we are caring for my friends 2 children on a regular basis as she is very unwell. We have 3 children of our own. I am finding life is very chaotic with 5! How do you organise your life? Do you run your house like the army or do you just have to be more laid back about things? Do you mediate in disputes or let them sort it out themselves? How do organise chores? Any advice would be very welcome!
I have 4 but have regularly had anything up to 7 children here (including nieces and nephews, foreign students and children's friends). You can vanquish using a combination of military campaign, enlistment and good humour! (you are doing an amazing thing btw; hope your friend will be OK)
Many things can be delegated. A rota for everything is good. In fact your friend's children might be happy to be involved. Depending on ages of children, things like laying the table, stacking the dishwasher, hanging out washing, putting washing in laundry basket, taking out rubbish, walking dog etc can all be delegated. In fact anything they are able to do can be delegated to them.
Homework: insist on this being done without fail as soon as they get home from school and have had snack. Insist on a rule of no telly before hw finished- it's the only way you can be sure they'll actually have the time to do it without distractions. Ours all used to do theirs at the dining table after snack but before supper, where help was on hand while I cooked.
Hairwashing and baths: depending on ages of children you can have them share baths in appropriate "sibling" groups. Hairwashing can be done as a military campaign even with little ones by lining them up in the bath and doing first wetting of hair, then to back of queue, then shampoo then to back of queue, then rinsing then to back of queue, then conditioner, etc... At my quickest I could wash 3 lots of hair in 5 mn (when DC were about 2, 4, 6)
Re dressing for school in mornings, insist they come down dressed. Drags out too much otherwise.
Re disputes, I would avoid jumping in too soon. Being a listening ear for grievances saves you time and unnecessary involvement in childish disputes but also helps them to work things out for the themselves.
Hi I also think it is helpful to remember that all of the children are gaining loads of negotiation and social skills from having a larger and more complex mix. This offsets loss in terms of 1-1 'mummy' time and ability to track the details of their lives, which you may (all) feel keenly. I try to provide each of my (five) with good emotional support but sometimes it's better and more realistic to encourage them to support each other. We recently had three children come to stay with us in difficult circumstances, and I was amazed at how well my kids cared for them (they got back to usual sibling rivalry as soon as they left!!!)