Have a to-do list like this:
- Cook all meals from scratch and never eat out, buy in or use a boxed dinner.
- Sew all the kids' clothes on account of "not being able to find store-bought that fit".
- Sign the kids up for swimming, gymnastics, art class, ballet, jazz-tap, soccer, piano/violin/both, volleyball, karate/aikido and drama. Personally drive them to and from all of those classes. While also doing 1.
- Publish a book while doing 1 and 2.
- Design patterns for sale while doing 4, so as to pay for 3.
- Exercise at least 4 days a week.
- Do home tuition/remediation lessons with the kids (what we do in Singapore to supplement actual school lessons, but which I never did as a kid and till this day refuse to do with my kids).
- Organize and/or accept playdates with each of the kids' 100 friends on regular rotation. Bake cookies and other healthful snacks while hosting playdates.
Alternatively, here's how to not burn out, at the expense of being heinously unproductive as far as "involved parenting" goes: have a to-do list like the one that often drifts in and out of my head:
- Employ elves to cook meals and clean the house. Eat out on the days when the elves are out sick.
- Give the kids sacks to wear when they complain about store-bought clothes. Say: "Sacks are one-size fits all!" Invest in fabric markers so kids can personalize their own sack-outfits. Screen results before kids actually wear them out, to eliminate incorrect spelling, unwittingly-coined rude words and (worse) poor color choices. Personally buy and wear store-bought clothes yourself, even if they don't fit at all, just to set a good example and avoid being accused of hypocrisy.
- Sign the kids up for cooking lessons and driving class. Then enlist them to help with all the chores that normally consume all your time by slotting them into the elves' roster (see 1) when the elves are on sick leave. Pay them (the kids, not the elves - elves usually choose telepathy over technology when communicating) in cellphone minutes, which you can also take advantage of by texting them links to recipe websites containing dishes you like to eat.
- Only buy books that are about world history, politics, outer space conquest or improving personal financing, knowing that they aren't written by anyone you know who has a creative blog, thereby avoiding comparing and feeling inferior to people who write creative blogs and who have published books on crocheting dinosaur-shaped oven mitts.
- Hit "delete" when people email you demanding free patterns and tutorials.
- Attach weights to your feet (or let the smaller children cling to your leg) and walk around and up and down the house carrying large loads of laundry for natural and incidental calorie-burning. Punch fist in air at regular intervals for sense of solidarity with other equally-resourceful home-exercising SAHMs everywhere. Feel extra encouraged that fist-punching counts for extra calorie-burning because of action against gravity.
- Believe that kids learn best by playing. Then give them an old electric appliance (minus CR tube because dangerous) and tell them to extract all the resistors and stick them on a card in order of increasing value. Offer prizes to everyone who collects resistors whose total value (in parallel for older kids; in series for younger kids) exceeds 50 megaohms.
- Tell the kids that school counts as one big playdate; snacks optional.
Of course my real to-do list looks nothing at all like either of those. It only has stuff like, "Buy cereal", "Wash K's snow pants" or "Replenish toilet paper in upstairs toilet if you know what's good for you". Charmingly repetitive.
Boy, is it hard to come back to real life after a vacation. I'm getting there. Real life, I mean.