What has having a big family taught you about motherhood?
Well in starting with the obvious…when you sit down in maple syrup and it is still dry… it is indeed a good day. I have lowered my expectations concerning housework (and just about everything else)…although I am still a laundry fanatic. The more I watch my kids grow the more I realize how little I truly know. My children teach me more than I ever thought was possible to know. Each child is so amazingly different.
Certain truths I learned along the way include:
• Pick your battles carefully otherwise you’ll lose the war (especially with the teenage crowd)
• Take whatever moment you can find to connect with each child…don’t wait for the “perfect” time it might not ever happen.
• Teach your children unconditional love…this has to be the hardest. I may not like or approve of what you do but I love you regardless…no matter what.
• If you buy they will eat it…period.
• Babies cannot ever be spoiled. So rock, hug, snuggle and repeat often because too soon they are grown and gone… (only after first spending about 8 years of being embarrassed of you for merely existing)!
• You will learn in time that everything has a funny side (otherwise we’d have jumped ship ages ago)! It may take weeks, months or years to fully appreciate this.
• Live your life the way you want your children to learn to live theirs …they imitate you more closely than you will ever completely know.
• One of the biggest gifts to instill in your child is self-confidence and unshakable hope without which they are prey to a host of negative influences and resulting outcomes.
• Money is overrated. Time is priceless. While cleanliness is next to godliness…it also at times is overrated.
• Crayons melted can be easily cleaned out of the dryer!
• Bedtime is something that can only happen after the afternoon school bus arrives home (in spite of how you may personally feel to the contrary).
• Feed, nurture and help to support the gift of faith and trust in God and His providence.
• A best friend who loves and enjoys all your children (and still visits you in your chaos) is rare and to be treasured.
What tips do you have for meal planning?
Sadly I am not a wizard in this department, partly because I did a lot of this (cooking stuff) as the eldest growing up. Left to myself I would rather skip dinner most nights (although not a very popular idea around here).
Money and time can both be saved by knowing ahead of time what is being served at each meal. While this could also be seen as boring it does help keep the costs of eating out or buying take out (pre-made) food down when that magical time comes and you are asked a million times…”what are we having for dinner MOM?”
I only buy what is on sale and then make meals accordingly much to the horror of my family. One cost saving tip is to decide on what is a really great price for something and then only by the item at or near the better price. I have a deep freeze (when not full of relatives) and often take advantage of sales by stocking up.
Any baked treats not made at home come from the 50% rack at the bakery at the local store. This has had its funny moments in the past when I would buy birthday cakes ahead at 50% off (surplus ones being cleared out then freeze them) until one kid I had to buy a regular priced cake for was upset wondering why he didn't rate enough to get the 50% off frozen cake! Learned… I can’t please everyone.
As the kids get older I plan meals around the age group at home for the particular meal. If all the older kids are out then there are fewer for dinner and sometimes a lighter meal or breakfast for dinner is a better choice for the younger ones.
I am about to embark on a plan to shop every day to keep the grocery bill in check. If it is not here it cannot be eaten. I want to see what happens. Not sure when I will try this out likely in the fall (stay tuned) when the tribe is back in school and see if I save any money shopping for groceries every day. Is more economical?
Another great tip is to invest in a barbecue and have “the husband” cook the meat (out with the rest of suburbia searing their dinners over open flames) outside. This saves on mess, electrical costs, smells, grease stains etc..not to mention your own energy.
How do you get your children involved with chores? Please share what age these tips are appropriate for.
Some kids are natural helpers and some are not. Some have a real work ethic while others work at avoiding chores. Wherever possible I try to match the chore to the interests of the child. Some kids are okay with dishes every day while others will do a more “gross” job like the bathrooms but then only twice a week.
The younger crowd (3-5 years) usually loves to help with anything a parent is doing, folding laundry. drying dishes (the plastic ones or the pot lids), watering plants, tidying up the shoes (oh and there are a lot of them).
The ones ages 5-7 can unload/load dishwashers (I have two of them), dry dishes, sweep the floor, set the table, pick up the bathroom, make their beds, colour sort laundry and put their own laundry away.
Once they arrive at the 7-9 group they can play games with the younger kids, change the garbage around the house (replacing the liner), cleanup the outside of the house, clean-out the cars in addition to all the chores the younger crowd are expected to do.
Once they reach 9-12, again same chores as when younger but more responsibility. These children can help prepare side dishes, snacks or simple meals. Load/unload washer /dryer, help fold laundry, carry in groceries and put them away (NO NOT EAT THEM!), play with the younger kids, help younger ones read stories, escort younger kids on bikes rides or playing at the park, walk , feed take care of the dogs etc..
By the time 12-15 the ever growing list of chores can also include occasional babysitting, changing the beds in the house, supervising younger ones completing chores, shovel the driveway (live in Canada…it is a reality 5 months every year), laundry and making the odd meal.
The reality some days are better than others.
Everyone has a price.
Bribes (better word incentive?) work much better than consequences. One pan of fudge and I have the attention of everyone 16 and under (if they don’t eat it first). I currently have a young lady very allergic to chores who has decided she would really like to earn an iPod… I only pay for chores beyond her regular family chores and at the agreed-upon rate of $.10 (along with a $1.00 fine for any regular chore she refuses).
It will take the better part of a year and a bit. However, she is well on her way having now earned $30.00 towards the purchase and extra chores are actually being sought out and completed ahead of time.
At 16 (plus) they discover they have lives of their own and usually find a part-time job. As long as they are in school the can keep the money they earn, pay for their own upgrades (phone, food out, specialty clothing items etc..) as long as they stay on top of their regular chores.
It is never easy…but with a crowd this size every chore is noticed. At the door I have to contend with 12 pairs of shoes and two of my lads were size 17.5 men’s…so shoes not lined up…I would never be able to get in the door with groceries in the first place. (!!)