We all have that friend, coworker, family member, neighbor who does it all. Mothers, works, exercises, volunteers, cooks, gives. As a mother/entrepreneur/blogger, I often hear the old familiar phrase, “I don’t know how you do it all”. Like one of my favorite authors, Rachel May Stafford, has written about many times….it’s a lie. No one can do it all. Being the mother of four kids and caretaker for my own mother are non-negotiables in my life. Devising a system that works for our family is not “trying to do it all”, it is the reality of my life!
I try my hardest to embrace the 80/20 rule as often as possible. More often than not, I am careful about the food I choose to feed to my children because I know their behavior is intensely impacted by sugar. But then there’s the 20 percent when they get Lunchables and Hamburger Helper in the same week. My family thrives on a schedule, we are living proof that idle time allows for mischief. When you are the mother of four children that mischief often leads to hurt feelings and sibling battles. Therefore, I have learned that eighty percent of our time must be scheduled. This mama must have a plan for her ducklings to follow or things will go astray…fast! But in an attempt to teach them to find their own creative use of their time (preferably without electronics), I don’t schedule or plan every hour of our days. Sometimes this idle time leads to great adventures like the fort they built in our front yard. Other times, this time leads to four kids in separate rooms for time out. It’s all about balance!!!
But I have figured out four key practices that I must have in order to create balance within myself. These practices are 4 corner posts of my being that must be strong in order to sustain me. When one is failing, the others can only bear the additional weight for so long. Slowly, each one will fail and I’ll find myself limply treading water against the crashing waves of my life. Then comes a gentle reminder (often with a needed refill of Zoloft!) that these corner posts need to be strengthened. I take some time to get these four practices back into my routine and, once again, feel prepared to handle whatever this crazy life throws at me. So here are my four must haves-
Communion with God
Before you scroll past…read on! I used to think that only crazy religious spent time in quiet reflection with God. That was very “churchy” thing to do and I was not a very “churchy” person. But as I have developed my faith over the last several years, I have come to see the beauty in creating space for the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Each of us can find value in carving out time to sit, be still, and listen. You may have different religious beliefs than me or perhaps no religious belief at all, but the beauty of being quiet with yourself is powerful. Whether it’s the Holy Spirit or your own inner voice speaking to you, those messages are empowering and beautiful and needed. One of my favorite books on the subject of allowing your life to speak to you is Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. Read it…you can thank me later.
Wake up early
Of all four of these practices, my early morning wake ups are usually the first to fall by the wayside. Late nights lead to skipping the alarm and sleeping in until my crew is up and ready for breakfast. Setting my alarm for 5am is not easy, it took some time to adjust to the habit. But the benefit of starting my day with quiet reflection and a workout is impossible to put into words. Most of my day is spent attending to the needs of others but those early morning hours when the house is quiet and I am not “needed” are powerful. I have found that I am more patient, creative, fun when my alarm wakes me rather than a kiddo asking for breakfast!
No plan = fast food = feeling terrible + unnecessary money spent = mama in a bad mood. Plain and simple. There is no downside to meal planning. Just like any habit, it takes some time to get used to. When first starting out planning and prepping may seem overwhelming and time consuming but eventually you will find your own rhythm and reap the rewards. A week long meal plan takes the guess work out of the end of the day when you are tired and spent. Knowing what I am going to have for dinners throughout the week frees up my brain space for other more important things like where are my car keys!
I wish I could tell you about each of the women who I “do life” alongside. They are an incredible tribe of mothers who may live in my backyard, around the corner or across the country. They know me, they can read my soul and respond accordingly. Sometimes it may be a deep prayer, sometimes a quick text to cheer me up, or sometimes we call for a night out. My children eat and sleep in their homes, their children come into mine uninvited and sit my couch a while. We carpool and babysit and bounce ideas off of each other and vent about our husbands and work through really heartbreaking times and celebrate really beautiful times. We laugh and cry and pray and vacation and love together. They each bring something different to the table and when I heard this quote, I immediately thought of all of them…
I certainly cannot and do not do it all. There are times when bills are forgotten or meal plans get scrapped but finding a rhythm for my life is essential. Try out any of these corner posts and see if they work for you. I would love to hear how you keep your head above the crashing waves of life!