“How do you do it all?”
Seriously? If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me this question in the past year I’d be relaxing on a private island instead of sitting at my kitchen table, typing on an iPad and staring at four bowls of half eaten cereal that need to find their way to the sink.
The truth is: I don’t do it all. No one does. No one can. Supermom is just a myth. Having it all. That’s just this elusion that keeps us women caught up in a state of discontent. I saw this image on Pinterest a few years ago and it still makes me laugh. Pick any two!
My plate overflows with things that I must do, should do, want to do, and don’t want to do (but must do lest someone call CPS because the conditions in our home would no longer be conducive to raising children).
Personally, each week my “get it done” list includes the following: homeschool four children, teach at their weekly co-op, write six blog posts, teach two fitness classes at a local gym, do volunteer work for our church, run six social media pages, help with media relations for Dallas Moms Blog, wash and fold laundry for six, cook meals, clean, grocery shop, be a friend, run errands… Oh, and I also… apply band aids, put blankets on at two a.m., treat fevers, refill juice cups, fix broken Lego creations, and get Barbie’s hand through those tight little sleeves every time her overly-pointy thumb gets stuck.
Most of the time, the woman (any woman) you perceive as “getting it all done” is merely a good manager of time rather than a magician with a wand. We all have different responsibilities, priorities, childcare and work arrangements. But, I think you’ll find my “secrets” to getting it all done can apply to you, whatever your particular situation may be.
Secret #1: Know Your Peak Times of Day.
The key to sanity-with kids-is routine. Studies show children thrive when they know what to expect from day to day. They feel comfortable and safe when their lives are predictable. For this reason our days and our weeks are pretty yawnsville in terms of similarity. Within this routine, I’ve learned there are certain times of the day when I can get a lot accomplished and then other times of the day when I should surrender to motherhood.
For example: I write best in the mornings and, fortunately, my children are usually content to play together in those few hours surrounding breakfast. So after I feed them, I often remain at the kitchen table for an hour (or more) to get my work done without significant interruptions. After that, we do the bulk of our schooling from 9:30 to noon. I make lunches, force them to play outside, then get younger kids set up with naps or other activities and then get a bit more of my writing done while the kids are occupied in the early afternoon.
I do little to no housework before 3pm. I loathe laundry and dishes. They are outside of my skill set. I’ve found that if I spend all day doing them, little by little, I will die. (I’ve also found I’m a bit overly dramatic. But seriously that stuff kills me.) So, instead, I save all of that “fun” for the hours of 3-5pm. I fold laundry, pick up the house, and make sure all the dishes are done before I start dinner. I can make it through my domestic duties if I know I only have to make it through those two hours.
Secret #2: Know that if you have a baby (or are pregnant with one)…all bets are off.
If you are the mom of anyone under the age of eighteen months, then please ignore what you just read in number one until you have a walking toddler. I’m serious. Having babies is hard work. They are unpredictable little schedule-messer-uppers and you need to allow yourself grace for days where absolutely nothing will be accomplished. That’s okay. You can go back to your “getting stuff done” when they turn three…or four…or twelve.
Make your daily goals 1) keeping children alive, 2) showering and 3) making dinner. If you are a working mom, then you just focus on the first two. That leads me to point number three…
Secret #3: Do What Only You Can Do and Delegate Other Stuff.
Way back when I thought I’d become a millionaire selling Mary Kay, I read her autobiography. She had an amazing suggestion that has benefitted me far more than my fledgling make-up business. That is: Do the activities that only you can uniquely do and delegate the other stuff.
When I have seasons of extreme busy-ness– like a few months ago when I was finishing a book, speaking a lot, and over committed to way too many other activities–I hired someone to clean my house. Yes, it cost some money but it was worth every penny. I’m the only one who can be “mom” to my children or meet my writing deadlines but anyone can clean my kitchen sink and scrub my shower.
Give yourself the freedom (without guilt) to get help when you need it. Sometimes “making it through” means picking up dinner instead of shopping for and cooking it. Sometimes survival-mode will mandate that clothes are left in the laundry basket (unsorted) for kids to find their own clean underwear because mom hasn’t had time to put it away. And, that’s okay.
Someday they’ll be old enough to make dinner for you and wash their own pajamas. Today is not that day. So, cut corners where you can. Remember, no one is giving you a bonus check for personally completing every item on that to do list. It’s okay to delegate.
Hey, fellow momma, I think we need to stop trying to measure our own success based on what we perceive other moms to be accomplishing. None of us are the same. We have a variety of skills, talents, personalities and styles. On top of that, we all have vastly different children when it comes to needs, independence, and supervision required! It may be impossible for you to cook dinner because your one three-year-old insists on sitting at your feet and crying for the entire time you need to be standing in the kitchen. While another mom, with a child the same age, may have no challenges preparing a gourmet risotto because her darling baby will happily watch Elmo alone for that hour. Please stop comparing your perceived accomplishments with her’s…or her’s…or her’s… Just do what works best for you, at this season in your life.