How do you get beyond Survival Mode?

How do you get beyond Survival Mode? March 4, 2010


I’ve been asked before and recently again, “How do you go about the daily grind with kids?” I’ve posted about my Survival Basics before, and believe me there are times where those don’t even happen. Like when I’m post partum, or sick, or on those bad pregnant days.

But most of us don’t want to exist in survival mode, we want to break past it and thrive. I’ve found that alot of the “stuff to do with your toddler” books are written by and for moms of one or 2 children, and all the cute little ideas about taking your child to a special hands-on workshop are more guilt inducing than helpful when you are juggling more than one child.

After reading blogs or books on fostering creativity in your toddler, I usually feel overwhelmed and hope that my children aren’t going to end up stunted and dense on account of never having attended “Mommy and me” classes or finger-painted all over a paper-covered floor.

Trying to care for several small children, prepare meals, keep the house fairly clean and still maintain the laundry can often crowd out any time for interacting with my kids. I can be so overwhelmed by the amount of things I want to get done, that by the time I fall exhausted into bed I am unable to put my finger on any one thing I got done that day.

I found that I was being held back by the sheer amount of things I was attempting. My day would start off with a list of things that needed to happen, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, the living room has to be vacuumed, I need to do 4 loads of laundry and change all the sheets. With a list like that, I would get partial chores done all day, usually yelling at my kids to get out of the way and putting them in front of the TV with Winnie the Pooh so I could get some stuff done. At the end of the day, I didn’t finish anything, and I had unhappy children.

Then I would try to remedy the problem the next day, by deciding to “do stuff” with my kids. I would abandon chores and get out the paints and play-dough, tried to keep my kids from fighting over the puzzles and made cupcakes together. At the end of the day, the house would be wreck, the kids filthy, and I would be more behind than ever.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve figured out how to make it all work, my house isn’t perfect at the end of the day and my kids don’t have a cute art project to hang on the fridge every night. But I have found a way to keep things going fairly smoothly for me. I decided to that I would try to get ONE BIG CHORE accomplished every day. I even assigned them to specific days. I also decided I would try to do ONE FUN ACTIVITY with my kids each day.

Sunday: Church all day

Monday: Family day, (Hubby’s day off) Usually grocery shop on this day

Tuesday: Messy Activity with kids, Wash Kitchen Floor

Wednesday: Moms Bible Study (has childcare), Vacuum

Thursday: Make Believe with kids, Clean Bathroom

Friday: Bake with kids, De-clutter and Organize

Saturday: Puzzles or Games, Plan Menu and Pay Bills

The Messy Activities we’ve done so far:
Painting (You may have to use edible “paints” like ketchup and mustard to let a very small child paint)
Play-dough
Playing with a bowl of water and cups and spoons
Playing with a bowl of snow
Playing with a pan of uncooked rice or beans
Making puppets
Dried noodle art
Stringing Fruit Loops on a “necklace”

The Make Believe activities we’ve tried:
Dress up
Blanket thrown over the table to make a house
Made a large box into a Playhouse
Made a “neighborhood” for the stuffed animals with boxes for the houses
Playing “dolls” or “house”
Building a town out of blocks
Pretending to cook with pans

Other than meals, the daily chore takes priority. If its a really bad day, the laundry can wait, the toys can get picked up tomorrow. But at least I will get my ONE BIG CHORE done.

As you can see, we don’t get out of the house that much in the winter. In the summer we like to walk to the park near our house after dinner and let the girls play, but in the winter we are stuck indoors.

So my daily routine looks something like this.

We get up and have breakfast. When I run downstairs to my family closet in the basement to grab outfits for the girls, I throw a quick load of laundry into the Wash Machine. We all get dressed (most of the time).

Then I spend sometime trying to wake up while the girls have Action Time. (No it doesn’t really have a name, but I have to describe it somehow) Usually this involves dancing to music, jumping on a mattress on the floor, playing hide and seek, I think this would be a great time to do a kids exercise video too, I remember loving those as a kid, and in the summer they might run around outside while I sit on the back step.

After I feel awake enough we might have a snack (a small piece of fruit, or a cracker) and I load and run the dishwasher with all the dishes from yesterday. Then we do our FUN TIME for that particular day. We have clean up and lunch and then it is nap-time/quiet time.

Ms Drama naps from about 12-2, so Ms Action has to play quietly by herself if mom is busy (with the baby or the computer), or we read books together, or maybe work on a chore or laundry depending on the day.

At 2 quiet time is over and we start to make more noise so Ms Drama will wake up. We have a snack.

Then if I haven’t gotten to it yet, I try to get my DAILY CHORE done. On a really good day, I might let the girls help me, or I might have them color in their coloring books, or if this seems like a day where they would be more likely to color on the walls, they might get to watch one video while I get my chore done.

Then we make Dinner and eat by 5 or 5:30. After dinner Dad plays with the girls while I clean up dinner. Then we have family time and usually try to pick up toys at some point. We have a small snack (bread and milk) and then the kids go to bed at 8.

I usually try to fold and sort some laundry and switch the load from the washer to the dryer (Now that I have my hubby around to hold the baby!) while we talk for a bit. Then we hang out till our own bedtime.

Yes, this is flexible depending on how everyone in feeling, or if the baby wants to nurse an abnormal amount of times. But for the most part, that is how our daily routine goes. The single most helpful thing for me has been to make the “Once daily” rule. If we don’t get to our fun activity, I know that at least we have one scheduled tomorrow. If I don’t get to cleaning the bathroom, I may try to get it done on our free day, or in an evening sometime, but it might just have to wait until the next week. And that’s got to be OK sometimes. The second most helpful thing has been to keep eliminating excess stuff. The less clothing, toys, nick-nacks etc. laying around, the less I have to clean, the more time I have for other things.

The list of Goals is never ending, I can always have things I never got to that I fret about, but most days I can go to bed knowing that one load of laundry, one load of dishes and maybe even ONE BIG CHORE and ONE FUN ACTIVITY got done that day.

Do you have some kind of loose routine or schedule at your house?

Do you have any books or websites that you have really gained from?

Please share!

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