We’re all busy and we compare ourselves to others. And there’s this natural assumption in that comparison that there’s no way that her life is harder or busier than mine. If you too are a mom, you’ve observed what tasks other moms are taking on, how put together their outfits are, how nice their hair looks, how nice their kids’ hair looks, their Instagram profile, and the list goes on. And you’ve likely thought, “how does she do it all?”
I am often asked, “how do you do it all?” Believe me, it’s not because I’m always in a cute outfit at school drop-off or because I volunteer with the local homeless shelter, it’s because many of the tasks on my plate are outwardly observable. As for my answer: “I don’t do it all.”
As I’ve approached a period of time where I need to get my sh*t back in order, I’ve thought that I should record what I do in these circumstances and share how I DON’T do it all.
#1: Something’s Gotta Give.
You and I both know that we can’t do it all. The first step in maintaining control of your life and your sanity is to first assess: what are you going to give up? You have many choices of tasks that you can forego and if you make a conscious decision of what those might be, you’ll likely maintain the important ones.
I’ll give you some examples. I don’t volunteer. I know- there’s a huge gasp out there on the internet- you’re probably appalled, but I have learned that volunteering is one of those tasks that pushes me over the edge on maintaining control. When I say “yes” to requests from other people, I can’t keep the rest of my life together. However, I always donate supplies or gifts when applicable. We eat a late dinner. I aim to serve dinner earlier but sometimes I prefer task completion. But I don’t beat myself up over eating dinner at 7:30 or 8 pm. I don’t care what my kids wear on a daily basis. As long as its weather and school appropriate, stripes and polka dots are a frequent occurrence these days! I have forfeited my personal style. Yup – mostly yoga pants and workout shirts here. My kids watch TV and play Kindle. And we’re not one of those families with “only 30 minutes a day of screen time” rules, sometimes we just sit them in front of that screen so my husband and I can decompress for a minute after work. These are some of the things that we are willing to accept for overall balance in our life.
If you fail to select the tasks that you will forego and you attempt to maintain balance with all of the tasks, the types of things that may suffer are typically exercise, healthy eating, your relationships, and your self care, to name a few.
#2: What Can You Outsource?
Are there any tasks in your life that you can have someone else complete for you? This does not have to be in exchange for money, though it often is. For example, I’ve heard of stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) friends who will watch each other’s kids for one day a week so that the other can complete necessary tasks.
We are fortunate to be a dual-income family, so I outsource a few tasks with payment. For example, I have a house keeper. I maintain a tidy state in our house but generally do not clean. I’ll wipe down the counters and table, run the Roomba (another great outsourcing investment to ease your day-to-day routine), do the laundry, and pickup the junk. Our incredible house keeper does the rest! Additionally, I have not been inside the traditional grocery store (disregarding Costco and Trader Joes) in many months because I pay for curbside grocery delivery. Not only does this save me the time of walking down the aisles, I find that it significantly decreases my impulse buys and allows for great success with meal planning (which I’ll include more details about later). Lastly, and the biggest contribution to my success is, I pay for childcare. My kids go to preschool and daycare every single day. If we have a long weekend with no work on Friday but the daycare is open, they go. That might sound harsh but the reality is, I need that extra Friday to get my sh*t together – which may mean self care or a lunch date with my husband. When my kids are in school every day, childcare allows me to maintain everything I need to for the family and to be a loving and dedicated mom when they get home.
The last option with “outsourcing”, which I find to be the most challenging, is: “which tasks can other family members take on?” This thought will immediately trigger that reaction of “it’s easier if I just do it myself” or “it’ll take them so much longer, I can do it quicker.” You’ll have to evaluate which tasks, if any, you are willing to hand off and if you’re willing to accept the results of someone else completing them. Some families have great success with having their husbands doing laundry, meal prep, finances, etc. This will be very specific to each family, your individual strengths, and your time. In our family, my husband plays a huge role in the finances, meal prep and taking the kids to and from school.
#3: What Systems Can You Implement to Organize Your Life?
Warning: I think that this is where things start to get unrealistic if these aren’t systems that are true to who you are. For example, if I decided I was going to meal prep every Sunday, that train would get derailed the first Sunday that I decided to make mimosas.
To start, consider your greatest weaknesses and the most time consuming aspects of your life. If you can’t outsource them and you can’t have other family members help with them, consider what systems you can create to ease the burden.
For example, I dread the days when I’m driving home from work and thinking “oh crap, what are we going to have for dinner?” So, I meal plan (not to be confused with meal prep). We have a big chalkboard door next to our kitchen and I write out all of the meals for the week. From that list, I generate my grocery list, order everything I can from the online grocery pickup service, get everything else at Costco or Trader Joes, and I have every item I need for each meal for the week. I’m not a Nazi about the schedule – sometimes Tuesday’s meal becomes Wednesday’s meal because we’re invited for dinner at a friends house. But at any time, I have all the food in the refrigerator that I need for a given night’s meal.
My husband and I have a shared calendar. We’ve recently identified our challenges in anticipating our plans for upcoming weekends or knowing what the other’s schedule looked like on given weeknights. So, we shared our iPhone calendar and now setup reminders and invite each other to applicable events. A small suggestion when incorporating joint systems – you must both be on board. I first shared my calendar with my husband as a subtle suggestion but when that wasn’t noticed, we later sat down and discussed how we can best both use the calendar for mutual involvement.
I have changed a few habits. I used to wait until I had several hours available to do all of the laundry each weekend. Now, I throw in a load of laundry during a free minute and frequently use the “refresh” button on the dryer when I have time to fold. This goes completely against my love for sleep and napping, but, I try to wake up before my kids. It’s amazing how much more control you feel in your day when you don’t wake up to a kid tapping you on the forehead (but seriously, she does that). Sleep is a touchy issue because we all want and need more of it, but if you can have the discipline to wake up a little earlier or stay up a little later to complete tasks, you’ll find that the age old excuse of “I don’t have time” is less true than you’ve believed it to be.