As my husband and I sit here with a long to-do list trying to map out the week/weekend, I am amazed at how closely planning our week resembles developing a strategy for battle. Getting it all done (or even some of it) involves a little strategy we like to call "Divide and Conquer".
One of the biggest Baby Bunching frustrations for us was that when our Bunch was really little, we felt like we worked until we dropped of exhaustion, yet we never got anything done or had anything to show for it at the end of the day. Sure, we fed/watered/bathed/napped/tucked in our children every day (and changed about a million diapers in between). We also entertained them, reading countless stories and becoming more proficient in knowledge about every playground within 30 miles of our house than we ever thought we would. We did 3 loads of laundry a day, cleaned the kitchen several times a day, and swept the floor daily and mopped/vacuumed it three times a week. We picked up toys CONSTANTLY. We scrubbed the bathtubs and toilets about every other week and changed the bedding weekly. We stayed on top of bill paying. We grocery shopped weekly. And that was about all we could do.
Meanwhile, anything "extra" (yard work, paint touch up, car maintenance, home repairs, and even some errands) fell by the wayside as we struggled just to stay on top of daily life. Sometimes we would get ambitious and try to tackle a project or an errand of some sort, only to end up frustrated by the constant stream of interruptions from the wee ones. Finally we gave up.
At some point along the line, we realized that it didn't make sense for both of us to be clustering. Because the kids were so young, it was impossible to do anything with them around. One of us could be managing the children while the other attained sweet freedom to do errands and chores that were previously (as in pre-kids) considered distasteful. Suddenly, a trip to the grocery store without children became as eagerly anticipated as a week long trip to the Bahamas in our pre-child days. Using this 'Divide and Conquer" strategy, at least only one of us was struggling. Our net productivity increased a little.
As our bunch got a little older (i.e. about 2 and 3), we realized that the kids had gotten a little bit easier and it was possible to do selective taks/errands with one of them, but not both. So we started splitting them up and each of us taking a kid. We got even more productive.
By the time we recently added #3, we were seasoned pros. We refuse to let being outnumbered by the children slow us down. Now the older kids (3 and 4) function pretty much as a unit. For the most part, they can handle and enjoy participating in the same errands/tasks. Which means according to the tasks, one of us takes the "big kids" and the other gets the baby. This is working out well so far, but it will be interesting to see how the dynamics change as baby gets older and more mobile.
We've come a long way since the early Baby Bunching days. Our household is carefully orchestrated controlled chaos. We outline what commitments are on the calendar, what other tasks need to be done, and what the children are most likely to be able to handle. Then we shuffle everyone around to achieve the closest thing to max productivity that we are capable of, given our family composition. Do we always work our way through our massive to-do list? Never. But we're definitely making more progress than we used to. Divide and Conquer is a lifesaving strategy, but it took us longer to learn it through trial and error than we would have liked. Hopefully, this post will save some of you early-stage Bunchers the pain. If anyone else out there has got any other tips for maximizing productivity with your Bunch in tow, we'd love to hear them...