I remember when Jess was a baby, she was our 2nd child with about 16 months between her and Josh.  When she was about 3month I remember feeling so frustrated that I wasn’t getting anything done in my days.  I did a little journaling activity where I recorded all that I did in every hour as I went through my day.  After a week of doing this I started to see where my time was going.  Pete was working early mornings and late evenings so we had lunch with him, but I was preparing 3 different meals: breast feeding Jess, toddler meals for Josh, and meals for Pete and I – three times a day.  No wonder I wasn’t getting anything else done.  It really helped me to see that I wasn’t being lasy, I was doing what needed to be done, and I just didn’t have time for it all.  We are told that we can do it all – but that simply isn’t true.  Lets look at this idea today.

We live in an age where we are told we can do all the things. Being busy is a badge of honour – and as mums we strive to do it all and balance it all.  Well, 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. We can’t do it all.

But we still aim to have an completed to-do list at the end of the day.  It is as if all those ticked off items assures us we have been productive, we’ve done good.

And though I’ve used a lot of my office admin skills from pre-mothering days, this mindset doesn’t erally work in the mum life. 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 in your family are constantly changing.

Balancing Life as a Busy Mum

Even since that time where I realised that so much of my time was taken up just feeding my small family – I still ask myself – where has the day gone?  Why didn’t I get anything done? What happened with 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 expectations and mindset. We set ourselves a false expectation and judge ourselves accordingly.

Here are 4 key thoughts that helped me bring balance to my thinking as much as to how I managed my time and my to-do lists.

1–Acknowledge Different Seasons of Life

Seasons come and go. Each season has its own demands, limitations and opportunities. We need to enjoy the season we are in, make the most of it, and not over-stretching ourselves because we are hankering for things out of season.

Talking about seasons always reminds me of farming.  I’m no farmer but I know certain jobs need to be done at certain times, in certain order for there to be a crop come harvest time.  Our life as a mum is like that.  There are sasons of life where we need to do certain things, and then as life goes on those tasks change. 

The thing about seasons is that they come and go.  And we need to read the change of seasons, and know when a season comes to an end.  I heard Annie F. Downs say – everything comes to an end, good times, and the hard times.  That might be a bit of a paraphrase but it reflects the truth of seasons.   Your today, isn’t the rest of your life. 

When we get overwhelmed with juggling too much and trying to do all the things, something we can do is drop those things that don’t allow us to be fruitful in the season that we are in.  Can you be honest enough with yourself to know the things that you are pursuing out of season?

 

2–Commit to Living 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 with not enough time to grow in the areas that are important for them to grow in.  To be honest – we also get overstimulated, exhausted and distracted and don’t have enough time to focus on the areas that are important. We have to be confident enough in what is important to OUR family, regardless of what others are doing, and do what is best for us.

But priorities change – just like seasons change – so we have to be intentional enough to keep reviewing our priorities and make plans accordingly.  There is a close correlation between seasons and priorities – seasons define the time, the big picture time, and our priorities define the actions that are important within that time. 

 

3–Know yourself and work with what you’ve got

We need to know ourselves – know our strengths, your weaknesses, our body rhythms.  We need to know how we best work, our good habits and our bad, how we recharge, how we learn, how we cope and deal with stress.

  • Are you a morning person or night owl?  
  • Do you get going quickly or do you need a few cups of coffee?
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Do you like tidy or are you ok with mess?  
  • Do you like quiet or are you okay with noise?
  • Are you intuitive or do you need all the facts?
  • Do you know your values?
  • Do you know what you like to do for fun?
  • Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you cope with stress?

There are so many different aspects to who we are – each of us a unique individual – I really do encourage you to get to know yourself – and learn to value yourself, and to make choices consistent with not only who you are today, but also who you want to become.  And this isn’t just some new hoo-ha stuff, I’m not disregarding God in this.  God made you with each of these uniquenesses.  Some of our stuff is a bit messed up because of sin but I also have to say, we can be redeemed and restored as we walk with Jesus.  God made us all unique – and that uniqueness can be utilised to help our family grow and flourish.

What do you need in life to do life well?  What action steps do you need to take to make that happen?.  

 

4–Have a Purposeful Routine

I work best with a routine – it doesn’t come naturally, it is something that I have had to work on since I was about 12 but it is a tool that helps me achieve the things that I want to achieve.

It is very hard to talk about a routine without sounding like I’m talking about 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 that we are doing and not be dictated to by predetermined time slots or allocations.

A routine is simply a plan for my day.  And the more often I work with that plan, the less I have to think about.  A routine really does lift the mental load of being a mum.  Not every day goes according to plan, but it is a baseline that I keep coming back to.

One thing I often reminded myself of  (and still do today) was – Am I (or my children) doing the right thing for this moment?  It is a really good question because it keeps the focus on using our time wisely rather than sticking to a routine.

 

5–Live with Character

We teach our children to make character-based choices: to be respectful, responsible, show self-control and be truthful, and so forth.  The same goes for us – we have to make choices based on those values as well.

There are many character traits that deal with how we manage our time and responsibilities but a 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.

Taking that definition, there are three aspects to understanding thoroughness

  1. Know your goal
  2. Complete it
  3. With excellence

Women too 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. If we do something with excellence but it isn’t the right thing – we aren’t being thorough.  Sometimes the level of perfection needs to be altered in keeping with our goal. In fact I think the goal of perfection always needs to be altered!  It is an unrealistic expectation we put on ourselves.  This is why I like excellence – and I know we can confuse perfect with excellence but I challenge you, that if you struggle with perfectionism, to find two different definitions so that you can aim for high quality and goodness without though constraints of the false expectation of perfection.  

If we can learn to choose thoroughness instead of perfection we will do much better both in our choices and in our mental health.

My goal has never been to have a perfect magazine-worthy house – I wanted our space lived in, creative, and welcoming.  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 and not some idealistic image of perfect..

 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.

 

Heart-focused Action Step

The heart-focused action step for this week is realising that getting it all done is a lie that busy mums need to stop listening to.  There will always be work to do.  And that is as it should be.  That is family life.  That is kids growing and family interacting.  Our family is not a project to be managed – it’s a growing relationship. 

We need to see all the things that we do need to get done, in terms of serving our family so that we can altogether grow and flourish.  Any other goal is probably a distraction.  

We can set ourselves up for success by (these five things we’ve talked about today) 

  • Acknowledging different seasons of life
  • Commiting to living by your priorities
  • Knowing yourself and working with what you’ve got
  • Having a purposeful routine
  • Making character based choices

We need to adjust our expectations – not because we are lazy, not because we aren’t good enough, not because we’ve made too many mistakes – but because our goal isn’t to have everything done.  Our goal needs to be nurturing our family – in whatever ways they need. And we need to be available and ready to do it – day after day.

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Further Reading:

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.

Organising my Week to Meet my Goals:  When I know my goals I can start organising my week to meet those goals instead of just following someone else’s’ system.

10 Ways Parents make Parenting Hard – Harder than it has to beParenting is hard; we can make it harder than it has to be by the habits we get caught up with; but you can catch yourself and start responding differently.

 

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