I’ve never been one of those naturally organized people. Before having kids, I was very much a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person. Sure, I took care of my responsibilities but my schedule was in my head, not organized in any way - and that worked fine for me. Add three kids with varying activities and my whole system of winging it just wasn’t working anymore. I knew I had to adopt some new habits to keep myself and my family on track.
File it! Each one of my children drags home an amazing amount of paperwork from school. The system of tossing it all on the dining room table until I have time to go through it just doesn’t work. Without some method for keeping these things, I miss important notes and have to hunt through a stack of papers every time I need to send back a form or figure out what they need for class.
My solution: A hanging file holder in the kitchen. Each child has one file for their school class and separate files for each of their activities. In the back file folder, I keep a list of all of the numbers I need for school and the information for the committees I volunteer on. Now everything is organized in one easy place and I’m never at a loss for what the kids need when they need it… well, at least not with their school papers.
Save the day: Every member of my family has their own schedule. Each of their teams and clubs send out a full calendar of commitments for the season. At any given time, I might have seven separate calendars to keep track of, so I combined them. I replaced my small kitchen calendar with one that has extra large boxes for the days. Every time I get a new schedule from one of the kid’s activities, I transfer the important dates to my kitchen calendar. This works for me because my kitchen is my home base, and I check the calendar often to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.
What’s On The Menu?
One of the biggest hurdles I face is trying to keep a regular dinner schedule when things have us running from one activity to the next. If I don’t plan meals, there’s absolutely no time for cooking - and I can’t do fast food very often because it doesn’t agree with my stomach or my chequebook.
My solution: Devise a menu. Once a week, I look through the calendar and see what the upcoming schedule looks like, and then I figure out dinner dishes that work on each day. If we have football from 5 to 7, I know it’s a good day to make a quick, easy dinner or break out the crock pot in the morning. If it’s a fairly light activity day, I know I can make a more elaborate meal. I’m still a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person at heart. Sometimes I’ll substitute pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches because I just don’t feel like cooking. But planning the basics ahead of time means we have a home-cooked meal most days and it helps keep me on budget.
Time to play: With all of this scheduling, you’d worry that there would be very little time left to spend as a family. Like most moms, the brunt of the workload for running the household falls on my shoulders. While dad is outside enjoying some downtime with the kids, I still have a meal to prepare or clean up afterward.
These days, I try to plan a little better. My oldest helps me clear the plates and they take turns setting the table and getting the drinks. This way, we’re done in half the time and we still get to enjoy each others’ company for a while. I’ve adapted this method for other household chores, too. While my kids don’t always do the most thorough jobs, it’s a lot less effort to touch something up than to do it all myself.
Taking Homework On The Road
I often joke that when I was in school, I didn’t have so much homework to do. One child might have an hour’s worth of homework. When you have more than one, that timespan can add up rather quickly. When one or more is hopping from activity to activity, trying to make sure they get it all in before bedtime can be daunting.
If I don’t check on each of them before heading out the door to someone’s practice, I know we’ll come home late, needing dinner and baths, and wind up with assignments to complete on top of all of that. And if one of them needs help, well, let’s just say it’s not so easy to explain Fifth Grade math while completing 12 other household chores. These days, I make sure to check in with the one who has practice and have them do their homework right after school. Depending on the other two’s workload, they can complete some at home and take whatever still needs to be done with us to practice, along with any supplies they need. This way, there’s enough time if one or all of them need help with their assignments, without having to stay up too late or throw everything else off kilter.
If you are a mom whose routine has become a series of activities to keep track of, adopting some of these organizational tips might be a great way to make a little room in your life… without sacrificing so much of your own enjoyment.
Merry balances her writing career, while raising three active children - she often thinks juggling sharp utensils would involve less precision.
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