We live in an age where we are told we can do all the things. Being a busy mum is a badge of honour – and we strive to balance it all. It’s a lie. Everything we do comes at a cost. This is true for every person – stay at home mum to highflying corporate. When you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else. We only have 24 hours in a day. We only have one life.
But we still aim to have an empty to-do list at the end of the day. It is as if assures us we have been productive, we’ve done good. But this doesn’t work for mothering. There is always work to be done – you will never get it all done. And that is okay. It is okay because your family isn’t a project to be ticked off in a project management system, your family is growing and your relationships are constantly changing.
[Tweet “Our family is not a project to be managed – it’s a growing relationship.”]
I remember when I had baby number two (Jessica) I was so frustrated that I was getting nothing done. Nothing! I sat down and calculated how much time I spent on feeding my small family – Peter was working two jobs and kept early/late hours so we didn’t eat breakfast or dinner with him, though we often had lunch together. So I was feeding 3 groups of people: Peter and myself, a toddler and a baby all at different times. This took hours, there really wasn’t much time left to do much else. Though it seemed ridiculous that I spent that much time feeding my family the journaling exercise brought about a sense of reality – I could see that it was a phase in our family life, but at least I knew where my time was going. It helped me get perspective.
Balancing Life as a Busy Mum
There have been so many days since where I still ask myself – where has the day gone? Why didn’t I get anything done? What happened today?
The truth is, it isn’t that I’m not getting things done, and it’s not that you’re not getting things done – the thing that needs to change is our expectation and mindset.
1–Recognise Seasons of Life
Seasons come and go. Each season has its own demands, limitations and freedoms. We need to enjoy the season we are in, make the most of it, and not over stretch ourselves because we are hankering for things out of season.
Young mums have often asked me which season is the most demanding – toddlers or teens. They are both demanding – just different.
Things that were important to the young Belinda, the with-no-kids Belinda have dropped off the radar – a nicely decorated home with all the extras of flowers and candles, nice meals with regularly trying new recipes, a house clean from top to bottom once a week, a fresh face at dinner time – these things were good things for me to practice before kids, before four kids, before stuff happened! But they have been dropped along the way and I’m okay with that. My house gets cleaned but it may not shine, our family eats nutritional meals though there isn’t much variety, candles happen on special occasions.
The key here is that we need to drop things that don’t allow us to be fruitful in the season that we are in. I’m delighting in seeing my heart returning for some of those ideas, we are trying new recipes, redecorating, and I’m managing to freshen up before dinner some nights! But while my children were young those things were not important.
The last part of recognising seasons – is knowing that each season comes to an end. Your today isn’t the rest of your life. This helped me get perspective when I was in the thick of it.
Secondly, know yourself. I am a morning person – my energies fade in the evening. I can still socialise in the evening, but work? I’d prefer not to. When my kids were young I’d leave the dishes in the sink overnight.Gasp! I know every time management, home-keeping book says not to do this – my mother never did this – but for me it was a case of taking 45 minutes of hard work after dinner, or 20minutes of swish swish in the morning. To me it was what worked. Sure, the day always starts better without dishes in the sink, but this was an adjustment I made because of knowing myself.
I am the most productive in the morning. For this reason we get the house in order before we start our focus project (be that study or something else). I wake early in the morning and I have my time – this is time for reflection, prayer, exercise, thinking and sometimes writing or business related tasks. Over the years I have followed many home keeping ‘programmes’ with my favourites being Emily Barnes and Flylady but in the end it comes down to what works for me. I have always tweaked things to fit my situation and my strengths.
Another area where it is important to know yourself is to know how you recharge. We all recharge differently – but we all need to recharge. I learnt early on that it was my responsibility to find time and opportunity that I needed to rest – phsycially, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
3–Have a Routine
I have a routine – it doesn’t come naturally, it is something that I have to work with but it is a tool that helps me achieve the things that I want to achieve.
It is very hard to write about a routine without sounding like a schedule, driven by the clock. There is a balance that we need to be aware of the clock, in order to use our time wisely but we also need to keep our eyes on the important things and not be dictated to by predetermined time slots.
Routines are habits of activity – so it takes time to develop routines. We have several mini routines making up our day: Early morning, focus time, afternoon time, late afternoon, and evening routine. These are the time slots, or blocks making up our day. When activity or interruption occurs it will be contained in one of these blocks.
Then again there are always the things that happen that are more important that my plan – this is where routine and habits come into it – you go with what is important and then slip back into the routine of the day when you can.
4–Live by your Priorities
Every family will have different priorities. Priorities are driven by our values and by our circumstances. What is the most important thing for you to focus on in your family today? This week? This month? When we know this priority we can make sure that something happens every day to build on that focus.
This means we have to learn to say no – say no to good things so we can say yes to the best things.
So often we suffer a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and we just keep on saying yes. This leads to our kids being overstimulated, exhausted, distracted and not enough time to grow in the areas that are important for them to grow. To be honest – we also get overstimulated, exhausted and distracted and don’t have enough time to focus on the areas that are important too. We have to be confident enough in what is important to OUR family, regardless of what others are doing, and do what is best.
But priorities change – just like seasons change – so we have to be intentional enough to keep reviewing our priorities and our plans.
5–Live with Character
We teach our children to make character based choices: to be respectful, responsible, show self control and be truthful. The same goes for us.
There are many character traits that deal with how we manage our time and responsibilities but the key one that covers a lot of what I’ve shared here today is Thoroughness. I like to define thoroughness as – knowing my goal and completing it with excellence.
There are three keys about thoroughness
- Know your goal
- Complete it
- With excellence
People often get caught up on the ‘with excellence’ part – and that makes them either procrastinate (because they can’t do it perfectly so they don’t do it at all) or it makes them focus on every little minute details getting it to be perfect (and in the meantime letting other things slide). To be thorough means we cover all three aspects. If we procrastinate or fuss over the details to the exclusion of completing it – we aren’t being thorough. Sometimes the level of perfect needs to be altered in keeping with our goal.
My goal has never to be to have a perfect magazine worthy house. I never wanted my house clean enough for the queen to visit. I never wanted my kids to be perfect – I wanted them to be able and real. So I need to make sure I keep my eyes on the true goals I want for my family.
To be thorough means that we need to know our goals and let anything go that stops us from reaching that goal.
There might be a different character trait that motivates you. Actually all character based choices work together – I can’t be thorough if I’m not available, attentive, diligent, truthful, responsible and so forth. They all play their part for me living my life true to myself and my goals.
[Tweet “Getting it all done is a lie that busy mums need to stop listening to.”]
Over to you: Do you find yourself trying to do all the things?
You can’t do it all! Sometimes you have to ask for Help: Asking for help is hard but there are times when we can’t do it all and we need to let others help us.
How to Make Family Dinner Time Happen in a Busy Week: Family dinner time is important to keep our family connected and yet at times it is hard to make it happen – but it is worth it when we do.