I laugh every time I hear this question, which is pretty much on a daily basis. How do you handle all those kids? I don't know how you do it. I can't even manage my one or two. Well, I can't put them back (even though some days I wish that were possible) so I have to just do it. Listen, I am far from a parenting expert. I am learning as I go and hopefully my children won't all grow up needing therapy. Some days go smoothly, but most days don't. However, there are a few things that I think work well for our big family in regards to managing the madness.
First thing is that we are fairly structured. We have a morning and evening routine. The middle of the day is hit or miss, depending on the day and how many errands I have to run. If it is a school day for the kids and work day for me, lunches are made, clothes are picked out for each kid and bags are packed the night before. We eat supper early and everyone is in bed by 8, no exceptions during the week. In the mornings, everyone wakes up around the same time. They are dressed and fed breakfast first. Then they can watch cartoons, while I get ready, until it's time to leave. No TV before they are completely ready for the day. This routine makes our days go fairly smooth.
Second thing is encouraging independence from an early age. My girls are 100% self sufficient. They can take their own showers, dress themselves, brush their teeth, tie their shoes, pack their bags, fix their lunches if needed, grab their own breakfast if needed, "fix" their own hair, make their beds, put up their laundry etc. Do they look like hood rats most of the time? Yes. Do I even care if it means that they get themselves ready? No. If I'm running late, they can even change diapers and dress the boys. I'm not going all Michelle Duggar, but I do believe that in big families, everyone pulls their weight. I cannot do everything for everybody, so you just have to do it yourself around here.
Another question I get asked a lot is if I take all the kids with me places? The answer is yes. I would rather pull my eyelashes out than take all four grocery shopping with me, but some days there's just not another option. The Hubby works a lot, which means it's just me and the kids a lot. If I take them all somewhere, I ask them to repeat the rules to me in the car on the way. I make them tell me what is expected of them while we are in a store or restaurant. They know the drill and yell, "No running off, no yelling, no talking back, say yes ma'am, be nice, don't act like hooligans." Because they know what's expected, they usually are somewhat well behaved.
Last, but certainly not least, is that I have a husband that helps so incredibly much around here. Even though he works a lot, he definitely pulls his weight when he's home. He does laundry, he picks up the house, he takes kids to school, he cooks dinner, he cleans up after dinner, he irons, he makes beds and he's pretty much just awesome. We are a team in this parenting gig. We work together. The kids are not my sole responsibility just because he works constantly. They are for us to screw up together. They are ours until they graduate high school and we kick them out and wish them well. Then we will pray that we did justice to this whole big family thing.