Sometime over the past 8 years we shifted from keeping our money in tidy earmarked envelopes where even a spare $20 was hard to come by, to a new reality where decisions need to be made based on a different type of currency - that of parental time. It's a subtle shift in thinking, but an important one for keeping all 12 of us healthy and happy. Thankfully, the Lord has increased our income enough to allow for this shift and my mental capital is a carefully budgeted commodity.
Some examples.....I used to do much of our car maintenance and repairs. I was happy to do the basics and ventured into some of the harder things like heater systems and water pumps. Now we have an extended warranty on the 15 passenger van and I am happy to pay the shop to keep the Neon running smoothly. Finding time to put gas in, schedule maintenance, update the tabs and get through the car-wash is enough details for my brain to manage on the topic of cars. I could do much of the work keeping them on the road, but who's going to do my job while I do it?
How about the dishwasher. It's still sort of new and fun for me - 5 years ago we updated that portion of the kitchen and added it in. Tonight I had 7 minutes to do 'something' in the kitchen. It was a mess but I was home alone with the little ones and I had given them a 10 minute bed warning....7 minutes to make a dent. It was 3/4 full of clean dishes, and I had another 1/4 of a load in the sink. Not time to unload and reload (I'm trying to be a woman of my word with the kids. 10 means 10.) So I added the dirty to the clean and ran them all again. Not the best use of resources, but an excellent use of mommy time and I will have a full clean load for the crew to put away in the morning.
Then there is the cooking. About a month ago I came to a strange realization that that had shifted also. We don't cook from recipes in the traditional sense -we do it the other way around. We look at what we have and then dream up what we can do with it. There are no quick trips to the store for single ingredients or special items. Actually it is a 'special' event worth noting when I get a wild hair (twice a year or so) and go out shopping with a special meal in mind. Instead we keep about 100 basic items in the spice drawer and cupboard and work from there. Usually we eat "As the Lord provides." Which means that we eat a lot of seasonal things (my kids wont see very many fresh apples again until next fall) , bulk breads (what ever whole grain loaves they have when we go to the outlet) and sale items. Not too many processed things, though that always shifts when we are in transition with construction or a new baby. Then it's bring on the snack crackers and string cheese! This mom needs a little mental margin. :)
Many household chores have shifted also. I don't fold any ones laundry but daddies. We have shelving with 12 laundry baskets in three rows and I can toss clean items into any ones bin without too much effort. I sort a large load in about 3 minutes and move on to the next thing. Of course that means we don't own anything that wrinkles or needs much special care but I don't miss them.
I could go on and bore you to death. But the gist of it is that we have recognized that margin and parental time in a large family is a valuable commodity. It is something that needs to be invested wisely in things that are eternal (people) and not wasted on things that are temporary and unimportant like folding sweat pants. :)