Surviving and Thriving With 4 Kids Five and Under (and a Job)
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to feel overwhlemed as a mom of 1 kid, let alone 4 kids 5 and under. Mommin’ is hard. Some of the hardest work around. We rarely even get to go to the bathroom alone, let alone get an actual break from our daily labor. Even if we start the day like a rock star, by 5:00pm we start to lose our marbles.
I get it. I’ve been there more times than I can count. But having 4 kids in under 5 years and managing a job on top of it has taught me a thing or two about trying to keep mom overwhlem at bay. The principles of avoiding overwhelm while raising kids is pretty much the same no matter how many kids you have.
11 TIPS FOR MANAGING MOM OVERHWHELM
(SURVIVING & THRIVING WITH 4 KIDS 5 AND UNDER)
1) Make your health a priority.
When you get on an airplane, the flight attendant always goes through that spiel where they remind you that in case of an air pressure emergency to put on your own mask before helping anyone else.
This absolutely applies to motherhood. So many moms put their needs last, afraid to take care of themselves thinking it will take away from their kids. But it’s not a zero-sum game where if you are focusing on yourself, your kids are missing out. It’s actually the opposite: The better care you give yourself, the better equipped you are to take care of your family.
Just like you can’t put on your kid’s masks on an airplane if you’ve passed out due to lack of oxygen, you can’t give your kids everything if you are running on empty. You are probably already a pretty dang awesome mom. I mean, seriously: if you are reading this, you are probably trying to get tips to be a better mom. Crummy moms don’t do that. You’re a good mom. So take care of yourself mentally and physically and you can become even better. Check out my post of getting started with self-care here.
2) Get enough sleep.
Okay, stop laughing. It actually is possible. But it’s not going to happen naturally–it’s gonna take some effort. But even with 4 kids 5 and under, I almost always get at least 7 hours of sleep a night (here’s some strategies to get better sleep).
Have you ever been so exhausted after you put the kids to bed that you can’t do anything but sit and stare? So you sit in front of the TV and binge a show for 3 hours because you can’t muster the energy to actually go to bed. Then the kids wake you up the next day and you are totally crabby because you are exhausted.
Oh boy, been there and done that. While it’s nice to do sometimes, I realized that it does not fit with my goals. I can’t do that regularly and be the mom I want to be.
Sleep is 100% linked to basically every part of your health (weight, energy, level, skin etc) not to mention directly correlated to the amount of patience one has. And you are going to need that as a mom. I’m not saying you have to stop watching The Bachelor or doing something else that brings you joy. But you’ve got to be smarter about it to get enough sleep. Even cleaning your house may be unproductive if you are sleep deprived. Think about it: if you were bleeding profusely, you wouldn’t be like “Oh, let me just finish these dishes and then I’ll go get something to take care of this bleeding.” You would take care of the bleeding immediately. If you are seriously sleep deprived, sleep is way more important than cleaning.
3) Wake up before the kids.
Call me crazy, but I wake up at 4:00am most mornings. I am NOT a natural morning person, but once I started doing this, it changed my whole life.
This gives me my “Me Time” in the morning when I am fresh and can make the most of it. I find that waking up early, exercising, and getting a few thing done before my kids are awake honestly makes me feel like there are more hours in the day.
Without a doubt, days when I wake up before my kids are far more productive than when I wake up to a child staring at me and asking for breakfast. Once my 4 kids 5 and under are awake, I have to hit the ground running and I have zero time for myself. If I have my “Me Time” after the kids are in bed, chances are it’s going to be spent in front of the TV or computer doing something completely unproductive. Which means time wasted and crummy sleep.
4) Write a comprehensive “To Do” list every single morning, first thing.
Organization is key when balancing all the mom tasks that we have. Writing down all that you need to get done can help take the stress off your mind and focus your energy during the day.
I’ll usually begin my list the night before so I wake up knowing where my daily focus should be. I’m old school and write most of my daily lists on legal pads (there are no fewer than 5 strewn across my house at any particular time–my husband just loves it!). Pretty much every major task I need to accomplish from exercising, showering, taking kids to school, making dinner, or calling a plumber is on my list.
Apps like Wunderlist or Evernote can also be super helpful in organizing your day and consolidating your lists.
Exercising boosts energy, promotes bone and muscle function, aids in weight loss, and helps mental health. And you don’t need to spend hours doig it to reap the benefits. Just 2-30 minutes of solid exercise can make a huge difference.
For me, working out a key element of most all of my “good mom days”. All these benefits are like gold when it comes to taking care of 4 kids 5 and under and maintaining a home all day. My average day is like an olympic event, so working out is like conditioning to mentally and physically handle my long busy days. For ideas on exercising, check out my post 6 Gym-Free Ways For Busy Moms to Fit in a Quick Workout.
6) Pick your battles wisely.
This has been a very key strategy to how I am able to manage all I have on my plate. You can’t do it all, but you can do what is important and valuable to YOU. For example, I do not battle over my kids clothes and hair. It does not affect my happiness one bit. Instead, the fact that they dress themselves from about age 2 and on makes my life considerably easier.
As an added bonus, they love having some control and autonomy over their lives. Plus they learn to make their own choices. We do “brush our hair for Jesus” so they look presentable at church. And they have to be appropriately covered (no panties showing and pants & jackets if it’s cold). Peplum tops pose serious confusion as my girls cannot understand that they are not actually dresses.
On the other hand, I am really concerned about my kids eating healthy food. Therefore, I put a lot more energy and effort into preparing healthy foods and encouraging them to like things that are good for their bodies.
You can’t fight every battle and have sanity left over. Pick your battles and let go of the rest.
7) Shower & get dressed everyday.
It may seem silly, but I am more productive and efficient when I am showered and dressed for the day. Being dressed and presentable allows me to focus more clearly on the tasks I have to get done. Mind you, “dressed for the day” does not mean I’m ready for the Oscars or even to go to work. It means I am clean, clothed, and have brushed my teeth. This whole process takes me about 15 minutes. I shower, use this dry shampoo, put my hair in a ponytail, and if I’m feeling fancy I use a little mascara and lip moisturizer.
8) Give individual attention and snuggles to each child daily.
Having 4 kids 5 and under means that this takes some forethought. But lot’s of snuggles make happier kids. And crabby kids make for a crabby and frustrated mama. But most crabby kids don’t need a lecture, they need a good long hug. The more snuggles in a day, usually translates into a smoother, happier day.
9) Live by 1 minute rule
If a task will take only 1 minute or less to complete, do it right away. This gives you 2 boosts: you get the satisfaction of getting something done plus it creates momentum to accomplish more tasks.
This is how I manage my long to-do list. Attack the quick and easy stuff right when I think of it. Otherwise, I get massive overwhelm with all I have to do. If you have a bunch of small tasks do them back to back. It takes a couple minutes and you get a great energy and happiness boost.
10) Use the “10 minute clean” philosophy.
It’s pretty amazing what kinds of messes 4 kids 5 and under can make in just a few minutes. When I have huge messes to clean and no time (i.e. every moment of my life), this strategy perfect. I muster whatever strength I have for just 10 minutes and I do a whirlwind clean. It’s amazing what I can accomplish in 10 minutes when I am focused and working quickly. It’s usually enough to get areas of my house in good enough shape to feel fine moving on to an essential task or going to bed.
11) Declutter, declutter, declutter.
The more things you have, the more messes you have to clean up. So the more clutter you have, the more time it takes to manage it. A couple of years ago, I was so very frustrated by all the messes in our home and a friend recommended Marie Kondo’s The Magical Art of Tidying Up. I devoured the book. Then I immediately started to do her program of massive purging. I did it all–even talking to my possessions. It was therapeutic and energizing. I was able to part with stuff I’d held on to for years without a second glance. And best of all: it made keeping my house clean so much easier. Not to mention I enjoyed my home so much more. I completely reorganized my home and kitchen to be more functional. As an added bonus, we made several hundred dollars selling stuff on Craigslist and at a garage sale.
The Minimalists are also a great decluttering resource if you are looking for motivation. This is one of their strategies to declutter your home and life.
These “Rules” Make 4 Kids 5 and Under Totally Doable
So there you have it! These are some key tactics to managing my life with kids and work. As our family has quickly grown over the last few years, these tips have been nothing short of lifesaving. No matter how mant kids you have, these tips can help manage the overwhelm.
Let me know what you think!