardless of whether it is a chore or minimal task.
We try to have a family holiday every few years and the planning for it is an event in itself. Our most recent trip was to Cairns. I started planning at least a month before and that doesn’t mean making accommodation, flight bookings etc. That was done months prior, as finding suitable accommodation to accommodate all of us is a challenge in itself. No, I mean the packing plan of attack. Taking 6 young children on a four hour flight (plus 2.5hrs to airport) is a mission in itself. I created individual activity packs and lunch bags for each child and made sure I had the essentials necessities for a two year old in nappies. I had to work out suitable luggage that doesn’t overload my hubby too much (I supervise kids and look after all the important documents whilst he takes care of the luggage at the airport) and be sure to not over pack but still include everything. My husband always has a laugh, as; if he had it his way he would pack the night before and definitely not stress or think too much about it. He says I do enough stressing and planning for the both of us so he doesn’t need to! If I don’t plan in advance, hence stress, then things would get missed and therefore in my eyes, not run smoothly. Holidays are really just a change of kitchen and laundry for me as those jobs don’t stop whilst we are away. I still prefer to cook meals and prepare day packs including all food and snacks so the kids still get good nutrition. Also, taking six kids out for lunch or dinner is not a relaxing experience, not to mention a very costly event.
Our holiday to Cairns was great. It was jammed packed with scheduled day trips, sightseeing and activities and as you can probably already tell, my hubby and I like to keep busy, and we don’t know how to relax.
It is lovely to get away as a family from the busyness of our regular daily life and although the amount of cooking, washing and planning doesn’t really change it is nice to spend time with our kids bonding as a family whilst having an adventure together.
So yes, our lives are very busy juggling so much every day, but I wouldn’t change a thing. When I feel as though things are getting a bit much, I try to step back, put everything in perspective and appreciate how blessed we are with our six healthy children and WRITE A LIST so I can have a visual of all that needs to be done. The majority of the time, once this list has been made I realise that I can soldier on and get the job done. Although some days are a struggle to get through, I look back and reflect on how quickly kids grow up, which reinforces why I do what I do, making it all worthwhile!