I can hold a 36-pound preschooler on my left hip and push a stroller with my right hand. Three car seats fit comfortably across the second row of my mid-sized SUV. I can nurse an infant while two young boys fight for attention on both sides of my lap. My husband and I pass the baby while we take turns eating dinner, keep the middle child from crawling under the table and tell the oldest that no; he can’t be excused to go play Wii.
It’s a whole new ballgame in my house these days. We’ve moved from man-to-man to zone defense. My husband and I are officially outnumbered and sometimes we’re bad sports about it, especially when the scoreboard shows the kids are winning.
“There’s no fool proof method when it comes to keeping it all in check,” says Donloyn Gadson, a mother of eight (yes, eight) children. “What works to keep one child tame doesn’t necessarily work for them all. First and foremost, I recognize I’m going to make mistakes.”
Gadson says she picks and chooses her battles and reminds herself that she’s in charge. “You have to make the decisions. Don’t ask your child what he wants for breakfast. He may say he wants chocolate and then throw a tantrum when he can’t have it. Don’t set yourself up like that. Ask him if he wants oatmeal or pancakes. This way you control the situation while still allowing him to exercise his freedoms.”
Running a household is like running a business
Gadson is not the only Charleston mom running after eight children. Mary Caroline Rhea has seven boys and a little girl and is the author of Managing Life with Kids.
“I see a lot of successful business women who have a hard time keeping their family organized because they don’t use the same principles at home that they use at work. You have to prioritize, get organized, delegate what you can, and be efficient with your time,” Rhea says.
Rhea’s company, Today’s Balanced Mom (todaysbalancedmom.com), offers weekly menus, grocery lists with ingredients for recipes, and cleaning and organization checklists and tips.
“All the wasted time trying to find keys, paperwork, and everything else that can get lost in the shuffle, as well as running back to the store for that forgotten item, really adds up,” she says.
“Don’t live to get organized. Get organized so you can live.”
“If a mom feels overwhelmed, the first thing she needs to do is write everything down,” Rhea advises. “Mapping out what needs to be done and when you’ll do it helps you make the most of your time and energy. You also reduce your stress because you know everything’s going to get accomplished instead of having all your “to-do’s” floating around in your brain without a plan of attack.”
Gadson says allowing some wiggle room keeps her schedule flowing smoothly. “Small children have no real concept of time and priority. The only thing they want to know is how long until the next Christmas and birthday and what’s for snack. So, if you need to be at a certain place at a set time, then you must pad your schedule with a little flexibility. If not, you’ll always be late and you will be doing a whole lot of yelling.”
Late and yelling. That sounds like the mom writing this column. That’s why, according to Rhea, “You have to balance out all the demands of being a parent with still being a person and having time for just you. It could be playing tennis, going for a run, or a girls’ night out but you have to allow yourself breaks to help you recharge. If you don’t, you’ll burn out and your parenting will suffer as well as your happiness.”