Re: Do you simplify your schedule and errands when you have more kids?
I have 3 (7, 4 and 2) and watch my 4 month old nephew M-F 8:30-6, so, for errands, I have 4 (we homeschool, so the eldest is always with us). I typically don't do a lot of errands in general -- we usually only go grocery shopping, which entails 1-3 stores, and we do them all back to back one weekday morning a week, though I'm always willing to consolidate it into one store if the energy is grouchy/too much for good behavior at the store. The 7 year old carries the list on a clipboard and crosses things off as we find them; the four year old helps choose the actual products and puts them in the cart; the 2 year old has only just graduated from being worn to riding in the cart, so he's still excited about that; and the 4 month old is worn in a front carry. I build buying a store bought treat (a muffin each, a box of cereal or granola bars to share as a family) into our weekly grocery budget, because it makes it smoother. I say, "when we're all done, we'll go choose our muffin/cereal/etc.," and it's not at all linked to behavior. It's not a reward to be earned; it's just a fact that when we go to the grocery store, we'll pick up something small, most times, but not all, that they enjoy, which makes the trip somewhat more enticing to them. I also encourage them to choose new types of produce; pretty much whenever they ask to try an exotic fruit/vegetable, we do. We also eat the same menu every week that rotates seasonally (my kids do best when they know that Tuesday is Taco Night), so I often buy enough supplies for two weeks' worth of meals, except for fresh produce. So often, we're just picking up milk, produce, and cheese at the store.
We have a chalkboard wall in our kitchen, and i keep a running list of everything the household needs there, and between that and menu planning, piddly errand-running is kept largely at bay. When we do have errands at multiple stores/locations, we do them all at once, in the morning when the kids are at their best. I bring a snack, and we stop at a playground at some point during the morning when the weather is good.
For me, it's not a big deal to take them shopping since this is how i've done things since my eldest was born. For me, part of me being home during the days is to get this sort of stuff accomplished, so that when my wife is home in the evenings and weekends, we don't have to spend our precious family time shopping or running errands.
Everything takes longer the more carseats there are to unbuckle; if you can somehow make it even the least bit fun, it makes it easier on everyone, and the more you do it, the more they become familiar with it, and again, the easier it becomes.
SAHD to J 12.27.05, M 12.27.08, and A 2.15.11.