This is a post from Sarah Mueller of Early Bird Mom
My third son started playing soccer this spring. Soccer for this child was the tipping point for me. I went from having fairly limited after-school commitments for the kids to suddenly having to tag team drop-offs and pick-ups with my husband. It has been a real struggle for this introverted mama to be out of the house and on the road so much. I really long for a simple life.
When you’ve got a bunch of kids living under one roof, the household responsibilities seem to magically multiply. Driving to extracurricular activities for one or two kids may be no sweat, but the logistical effort goes through the roof to get 4 or 5 kids to different soccer fields on different days and oh yeah, don’t forget who needs to bring the team snack! The same goes for groceries and meals – you can’t run to the store every other day if you’ve got a million other things to take care of.
Smaller families may choose to keep their lives simple, but I think it’s practically a matter of survival for large families.
Here are 2 strategies large families can use to keep things simple (and help mom save her sanity!)
1. Limit outside activities
There’s no quicker way to put me into crazy mode than having to make it to a lesson every day of the week. Lots of driving around = not simple! It interferes with quiet time, dinner, and takes up valuable downtime for my kids. We have a guideline of 1 activity per child per year (and none for preschoolers). Having kids in multiple activities is just too much logistically for our schedule.
Other ways to simplify kids’ activities:
- Carpool whenever possible
- Make kids responsible for their own equipment. If my son forgets his karate weapons, he’ll have to do without or borrow from someone else. I promise, that’s something that will only happen once.
- Schedule all activities on the same day (if the times work out). Get all the driving over with and the rest of the week is quieter.
Although I have 3 kids in activities now, I know that this busy season is only temporary and I have a quieter summer to look forward to.
Beyond limiting extracurriculars, I try to make those lesson and practice times do double duty.
I have discovered that I have just enough time to drop my son off at violin, drive down the street to Aldi, do all our grocery shopping for the week, and be back in about 30 minutes to pick him up. It helps that Aldi is small and I basically buy the same things each week, but it’s a super-efficient way to grocery shop.
On other days, we might squeeze in a brief trip to the library or do a quick errand while a kid is at a lesson. And twice a week, I have a couple hours all to myself while my oldest son is at karate and my husband is at home with the kids. Sweet!
2. Keep grocery shopping and meals simple.
One of my other favorite ways to keep things simple is to take a minimalist approach in the kitchen. We rotate through a selection of family favorite dishes. I do love to cook and frequently try out new things, but when life is busy, I know I can always fall back on some easy dishes.
My pantry is full of staples and not many processed foods in boxes which saves a ton of space and money, too. My kids have learned how to cook a lot of their favorites and are currently responsible for getting their own breakfasts and lunches (well, except for the preschooler). It’s less cooking for me and they are happy that they can choose what they want from our selection.
Other strategies to keep things simple in the kitchen:
- Have a few standard breakfast choices. For us, that means oatmeal, eggs, or smoothies. As long as I have those staples in the house, breakfast is never a problem.
- Everyone helps. I’ve spent a lot of time teaching my boys how to do chores and this is now paying off nicely. By about age 10, they are completely capable of cleaning up the kitchen after a meal – such a treat for me if I have other things that need my attention after dinner. And if we all pitch in together, the kitchen can be cleaned in about 10 minutes flat. Easy peasy.
- Hang up a standard pre-printed grocery list. As grocery staples are used up, they get checked off on the list. When I’m planning the week’s meals, I just add any extra ingredients I will need to the list and I’m ready to shop.
- Cook in bulk (of course!)
Large families are full of blessings – you already know that if you’re visiting this site! When you spend some time looking for ways to simplify, you’ll find your life a whole lot more manageable and you’ll have time leftover to enjoy your blessings.
Thankfully, soccer season is almost over and our homeschool is winding down. Our summer schedule looks wonderfully simple and I will breathe a sigh of relief when all the driving around comes to an end (for a while).
How do you simplify your life as mom?
All images by Sarah Mueller