Managing Expectations With 4 Kids

Kids = Chaos to Plans

Hey there, person with the kid. I see you. Trying to get stuff done. Stuff you used to do so easily before kids. But now? Sometimes, it’s 1 pm, you haven’t gotten dressed, the sink is full of dishes, and all those chores you wanted to get done just seem too overwhelming to handle. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.

One of the biggest questions I get ALL THE TIME is how I am able to get anything done while being a full-time mommy. I thought at first about making this about time management but let’s be honest—if you know me, you know I operate on a sliding scale with time. But one thing I do think I manage well is my expectations.

So what’s my secret?

Ok. See the expectations bar? Set it low.


Hmm…just a bit lower.

Lower still.


Now, does that mean you’re not going to ever get anything done with kids around? Absolutely not. I may not get as much done as I did before kids, but I managed to write a whole novel the last couple of years and in the last six months, I’ve gotten about halfway done with the first draft of another. I also ran a full time photography business four of the last five years, only recently deciding that scaling back made sense for my life and family.  

And even though I’m writing this from the perspective of a mother with four kids, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. My experience is very much colored by the fact that my kids are all so close in age. They are all within 15-19 months apart.
  2. The number of kids, while a bit more overwhelming with more, doesn’t really make *that* big of a difference. To be honest, I found myself having to make adjustments with one, two, and three kids. Each time it represented a change in the status quo!

SO, what do I mean by saying keep your expectations low? I mean you have to really prioritize what matters and let go of everything else. Some examples:

This is good enough.
  • I wish I could always feed my kids balanced meals that include a protein, veggie, and a starch. I grew up eating like that, so feeding my kids well is a priority to me. BUT. There are days that are too crazy for me to get it together by dinner time. So peanut butter sandwiches and apple slices may just be what I give them. And I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t actually ever feel stress about the food I give my kids, even if it wouldn’t meet with the organic-moms-of-America approval ratings. My kids are GETTING FED. So if this means they get McDonalds, I remember: they are eating food. Maybe not something they should eat every day, but food.  Considering how many kids throughout the world can’t say the same thing for every meal, I’m happy I can.
A clean sink does wonders for me.
  • I LOVE neat surroundings. My mom is a class-A neat freak so I always grew up in a very clean home. I have a hard time thinking straight when everything around me is a mess. But despite growing up with a neat mom, I tend to be messy. So keeping things around me clean is a struggle. It means a constant effort of picking things up, or doing dishes immediately when they’re dirty. With four kids, you can imagine how quickly my little tornadoes can tear up a place. So how do I manage the expectations? I pick a couple rooms I do my best to keep up with: the kitchen and the family room. They’re the heart of the home and the place that guests walk into. Does that mean I want the rest of the house messy? No. But if they aren’t as neat as I would hope, I also try to just chill about it.
This takes forever in my house.
  • I’m not, by nature, the type of person who would normally go out and only go one place. Something about going out and only going to one store feels like a waste of time, especially when I have to get the kids dressed, in the car, and etc for it. But the truth is that my kids can really only handle one store. I’ve tried two before when I absolutely must and it’s always a struggle. Any more than two and it’s an absolute nightmare. So I usually stick to ONE store and I make it count. That’s why Target is a mom-haven: usually you can get most of what you need in one place. My big five are: Costco, BJs, Kohls, Aldi, and Target. (Wal-Mart if necessary, but the lines at the stores near me usually make this tough. There is nothing worse than standing in line with kids, amirite?)

Another big way that I would say I manage my expectations is that I keep my plans and goals really fluid and I don’t get upset if I don’t accomplish what I’d hoped for the day. For example, my goal is to write 500 words a day. But there are MANY days it doesn’t happen. I don’t get upset with myself on these days. What I DO is make every opportunity I have really count. If I do get a chance to write another day, I don’t stop at 500 if the time is available.

I’m actually a lot faster and more efficient with all things post-kids. I pick my goals over other things when the time is given to me and I do the most important priority first. So if laundry is piling up: I do the laundry. If it’s dishes: I do that. If it’s photo-editing, I edit. The other things WILL get done. Maybe not on the time scale you would have done before kids. But it’ll get done: and you’ll be a whole lot less stressed and parent more happily if you keep those expectations low.

What strategies do you employ when it comes to your goals and expectations with kids?