Recently a reader, Julie, sent me the following question:
My question is about how in the world you manage your time to post to several blogs/monitor all the comments/write for other blogs/write books/and everything else, including cooking/raising 5 children. Needless to say I’m impressed and would love to know your secret.
I have a personal blog (just for family/journaling mostly) so I know how time consuming it is (the photos especially!). I have half started another blog, but frankly am not good at finding the time to work on it. And I only have 2 kids!
Please enlighten me to your tricks of the trade!
I get some variation on the “how do you do it all?” question pretty often, as I’m guessing many moms do. And while I hate to answer this so predictably, the first answer to the question is, “I don’t!”
However, I know I do have a lot going on, and it probably does seem impossibly overwhelming to contemplate from the outside…when you don’t see the full picture. Julie asked about time-management tips, of which I have quite a few. But first I want to address the circumstances of my life that make some of what I do possible:
My blog is my job.
I hear from a lot of frustrated bloggers who are having a hard time keeping up with mothering, the house, perhaps an outside job, and that blog they so optimistically started. But with my blog, there’s a built-in sense of urgency because it’s a big part of our family’s income! From the outside it might look like I don’t have a “real” job – no, I don’t follow a strict 9-5 schedule and yes, I am writing this from my sofa – but if I don’t show up to “work” each week, we won’t have money for groceries, gas and a roof above our heads.
Because blogging is my job, I have a lot of family support and paid help that not everyone does. My husband works a flexible schedule and is often available to keep Clara amused during the day (it turns out keeping Clara amused is a big job.) My brother watches her two days a week, from 8:30 – 3:30, giving me a nice long stretch of time to concentrate. And when things are busy – like they are right now – I often use a cleaning service.
I juggle a few freelance clients in addition to my blog, and yes, sometimes I’m burning the candle at both ends, but it’s my work, so it takes a high priority. If I were blogging as a hobby, there’s no way I’d be as disciplined. (I’ll be doing a series on pro blogging and working from home soon, for those who are curious and/or want to get started!)
My kids are big!
If you’re reading this with a toddler or infant on your lap, believe me, I know where you are. I’ve been there, several times, and not so very long ago. But now, my youngest daughter is four and my oldest two sons are thirteen and fifteen! I have an amazing amount of freedom, independence, and the ability to Get Stuff Done that, just a couple short years ago, was unimaginable.
It took me many years of in-the-trenches baby and toddler parenting to get to this place, and I think the fact that it was so hard-won makes me appreciate it – and take advantage of it – even more. I recently saw author Jon Acuff speak at the Blissdom Conference, and he said “Never compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle.” That applies to just about everything in life, including being a mom.
I don’t cook every day.
I don’t work every day. I don’t (shh) read to my kids every day. In fact, there is not much I do every day, beyond brushing my teeth and getting out of bed. I structure my life around cycles: Right now, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday tend to be our family dinner nights since we don’t have any evening activities. I like the rhythm that the cooking, cleaning up and family time gives our mid-week. Those are also the nights that I tend to do a bang-up job at bedtime, with the extra-special tuck-ins and stories.
But Monday, when we are just starting the week and three of the kids have gymnastics until 7:30, it’s a different story. I’m always discombobulated and disorganized on Mondays. And Fridays, I just want to take a break and celebrate the weekend. So it’s pizza or freezer meals on those nights, and not much gets done.
My point is that “getting things done” doesn’t always have to mean you do the same important things every day, day in and day out. We all need breaks, we all need to shift our focus between different areas of our lives sometimes. You can be an excellent baker, painter, runner, or writer and still take days off. And while we can’t take days “off” from being a mom, we definitely can shift into neutral and just exist on those days when life is overwhelming.
Here are a few posts I’ve written in the past about simplifying and time management. I’ll be adding to this list soon!