Large Family Stress Reduction: Getting Ahead Part 2

In my last installment in this series, Large family crisis reduction: getting ahead {part 1}, we discussed the basic ideas behind doing things ahead, or, as Don Aslett puts it, creating a “frontlog” instead of a “backlog.”

getting ahead 2

Of course there are times when even the best of plans are interrupted, and this is where faith is exercised.

However, if we are in the habit of keeping ahead wherever possible, we have less trouble getting back on track when things return to “normal” (whatever that means!).

Really and truly, time is one of my most precious commodities, so I am constantly looking for ways to use it more wisely. Although it can seem as though the rest of the world (you know, the people who don’t have three in diapers at the same time) has loads of extra time, everyone is subject to the same encumbrances. I have learned not to become worried or frustrated that I don’t have huge spans of time to focus on just one task.

I have learned to stay ahead by snatching moments that would otherwise be lost.

For instance, I carry paper and pencil in my apron pocket and write down ideas and plans as they come to my mind, usually while I am vacuuming! I sew on buttons and patch clothes while watching movies and cuddling children (a stitch in time…). If I am waiting in the car while running errands, I catch up on my reading and writing (my favorite place to study or write is in the car). I listen to sermons while cleaning around the house, and I listen to the concerns of my older children while folding clothing. Pregnancy insomnia and nursing infants has given me hours of time to do research and write over the years. Even a doctor appointment is either a time when I can connect with a family member or catch up on something like paperwork.

When I walk through the house I wipe surfaces, pick up items on the floor, put things back where they belong, wash and switch loads of clothing. I pick up the yard while I am gathering the children in, I clean up the bathroom while I am using it, and I clean up the desktop on my computer before I shut it down.

Being at the head of the race is such a lovely feeling. Of course, I am not perfect at this, and there are areas in which I could use improvement, but the old, procrastinating person I used to be has almost disappeared (anyone else come from a family line in which procrastination is considered a virtue?).

I know what many are thinking…

“This sounds wonderful, but I am so far behind that I don’t know where to start!”

Don’t despair! Just take one step at a time and decide you are not going to give in until you are able to overcome! It can be helpful if you sit and ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Is my mind cluttered with worry?

This is very important. When we are worried, we are prone to confusion and fretting, which leads to anger and destructive behavior. If we don’t know the Savior, we have every reason to be fretful, because we don’t have a God who is near and dear and able to overcome every obstacle in and through us. If we do know the Savior and we are still worrying, we need to get back onto the side of faith, believing that God is working each and every circumstance for our good! (Romans 8:28) Remember, faith pleases God!

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Every mother of many children experiences numerous trials, ranging from paying the bills to not having clean underwear, but only the foolish ones try and carry the whole load. Prudent mega-moms learn early-on to cast their cares on the Lord:

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:7

If you can cast your anxiety on the Lord, then your mind will be freed up so that you can plan and work ahead, otherwise you will run around in circles “like a chicken with her head cut off,” and will eventually run out of steam and give in to chaos.

When my own children were so tiny that they could not help there were very few I could reach out to, and it seemed as though relatives were the worst, since their helping hands came with wagging tongues. But I always had Jesus, and learning to roll everything onto His broad shoulders made my load lighter and my life brighter. Subsequently, many have marveled at how joy-filled I am! My mind is clear to work on tomorrow because I don’t fear it, I look forward to the blessings God will bring to me, even through the trials!

  • Am I inventing distractions to keep me from taking care of unpleasant tasks?

This is not just a question for mothers of many, it is something top-ranking businessmen ask themselves regularly. It is human nature; we run to take care of things that are fun or feed us, we run from those things that are simply no fun at all, such as cleaning out the freezer or going through old bills (it is amazing just how many ways I can keep myself busy so that I can keep from even looking at that ominous stack of papers in the office).

One dear woman decided that housework caused her stress and depression, but shopping made her feel good, so whenever it was time to do a sink of dishes or wash some clothing, she went shopping instead! She would feel so good at the store; everything was so neat, the people were all so friendly, and she enjoyed finding “bargains.” Unfortunately, when she returned home with her purchases, she was faced with a filthy kitchen and a pile of dirty clothing, so she would throw her bags somewhere in the corner and go out for dinner. This continued until her home was unlivable, her daughter was taken away, and her husband divorced her.

She is not the only one that has suffered in this way. Some of us get “activity-itis” and go all over the community helping others to avoid helping at home, or maybe we read novels or go surfing online for hours at a time. It takes more than soft hands and a warm heart to be a good mother; it takes self-discipline and self-sacrifice when no one is looking. How many times have I drug my sick, pregnant body out of bed to make sure my children had something to eat, that their clothing was clean and they knew there was security and love in the house? Except for the day after my babies were born, there have probably been only two days on record which I spent in bed while the household is waking up. In fact, sleeping in makes me feel ill!

I had to learn many years ago that work is a good thing. Instead of avoiding it, I relish it! Did you know that it is the people who keep busy with work that last the longest and have the fewest illnesses? It is a blessing that I have a strong body, food that gives me energy, and many loved ones to care for! Those who live only for themselves are the ones to be pitied–every moment of my life is spent in wonderful PURPOSE!

work is a good thing


But here is a little trick; don’t try and do everything yourself! We moms of many also have an extra ingredient other women don’t; TEAMWORK!

For instance, I had collected all of the memories of our family for the last 32 years into one huge plastic storage bucket, but it was barely organized. I recently spent one whole day going through the photos and arranging them in piles. The next day I handed a stack of photos to each of my oldest daughters and asked them to put them into books I had been saving for just such an application. Voila! Within a few hours I had four full photo albums ready and waiting for a trip down memory lane!

Just think about the potentials! Need the bathroom free of extra bottles of shampoo, etc.? Just have a boy in the family gather all of the bottles up and consolidate them by combining all of the half-used bottles together, and then placing the resulting full bottles in the bathrooms around the house. Even little children can gather up all of the shoes and match them so that you can easily separate the ones you want to keep from the ones you want to get rid of. Around here we find that folding laundry or getting the kitchen clean is a wonderful time to strike up some funny or interesting conversation, or even to practice our singing and harmonizing! (When the children were little we would clean while we sang words like, “Help Your Mama” adapted to familiar tunes such as the Beach Boys’ “Help me, Rhonda.”)

Here is another sneaky tip; when children are at least attempting to help, they are not running around and getting into trouble! When tiny ones are whining (or screaming) around the house, I have them “wash” a few dishes, or hand them spray bottles of water and a rags and have them spray and wipe things. If the boys don’t work well together but egg each other on, I separate them. If there are children who try to sneak off, I put them in the center of the room or train them to sit next to me while they fold a few washcloths or wipe down some muddy shoes. I am not afraid to use some positive (or negative) reinforcement. I make sure my children know that work is pleasant as well as important by working along-side them with a good attitude.

Remember that list of tasks I try to go through each night to get prepared for the next day? Why not have the children help? Have them put bowls upside-down on the table with spoons along-side for breakfast, or make orange juice and put it in the fridge, set out their clothing, set up the coffee, etc. Older children can get used to helping with meal planning, iron clothing, organize closets, make a short list for the store. Middle children can cut up vegetables and fruit to have in the refrigerator for meals and snacks, or they can bake cookies or even write thank-you notes. Smaller children can run errands around the house for the others, such as fetching shoes or putting away books and other items.

A hive of busy bees is much better than a cave full of people who are mind-numbed by entertainment or disgusted with their surroundings. Teaching children to help us get ahead and stay ahead will reap dividends, not only in the “now,” but even after our children are long grown and have their own lives.

What are some ways you have engaged your kids to help you “get ahead”?

For part 1 in this series, go here.


5 thoughts on “Large Family Stress Reduction: Getting Ahead Part 2”

  1. I know this is old but I thought I’d mention something I learned from flylady a long time ago. “You can do anything for _____ minutes. ” She usually said 15 minutes but sometimes it was just 1 minute for me. Especially when I was dealing with nonstop nausea during pregnancy. I would fold laundry for just a minute (all I could do before I had to lay down or puke) then lay down. 5 minutes later when things settled enough to sit up for a minute I would fold for another minute. In this way the most important things did get done and life was manageable in spite of everything. It’s amazing how much can get done here a little there a little. I do it with kids too. Do___ till timer goes off! Then a mountain doesn’t seem as tall and often you find if you work as fast as you can for the time slated you get a lot more done in just a few minutes than you thought you could.

    • This is so true! Thank you for your input–thinking about finishing a book I started with these old posts just today…


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