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Allison Wojtowecz (00:01):
Okay, so walk me through a day in the life with Jen Fulwiler. What's it like? How do you run your house? Give me the schedule. Give me the breakdown.

Jen Fulwiler (00:09):
Yes, yes. Okay. So I've thought a lot about how to keep a house running when you have a busy career. And we've talked in other segments about the fact that my career was not always this busy. I did not always travel this much. I just want to restate what we said in a previous segment that when my kids were little, there was one time I went so long without traveling. I think I went six years without getting on a plane because that you couldn't, I mean that my kids were just so little. I never went anywhere. And so again, your work will evolve alongside your family. I very much reject this stupid false dichotomy that it's like there's work over here, there's family over here, and they always have to be competing with each other. And I sacrificed my career for my family, or I sacrificed my family for career.

What are people talking about? It's all part of the same organic whole. I discuss my career changes with my family, so does my husband. It's constant communication about what sounds exciting for you guys. Should I take this opportunity? Should we do, I mean, it's such a false dichotomy. Okay. So again, what I'm describing is what works for us today. My youngest is 10, my oldest is 18. He just went off to college. But this works pretty much once your kids are out of the toddler phase. If you have kids are a little older, I think the system would pretty much work. So we live in a 1900 square foot, three bedroom house, all eight of us. And again, since my oldest just went to college, I'm speaking as if six kids are still at home. Mostly what I know. And so we, we converted a playroom upstairs into a bedroom. Everybody shares rooms, they just have to. And we haven't had a lot of issues with fighting and things like that except my oldest and youngest are the only two boys. And that was a little tough because they need to share rooms, but there was a big age difference. So for a while, my youngest, he's so funny, he slept out in the hallway and he liked it.

Allison Wojtowecz (02:19):
He's so cute too. He's so cute. 

Jen Fulwiler (02:21):
He studies military history all the time. One of my high school kids the other day had a project. She had to do a map of Greece. He's 10. He walks up, he's like, well no, that wasn't with the Peloponnesian War. That was more with Alexander the great. But if you look at Peloponnesus right here, the Athens was actually blah, blah because they invaded insane.

Allison Wojtowecz (02:40):
Not to interrupt you, but all of your kids are this smart. Literally this kid was climbing in my lap three years ago. He wanted a hug and now he's 10 and explaining wars I've never heard of. 

Jen Fulwiler (02:52):
It's wild and it's so fun to see all this stuff they're into, but maybe because he's so into military stuff, he kind of likes the of sleeping on the ground because when he goes to war against Persia, he, he'll be ready. He might need the skill. So I kept thinking like, okay, this looks like child abuse. Okay. So every night I'd be like, is there anything, is there a reason you don't want to sleep in your room? And he is like, no, I love to sleep on the floor. So for a year and a half, that kid, because his brother would be up late studying, so there would be tension of like he's trying to go to sleep. His brother has senior level high school classes, so to whatever works. So for a while that is how that worked. He slept on the floor, but then he ended up going back to his room.

So we are open to all sorts of configurations there. One thing I will say is some of the best money we ever spent is we got all of our kids pretty nice noise canceling headphones. Listen, if you are, have kids sharing rooms, that kind of thing. I mean, starting at age three, get them this. And that way if their sibling is annoying them, if it's like I'm trying to study or I'm trying to sleep and my sibling won't shut up, Hey, listen, I didn't spend $150 on these headphones for nothing. You put your noise canceling headphones on. And so I would tell the sibling who's doing the talking like, look, your sister needs some time. Okay, she's going to put on her headphones. Don't bother her. Those headphones, they really make a difference for keeping peace in your house. So yeah, everybody shares a room and we don't have a whole lot of issues with people fighting. I mean, my kids don't fight with each other except for the youngest two. They do. But I mean, I don't fight with my teens. I have four teens in the house at once, right before my son went to college, my daughters, so I have girls ages 17, 16, 14, and 12. I have never seen them fight with each other and they don't fight with me. We do not argue ever. So I just want to tell people it's possible. You hear horror stories about teenage girls being a mom


Allison Wojtowecz (04:55):
With four daughters, all about to be teenagers.

Jen Fulwiler (04:58):
We are so chill. We're just all super chill. So anyway, so we have, one of the great systems that we did that I strongly recommend is my husband has an MBA from Stanford. And so he really applies this to our house. It's so funny to see the systems that he sets up. So one of the things he pointed out with chores is that many parents want to rotate what chores their kids do to keep it even blah, blah, blah. And he said, no, as the leader, I need to be able to enforce what rules we have put down in our house. And so he just assigned each kid's zones of the house, and you permanently own that zone. So my daughter, Pammy, the living room is her zone. My son, jt, who we were just talking about, the front room, that's his zone. One of my daughters, the kitchen is her zone.

And so another daughter has the kid's bathroom. That's her zone. And so that way, if I'm walking by the kid's bathroom and I'm like, this is a mess. I know immediately who to contact about this. We didn't rotate. Joe was like, look, I don't have the mental energy here to figure out, oh, it's like the second Tuesday of the month. So no, none of that. Your zone is the bathroom. And of course we worked with the kids to make sure it's all, even, obviously the kitchen is a bigger deal. So that kid has fewer responsibilities than the one who's just doing the front room that we're never in. That kid has more responsibilities. So for parents, I strongly recommend assigning zones. Do not rotate them, do not shift them. And that way, who is supposed to own that responsibility? The next thing I've been doing that is pretty helpful is I tack up a paper list, I print them out for the week and we just tear it down. And it's each person's tasks and what time a key component they need to be done by. And so they need to check them off when they're done. That was not working super well. And then I started saying, and again, I'm so big on start with why with your family, be a leader just like you would in business. So I sat down with the kids and I said, I'm always big on spinning things. I always have that PR angle


Allison Wojtowecz (07:16):
In mind. Well, your kids are so good at talking back and negotiating with you. They're not rude, but they're like, oh, well, what about this?

Jen Fulwiler (07:23):
Oh yeah, we have an idea flow household. So I said, guys, I have great news. They're like, oh, what? I'm like, we're starting something so exciting this week. And they're like, oh, what? And I was like, I'm going to take away your phones when you don't do your list. Yes. And they're like, what? And I said, no, this is so exciting because our house is going to be this really pleasant place to be in when you bring your friends over. You won't have to feel embarrassed that we live in a dumpster because it will actually be clean. Because everybody will be doing their lists. And I know it's easy to forget. You guys are so busy, you have so much schoolwork. And so I just think it'll be a great mnemonic device if you associate not having your phone for 24 hours with not checking this off the list. And I also explained, I said, look, each one of you have about five tasks per day on this list.

So that is, let's say when there are six of them, that's 30 tasks every single day that if you are not keeping up with, I have to keep up with, I was like, guys, I'm trying to make my comedy millions here. I'm trying to be a millionaire so that we can hire all the staff we need so that none of us have to do any of this. I can't make the comedy millions if I have to keep 30 freaking things in my mind every day. You guys aren't doing it. And so I said it as a very positive thing. I was like, it's, it's going to be so amazing when I start taking phones. It'll be incredible. Well, they're doing their list now.

Allison Wojtowecz (08:48):
They're a hundred percent. Yeah. They want to live that rich lifestyle too.

Jen Fulwiler (08:51):
See the start with why? It's like, why are we doing this one so that you're not embarrassed when your friends come over? That's cool when you invite people over and it's like, oh, this place is pretty nice. It's clean two so that I can make money so that we can have a bunch of staff.

Allison Wojtowecz (09:06):
You want to be cleaning the private jet instead of the bathroom, right?


Jen Fulwiler (09:08):
Yeah. You guys can have nice car. Wouldn't that be cool if I could buy you a nice car instead of the dump that you're driving? That would be cool. I can't do that if I have to keep up with 30 freaking things every day. And also, I bought a decorative, I found a fun looking little craft box on Amazon with a key that locks, and I put it on the kitchen table and I got some paint pens and I was like, phones for people who didn't do their lists. So it's a reminder every day. That's where the phone goes. That's where the phone goes.

Allison Wojtowecz (09:38):
You got a little coffin for the phone.

Jen Fulwiler (09:40):
Literally. Literally. Oh, I should get a little coffin, like a phone coffin. Oh, incredible. Alison, that's a good idea. So listen, bottom line is like this doesn't have to be drudgery. Know who you are, know what you want out of life. Know what your house wants out of life, and then start with why and make it fun. Be like, guess what? Everyone's going to start doing these chores. And the final thing I would say is don't be afraid to iterate. And by iterate, I mean look, the first time you try to do a new chore system for your family, it probably won't work. Okay? You'll get some whiteboard or something you saw on TikTok and it won't work, and then you'll try another one. And that one will sort of work, but not totally. Don't look at it like you're a failure. You're not. You're just, it will take five or six tries to find the right chore system, whatever for your family.

And you'll have a whole graveyard of the boards, the sticker charts and the dry erase boards and the calendar. You'll have a whole graveyard of stuff you tried and it didn't work. Don't get down about that. Don't get down on yourself. You're just iterating. And before I got to this system that works, I seriously tried probably eight or nine different chore tracking systems. I tried apps, I tried texting them. I mean, I tried using notion, the notion, I mean, I tried it all. You went tech with it eight or nine in the past year before we landed on this one. So you have to understand that concept of iterating. It will take you a few times to get to the system that makes your family run smoothly. And this is why my friends nickname me Rain Man.

Allison Wojtowecz (11:11):
Well, I think that's just the cap on your entire, how you run your life, though. That's what standup is, that's what all this other stuff is we've talked about today. Just keep trying, right?

Jen Fulwiler (11:19):
Yep. Keep trying. Just don't give up and just know your goal. I mean, the other thing is there's a difference between you're randomly trying a bunch of stuff that fails and feeling frustrated. I mean, that can be kind of a waste of time. But if you know your goal, like, okay, my goal is to have a house that is clean and tidy and the kids are consistently doing chores. Even when I'm traveling, I travel a lot during tour season. I need this house to kind of run itself with minimal adult intervention. So that's the goal. So that is how I kept my energy up. And I didn't get discouraged when all of the different systems I tried didn't work. So it was like, we got to get there. I travel a lot, and this house cannot fall apart. We got to get there. And so when the goal iterating becomes fun.

Allison Wojtowecz (12:01):
That's awesome.

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