How I manage to "Do it all."
Here's the reality of my life: I'm a stay-at-home mother. That's my primary "occupation," if you will. I have two small children, one is four, the other is one. The oldest has special needs. There are also two men and three dogs that live in this house, along with the two aforementioned children. I do preschool drop-off and pickup - most of the time it's one or the other, but sometimes, it's both. There's a lot of vacuuming, a lot of playing and instructing, a lot of cleaning, a lot of dishes, a lot of laundry. There are four tiny hands who are often asking for something. There's a lot of barking. It can get really messy, really quickly. There's a lot of food consumed, a lot of trips to Costco and the grocery store,
My husband and I host and co-lead a house church with a small team of other leaders. We mentor, disciple, we are discipled and we teach. We open our home twice a week and more to a community of people who we love and adore, and it almost always involves food. I have coffee with girlfriends, I watch other mom's kids. We support the ministries of friends and work to love the people in our city.
Work-wise, I run a collaborative website with over 60 writers. I'm the editor-in-chief and the founder, so my job is to oversee a team of editors, cast vision for the website and keep things moving forward. All PR issues or tech problems fall at my feet.
I blog (occasionally, obviously) here.
I write books. I am under contract for two books with Zondervan, my first will release in August. I'll start working on the proposal for the second book next week.
My work as a writer and editor requires me to travel. I speak at conferences, meet with other leaders, participate in philanthropies and advocacy trips and lend whatever platform I have to worthy causes. When I leave town, Erik steps in and takes care of everything he can while working at his job and taking care of the kids. His job schedule is more rigid than mine, so I try to get most everything done before I leave (cleaning, laundry, food prep, grocery runs, etc.).
I also like to take time for myself to read books, journal, pray and rest. I find it important to take time for my marriage. I also make it a point to take time for my personal health by exercising & eating well.
I'm often asked by other people, "How do you do it all?" So, I thought I'd offer a little insight into how I manage to stay afloat, despite all of my responsibilities, passions and obligations.
1. I don't do it all. I prioritize.
At least, I don't do it all at once. If I tried to all of those things in one day, it just simply wouldn't happen. I look at the scope of the week ahead and make plans accordingly. If I know I have writing deadlines that week, laundry and cleaning will likely take a back seat. If we have guests coming over, I'll work more on the housework. If the kids are sick, I know that most everything I have planned will be moved to "tentative," because when kids are sick, all bets are off.
I try to leave my evenings open after dinner and after the kids are in bed. No phone, no computer, no work. That's my time with Erik, and time when we can unwind together. Sometimes, that's snuggling up together with a movie, sometimes that's reading on the couch with a glass of wine, sometimes that's... doing other stuff. Ahem.
As for working out and staying healthy, group classes are my JAM. Because they're at set times throughout the week, I know when to make time and prioritize (in case you wanted to know, yoga is my go-to. I go to a local studio in my neighborhood.).
But, no matter how long my list is, I don't do it all at once. I prioritize the responsibilities in my life every week and plan around them. Everything else falls into place after that.
2. Our parenting style allows it.
Here's the reality - Erik and I have a very laid-back approach to raising kids. We have really wide boundaries for Rowan and Scout. The boundaries that we DO set are tough and immovable, but they cast a really wide net. As long as the kids are within the hard boundaries, most everything goes.
I don't take motherhood and parenting too seriously. Maybe that's a blind spot for me, but maybe not. I'm not "intentional" in the sense that every.single.second is a teaching/moldable moment to shape them to be more like Jesus. I let my kids be kids, and if there is a moment that presents itself that I find worthy of instruction, I take advantage. But, I don't set up my days so that they happen every hour on the hour. I'm not with or around my kids every second of the day, either. I don't homeschool and to be honest, I probably never will, unless I hear a literal booming voice from the sky instructing me otherwise. Rowan goes to preschool every day from 8:30-noon. Scout cruises around and is always in earshot, but often, out of my line of vision.
My kids are encouraged to explore on their own and self-entertain. I'm not a "cruise director" mom - I hate Pinterest, I don't do crafts & activities and map out every second of the day for my kids. And all of this is not to say that I'm not invested in my kids. Surely, you know that's not true. Of course I am, I love my children, I meet their needs and like any mother, I want what's best for them at all times. Sometimes, that means I build ramps out of blocks for Rowan's monster trucks, or sit on the floor and read picture books with Scout. But sometimes, that means opening the toy cabinet, making books available for reading and giving iPad time so they can play on their own and learn to entertain themselves without me.
Now, don't misunderstand me, if you are the kind of parent who is "present" every second of the day, homeschools, has activities, crafts & outings lined up every week, and that's the type of parenting that suits you and your children best, you have my support and full applause! It's just now how we roll, and because of that, it allows me to do other things like write, blog, answer emails, clean the house, cook dinner uninterrupted and many other things.
3. I have help.
Because of the nature of Erik's job, he is able to work from home in the offseason. We have a small bedroom/loft with a door that closes that we have turned into his office, so he is just at the top of the stairs all day when he's working from home. Because his work is flexible in the offseason, and because his office is just upstairs, I'm able to leave the kids for 10 minutes while I run to the grocery store. Erik is able to take an afternoon off here and there so I can escape to a coffee shop to work and write without distractions. If I need help taking the trash out, I just holler to Erik to come help me. Having a husband working from home provides me with a LOT of flexibilities that a lot of moms aren't able to take advantage of. I know this, and I'm grateful for it. But, it's a piece of the puzzle for us.
I'm also not afraid to ask for help. This summer, when I had a book deadline and wrote my manuscript in 4 weeks, I hired a part-time nanny. It was a priority that Erik and I set, because we knew that the deadline was important, I couldn't miss it, and I needed the help with the kids in order to meet that responsibility. We took a hit financially, I spent a good chunk of time away from the kids for just over a month, but it was a sacrifice we made, a priority we set in order to make it work. I also have good people in our community here in SLC who know and love my kids to the ends of the earth, and I know that I can call on them to come hang with the kids while I go work for an afternoon or evening if Erik isn't available.
4. Naptimes are precious gold, not to be wasted.
When Scout is down for her nap, I get to work, and I don't screw around. Whether that's tasks around the house that need to get done, conference calls to make, emails that have been piling up that need to be answered, or a blog post deadline that I need to meet, I use nap times as the block of time that I can count on to rally through a chunk of the to-do list. I'm lucky that I have a 13-month old that still naps solidly twice a day. My days will shift quite a bit as she transitions to one nap a day, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there, just like I did with Rowan. For now, I take advantage when I can.
Unless I'm sick, like I was last week. In which case, I use Scout's nap to lay in bed and watch Downton Abbey and Big Love reruns. Don't hate.
5. Everything is flexible.
The minute I set some finite and definite expectations for my day is the minute it always seems to fall apart. So, I go about setting my priorities and planning my days with the understanding that I need to be flexible, because there are a lot of moving parts and several variables that affect my chances of getting it all done. And really, flexibility and the ability to "roll with the punches" is every parent's song, is it not? No matter what, whether you stay at home, work in an office, work from home or something in between, we all know that the minute you throw kids into the equation, it's all a crapshoot in the end. My ability to stay flexible and roll with it allows me to compensate for the times when the day doesn't go as planned.
I don't do it all. Not at once, anyway, and not without sacrifice, priorities, and a hella lot of help. If you look at another parent and think, "I wish I could keep it together like him/her," remember, there's a lot there that you don't see. Nobody really has it ALL together. We're all a mess, just doing the best we can. The bottom line is that YOU need to do what's best for YOU and YOUR kids. Full stop. It's going to look different than other moms and dads, and that's a GOOD thing because your kids are different and YOU are different. Being different is not a value statement. Don't let it ever speak value.
You're a good parent. You hold your head high and keep doing your thing. Even if it means you're not "Doing it all."