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Four Under Six? How Do You Do It?

05/12/2015 12:35 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:59 EDT

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Having had four kids in five and a half years, I get this question a lot. I usually smile and say something like, "Well, it's busy!" but there are a lot of answers I could give that would be more honest and that would make me look a lot less "together" than I sometimes appear.

My honest replies to, "How do you do it?":

-Not always very well.

-Well, there's no return policy, so we don't really have much of a choice at this point.

-We have a playroom. With a door that shuts.

-Relationships with our good friends used to consist of a healthy "give and take," as we all embrace the "village" that helps raise our families. We've had childcare swaps, playdates, having each other over for dinner, landscaping parties, you name it ... but these days I'm all "take, take, take," and almost no "give." It's less "childcare swap" and more "desperate phone call asking you to watch a few of my kids for an hour."

-We try to limit unnecessary screen time, but we don't count hours because some days it would be a lot of hours, all of them necessary.

-Sometimes there's lots of yelling. From everybody. It's definitely not always angry yelling, but sometimes it is.

-We eat a lot of Kraft Dinner. And hot dogs. And frozen pizza.

-We do a pretty good job of tidying up most nights, partly because my husband can be very grumpy if his environment is chaotic. But while our house may look fairly tidy every evening, we can go literally months without dusting or doing a good job of cleaning the fridge or changing the sheets. We're all like, "Hey, she hasn't puked or wet the bed in a long time. When did we put these sheets on? Do they smell? Nope? Still good!"

-Sometimes my two-year-old brushes her own teeth. I imagine this is not very effective.

-My mom folds a lot of my laundry.

-When I'm getting very annoyed at the sound of my own voice telling small people what to do over and over and over all day long, I start to sing my instructions instead of saying them. This is annoying to everyone else, obviously, but at least it's annoying in a new and way, right?

Those are just a few of the ways the "magic" happens in my house.

I have a good friend who is one of the most well-organized and meticulous people I know, magic-free. She has two kids, and she allows them to be messy and noisy and kid-like, but they do have very tidy closets and toy bins. She had a moment of epiphany the other day when she was with another friend who had a lot of kids. "You know," she said to me later, "I always thought that people with lots of kids must be more organized than I am, and really balance their time well. But I suddenly realized it's just that they care less when things fall apart." Yes. I say. That.

That, and long showers. It's quiet in there and the sound of the water drowns out all the yelling happening the other side of the locked door.

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We've got a tiring quantity here, sure, but I'm pretty pleased with the quality.

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