The Truth of "It All"

Like many parents, I have days where I feel totally on top of the world. I've got it all together, I'm knocking out chores and projects, my creative juices are flowing, the kids are behaving and my house is a very peaceful, productive zone. And, also like many parents, I have days where I'm struggling just to breathe. I can't get from one whining, cranky child to the other fast enough, I haven't washed my face in two days and I haven't seen the outside of my house for nearly a week.

our wedding, 2006
Parenthood has, no doubt, been a challenge for the husband and I. Especially considering we went from zero children to four in a flash. An "instant family," as we always lovingly refer to ourselves! Along with that instantaneous rise to parenthood came a sudden and desperate need to reevaluate our lives and find a system that worked. A successful way of doing things as efficiently and effectively as possible. And a system that would be flexible. When the quads were infants, our system had to change about every two weeks. We would either drop a nighttime feeding or add spoon feedings or extend tummy time and the schedule would need to be adjusted accordingly. These days, we tend to tweak our day-to-day routine every month or so.

a trip to chicago, 2008
Along with all this new responsibility came the loss of personal time. And that was okay with us. We had four miracle babies in our arms and they became our hearts and souls. We would do anything for these little munchkins, they have certainly changed our entire way of being and I can hardly remember what life was like pre-quads.

Which means it's becoming more and more difficult to recall what it was like to have an entire weekend with zero responsibilities. No obligations, no children to care for, no plans to tend to, nothing. Even weekdays weren't as demanding. Work, cook, clean, sleep, play. Those were about the gist of what we had to live up to and I chuckle when I recall days I was "exhausted" and complained about all the stress and pressure. I could never have imagined I'd be a mother to quadruplets just a few years later!

our move to scotland, 2009
These days, getting to "it all" is a dream still waiting to come true. I never get "it all" done. There's always something else to do and I could work my ass off each and every day—wait, I already do that...—and still have a mile-long to-do list sitting on my countertop, taunting me and torturing me. But that's where said system comes into play. There's a method to the madness now. It's like stripping our life down to the bone and then rebuilding it with practicality in mind.

We start off with what has to be done. Obviously, this would be taking care of the babies. Their schedule takes priority and I see to that most of the weekdays, while the husband fulfills his obligation at his very full-time job. Second on the list is provisions. I see to it that our groceries get picked up for the week and squeeze in any errands (dry cleaning, vet visits with pets, bank deposits, etc.) during the week as I'm able. Thirdly is my profession, which I do from home. I'm a freelance writer and have several clients that I currently maintain (from writing for a book publishing company to penning features for local bridal magazines) and this is all done whenever I find the ability, be it nap time or late night hours. Everything else gets squished into the schedule as time allows, although the husband and I do make date nights a priority for ourselves as much as possible. If a sitter just isn't available, then we create our own at-home movie nights or have dinner together at the dining room table with candlelight and wine. Whatever works!

back in texas & buying our second home, 2010
Recently, I realized I've also sort of come up with my own survival tools to accomplish all this. While I'm far from perfection and have to battle feelings of frustration, failure and overwhelming stress or fatigue from time to time, there have been many moments of peace for me lately. Basically, the most important thing I've realized is that it's impossible to ever have "it all" in check. There's never going to be a day that I look around and say, "Wow. I've done all the chores, all the errands, all the work and all the child raising. I'm completely finished!"

Never never ever ever.

Having come to that (slightly painful but admittedly obvious) realization, I can now focus on maintaining a healthy outlook as much as possible. Lately, the goal has been "me time." And I don't necessarily mean bubble-bath-and-a-book or pedicure-and-a-Starbucks run sort of time. I mean feeling good about myself because I completed a project or made it to the gym or stuck to a commitment I made to myself. It can be the littlest of things, like whitening my teeth for example. I purchased a box of Crest Whitestrips—love those things!—and had to wear them for 30 minutes once a day for 10 days. While most people wouldn't bat an eye at that sort of commitment, I had to pile the packets of strips directly by my bathroom sink so I would see them at least twice a day when I brushed my teeth and hoped to remember to apply them. I missed a day or two a couple times, but I feel really proud of myself for actually getting it done and enjoy my newly whitened smile!

27 weeks prego with the quads, 2012
Just because I miss a day or an opportunity to do something I've been motivating myself to accomplish, doesn't mean that the efforts have to stop or that the entire thing has been futile from the start. Instead of feeling like I've failed, I've tried to mentally stop that thought process and instead focus on starting back up. Many, many moms can feel me on the gym topic. I am always trying to make time for fitness and it does not always happen. But instead of beating myself up for not getting to the gym or doing a workout for an entire week, I redirect my thoughts to when I can create the next opportunity for me to do something physical. Be it a pilates DVD workout in the play room while the babies crawl all over me or taking them around the neighborhood in our beast-of-a-quad-stroller or catching a weight lifting class at my local 24 Hour when my parents are at the house.

No one is perfect and I remind myself of this often. I don't want to add extra stress to my life by constantly feeling like I've fallen short of my goals. They are meant to motivate me, not depress me. And thanks to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, for example, it's easy to mistakenly think that so many other people have "it all" together and are just absolutely f'ing perfect! But they aren't! And simply reminding myself of this gives me the oomph I need to keep trying. Sometimes I have to give myself credit just for making an effort in the first place.

first photo of the quads all together since birth (one month old), 2012
For the past two years almost, I've often measured the success of my day by how much I've accomplished. I felt that I needed to get something from every "category" done: fitness, nutrition, cleaning, creative time with the kids, organization, laundry and so on. Do you realize how insane that is!? If that's how I am measuring up each day, it's no wonder that 99% of the time I felt that I just hadn't done enough by the time I went to bed. And even going to sleep was difficult because my mind would be reeling with thoughts of all the things still left undone and how would I ever get to them all tomorrow.

For now, I'm trying a new approach to my day. Of course there's the basic requirements that must be met, like taking care of the babies and making sure we're all in good shape. If I have a deadline for work, than that can be my additional focus. Laundry and even dishes can wait. Or perhaps I need to simply spend time playing and goofing around with my kids for an extra 20 minutes and opt for PB&J for dinner instead of that roasted salmon I had planned. I also grabbed a big chunky notebook and have been using that as my one-stop-shop for grocery lists, to-do lists, note taking and so on. Instead of trying to keep track of the 82 different to-do lists or reminders I write all the time and then forget about or trying to remember what the hell was on that grocery list I started two days ago that accidentally got thrown away, I can simply flip through the pages that are all in one place and find what I need. I tear out the pages that need to travel with me, like a grocery list to the store, and then toss then when I'm done. Quite literally, I am trying not to sweat the small stuff and to be flexible with my day so that I can best accommodate what's good for me and what's good for the family. Happy wife, happy life, right??

first photo as a family of six, 2012
Prepping things ahead of time has also become a new habit for me. One that I'm slowly incorporating into various areas of my life. One of the first things I started doing was to lay out clothes for the next day for both myself and for the kids. Laying out clothes for the quads really helps because I leave them downstairs by the changing table, so not only does it save me a trip up to their rooms in the morning but it also saves time because I'm selecting four different outfits! And laying out my clothes mainly helps with the fact that I sleep until the very last second possible then jump up and blindly brush my teeth, wash my face, throw on fresh clothes and head downstairs to start my day. My "outfit" may be nothing more then a clean pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt, but it's there ready and waiting and requires one less thought for my day! (Note: by a "habit" I mean this gets done as often as I remember, which is more frequent than never, so...)

the babies' first birthday, 2013
Next I implemented weekly meal planning. That was something I'd been wanting to do for a very long time but it really intimidated me for some reason. I don't know if it was because I felt like planning an entire week's worth of meals was literally a lot (that's 21 meals!) or if I felt like I wouldn't be prepared with everything I'd need to make all the meals or what. But I finally got over it, found a very simple meal plan that I print out and fill in and gave it a go. It was such a liberating, successful feeling that it truly was an instant habit for me. I typically meal plan on Sundays and go to the grocery store on Mondays each week now and I love it. Sometimes the meal plan doesn't get made until Monday or even Tuesday, but I don't let that discourage me and I stick to my guns and get it all on paper. I can take into account that week's schedule for meals that might need to be quicker or easier than usual, or for days that I'm home alone with the quads all day and need to keep things simple to cut myself some slack, or for days I have my parents here and need to have more food on hand. Such a simple act has taken so much stress off of me during the week! No more empty staring into the fridge or pantry wondering what in the hell to put together. I also limit myself to only one or two new recipes per week so I don't get overwhelmed (new recipes are typically Rachael Ray-style stuff), and even my nanny, my mom and the husband have all learned to check out the meal plan on the fridge for the food they can help to prep!

moving into our "forever home", 2013
Little by little, I'm learning to more successfully navigate my "new normal." There are still days all the time that I feel like everything's just falling to shit. So I have my pity party and give myself a day or two or three, but then I know I can't wallow forever and I pull it back together and start again. I try to keep things in perspective as much as possible, I try to think logically when I start to feel overwhelmed but wonder why so-and-so doesn't ever seem to break a sweat. (Like, they must use a really great deodorant then. Whatever it takes to justify the logic!)

first professional family photos, 2013
The truth of "it all" is that there's no single answer. I can play it cool, I can try to relax, I can focus on the big picture, I can focus on the small picture, I can stick to the system, I can swear by spontenaity. It's all about how I can best get from one day to the next without losing my sanity, without sacrificing my role as a good wife first and a good mom second (and by that, I mean a realistically good mom, not a superstar mom that makes all her kid's gluten-free bread from scratch, reads in French to them everyday and wears makeup and cute pants to play dates at the mall....but if I just described you, then major props to you, my friend! Because let's be honest, I'm lucky if I remember to wear pants at all).

our family, 2014
I'm out to do the best I can, however I can, as much as I can. It's just a constant quest to find the right way for "it all."
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  1. You ROCK, Honey!! Our whole family thinks you are a ROCK STAR!!! I, on the other hand, KNOW you are!!!

  2. Wow love! I'm frequently amazed at all that you do! And as I lay in my bed recouping from some dental work, thinking of all the things I need to get done, how I felt like I was failing, this is exactly what I needed to read! Some times we just gotta take it day by day. I love you and you are an awesome mom!

  3. Trust me girlfriend, you are ROCKING IT! I have no idea how you accomplish the things you get done with all them little ones. You are amazing!

  4. Little Lady as the previous posters have said you ROCKI!! From the time I started following your blog I have always thought you are one amazing young lady.
    Thanks for sharing:)

  5. Amber you do such a wonderful job @ life because you choose to have a great attitude! Very admirable & inspiring!

  6. Amber you are doing an AMAZING job and inspire so many of us multiples moms! I'm completely on the same page as you with just about everything. I even have a box of Crest whitestrips from Christmas that's half used because I can never seem to remember to fit that into my day. :) Not sure what affect they have being spread out over several months!


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