Thursday, August 26, 2010

How I Get Stuff Done With Three Children

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I have had several inquiries as to how I get stuff done around the house with three kids. So here is an updated version of my previous post, which I wrote when I had two children. Many of the same principles apply, so be sure to see How I Get Stuff Done for further details.

Life with three is of course busier than life with two. I don't find three children more difficult than two children, but I do find that my brain is more stretched as I try to balance all three in my head. I also, of course, have less time each day to accomplish things that I need to.

Now, it is getting a bit better as the children get older. Brayden (5) has recently started getting ready in the morning 100% by himself. That really frees me up. Kaitlyn (3) can get dressed by herself, although she is still quite slow about it, so it doesn't free my time at all. Of course, as children get older, they do start to add things to your day. Things like sports, music lessons, school (including homework), etc. So while time can free up in some aspects, that time is typically put right back into the child in another form. That's parenthood :).

My general tips for being productive remain the same. Lists are even more of a life saver for me. It makes it more likely that I will balance things in my head. I have several types of lists. I have a white board in my office that has personal things I want done. I outline which blog posts I will be writing for each blog, I outline the cleaning I plan to do that week, I outline outside tasks that need to be done (like gardening), I outline other various things I need to do on the computer or in the office, and I also outline my craft goals (scrapbooking, sewing, etc.). This helps me not get sucked into the computer and stay productive.

I also have a little 4x6 notebook where I write my daily list of things to do. It is a running list I add to and cross off. Once a page is full, I rip it out and throw it away. 

I also have a large calendar my Mom gave me from Flylady. It has plenty of space to write down weekly appointments and places to be. I also write down significant events (like McKenna's tooth coming in). That way I don't have to remember that on top of everything else I am remembering. I am freeing up brain power :).

I still work with manageable goals. My lists provide this for me. I try to not set time deadlines unless one is necsesary. I just have a list of things I want done so that when I have time, I can do them. 

I have also had to let some things go. The most prevalent area I see this is in crafting--especially during busy summer months. Not only is the summer busy with activities, but I have a large yard and garden to care for on top of my house. At first, this lack of time for crafting was causing me stress because there are so many things I want to make. But I had to come to accept that I didn't have time for all of that. I would just have to have my list of things to make and I would make them as I have time. I have accepted that it is just too hard to get a lot of crafts completed with three children. 

Now, I love to do crafts, so I haven't given them up completely. I still do them--and make an effort to spend some time doing something crafty each day. But I just can't spend as much time on crafts as I have been able to in the past.

Another important thing is that I still do my scripture study in the morning before any children are up. If I don't do this in the morning, I don't do it at all. It leaves my mind. I am a firm believer in that if you put the Lord first, He will help you do what you need to.

I still have many of the same policies here. I still try to keep my house presentable--especially the area guest will usually see. But I want a clean home all around. So I work for a presentable state.

But I can't follow the kids around all day long--other wise that is all I will do all day. So I have some times things are cleaned up.

I do my daily cleaning task first thing in the morning. I also do any other cleaning I want done first thing in the morning. Some days this is before breakfast and some days after the kids are all ready for the day.

I try to empty the dishwasher each morning so that I can add dishes to the dishwasher after each meal. This isn't always possible because the dishwasher isn't always full enough to have ran the night before, but most days this works out.

After each meal, Brayden (5) and Kaitlyn (3) are required to clear their things off the table and help clear everything else off the table. Now, this is something that requires you to grit your teeth and brace for messes. Brayden is old enough he rarely has mishaps as he is cleaning up. Kaitlyn is getting much better, but for a while she often spilled milk and other things on the floor as she cleared the table. You have to remember that it is part of learning and that she will get better and soon be a real contribution to the clean-up process.

I include the children in a daily chore each day. They help sort and fold laundry. They help dust. They help clean the bathrooms. They wash windows, clean running boards, help unload the dishwasher, help empty garbages, etc. 

After dinner, my husband usually helps finish loading the dishwasher. We have the kitchen all clean.

Before bed each night, the whole family helps clean up the childrens' rooms and the family room area. We put everything away. With the whole family helping, it doesn't take more than 15 minutes.

These simple steps really make everything much easier to manage. Brayden is a big help, and Kaitlyn is at the point to where she is contributing in a helpful way, also. It takes some extra work for a bit, but soon your child will be able to really help.

My current daily cleaning schedule is:
  • Monday=laundry day
  • Tuesday =dust
  • Wednesday=pick up clutter in entire house
  • Thursday=clean bathrooms
  • Friday=floors (mopping)
  • Saturday=floors (vacuuming)/outside work
I also have my Deep Cleaning List I work from to clean as I have time.

I also started a Photo Cleaning room of the day in one of the online groups I am in. Each day, you take a before picture, clean the room, and take an after picture. Then you post your pictures. It motivates you to clean the room really well because you are taking a picture of it.

Something I didn't cover in my previous post was anything about cooking. My husband isn't home for breakfast or lunch, so those two meals are simple meals. They are meals that require 30 minutes or less of prep. For dinner, there are a couple of things I do to make things easier on myself.

One is that I plan out at least 7 meals before I go grocery shopping, along with two quick alternatives. I created a menu planner to help me out with this. Then I have the ingredients and the ideas.

As I plan meals, I choose some that are slowcooker meals. I love those. They make it so I can get dinner ready during nap time. I also choose some that are simple, and some that are new because I like trying new recipes. I also have some more time consuming meals that we love.

Each morning, I decide what we will have that day. I decide that based on what we are doing that evening and what I feel like doing that day. I decide in the morning so if I need to start a slowcooker meal, defrost meat, or make roll dough, I can work that into my day. It is no fun to plan on having rolls with dinner and then get to an hour before dinner time and realize you didn't make the dough (I have done that before). 

Our schedule is pretty relaxed right now due to summer. In a few months, I will have to do another post because school will require a more consistent schedule. For now, it looks like this.

  • 6:30: I get up. I exercise. I read my scriptures. Then I shower. Now, I exercise before reading my scriptures because I dislike exercising, and if I read first I know I will talk myself out of exercising. I have to just get up and do it while groggy. 
  • 7:10: Brayden gets up about this time. Once I am done reading my scriptures, he and I read an article from a magazine he gets that is published by our church. All but about three of the articles each month are too old for Kaitlyn and McKenna, so that is why we read without them. Brayden then goes to his bathroom and showers and I go to mine and shower. We both get ready.
  • 8:00: I each breakfast and check my email. I eat breakfast before the other three because most of the time I am feeding McKenna still. 
  • 8:30: Children eat breakfast. After McKenna is done with me feeding her, I give her a spoon with some Cheerios in a bowl with milk and she happily eats away. I unload the dishwasher and reload breakfast dishes. I will then clean the kitchen if needed and read the newspaper.
  • 9:15ish: We will often do some music time at the piano, though not every day. We get the girls ready. We do chores. We then go for a walk/bike ride most days. 
  • 10:45 McKenna goes down for a nap. Kaitlyn has independent play. Brayden will do some learning activity things. I will make sure my post published (most days, my post doesn't publish automatically like it is supposed to), write posts, answer questions, check email, etc. Kaitlyn gets out of independent play around 12:00. Then she and Brayden play together. I am starting to implement a silent reading time where Brayden and I read our own books silently in the same room for about 20 minutes--so we often do this before Kaitlyn gets up. 
  • 12:30: McKenna gets up and we all have lunch. We then clean lunch up. The three children play for a bit. Then McKenna goes to independent play. Brayden goes to rest time. Kaitlyn goes to nap. I do crafts during this time. 
  • 2:30ish: McKenna goes to nap. By now, Brayden is usually getting up from rest time and starting his independent play time. I will then do whatever needs to be caught up on. I might have more computer time, more craft time, or more cleaning time. I also will read sometimes. After Brayden is done, he and I will often play a video game together. Then it is time to get dinner ready. 
  • 5:30ish: eat dinner. Family time.
  • 8:00-8:30: All kids are in bed. My husband and I might have some tasks to finish up. We might also just relax. We spend time together. 
  • 10:30-11:30: I go to bed.
Outside work is thrown in there somewhere, and that varies on the weather. If it is hot, I squeeze it in the morning sometime. If it is not hot, I will do it in the afternoon. I usually do a large chunk of outside work on Saturday because my husband spends most of the day outside so I can be out with him.

This schedule will definitely change quite a bit in the next few months as Brayden is in school in the mornings and as McKenna should go to one nap sometime soon. 

So there you have it. This is my rough outline of each day. More to come in a few months!



Michael and Natalie said...


ABCKegg said...

I love the meal planner you came up with. Are you still emailing out it to interested parties? :) If so, I would love a copy. Thanks for sharing!

ys said...

I am curious because you mentioned about writing posts for "each blog". What other blogs do you aside from the Learning Activities one (and this one of course:)?

Erin @ Two Story Cottage said...

Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this post. Just what I needed right now! Finding balance is hard and I only have two little ones. With preschool starting for one I was evaluating our schedule and routine and trying to figure a "plan." Your post helped me tremendously.

ys said...

The previous comment got me thinking, when Brayden's preschool starts in the fall does your routine change a lot? Do you do the pickups and dropoffs? I imagine that'd be quite a juggling act with 3.

dcollins79 said...

Wow, your children have a lot of alone time! I don't know if that would suit the outgoing personalities in my family. We interact with each other all day except during their afternoon nap, and even then I'm still usually interacting with the baby. I have three children, 4, 2.5, and 3mnths, and I don't get nearly as much done! My husband picks up the slack and all in all we just don't worry about it too much because we love spending time together. My house isn't always perfect and I don't have much time to myself, but the kids will only be little once. I can do all the cleaning and crafts I want when I am fifty and my kids are grown! Older moms will tell you to cherish these years because they disappear so fast.

dcollins79 said...

After having some more time to reflect on the post and my comment, I realized I may have come across a little judging. We all have to find that balance between work and play, even when it comes to our children, and I know I tend to like play more than work :) Also, there are some valuable things I will take from your post, like splitting up chores throughout the week, and getting the kids more involved in cleaning.

Tara said...

Wow, reading this give me so much hope and encouragement!

I was wondering what kind of exercise you fit in that early in the morning.

Plowmanators said...


oh my. I might be addicted. Okay, I have my craft blog (, I have the snuggleU blog (which isn't a blog I have to spend a lot of time maintaining), a Family Home Evening Blog (, our family blog (which is private), then a family favorites recipe blog which I am an author of but don't add to often, and another recipe blog I manage but don't compile all recipes. Then there are a couple of blogs that are extended family blogs, a church blog, another religious blog (again, rarely contribute to)...that about covers it.

None are of the scope of this blog. This is my major blog and the children's learning activities is number two, so they all go down from there.

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome to everyone!

Plowmanators said...

ys, I drop off most days, but the school is close. He gets a ride home each day. Since the school is so close, it isn't a problem at all. Not convenient, still, but not a problem :)

Plowmanators said...

dcollins79, I think you might have misread my post a bit. The kids are alone for nap/rest time and alone for 60 minutes of independent play. The rest of the day is with people. So they would only be having 60 minutes more than your kids if they do a nap each afternoon.

You are very right that it is a balancing act to have fun but also get things done and teach children the value of work (and how to work).

Plowmanators said...

Tara, I do elliptical and also pilates. If my husband is home, I might go run.

Home's Cool said...

Reading this post exhausted me! But then, I am pregnant with my fourth, and I am almost always tired. You inspire me.

Home's Cool said...

As I was thinking about this some more, I was wondering if you had any tips for getting it all done when you are pregnant, and how errands and shopping figure into your schedule now that you have three. These are two of my biggest challenges right now! :)

Plowmanators said...

When I am pregnant, I try to cut back as much as possible. My original post "how I get stuff done" was written when I was pregnant, so a lot of the same ideas apply. That post will tell you how I did it while pregnant.

So far as errands and shopping with three, one thing is I probably run fewer errands overall. I use my errand time more wisely.

I also run some errands when Brayden is at school, so it is just me and the girls. The kids are usually quite good when running errands, so doing it with all three isn't bad, but of course easier with just two.

Sometimes we do errands as a family.

Sometimes I will go when DH is home and take one or two kids with me. Sometimes I even take no kids with me! But they are pretty fun to have along.

Last year, I did errands while Brayden was in preschool. My parents would watch the girls one day a week and I would go do my errands. That was nice.

Steph said...

I'm not sure where this comment falls in - but schedules with more than 1 child seems like the right place:

I have a 2.5 yo and a 2 month old. Starting in the Fall, my 2.5 yo will be 3, and starting preschool. I can't seem to find (or don't know where to find) info on what to do if getting my older daughter to preschool will interfere with my 2 month old's nap. Now, I know that I can't forsee what the nap schedule will be like for my 2 month old (who will be 8 months old in the Fall) - but I guess I am trying to think ahead.

Also - I have a question about my 2 month old's sleep (hoping it is ok to do this all in one comment instead of trying to find the right section?). We are working on her schedule - and seeing if implementing a dreamfeed at 10ish will help get her naps and sleep synced (since we were trying to keep her up from around 7 until 9:30 to get the last feeding in and she was MISERABLE). Here is the problem - recently, now that she is alert more, it's harder to get her down to nap and sleep. She fusses and squawks a good bit. Which is normal, I know. My other daughter cried, but this one just squeaks and only cries when really upset. I don't mind this for naps - and I am just getting ot the point of trying to let her SIO (squawk it out haha) - but the issue comes for her middle of the night/early morning feedings. She's been playing around with what time her night feeding is. It was 4 am for a while, and it's now 2am (I know, boo). Either time she wakes, though, she sqwuaks and fusses, and doesn't just go back to sleep - even though she falls asleep after feeding. This is especially hard if she wakes up early - at say 5 or 6am for an early morning feeding. Because she fusses - and I don't think starting the day at 6 is good for her - especially when if I pick her up or put her in our bed - she falls back asleep. Maybe those are bad habits that she's figured out? She just turned 8 weeks old.

Any thoughts you have would be great on both issues - sorry they are all in the same comment post!

Steph said...

Whoops - I am leaving this so that I can check the "email follow up comments" box. Sorry!

Steph said...

ah - one last piece of information. my 2.5 yo preschool will be 30 minutes away from where we live. So taht's an hour round trip. I have the option of putting my other daughter down at my mom's, which is 5 minutes from the preschool for morning naps?

Steph said...

ah - one last piece of information. my 2.5 yo preschool will be 30 minutes away from where we live. So taht's an hour round trip. I have the option of putting my other daughter down at my mom's, which is 5 minutes from the preschool for morning naps?

Plowmanators said...


I don't have a post on that. What I did was carpool so I only drove one day a week. And that one day, one of my parents came over and watched my girls while I went grocery shopping ALL BY MYSELF between drop-off and pick up. I know I was spoiled.

Most 8 month olds will go down about 2 hours after waking up and then sleep for 2 hours if that helps at all.

So I see your drop off is quite a drive. My guess is that would likely run into a nap time. So, I think going to your moms is a good idea. I would highly suggest you look into carpooling--that is great.

The good news is that as she gets older, your daughter will be able to go down later for naps, so by Christmas time, you might be able to make it back home in time for nap.

Plowmanators said...

Steph, okay, now for problem two.

I am confused on that that is. Is it just her waking at 6 AM? If so, I have a post called "Early Morning Feedings Before Waketime" that would help you with that one.

I would definitely NOT get her and bring her to your bed unless you are okay with that happening long term or okay with some rough times when you stop doing that.

Steph said...

thank you Val!!


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