how to balance life with tots and older kids!

Do you ever wonder what the secret is for all the “SuperMoms” out there?  You know the ones… those Pinterest-posting (I love Pinterest), craft-making, Etsy store-owning, having-breakfast-ready-and-served-for-everyone- everyday, all their children neatly groomed, clothes pressed and dressed for the day, homework-doing, clean house-keeping “SuperMOMS” !  Do they really exist, or are they a rare species of women who have secret meetings to expose all the secrets of their super powers? And if so -where are they meeting?

I want to crash the party, don’t you?

So many of us can identify with  “catching up with our day”. We sometimes let the goings on of the day orchestrate our time instead of balancing our day and managing our time wisely. And that is not good because it stresses us out- and when Momma is stressed, you know everyone else is stressed too.

That’s why it is an honor for me to share this article with you, dear readers, because you know what? I NEED this article just as much as you do, and I encourage you to comment below and share some of your great secrets to balancing life with your children too.

Here are some “super” ideas that keep me from pulling my hair out. Please feel comfortable sharing this with others. We are all in this together and we need to help others. Remember we are blessed to be a blessing. Wonder Women unite!

1.  Pray.

It is much easier to balance life with God than to go about your day without Him. I can feel a huge difference when I don’t make time to pray. I used to think that I had to pray first thing in the morning, giving God the first part of my day. However when you have three children sometimes your day starts in the middle of the night, and high fevers or scary dreams can be the cause of starting the day too early. What then? I felt like I failed Him when I couldn’t pray first thing in the morning, but then I discovered that my obedience to pray whatever time it may be is more important to Him because He wants relationship, not ritual. The Bible says to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks for everything. (1 Thesalonians 5: 16-18 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus).

Also…Daniel 6:10 (NIV) says:

Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

So I began to think more outside of my prayer closet, literally.  Why make prayer time only in the mornings? I can pray daily without ceasing, three or more times a day. I encourage you to dig deep into the scriptures. There is so much to learn about and the more I studied about the times of day that Daniel prayed the more precious prayer became to me. I started to talk to God all the time about everything- thanking Him for everything. There are so many daily opportunities to pray. As I make breakfast I thank God for His provision, for our jobs, for protection over our family as we start the day, and I remember to focus on Jesus with daily communion. No longer do I worry about “getting in” my prayer time instead talk to God all day. He is my best friend. For me, prayer is about relationship. When I draw close to Him our relationship strengthens and He gives me balance for the day.

2.  Schedule.

I tried- I really did try- to get on the digital planning train. And, well, let’s just say for me I NEED to write things down too. My iPhone has about 101 apps and what I am realizing is that good ol’ fashioned paper and pen do the job just as well, and for me it can be better sometimes. I prefer to use a daily calendar that has a time schedule and a task list that I can prioritize from most important to less important tasks. The key to keeping a good schedule is making the time to designate time on your schedule for the important tasks, and not so imperative tasks too. I have learned that the best time for me to schedule important items in my planner is when the children are sleeping. (Early morning, late in the evening, or during nap time.)

Our son, Seth, is eleven so he is not napping anymore, but he can occupy himself when I need him to. Having an older child and very young children is challenging because someone always needs something. And when I schedule things into my planner I need to have laser focus, so that I do not leave out anything important. Doing things ahead of time is so much easier than waiting until the last minute. That said, some of my best ideas are last minute ideas, so if I leave a lot of time into my schedule for my own spontaneity I find that it’s easier to keep balance in my life.

 3.  Look for “THEM TIME” Moments.

You have heard of “ME TIME”.  Well, “THEM TIME” is the same concept, and just as important. Instead of focusing on yourself, you focus on them (thus the “THEM TIME” idea.)

Look for moments where you can spend quality time with them. This is so important when keeping balance. There are times when our infant is sleeping, big brother is playing with a friend, and little sister is playing by herself. This is the perfect time for “THEM TIME”.  I casually walk over to little sister and ask if I may join her while she is playing dolls, she smiles big and the next thing I know I am a princess in a castle waiting for my prince. It’s great, it’s valuable time, and it is the perfect opportunity for me to have fun with our real live princess.

4.  Simplify.

The statement “Less is More” has never been more true than now. Make your life simple, and you will find that staying balanced and organized becomes more natural. Here are a few examples of simplifying.

First, take notice of the things you use everyday. If you are not using an item 80% of the time, then you might want to donate it, or store it away out of the way until you need to use it again. Did you know that every item in your home is real estate? It is our job to keep a clean environment for our children and if their toys or“real estate” is everywhere taking up more space than needed, then how can we effectively clean? How can we teach children to value their things? How will they understand that everything has a place and needs to be in its place? We do this by simplifying!

Last year my husband and I took a good look around the house. We were in trouble, and we knew it! Toys and general stuff had taken over. With a new baby on the way we knew we had to make some changes and make better use of our space. But how? We had already built on an addition that provided three extra bedrooms. The problem wasn’t that we needed more space, the problem was that we needed to value the space we had as precious real estate and look for ways to simplify.

We made some interesting decisions that improved our quality of life tremendously.  We got rid of all our old furniture in the living room and created a dining room that we never had. Our kitchen is small and yet big enough to seat a family of 4 but soon we would be a family of 6 (including grandma). We decided that since we already had a space that we could use in the living room that it made sense to get rid of the older furniture that was no longer useful. We repurposed Seth’s toy chests, and made them into seating, that doubles as toy storage. And we added a very long dining table to seat all of our family and some friends. Less is more, and now we have a great area for all the toys, and for dining and it works beautifully. We also converted one of our small bedrooms into a closet room or dressing room. The new space has three closet units, one for each child, it is so much easier than going into their separate bedrooms and putting away clothes in drawers. Now I make one trip to the closet/dressing room and that little bit of time saved makes a huge difference when you are doing so much laundry every day. Everyone has a roomy and private place to change cloths. We make sure everyone has their privacy.

I encourage you look around your house. Are there any spaces you can simplify? We gained a great dining room area and a dressing room that works so well when we let go of the old. These two changes has helped me balance our everyday dressing routine seamlessly.

5.  Delegate.

As moms we are not the only ones living in our homes, so we need others to help us. Ask for help. If everyone shares the living space, everyone needs to share in the tasks as well. I’m not too good at delegating and my husband knows this. I am blessed because he looks for ways to help me. However, I know that if I delegate I am helping to keep balance in our home, and teaching our children responsibility. I will be delegating more often. Even if a task is not done exactly as I like it, or as I would do it, I need to understand that everyone does things differently and it’s okay. As long as the task is getting done, and the result is pleasing that is what matters. Teaching children to take care of the living space that everyone shares is a great way to balance life with children that are older and younger. The older child might swiffer the floors while the young child dusts the easy to reach furniture. Everyone wins. And it’s time spent together doing something responsible. They are learning to take care of their homes together. When we get into a routine- whether it’s house cleaning or school work it is easier to form these routines into important habits that will enrich their lives when they become adults and parents.

6.  Selective Activities.

I see it all the time, moms running all around town getting from one activity to the next in the name of “giving their children a well rounded life”.  Then, they complain about being on the road all week long, barely getting dinner on the table, and all the expenses that come with these extra curricular activities. How is this living a balanced life?

News Flash: you do not have to be the World’s Best (fill in your child’s favorite activity here) Mom. There is nothing in the Mom Manual that says we must sign our children up for everything our community offers so that they will get enough social stimulation. Talk to your older children about the activities they like best and pair down to joining one or two activities each season, instead of trying to join everything on planet earth, and being on the road six evenings a week. Talk to your younger children about what they would like to do once they become of age.  Precondition them now, so that when the time comes the decision will be easy for them. And if you are involved in too many activities, you may have to make a hard decision to table one or two so that your family time has some breathing room. You will find it is much easier to balance your time when you have more time to schedule for activities that are most important, and it will make the activity you selected that much more meaningful.

7.  Embrace Interruptions.

When you have a child or more than one child you learn quickly that interruptions will happen. Have you ever been in the middle of something important and need to concentrate, when all of a sudden you are interrupted? I used to get so frustrated because I felt like one task took me three hours to complete with of all the interruptions. I felt like I was failing because I couldn’t manage my time better due to the daily interruptions like, the baby needs a diaper change or the 3 year old spills her so called “spill proof” sippy cup contents all over the carpet (all while I am trying to homeschool our eleven year old.) I felt like I was going in reverse.

Now when things happen and I become interrupted, I take a deep breath and if I need to I can jot down what I was doing, so that way when I take care of all the needs of my children I can go back and pick up where I left off.

I have learned not to get frustrated when interruptions happen. Rather, I look for them as opportunities to be a blessing to my family.

I change the diaper and give the baby a quick kiss when I pick her up.  I bring a towel for my 3-year- old and ask her to help me clean up the carpet. She feels like she is helping and feels better about her spill, instead of looking at me like she did something wrong and worrying if I am going to be upset with her. My eleven-year-old gets a small break from homeschool, and what child doesn’t like a break from school work.

In the end, it all works out, is everyday perfect? NO WAY is everyday balanced! LOL- that would be awesome, but no, it isn’t.

Am I having fun being a Mommy? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!

Even if every day isn’t perfectly balanced, it’s our life, and it’s our children that are priority. They are God’s gift to us. He is trusting us to raise them, and we are going to make it with the help of God, one day at a time.

About Stephanie Catlett

Stephanie is the mother of three spectacular children. As a Pastor's wife she has a strong desire to share Bible based lessons with her children just as her parents did then she was a young child. Homeschooling is a huge part of her family life going on six years now. Writing books is Stephanie’s “other” job and she is the proud Author and Illustrator to five children’s books with more on the way. Stephanie believes that inspiration is everywhere, and that dreams do come true! Get ready to be inspired, laugh, and dream big dreams. Enjoying every moment of the “mom” life is what Stephanie is all about. Visit Stephanie at www.StephanieCatlett.com

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