We were so blessed to have Mrs. Anderson join us as a special guest a couple weeks ago. We had a great discussion, so we wanted to highlight some of those points in this blog post. Enjoy!
I have only personally known Mrs. Anderson for about a year, but I have been reading her blog for years. In fact, I was the one who first introduced my husband to Pastor Anderson, and I only knew about him because of Zsuzsa's blog. For many years, we were pregnant and having children back to back, although she eventually passed me up. She has many years of experience as a homeschooling mom and pastor's wife.
1. How does having a large family affect Mom? What do you need to do to stay sane, especially when having lots of littles?
Zsuzsa- In a large family, everything needs to run at maximum efficiency for things to go off without a hitch as often as possible. There's only one of us, still only 24 hours in a day, and lots of littles with demands on our time. For me, routine is key. It helps the kids know what to expect next, and it gives me something to look forward to (naps!) when days are crazy and nothing goes as planned.
Cassandra- Obviously having many children will affect Mom's health if she doesn't stay on top of it. I know we are tempted to eat trash when busy, (I am preaching to myself here) but try to make time to make yourself healthy meals. Take your vitamins. Get enough rest. For me, when I had lots of littles, it was imperative that I took things one day at a time. Try to enjoy them. It goes by fast, and although it seems as if it will never end while you are in the middle of it, it will end too soon.
A. Don't fall into the mommy guilt trap
Zsuzsa- We all want to do our best, and do what's best by our "babies," big and small. Let's face it, even when they are head and shoulders taller than us, they are still babies to us. They don't need our help so much in tangible ways as they do when they are little, but in countless intangible ways - even if it is just praying for them to make the right decisions in life, stay safe on the road, etc. There is SO MUCH fodder there for mommy guilt! Anything from taking responsibility for every foolish thing kids do, to agonizing over only having done ABC...WXY for them, and not also Z. Of course, we are human and really do make mistakes, daily. It is easy to lie awake at night thinking about all the good things we failed to do, and all the wrong things we did do. Since there is no limit to things to feel guilty over, and since there is little benefit to losing sleep over it, I suggest not even going down that road. Seek God and ask for His help, do your best, and have faith that God will fill in all the blanks where we as moms drop the ball.
Cassandra- I don't know about you, but I struggle in this area. When I first started homeschooling, almost every day I was bombarded by guilt. I wasn't smart enough to homeschool, what if my children weren't learning anything, and they had a horrible future because of me? What if I scarred them for life? I came to realize that I needed to just chill and BREATHE. Chances are, if my children know how to read and write well, and to figure out math, then they will be fine. I would rather raise good children than those that are wizzes in Science, math, or whatever.
B. Let go of unnecessary burdens and expectations that are too high.
Zsuzsa- The Bible says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If you are weighed down by guilt, you are bearing more than God equipped you to bear. It is time to let it go and move forward. Nobody is impressed by your high expectations - they are too busy keeping up with their own expectations to worry about yours. Let's set the bar in such a way that our children don't have to be spiritual Olympiads before we are satisfied with them.
Cassandra- Facebook and Instagram are deceiving. People only put the good side of life on there- the shiny side of life. They don't show the bad and the ugly. Realize that all moms are work in progress. We have not arrived, but we are the best person in the world for OUR children. God gave them to YOU. No one else. You alone know what they need, their little quirks, their likes and dislikes. There is not one mom anywhere that is Supermom. We are all just striving to be the best we can be, for our children and our husband. Let go of perfection, and bask in the chaos.
C. Outsource help
Zsuzsa- Outsource, outsource, outsource! Whether that is getting all the kids to pitch in with chores, to using delivery services such as Amazon, to hiring professional help like cleaning or a mother's helper - whatever you are able to afford, use it! You might even have someone willing to volunteer help - graciously accept it as the blessing that it is. Most of us have more money than time - spend that money on things that free up your time to do those things only you can do. Too many times, I have known husbands who would gladly have paid for hired help, even encouraged their wife to hire help, only to have the wife turn him down in an effort to save money. Ladies, anyone can mop your floors, but your husband only has YOU to be a wife to him. He can make more money to pay for whatever service will free you up, but no amount of money will buy him a second wife.
Cassandra- I have never done this, probably because for so long I thought I had to do it all, be it all, and be perfect while doing it. I have had to ask for help before from my family when I was going through a miscarriage, or when I was so sick I couldn't get off the couch. Don't be afraid to have a mother's helper come over a couple times a week to help out, especially if you have just had a baby, or if you have gone through a surgery, etc.
2. Foundation to helping you stay sane
A. Bible reading and prayer time
Zsuzsa- I do my Bible reading first thing in the morning, before anyone else is up. Modern conveniences like smart phones make this so easy now! Many times, I read it in bed while nursing the baby in the early morning hours, before they go back to sleep and I get up for the day. If I cannot read at that time for whatever reason, I still get in Bible time, either when I read to the kids or again rely on my phone app to read it to them on speaker while they eat breakfast. Double duty - kids get the Bible, and meal times are not crazy! As for prayer, any mom knows there are no uninterrupted times during the day. I pray when waking up, when going to bed for the night, and in between that I pray here and there briefly as I think of things that need prayer - such as seeing my teen back out of the driveway in my 12-passenger van! ;)
Cassandra- Try to have a set time to read your Bible. Sometimes a verse will pop up during the day that you really needed at that exact moment. Read with the kids every day. I try to do this every school day. It might not happen every single day, especially on Saturdays or Sundays- our soulwinning and church days, but at least it happens five days a week. Pray throughout the day. We might not have time to sit around for two hours praying, but you can pray while driving, cooking, etc.
B. Have a routine, or even a basic timeline for things.
Zsuzsa-We have a basic routine, a pattern we follow every day. I get up around 6 a.m., give or take. Breakfast around 7:30 a.m., everyone ready for the day and the chores done by 9 a.m., followed by school work until lunch at noon. Lunch mess cleaned up and kids age 5 and under down for naps by 1 p.m. More schoolwork and silent time until 4 p.m. Dinner is at 5:30, little kids to bed around 7 p.m., older ones by 9 p.m. That gives us parents an hour or more without kids, while still getting enough sleep ourselves.
Cassandra- I don't have a set pattern for my day, but I have a basic timeline. I try to be up by 6:30 or 7, before my kids. I have older kids and no baby right now, so I am able to sleep a bit longer than most moms. I try to have breakfast done, and Bible reading done, by nine. If I start school later than 8:30 or 9, I always feel behind. Most of the time the kids are done by 12:30 with school, then it is music practice time, and cleaning up the house a bit. Supper by 5 or 6, and then free time. This varies from day to day, but that's my loose time frame. Obviously leave room to be flexible.
C. Naps and bedtime
Zsuzsa- Naps are a busy moms link to sanity. In our house, everyone kindergarten age and younger (5 and down) naps after lunch. They go down by 1 p.m., and sleep anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, until about 4 p.m. This is not negotiable. Those too old to nap have to engage in silent activities by themselves, such as school work, reading, puzzles, drawing, etc. At night, we like to get to bed at a decent hour. The youngest (6 and down) go to bed around 7 p.m., the preteens by 8 p.m., and the teens by 9 p.m. Once the littlest kids are down, the ones still up help clean up the house one last time. The faster they go, the more free time they have before bed, so it helps to keep them motivated.
Cassandra- My four year old still takes naps. She sleeps better at night when she does, and is overall happier. Until she can go without crying over petty things, she will continue to take naps. Bedtime usually happens around 8:30 or 9, 10 or 11 for the older kids. When my kids were all young, it was 7:30. The time alone at night was precious to my husband and I. Now that my kids are older and independent, an early bedtime isn't as important to me.
D. Kids and Chores
Zsuzsa- Kids are capable of helping with chores more than some parents give them credit for. In the beginning, teaching them how to do things, and checking up on them to make sure it was done right, takes extra work. However, in the long run, time spent teaching them is well invested, and will save you time and hassles later. Pinterest is full of great, age-appropriate ideas of how to enlist your kids' help with chores.
Cassandra- My kids do most of the chores. I still fold the laundry on my bed, but they start and switch the laundry, lug it up the stairs to my room, and put it all away. My kids rotate cleaning the kitchen- even my boys. They all clean it on Sunday. My girls can cook some meals. Every day the kids are assigned a room and they are responsible for cleaning it and sweeping or vacuuming. On Saturday we deep clean the bathrooms and mop.
E. Kids' discipline
Zsuzsa- Things run a lot better when the kids are not in a habit of questioning their parents' every decision, and disobeying as they see fit. A great barometer for how well the level of discipline is dialed in in your home is Proverbs 29:17, "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul." If you are frazzled and joyless, it's time to get the kids under control.
Cassandra- If your child is annoying you, chances are a habit needs to be broken. Train your children when they are young, and you will have rest the older they get. Teenagers should be a help to you, not a hindrance.The first few years of life are so important to the training of children. This will rest solely on you, Mama, since you are home with them the most. Some days you will feel like all you do is discipline your child, but stick with it. It will pay off.
3. Extras that will help you keep order out of the chaos
A. Simplified Meal Planning
Zsuzsa- I have a laminated list of meals on the side of my fridge that I can draw on for inspiration as needed. It is sorted by breakfasts, dinners, desserts, etc. Every day, I cook breakfast and dinner. I make enough of the dinner to have leftovers for lunch the following day. This allows us to homeschool or run errands in the morning without having to worry about making lunch. Whenever possible, I like to make breakfast for the following day the night before, when I am already in the kitchen making a mess cooking dinner. This works great for things like muffins, banana bread, cutting up fruit for parfaits, mixing up waffle batter, etc. As the kids get older, enlisting their help in the kitchen also saves time. Finally, whenever possible, I like to make a huge batch of one meal and freeze an extra dinner or two here and there.
Cassandra- I have basic meals that I rotate. Since I shop at Aldi, most of my food doesn't change much. Even my 13 year old knows how to get a cart and go through Aldi, buying everything we normally do.
B. Common-sense homeschooling
Zsuzsa- Again, ditch the mommy guilt. You don't have to prove that homeschooling works by raising child prodigies who graduate from university by age 14. You have nothing to prove - if your kids all learn to read and do elementary math, they are already lightyears ahead of the public school average. Find a curriculum that is engaging them, and requires minimal babysitting from you. The most important thing to teach kids is reading. Once they are proficient readers, they can read directions themselves and work much more independently. I teach all of our kids to read using the A Beka phonics course, and switch them to ACE by 3rd grade.
Cassandra- I use Abeka video school for a good foundation for my kids. They learn how to read excellent through this program, and they also learn how to form cursive letters very well. I can't say enough good things about it. Once they hit fifth grade, I switch them to ACE. This curriculum is very streamlined. They score their own work, and they do five pages a day per book. Once they finish 12 books in each subject, they are done for the year. It is very self motivated curriculum.
C. Becoming a Minimalist, and reducing clutter
Zsuzsa- We live in the same house now, with 12 people, that we bought when there were only 5 of us. As our family has grown, our house has not. You can either buy bigger and bigger houses to accommodate your growing collection of things, making a full-time job of becoming the museum curator of your things - or you can ditch all the stuff and the mental load that comes with it. I didn't choose the minimalist lifestyle, the minimalist lifestyle chose me - and I'm so glad it did! It is so freeing to get rid of things without feeling guilty! Again, Pinterest and the internet are full of great resources for becoming a minimalist. Trade that clutter for peace of mind!
Cassandra- I hate clutter. I live in a very small home- 1300 sq ft. If I have clutter, it looks messy. I try to stay on top of it. When I stay on top of the clutter, I can just breathe easier, and I feel less overwhelmed. My kids don't have many toys. We live on three acres in the country. They have a playset out there, and bikes. They don't need that many toys in the house, and I don't have room for that many toys.
4. Conclusion- Once again, go easy on yourself.
Zsuzsa- If you are seeking the Lord, and are doing what you are supposed to be doing - relax. God's promises are true, and He will make all things work together for good to them that love Him.
Cassandra- You can try to run the tightest ship in the world, and stress yourself out, your husband out, and your kids out, and still have chaos. My advice is yes, try to be on top of things, but if life happens, it happens. Some days you are going to burn the chicken, the kids are going to be throwing up, your house will be a mess, and you'll be in a tshirt and dirty skirt all day. That's ok. You aren't the worst mom ever, and your family won't turn out to be psycho killers from having a bad day once in a while. Life happens, and don't beat yourself up over it when it does. Remember, God gently leads us. He understands. When you have a bad day, just take a breath, and do the most basic things. Feed your family, love your husband, and don't let the house burn down. Call it a day, and remember, tomorrow is alway fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.