6 Moms With Big Families Share Their Best Sanity Savers

6 Moms With Big Families Share Their Best Sanity Savers

Moms with big broods share their best tips for staying on top of it all!

By Wendy Robinson

Evenings at my house are a whirlwind of making dinner, giving baths, picking up toys, breaking up fights over toys that were supposed to be picked up already, and shepherding the kids through their multi-step bedtime routines. My husband and I have two kiddos, so we practice a man-on-man form of parenting defense. Even splitting the workload leads to us both being exhausted on the couch at the end of the day, which brings me to the question: How do moms with bigger families do it all? And what can I learn from these mega-moms?

I decided to talk to some moms with five or more kids to see if they could share some tips that not only keep them sane but might help the rest of us manage our lives a little better, as well.

My first call was to my former college roommate Emily, who is now, thanks to a set of twins, the mother of six kids under the age of 12. Emily shared that the key to her survival is teamwork. “Other than breastfeeding, Jeremy and I have agreed that both parents should be capable of doing ANY kid-related task that comes up,” she says. “We have to be interchangeable. This means that he had to learn some new skills, like hair braiding, and I had to let go of the idea that everything had to be done my way. No gate-keeping, no telling him how to play with the kids or load the dishwasher.”

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For Hannah, a mother of five kids ages 3-15, an extreme commitment to color coding and organization keeps her household running smoothly. “We are a family of seven and live in a house that is just barely over 1,500 square feet,” she explains. “It can very easily feel like chaos and clutter is going to overwhelm me if I’m not aggressive about organizing. Every person in the family has a designated color, so I use color-coded baskets in the mud room for winter clothes, color-coded laundry hampers so I know whose laundry is whose, color-coded backpacks and lunch bags, you name it. My son only gets to wear blue socks, my 5-year-old daughter only gets purple underwear, and so on. It is a bit crazy, I know, but it works!”

Figuring out how to manage household cleaning and tasks was a theme that came up when I talked to Poppy, who manages to keep her house in shape even with seven kids ages 4-20 at home. “Compared to moms with fewer kids, I think the biggest difference I see is that I make the kids do more chores at earlier ages,” she notes. “In our house, for example, everyone is responsible for their own laundry once they hit middle school. Even the 4-year-old is responsible for making his own bed, dusting the baseboards, and helping set the table. Everyone has to pitch in to make this thing work!”

Katherine, a mom in a blended family with five kids ages 11-19, was willing to talk about one of the top challenges for bigger families: the finances. “We are really open with the kids about money stuff,” she says. “We talk about having to prioritize things and about making choices between things like family vacations and travel sports teams. We include the kids in the decision-making and the monthly budgeting, and it really cuts down on them asking for a lot of extras they don’t need. They know what we can and can’t afford, so I’m not always having to say ‘no,’ which is nice.”


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Meanwhile, my neighbor Sarah, who is a mom of five boys ages 5-22, recommends “letting everyone in the house have one thing that is theirs and theirs alone. Sharing is good, but everyone in our house gets one thing that is off-limits to everyone else. Mine is the bigger soaker tub in the master bathroom. I’m no fool. Mama needs alone time too.”

Finally, I love the advice from Marilee, who has a blended family of seven from ages 2 to 27, and who argues that “the easiest way to feel like you are managing the crazy is to lower your standards. I’ve decided to embrace that my house is always kind of a mess and that we’re usually late and that I’m not making fancy organic meals every night. I call it a win if everyone is fed, safe, and warm at the end of the day.”

Fed, safe, and warm -- I can handle that!

How do you manage the chaos at your house?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.com.

Image ©iStock.com/BassittART

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