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Chores and Logistics from a Mom of 10

Sara has many ideas to share from their family systems for various chores and details of daily life.

How do you distribute chores?

Their "big" chore might be something like quick-clean a bathroom, dust mop hardwood floors, wash the sliding glass door, etc... Small things (running out trash, fetching diapers, etc.) are done by anyone anytime.

Dishes and laundry run on different routines (these are the least enjoyed things and I didn't want to saddle anyone with them too often).

Each child is assigned a day to help unload the dishwasher (oldest on Monday, second child on Tues, third on Weds, all the way to sixth child on Saturday; we all help out on Sunday and now we've started doubling up the other days of the week, so seventh helps out on Monday as well, eighth on Tues... this has worked really well since my older children are now busy working out of the home sometimes). I do breakfast and lunch dishes and for dinner we have 2 crews (M-W-F and T-Th-Sa; we all help on Sunday). The crew will unload/load the dishwasher, wash pots, wipe counters, vacuum the dining room, take out the garbage if needed, sweep, etc..

For laundry: I wash clothes and towels M and F (4 loads each time). On Monday the 7 yo brings the laundry to the washing machine and sorts it; the 5 yo does it on Friday. I usually start the load and a child usually switches it to the dryer. I fold it as soon as it's dry (we have big dresser right by the dryer where I can fold it all on). Then we rotate who is my helper for putting the laundry away once all the loads are folded. That child does it M and F for that week. We have 6 children who can do the task so they only need to do it once every six weeks. We swim a lot so swim laundry (towels & suits) get washed up to 3 times a week (big kids start the load; little kids dry/fold it).

The bigger kids, now that they do more outside of the home, might also wash a small load mid-week on their own, or I will sometimes need to wash something really nasty (and dry it but I usually ignore it once it's in the dryer!) but for the most part, I focus on laundry 2 days a week (I hate doing a load a day and always have it hanging over my head). Bed linens are inconsistent... I seem to get the energy to get them all done in one week and then not again for a few weeks (one of my least favorite chores, thought not as bad now that most kids can get the sheets back on their own beds).

When and how do you shop? Run errands?

We usually do Costco once every two weeks. In the spring and summer I often get it done in the afternoon with some of the kids (big kids baby sit sleeping babies) but during the fall and winter I often send my husband with a few kids some weeknight evening. He will pick up milk at the grocery store on his way home from work once a week; I usually go to TJ's on Saturday afternoon (weekly or every other week). I do most other shopping online (Amazon!) with the exception of kids clothes. We shop at our local consignment store. I usually end up going 4 or 5 times at the start of a seasonal change (out here that means early Sept and early May) when I'm making sure everyone has what they need and then only as needed. I also look at thrift stores though not on any set routine. They seem to have 50% off sales around public holidays so that is often when I'll go.

Aside from daily chores for the kids we have a list of chores we do once a month (I call it the "second Saturday" list because we usually do it on the second Sat). It has things like dust bedrooms, vacuum couches, etc- deep cleaning- on it. When we do those chores I pitch in and try to help each child do something from their list to get a sense of working together (I will often have my own list that I'm working on, too). For regular, weekly chores I try to do one chore for each child at some point during the week which helps me to make sure those chores are actually getting done well (I don't have a list, I just decide based on what I'm seeing and what time I have). No set time that I do that cleaning; I squeeze it in whenever (I end each day by writing out my to-do list on the white board so I can see it as they day goes on and do what I can with the moments of time that come to me). Bigger kids have harder chores (bathrooms, dusting, etc.); little kids have easier ones (wipe the banister, vacuuming out the dresser by the backdoor where we keep shoes, etc.).

Who prepares meals? Are there set times for all meals or some? 

Kids prepare breakfast M-F; Brian usually takes Saturday and on Sunday we have cereal (help yourself and a little kid). Occasionally we'll throw together a big brunch on a Saturday. I make lunch and dinner. Sometimes I'll have someone help with dinner. There aren't set times for meals (it's generally 8:30 am/noon/5:30 pm) but when the meal is served, everyone who is home eats. I do eat breakfast and lunch on my own.

Do you have nap or quiet time? If so when? How do you transition out of quiet time? 

Nap time for babies is 1 pm to 4 pm (occasionally they will even sleep later). As they grow out of nap they will play in their rooms until 4 pm. The middle kids (10, 8, 7, 5) have quiet time alone from 1 pm to 3 pm (each in a different room but about 50% of the time I will let 2 double up) and then they can come downstairs for the last hour. Big kids keep to themselves in the afternoon or go out (with friends, to the store for a treat, etc.). During the school year they are usually still working. I would love to nap but if I do it will take me until 2 am to wake. I've seriously considered a split nighttime but I don't think it will work. However, I do use the afternoon to do work on my own (computer work, cleaning, projects, read). While I do feel like our afternoons are quiet, I am interrupted a lot! It's always a work in progress. I try to save some special books on CD or toys for the afternoon to make it different for the kids, especially my go-go-go extroverted kids. At 4 pm we do a clean-up (usually bedrooms need a little attention and the family room), maybe a few quick tasks for me and a snack. Most of the weekdays I let them watch a show at that point while I get dinner started. During the school year we stick to documentaries or cooking/baking shows about 75% of the time but in the summer we'll watch some other stuff. On Fridays they usually watch a movie. If it's really rainy or I'm trying to get something important done I will sometimes let them watch something at 3-ish with a break for snack/chores at 4 pm and a few more minutes of watching after that. Roughly once a week (2 to 3 times a week in the summer) I will have appointments & errands in the afternoon and some of the children decide to go with me. On Saturday I usually take anyone who wants to go on my errands (if I have any) and on Sunday I try to let them do something special (a movie if it's rainy or a park/the pool/biking with dad if it's not). 

What rules or systems do you have about computers and movies? 

We have one computer (desktop) in a common area that is kept locked. There are two tablets in the house- one I use to watch something on while walking on the treadmill; it's kept locked. The other one is to listen to Audible books on and it is disconnected from the internet (unless I'm downloading something). I let certain children use it in the afternoon during quiet time. We also have a really old laptop that is kept locked and in a drawer in the kitchen. The 5 older kids use the computer and laptop for math (they use Teaching Textbooks) and occasionally (twice a week?) I will let the 7 yo play on starfall on the desktop (the 5 yo and 2 yo watch). The two big girls use the computer for school research occasionally (they have to ask to use it), or I'll do some browsing with them (pricing things on Amazon, looking at clothes online, etc.). I will let them look on specific websites if they are trying to find something to buy (for example, looking for a certain type of dress on Amazon) but it's always while I'm home and around. I lock the computer down if I go out, always.

As for movies- I mentioned above that I usually let them watch one on Fridays. Sometimes I'll do a big kid movie and a little kid movie (we have 2 TVs- one in the living room, one in the family room). We have lots of DVDs and occasionally the big kids will pool money and have me rent them something on Amazon. Brian and I vet most movies and show them lots of oldies and movies we watched as kids/teens. We host movies nights for my older girls and their friends 4 of 5 times a year. The join us for dinner, watch a movie in the family room afterwards and then we all have dessert after that. If I'm going out I will often let whichever big kid stays home start a movie (or an episode of a TV show on DVD) but they know they might not get to finish it. I did this more often when my older girls were new babysitters but I do it less often now.

When and how does your family pray?

Do you have special routines for Saturday and Sunday ? We say grace before meals. During the school year we add on an extra prayer after grace before breakfast. One year we did the Anima Christi, another year it was the Holy Spirit prayer. It's an easy and simple way to keep learning new prayers. We say the rosary as a family in the evening about 3 nights a week and always say night prayers as a family (everyone who is at home joins in). Every Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday (most often at home, but sometimes at our parish). We celebrate baptism anniversaries and feast days of our patrons with dessert.

Do you have special routines for Saturday and Sunday ?

I do try to make Saturdays and Sundays different. We try to make Saturday a day for getting projects and errands done. The kids love running errands with us. I often make a fun and easy dinner, and sometimes Brian and I will get take-out. On Sunday there is mass, socializing afterwards, lunch when we get home and then naps for boys. The other kids have quiet time but I try to make sure there is something special- new coloring books for the girls, or a visit to a park at some point, etc. My oldest likes to hibernate in her room on Sundays but my second will often make plans with her friends. The big boys play with neighborhood friends. If we're going to entertain it is usually for Sunday dinner. As a family we try really hard not to eat out or shop at stores on Sunday which is especially good for me. It forces me to not "get something done" and instead stay at home. I find since I'm at home in the afternoon it is easiest for me to make a big meal and have others over. If we're not having guests I'll sometimes try new recipes for dinner or dessert. 

What do you do when unexpected things come up? (Illness, travel, special occasions, visitors) 

Some of our kids handle changes in routine better than others... They are pretty healthy, thankfully. We might get a cold or two over the fall/winter/spring and the stomach flu once every few years. If they are sick it usually means more TV time as I am busy taking care of the sick child/children, doing extra laundry, etc... The big kids are old enough to keep on with their school work if they are healthy. We don't get many visitors but if we do, I try to keep the nap time for the little boys consistent (same with when we travel- if they can get a nap for a few days in a row between travel days that is best for everyone). As much as I love routine and know that our big family functions best when we have routines in place, I love the break in routine that travel provides and crave it! I also love holidays- we take a big break in December for Christmas and do lots of fun things. Easter break is pretty short because by that point in the year we are getting close to finishing school and it's so hard to stop when the end is near! But we do have special traditions for Easter as well. 

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