If I had six kids

Christine at Welcome to My Brain is considering the possibility of adopting several children at once and asked for hints on dealing with an expanding family. She laughed at herself because her biggest concerns at the moment seem to involve drippy things: bath towels and snow gear and such. I thought I’d answer her specific questions and also share a bit about the things that are hardest for me.

In the bathrooms we have hooks for towels, and towels are tossed in the laundry once a week or so. The little kids don’t care if they share towels, and the big kids keep their own towels in their own bedrooms.

For wet boots and muddy shoes my husband made a tall skinny shelf in the garage that sits right next to the door coming into the house. He sized the various shelves to fit different sizes of shoes: short shelves for muddy soccer cleats, mid-sized shelves for little-kid snow boots, and tall shelves for adult-sized barn boots.

We have hooks in the garage for dusty barn jackets– if we didn’t have a wood stove that sped the drying of snow gear, I’d put drippy coats out there too. But since we do have a fireplace, after a romp in the snow I spread wet coats and snowpants on barstools all around the fireplace and lay the hats and gloves on the hearth. It makes for a bit of clutter, but everything is usually dry in an hour or two, and it works OK.

I personally think the hardest thing about having a large family is finding individual time with each child. The youngest kids tend to get the lion’s share of my time during the day, but it is important to remember older kids need time to chat with mom, even when they seem pretty self-sufficient. We stagger bedtimes and let the big kids stay up a little later. which gives us a little chance to chat. I also rarely run errands alone– almost always I take one or two kids along. I’ve found that it is much easier to have a nice chat when there are only a couple kids along with me, and it feels more special to the child as well.

It is really important when you have a houseful to train everyone to help out in some way (more on that here). Although I keep very busy with cooking and homeschooling and advising and helping kids get along, I rarely do dishes. The kids also vacuum and clean bathrooms and do laundry. All the help saves my sanity AND it trains my kids for real life as well.

{ 13 Comments }

  1. Funny… we do the barstools around the woodstove for the coats too! Except ours is a pellet stove.

  2. Wow. You are really quite organized, aren’t you?

  3. I totally agree on the having everyone have jobs around the house thing. Even my little guys know to put clothes in the hamper, coats in the closet, etc. It helps a lot.

  4. Awesome post, short and useful. I typically go with a gortex jacket to avoid the soggy jacket issue, but that would be pricey for growing kids. Keep up the good work.

  5. I’m always amazed at your organization! I really need to work on that, as I’m feeling a bit swamped right now with only 3, and someday would like more!

  6. Ooooh, you should cross-post this (and the other post you’ve linked to) over at Larger Families — I think there are so many people who could use this great info!

    I’m going to go put hooks in my bathroom this weekend…

  7. Heather Reu says:

    I love your organization post, and agree with everything you wrote. Some people are surprised (And i think some times a little appalled) at what my 3,4 and 5 year olds are able to do to help out the family. With number 4 (who is 2) on the way to our family, I think it is not only responsible to have my kids help do “family work” but also at times neccessary. My oldest two know how to fold their own clothes and put them away, help with some easy cooking chores, set the table, clear the table, etc. At this age they think it’s fun to help, and while I know that the “fun factor” won’t last, we are establishing patterns for later! I just have to be willing to give up control of the way these things are done!

  8. ooh, i’d love to see “organization” pictures from your house!

  9. Thanks for the linky love.

    Husband and I are enjoying the many varied ideas and tips, as it is helping us continue to brainstorm. Our garage is not attached, so if we leave shoes or coats there, we have to walk a short distance on a sidewalk that does tend to get wet and mushy. Just inside, our entry area is about the size of a phone booth. I’m thinking of doing some hanging shelves over the litter box for shoes. Right now my kids (and everyone else in the neighborhood) just take their shoes and coats off and throw them right there in the floor. It always turns into a “Where’s my other shoe?” or “Gross! Your shoe got mud on my coat!”

    It’s one thing if I were just dealing with three pair. Yet, even if I end up with six kids, I’ll still be entertaining the neighborhood, as usual. I need to get on the shoe/coat issue!

    The towel ideas have been great (funny how hooks seem to be the theme). We have very little wall room in our bathrooms, so we might go with the bedrooms. I actually had put up an extra shower curtain rod that hung low enough for the kids to hang their towels. However, we’ll be outgrowing that idea.

    I AM so very, very, very thankful that I have already instilled a lot of great cooperative effort into our home. My kids all clean the bathrooms, litter box and table after eating. They all do their own laundry, start-to-finish (even the four-year-old, who just needs help with detergent and some folding). My husband does the dishes every night. And then I have the things where I just ask for extra help.

  10. I have only two children (wish I had more, but that is another story) but they do plenty around the house and have jobs that must be completed. Once, my father saw my first grade son do one of his jobs and my dad said to me, “what does he get for doing his jobs.” I replied, “he gets to live in this house and be a part of this family.” ‘nuf said. My daughter’s birthday present to me was that for the rest of the month she would do whatever I asked, as soon as I asked, without complaining. Great present. Of course, my son’s gift was that he would not instigate stuff with his sister for 7 days, but not consecutive days.

    For us, alternating jobs by the week works best. One kid empties litter box for a week, the other sweeps kitchen floor and then it reverses. Some jobs we used to alternate but the kids worked out a different arrangement so I figured, if it gets done, I don’t care who does it. Glad to see they took it upon themselves to reach a compromise that worked for both of them without any help from me.

    It doesn’t matter how many kids you have–if you want them to be responsible adults you have to teach them to be responsible children.

  11. Hi Mary! It has been a long time since I’ve left a comment, and I was thinking about you tonight and wondering how your family is doing. This is a great post, and it really applies to anybody who has children. Whether it’s one or ten, kids need to learn to help the entire family out with chores and daily responsibilities. Your posts always inspire me as a mom–I remember your earliest comments on my blog when Addie was a newborn, and they were also such an encouragement.

    Just wanted to say hello tonight, and that I hope you’re all doing well!

  12. Hi Mary! It has been a long time since I’ve left a comment, and I was thinking about you tonight and wondering how your family is doing. This is a great post, and it really applies to anybody who has children. Whether it’s one or ten, kids need to learn to help the entire family out with chores and daily responsibilities. Your posts always inspire me as a mom–I remember your earliest comments on my blog when Addie was a newborn, and they were also such an encouragement.

    Just wanted to say hello tonight, and that I hope you’re all doing well!

  13. Amen! I think we lead parallel lives.