Hi, I’m Jessica Ronne. A supermom to 8 kids ranging in age from 4-16. My husband Ryan and I met after the deaths of our first spouse. He lived in Oklahoma with his three young children and I lived in Michigan with my four kids. A stranger from PA followed both of our blogs and suggested we connect. We did and the rest is history. We were married in 2011 and blended our 7 kids into one big family of 9. In 2014 we decided to try for one more child, and I gave birth to Annabelle in June of 2015. Lucas, our fifteen-year-old son, has profound special needs and has contributed greatly to the nature of my work. I’m a part-time teacher at a local community college, author, and founder of The Lucas Project, a non- profit dedicated to providing respite opportunities for special needs caregivers. Teaching pays the bills, but I’m slowly replacing it with more writing, speaking, and nonprofit work. My husband Ryan flips houses for a living which enables us to have flexibility in our life – which is needed with 8 kids!
Our busy life is never boring but does present unique challenges which usually involve time: time for each child, time for work so that we can provide for our family, time as a family with jobs and other obligations and time as husband and wife.
We’ve incorporated a few strategies that have helped in being more intentional and successful in these areas of challenge.
My best advice for building a happy family while working is to have strict boundaries for yourself around work and family. For instance, we make it a priority to sit down for dinner every night as a family. No phones allowed as this is our time to check in with each other. I also put my phone/work away around 3 and don’t pick it up again until after dinner. I stay away from social media and email on the weekends because I’d rather devote my time to my family. I also leave my phone in the car on date nights (Ryan brings him in case of an emergency) so that we can focus on each other. The kids are in their rooms (or in the teenager’s case, the basement) by 8:00 p.m. This doesn’t mean that they’re asleep but it does mean that Ryan and I have a few hours of peace to reconnect as a couple. I physically go to work two days a week where I have a few breaks, and I try to keep school work (grading, prep, copies, etc) at work. In other words, I don’t bring teaching home so that the other three days can be completely devoted to writing, editing, and non-profit work.
I’m dead to the world by 10:00 p.m and up no later than 6:00 a.m. My mind is sharpest in the morning, and I take advantage of the time I have before the kids wake up. For instance, it’s 6:30 now on a Saturday and the kids won’t be awake until at least 8:00. I immediately dive into responding to emails, researching and maybe a little editing or writing. The kids are awake by 7:00 on school days and are off to school by 7:30. During this time, I help get them ready – specifically my son with special needs and four years old, throw in a load of laundry and think about what’s for dinner so I can prep by getting ingredients out of the freezer. I try to meal plan on Sundays (I’m not great at this) and order groceries. I work out every day – either yoga with Annabelle or walking with my husband. I know this routine is critical for my mental well being. I also attempt to clean one area a day, accomplish one task with the non- profit, and catch up on one writing assignment. Ryan accomplishes the cooking on Monday and Wednesday nights because I work all day, and we usually do something easy on the weekend like takeout.
Foster Independence –
We encourage independence. We are all happier if I’m not stressed out because I’m trying to constantly do it all! My kids put their dishes in the sink after dinner, pick out their own clothes, do their laundry, and manage their schedules – including homework. We will step in if we see a problem – like bad grades – but otherwise, we leave it to them. Kids are very capable if we allow them to step up and do it.
Enlist help –
Chores are a must in our household. Each child has a small after school chores like sweeping a room or folding laundry, an after-dinner chore to help clean up the mess and Saturday chores. These chores do result in an allowance which in turn fosters independence and money management skills. I also love grocery delivery which has saved me a ton of time and I often allow the kids to help bake to provide easy breakfast options like pancakes or muffins.
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