I spend a lot of time connecting with younger moms. I realize I'm not the most experienced mom on the planet - my oldest is only eight - so my advice is pretty limited to the younger years. HOWEVER. One question I get asked frequently is some variation of, "With the number of kids you wrangle, many of them still very young, how are you not insane?"
And honestly, it's true. I'm not insane. (At least... not because my kids are overwhelming. I'm kind of a dummy overall, but that's not due to parenting.) Our days actually run pretty smoothly, and I get plenty of time to recharge during the day. Most days aren't spent putting out fires, or feeling completely behind or overwhelmed or exhausted. Unless I have newborn, I typically get about eight hours of sleep a night. I get daily alone time with my husband. Life is pretty low-key in these parts, in large part because of one lifesaver rule I've set in our house.
I dictate when we sleep.
I decide when we start the day. Now, can I control whether a kid wants to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn? No. But can I enforce rules regarding what time they're allowed to come out of their room? Yes. Did you know you're allowed to do this? I didn't for a long time.
But now our day starts when I come in and tell the kids to clean up, get dressed, and make their beds. Before that, they're welcome to play or read in their rooms. They're welcome to come out of their rooms only if they need to go potty or get a drink. But other than that, the day doesn't start until I say so. This lets me count on getting the rest I need, and not being unpleasantly surprised at 5:30 a.m. when a rando kid decides it's time to start the day. (Obviously, there are exceptions to this for sick, teething, very young, or otherwise extra-needy kids.) And while I get that this may not work for every kid, I will say you might be surprised to find that it will work for most. Even Rocco is not too young for this - he just chills out until I come to get him in the morning.
I also dictate naptimes. There is a set chunk of time in the afternoon where the under-five set are all in their beds. (I don't wait until they show signs of being tired, just like I don't have to wait until they're starving to start making lunch. I just try to get ahead of the need before they hit crisis mode.) After lunch, they know it's time to go potty and get in bed. If they sleep, great! If they don't sleep, fine. If they wake up early, whatever. They're still in their beds. I send the big kids to the basement or the back yard to play, and the house is quiet. I really think this helps ensure that everyone (including myself) is getting plenty of rest.
Lastly, Todd and I dictate bedtimes. We don't really have a set time for this, but usually around 7:00 or 7:30, Todd starts rounding up the troops. We don't do an involved bedtime routine: every night but Wednesday (bath night) sees them changing into jammies, brushing their teeth, going potty and getting in bed. We don't read to them at bedtime (usually Todd reads to them at the dinner table, and we spend plenty of school time reading aloud together.) Todd prays and sings with each one of them, and then it's lights out. They don't get to whine or wheedle or dink or dawdle. Bedtime is bedtime. The oldest two are often allowed to stay up for about half an hour reading, but other than that, everyone is in their beds.
This gives Todd and me time to 'adult.' I clean up the kitchen and blog. Todd runs on the treadmill and showers. We read books. We talk. We Netflix and Chill. We do married people stuff. All sans kids.
Let me tell you - taking charge of our sleep routine has made all the difference. It gives a predictable routine to our days, and ensures that both the kids and the grown ups are able to get the rest and recharge we need to function as civilly as possible throughout the day. Do we still have hard days, or rough nights, or kids that refuse to nap sometimes? Of course. But there is a general atmosphere of predictable routine around here, and it makes it so much easier on everyone.
So there's my sanity secret: Rest. Rest for you, rest for your kids, just... rest. That's it. Also, coffee, because we all know that even the best laid plans get thrown out the window sometimes when kids are involved, so make sure you have extra backup coffee. Also, having lots of kids is genuinely easier than just having a few. So, really, three top secret tips: Sleep, drink some coffee, and have a bunch more kids, and your life will get significantly easier. Trust me on this.