Friday, June 24, 2011

Large Families Part 2 - Meet the Voelker's

I always pictured myself having a large family. I feel blessed to have the 5 children that I always hoped for. Some days it is exactly as I imagined: Forts made with old sheets, nutritional snacks at 10 am, art projects all over the kitchen table, and bedtime stories with kisses and hugs. Other days I actually think to myself: What have I done? Why did I think I could do this? I have been encouraged and reassured by many moms that have the same struggles that I have faced. How do I get it all done? How do I gain control of time and resources to make our home peaceful and productive? How do I work with these 5 children to impress on them that they are part of a team that depends on each other?

I’ve read a few books over the years and listened to a lot of moms talk about how they maintain their home so that they don’t loose their minds. I am always trying new things to try piece together routines and strategies to keep an orderly home. It is an ongoing joke at our meal times when I say, “I have a new plan…THIS is how we are going to get organized.” They don’t even look surprised anymore. I’ll share a few things that my husband and I think are important in balancing the demands of life with keeping a home that in general is a place of peace.

One wise mom said, while showing off her exhaustive list of chores for her large family, “These are the chores for all of the house and for all the people that live in the house. We don’t get everything done everyday, but it is our goal. When we have a goal, we have something to aim for. If we didn’t have a goal nothing would get done.” So I have goals and charts for my house. I mapped out my house on a 4 week calendar. I took into account little things and big things like: cleaning the bathroom, emptying the central vacuum canister (we forget because it is in the garage) changing sheets, wiping down appliances, etc. I also schedule my laundry- a certain type of laundry is done each day.

On my chart each day there are a few chores. Each day at breakfast in addition to their personal chores we work through who is going to do what chore from my master chart. This process allows for our children to learn how to strategize and how to be a team player. In our family the girls ages 13 and 8 are a team and the boys ages 10 and 5 are a team. The 1 year old is on my team. Lucky me! We work in teams. This usually works well and is of course more helpful when husband is home to help with the boys. Another very wise mom told me this: “Give the chore to the youngest able.” Now that takes some time to think about, doesn’t it? We catch ourselves giving chores to the older children who will do the task well, but we forget that these same children were given that task at a much younger age and asked to complete it.

In addition to my daily/monthly chore chart, I have Zoning Sheets, which by the way do not have stickers and checkmarks, it is a goal sheet not a reward chart. I do not want a running tally of what we accomplished and what we did not. These Zoning Sheets consist of “problem” areas of our house. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you are not invited to my home…ever: The entry from the garage with shoes and backpacks, the living room floor with puzzles and legos, the hallway upstairs with underclothes and random personal belongings, the coffee table with books and snacks, office floor with magazines and playmobil, the front entry with coats from last season etc. I took pictures of the problem areas in my house when they were in peak condition and divided the pictures in two groups and made two pages of pictures. These are used in what I learned at Target as “Zone Cleaning”. A couple of times a day we Zone Clean. Each team gets a chart and I set the timer and we clean the zones on our sheet for 10 minutes. It doesn’t all get done- but it is better than it was before the timer started and the kids know that they don’t have to clean for an undetermined amount of time. That my dear friend is key! I learned this technique from the Fly Lady.

Usually when I read about “home organization” or “how to plan your life so it isn’t crazy” I am turned off with how formal it all seems. When I read: “Have a monthly meeting with your husband about the calendar and the finances,” I wonder if they are for real. Guess what I’m about to tell you? The times that we have “synced” our calendars and “reviewed the budget” are the times that we are both on the same page. We do this about every 6 weeks. We know its time when we get to an event that the other knew nothing about. We each have our own calendars- his is his phone- mine is a spiral notebook type with the month at a glance with additional pages for each individual day.

Plan for fun times too. It is our goal to do one new family activity a month and for our kids to get a “date” with one parent once a month. Usually twice a year we make lists of new things we want to try. These are not extravagant and sometimes they end up being sandwiched in with an errand or two…but the kids don’t mind at all. Alone time with each child is a gift that is priceless. One thing that we realized later than sooner is that if there is something expensive that a child wants to do, try to make it happen. We realized that not ALL the children want to go to everything the other children want to go to. This freed us up to take one child to a play that we would not otherwise have been able to afford for the whole family.

One question I get asked a lot is, “How do you get your children to help so willingly and with a generous spirit?” Well for one they have caught our kids on a good day! But we also have taught our children the basic principle that if you don’t work and contribute to our family then you don’t eat and you don’t play. We could do a better job of the work before you play concept but we have conquered if you don’t work you don’t eat concept. We are a family and everyone needs to work together for the good of the group. If Aiden doesn’t help zone clean Aiden doesn’t get to come to the table for dinner. I should assure you none of our children have ever missed a meal. We modeled this after the farmers and their families. If you didn’t help in the garden there was not food to eat.

A sign I saw at my friend’s house says, “Dull women have immaculate homes.” I want you to know that I am not dull. I hope that my children will never say, “You could eat off my mom’s floor.” I do hope that I have shown my children that it is possible to live in order and peace and how to work together even with very difficult people. They will take this with them and be able to use it wherever they go.

By Krista Voelker


This is our goal chart. It is helpful to me because I know what I “should” be doing each day. If I get it done, great; if not, I don’t allow myself to accumulate chores – we move on to the next day. It is helpful that 3 of my children are of ages to be really helpful

1 comment:

MJ said...

You offer great advice and have a healthy take on life. Kudos!