We are often asked "how we do it" which I find to be a funny question since all families are unique and have challenges, Personally I don't know how families where both parents work crazy hours "do it" or single parents, but I guess I will give a glimpse into our life, our schedule and how we do it within our four walls.
I will admit that juggling four kids, work, school, activities, etc is an ongoing battle, and lately those challenges are compounded by extra issues such as comprehensives, Ryan's wacky and ever changing schedule, end of school year stuff, surprise doctor's appointments, etc, so there needs to a fluidity to our lives.
First of all, we always have a schedule and a plan. The schedule is always changing and adapting, but it is there. Every morning when we get up, the kids are briefed on the schedule. By informing them of the plan, they are prepared and know how things will go. On a typical school morning our routine never changes, NEVER. They are up, they eat, they get dressed, brush teeth and hair, pack everything up, Haven takes meds, they get checked over and we are off. This has been the routine since Haven was in preschool, and it will never change. On Gray's preschool days, he follows the schedule and gets ready, stay home days he is free after breakfast and teeth brushing to go play.
I have to plan every day around work. If I have a call, if I have a special project, grading, etc, it all needs to be worked into the schedule in a way that also works with the kids. Right now I usually work in the mornings and at night, which leaves time for the kids during the day. In the summer, I always work morning and after kids bedtime, it means we can be out of the house by 10 to go and do fun things together.
Dinner is planned...well except when I am in early pregnancy and really tired :) Dinner is planned by breakfast so I know when I need to be home, what I can make ahead, if someone has an activity, etc.
Naps are scheduled for the baby and unless it is an out and about errand morning, she naps twice a day.Sometimes we need to be out, and I try to have a long enough drive, such as to the farm, so she can get a decent nap. On those days, we also make sure we are home for the afternoon nap, which is easy since that is when the girls are coming home from school.
Activities are a whole new animal. We have two in activities now, and Grayson will start football in the fall. With Ryan's changing work schedule, and my teaching schedule at PT school, we may face a problem with his practices. I have already asked my babysitter next door if we can hire her to bring him to football if needed, and she has happily agreed, so we dodged that bullet for the moment. I hope that in the next few years, when we move and add more activities to the mix, that I will no longer be teaching PT and we won't need to worry about the after school schedule. As for the girls, they take dance classes and we schedule on the days I don't teach, so that makes life easy :) The babies will have daytime activities soon. I plan to enroll Teagan in a baby gym program when she is 2 and will enroll #5 when he/she is also 2. Their activities take place during the day while the big kids are at school, so that will be good too!
Lastly, chores. All my kids have responsibilities, well not Teagan she is still too little :) As soon as they can walk and communicate a little, around 18-24 months, my kids are given responsibilities. Simple things such as putting their clothes in the laundry, picking up toys, putting a plate in the sink, even the littlest kids can learn to help. My kids don't have daily chores, in this house the chores are to do whatever mom or dad needs help with. They fold and put away their own clothes, help wash clothes, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, clean bathrooms, dust, wipe down windows, take out trash, take out compost, recycling, mop and the list goes on. We teach them to do the things needed to keep up a home, however we usually only ask them to do one or two chores per day, unless the whole family is doing a big cleaning. Learning how to do something properly, say unload the dishwasher, is important for them once they are older, and helps me as I can assign a child to the task and know they will do it well. The kids can be a great help around the house and it just about balances out all the messes they leave for me as they move from room to room :)
The thing about having a houseful while juggling work and school and decent meals is you have to plan, there is no other way to get it done. Housework and house renovations needs to be planned. Family cleaning needs to be planned. Outings need to be planned. However, IF you plan and IF you are consistent, it really can run smoothly. I feel calmer most days with a full house then I did when my two oldest were babies. I was always overwhelmed then, second guessing everything, never sure what to do when. Now we know what we are doing, and sometimes we can't achieve all we want, but we set our plan and we stick to it.