4 Moms Q&A: the laundry monster, snacks, and what to do if you can’t do it all (because you can’t)

4moms35kids 4 Moms Q&A: life saving tips and tricks of the trade for moms of many

 Ami said, I have six kids. When I had 2 kids I was good at it (school/read aloud/housecleaning/meals). When I had 4 kids I was capable. Now I am decidedly not.   

I love my relationship with the Lord and truly glory in my weakness. I am so grateful that I am not in a performance based relationship with him  But, here, in this flesh, on this earth, I have to get things done. And Jesus is not down here holding a crying one year old while I get dinner made  And I don’t remember how to educate or make meals anymore. So my question is, How do I do it? How do you redeem your days? What about when you forget how you used to function?

I find myself in the same boat, and I also wonder about the whys and wherefores of the change.  How did I go from reading whole series aloud, to reading so little that finishing a chapter book is cause for celebration?  Who am I, and where did the old Kim go?

I used to create a meal plan every week without fail, and now I can’t seem to do it two weeks in a row.  We did 6 subjects in school every day, and my house was generally clean.  I read entire series of books aloud to my children.  And I had 4, 5, or 6 little ones, with no help.  What happened?

I think it really does get harder in some ways because as our children get older we are pulled in different directions.  It’s harder to find a book that will appeal to everyone at once, and it’s harder to find the time to sit down and read – especially if what you are reading is not universally engrossing.

With 20 years of experience and several helpers, it’s easy enough to put off planning and just wing it when it comes to meals – even though planning would save time and money.

There are enough of us to clean up after the little ones, so they don’t have to learn to clean up after themselves.

And I’m not the 20-something I used to be.  A sleepless baby can put me out of commission for most of the day.

How did I used to do it?  How can I do it now?   I can’t by my own strength, but I never could.  Just like the old days, I do my best and ask for grace and peace about the things left undone.  Or I don’t do my best, and ask forgiveness and help to do better tomorrow.

I ask my husband again about priorities so that we can be on the same page.  I am blessed to have a husband who cares about lightening my burden, so he offers suggestions, pitches in to help, and rallies the troops.  Maybe your husband will do this if he knows enough about your struggles?


From Tanya: We have a family of 10. And my laundry pile is huge! We have more clothes than we need but I am curious how much clothes, shoes, etc per person to keep. Do you have some sort of system for that? And do you get rid of clothing when there out grown or save it for a younger sibling?…at this point we are saving a lot but it doesn’t seem to get used by the next either because the seasons are different or their body sizes are different. Also getting the kids to help with chores etc is like pulling teeth any thoughts on that also?…thanks

I strongly suspect we have too many clothes, but we do work hard to stay right on top of the dirty laundry.  I hate when the washer goes out and it becomes an instant crisis because we were already operating on the cusp of disaster!

One thing that makes a big difference for us is to keep all the dirty laundry in one place, where I can see it easily.  If it’s out of sight, I forget about it entirely.  If it’s divided into a separate hamper for each bedroom or each person, we can be 12 loads behind before we know it!  When it’s all in one place right under my nose, “behind on laundry” means we have 3 or 4 loads to do.

Another thing that helps is not allowing the little ones to have free access to their clothes.  Anyone young enough to enjoy a good game of dress-up is young enough to require supervision.  When the 4yo needs fresh clothes, she has to ask first and have somebody watch her get them out of the drawer – so we know she isn’t emptying her drawers onto the floor searching for her very pair of underpants.

I pass clothes directly from one child to the next whenever possible, because the “out of sight, out of mind” principle works here too.  If we pack it up to save it, there’s an excellent chance we will forget about it until it’s no use to anyone.  If we don’t have a very near-term use for an article of clothing, we donate it and plan to buy again later from a thrift store.


How do you organize kids clothing? Anything you especially keep or don’t keep? 

Our clothes right now consist of 3 cubbies for each child, plus hanging space in the closet.  The cubbies hold:

  1. Tops
  2. Underclothes & pjs
  3. Bottoms: pants, shorts

Some of us have a few more cubbies as the system has evolved, but that is basically how it works.

When it comes to hand-me-downs, I usually only keep what I expect to use within 2 years.  That means I am keeping none of our 4yo daughter’s clothes because we don’t have another little girl up-and-coming.  We try not to keep anything too worn or stained, of course, which means nearly all of the boys’ clothes get pitched faster than they get passed.  I keep just a few newborn outfits because they tend to receive them as gifts and use relatively few.

I also keep very few heavy coats or other winter apparel because they take so much space to store and we use them so rarely – sometimes we go the entire winter without needing more than a jacket, and most of my Texas-born children don’t even know what a snowsuit is.  I don’t own anything heavier than a lightweight denim jacket myself.  I just layer it with a sweater on the really “cold” days.

Ideas for healthy yet inexpensive snacks? I’ve got a boy who is 4 years old and could eat me out of house and home.

Most of our snacks are real food: anything that works for lunch works as a snack, too, and it probably has more staying power than traditional snack foods.  I also lean heavily on milk as an add-on.  It’s a good balance of protein, fat and carbs.  Peanut butter is another versatile source of protein.  Anything with protein and fat will tend to keep kids satisfied for longer.

  • Animal crackers and peanut butter
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Banana bread with peanut butter
  • Any appealing leftovers I’m eager to get rid of
  • Banana roll-ups: spread peanut butter on a tortilla and wrap around a banana.  If we happen to have extra hot dogs buns, we do this and call it a banana dog.
  • Cake or muffins made of leftover oatmeal or other hot cereal.  Serve with a big glass of milk.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich – heavy on the peanut butter (we keep tortillas on hand instead of bread, so ours are pbj roll-ups)
  • Carrot sticks and ranch dressing
  • Tortilla chips and salsa – the only chips we do in our house with any sort of regularity.  We buy these in a big box from Costco, very cheap and much better for you than potato chips.  Maybe it’s weird outside of Texas, but my little ones beg for salsa.
  • Peanut butter and banana smoothies


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  1. Thank you for this! Why is it so comforting to know that lots of other moms are in my same shoes, struggling as I struggle?!

  2. Nicole says:

    Don’t feel bad. I have two…and one on the way and I already feel this way. I think it’s mabye all the homeschooling options they have out there: including packaged curriculum for two and three year olds. I have a one and a almost three year old boy and every time I start “researching” homeschooling I start to feel inadequate like I’m not doing enough and they aren’t learning enough. Does anyone ever feel this way? It’s driving me nuts!
    I have one chore tip..three year olds are especially helpful to pregnant moms for doing laundry when you have a front loading washer 🙂 all I have to do is give him a pile and he puts it in for me so I don’t have to bend over to do it myself.

  3. Just my 2 cents: I only have four, but I also have a hubby who is gone quite a bit. Fortunately, neither of us are stickler, type A, everything has to be perfect or we are miserable…kind of people. So there are plenty of days where there is dirty laundry on the floor, wet-bedding to wash waiting in the laundry room, dishes on the counter while we homeschool….I highly recommend a book called A Mother’s Touch by Elise Arndt. She doesn’t give much help practically, but she does give encouragement when kids are small and how they need to be with mama and will be the better for it later on. For me this translated in that I operate on chunks of time–I like to start and finish jobs. The very nature of motherhood is such that many jobs get started and finished THROUGHOUT the day…but that meant that many jobs would be there at the end of the day, partly done…this drove me crazy! So I have the bad tendency to not want to start jobs, because there was no convenient time to start AND finish them! Note: this is a BAD habit to be in! However, after reading the above book, I’ve been more content with pretty much shifting my kids around the house with me and including them in whatever I am doing at the moment and attempting to give them age-appropriate jobs. My dear hubby, after hearing me rant about struggling to get it all done, said, ” Sweetheart, the process IS the purpose!” So getting the dishes done and put away ISN’T the REAL purpose. THe process of USING dishes to teach my boys about work and diligence is the ACTUAL purpose! How freeing! Also, for school time, we just acquired 2 child sized desks/chairs. These have helped us SOOO much!

  4. To Ami:
    I have 12 ages 3-20. When I jumped to 5 schooling I had to change my tactics. Before that I read to them a lot. I loved their curriculum and I was very involved. Then, I just couldn’t be. The age gap was too great. I switched to a workbook/self-directed type of curriculum (my husband’s advice). This is not my favorite way of schooling but it works for us. The elementary kids get this (1-6) and then as they get into junior high and high school I gradually switch over to other kinds of curriculum but because they are used to working independently, they continue to do so, just with more “hand picked” curriculum. Also, more kids do chores. I once heard a talk where the woman of a large family said to give the youngest child with the ability the job. My three year olds can empty trashes and set silverware. My eight year old can empty the dishwasher and load it. My ten year old can do laundry. In pioneer days kids did far more than they are expected to today at much younger ages. Work builds responsibility. Everyone is part of the family and are expected to participate in the running of it. No one gets a free ride (unless you are too young). Teaching chores is work but the dividends are well worth it. Finally, a caution, one winter I got completely stressed out because I couldn’t get everything done that I thought was important. The Lord put me flat on my back for three weeks with pneumonia just to show me that all I wanted to do was not important and that I needed to live one day at a time in His strength, getting done what He gives me. (I found keeping a prioritized list helps and then trusting that He will guide) I encourage you to pray for wisdom and then be willing to adjust as He directs even if it would not be the direction you would choose.

  5. Meredith_in_Aus says:

    Glad to hear your answer to Ami, Kim. It is exactly how I feel since having 6/7/8. At least now I am under no illusions that I can get by without the Lord’s help. :o)

    I think moving house factors in for you, too.

    In Him


  6. Oh, Ami…I remember saying (while crying) exactly that same thing to my husband when my sixth baby was born. You are definitely not alone in feeling that way. Keep plugging along, and when you’re children are older and can help out more, it will be that much easier. 🙂

  7. I can soooo relate to Ami’s question! I had been doing great w/4 kids for 6 years, then we adopted 2 toddlers almost 2 yrs ago. Talk about jumping in head-first. It took a good year to adjust to the “new normal.”

    I found that a lot of the old ways didn’t work any more. Some things that I had to change:
    * Kids do more chores
    * Buy LOTS more food, because running out of food and meal planning are way harder now
    * Stick a lot more strictly to the schedule
    * Write more stuff down because my brain has been fragmented into more pieces
    * Cook between meals, rather than right before a meal
    * A lot more streamlining, fewer choices for the younger kids

    etc. etc. I hope this gets some ideas rolling. It helped me to pare down to the absolute basics: Focus on just getting meals under control, then add school back in and at its most minimal state. Then add in another area. For me, grocery shopping and errands were the hardest to get back under control, but I finally did!

    You don’t say how old your kids are, but since I had 2 toddlers, I also scheduled my day around the maximum independent time they could handle, and we stuck religiously to that schedule, if that makes sense. If I had to choose something to cut, it would be something that required my help (like school, haha), but I always kept those independent play times, reading or nap times, etc. because I needed them to work on cooking, planning etc.

    Hang in there, Ami! You’re gonna develop a whole new skill set and be that much more awesome!

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