How To Do It All

A short while back I received an email from a dear friend who was struggling with balancing her very busy life. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially the note said, “How do you do it all? How do you keep a clean, happy house, cook, homeschool, have dates with your husband and discipline your children?”

Of course, the answer is that I don’t. At least, not all at the same time. And it’s good to remember that I laughed when I read it because we’d just had a very rocky week during which several of those things did NOT get done, but the way other people see us is generally very different from the way we see us. Still, it’s a good question and one that deserves an answer because it gets asked all the time. I can’t tell my friend how to do it all, because her ‘all’ is different than mine, but I can tell you how I do all mine, and share some tricks I’ve learned along the way.

I have five children. That’s usually why people ask me this question. When I want to know how other people do it, I go to women who have more children than I do. I have several favorite blogs written by women with lots of kids and they’ve been invaluably helpful to me. It’s good to get advice and wisdom from as many sources as possible, keeping what works for you and discarding what doesn’t. So don’t consider this expert testimony, just take what you can.

The first thing to realize is that all you can do is all you can do. I can remember a time when I wailed to my husband, “I don’t understand! I’m working as hard as I can all day long and I’m still not getting it all done!” If I remember right I had three toddlers at the time, a full time job and a part time volunteer position at our church. Of course I wasn’t getting it all done – it was too much. Try sitting down and writing a list (I love lists) of all the things you want to accomplish. Make these things goals, not tasks. For example, you might have “Keep a clean home” as a goal rather than “clean house”. Make sure to define these goals. “Be a good parent” is a great goal but very hard to reach if you’re not sure what that entails. I once had it as a goal to make each of my kids laugh at least once per day. Sometimes that meant a tickle fest right before bedtime. So try things you can quantify, like “Spend 30 minutes focused on kids (playing, reading, whatever)”, “Cook something healthy for dinner” or “Give my husband a massage”. These are things you can actually do rather than pie-in-the-sky goals like “Be a good wife”.

Now look at that list – I mean really look at it. Be objective. Is it actually possible to do all those things or are you overwhelming yourself? Do you need to pare it down? One of the things I suggested to my friend was to stop cooking elaborate and creative meals every night. Simplifying her cooking time and shopping list gives her time and energy to do the other things that she feels are important. (Unless cooking like that is your hobby. The idea is to make room for the best stuff in life, not deprive yourself.)

Once that list is done, write a list of all the things you are actually doing and see how they line up with the first list.

How’d that go? I so often find myself running off after rabbit trails and leaving behind the things I actually want to be doing! This kind of exercise helps get me on the right track. Stop doing the things that aren’t on your goal list – even if that means giving up the ‘shoulds’. Things like “I should make elaborate cupcakes for my kid’s class President’s Day party” or “I should replant all my window boxes each spring and fall because my mother in law would be really impressed.” Unless you really love doing it – don’t. But remember – if gardening or party planning makes you feel content and fulfilled than make room for it!

At this point, those of you who are like me (type A anyone?) are grabbing notebooks and pens and going to town with lists and comparison charts. Those of you who don’t possess this particular personality type may not be feeling quite so ‘helped’. Never fear! Specifics are coming! But this post is getting long, so it will have to wait.

Spend some time thinking and praying about the kind of life you’d really like to live. Ask your husband, your best friend and your mom. Then come back and we’ll get down to the practical parts.




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