thoughts on balancing it all

Remember the Q & A post two weeks back? You all asked some great questions.

starbucks and computer

I sat in Starbucks for hours typing away my responses and I wished that we could all sit around drinking our lattes and talking in person.  In fact, I think a live web chat would be fun sometime. Maybe that would be weird? I don’t know.

Anyway …

There were a few questions that were frequently asked and I’ll address them over the next few weeks. Today I’m attempting to answer the most asked question that day:

how do you balance it all?

I’m honestly not sure where this post is going to go … I have not fully thought through my answer … so we’ll see what happens …

First of all, let me just confess that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually.

The best way to describe life right now is to say that it is full. I’m not a fan of the word busy – it sounds like an excuse most of the time {I’m just so busy!}, but the truth is, there is a lot going on. This is a very full time in our lives and while it is all wonderful and exciting and inspiring and a dream-come-true, it is also very, very tiring.

This isn’t the kind of exhausted that screams, ‘make a change, already!’ but more of a norm with this phase of life with kids and a dog and dinner to make and homework to help with and blog posts to write and groceries to shop for.  Someday I’ll look back sentimentally and miss the chaos. But right now, in the midst of it, it’s pretty tiring.

Let me also confess that when I take an inventory of my life, I feel like I’m missing the mark in almost every area. Or if not missing the mark completely, certainly falling short. I have an image in mind of the kind of wife/mom/friend/blogger/home decorator/christ-follower I think I should be and I just can’t quite do EVERYTHING that all of those imaginary ladies do.  I’m thinking my expectations are probably a bit too high, but I’m still trying to figure out what is important to me, where the expectations come from and how to reconcile them with my everyday life.

So those are my disclaimers: 1. I’m tired and 2. I’m far from perfect

I will admit that with everything going on, I am able to accomplish a lot each day. How I do it, I’m not exactly sure. A combination of things, certainly. Here are the most obvious:

1. I’m a hard worker. My name actually means ‘diligent worker’ which I find interesting. Don’t be fooled: I can also be completely lazy. But for the most part, I have a running to-do list in my head {or on paper} and I love the feeling of checking things off.

2. My kids are no longer babies. The older two are in school full time. No. 3 goes three full days per week and Audrey-girl is pretty content hanging out with me. Someone asked how I do house projects with the kids around and my answer is that I only have Audrey most of the time and for some reason {probably the fact that it’s all she knows} she doesn’t mind when I paint or wallpaper or sew or craft as long as she is nearby.

3. Ryan works 24 hour shifts about two-three times per week which means he is home during waking hours more than the average full-time worker. It also means he is tired when he comes home after being up all night, but we’ve figured out how to support each other with this strange/amazing fire fighter schedule. Because of his schedule, we spend a lot of time together during the day either talking or working or taking turns watching the kids.

4. We have a nanny who comes every tuesday from 10-3. This is my dedicated work day. It’s only five hours and I probably work at least 25 per week, but it’s five distraction-less hours where I lock myself in my office and literally work the whole time. I skip lunch, ignore my phone, turn on pandora and crank out whatever it is on my to-do list for that day.  Next year Audrey will be in school three full days with No. 3 and I’m a little giddy about having 18 hours of work time per week. My goal is to get everything done on school days so that I can just be a mom on the off days.  If you have the resources, I think having some help with the kids is one of the best things you can do for your sanity. I am so rarely alone that those five hours feel like a chance to breathe and accomplish and check things off my list without feeling like I am neglecting my babes. Totally worth it.

5. I let a lot of things go. Someone asked in the Q & A for a list of things I don’t do.  I actually laughed out loud at the question because my list is long.

Here is just a small sampling: I don’t shower regularly, I don’t work out everyday, I don’t always eat breakfast, I don’t meal plan {although every single time I do, dinnertime is so much easier}, I don’t make lunches the night before, I don’t get up before my kids, I don’t hang out with just my girlfriends {at least not enough}, I don’t have a cleaned-out email inbox {ugh}, I don’t have clean bathrooms, I don’t watch much tv {except project runway and survivor}, I don’t often play with my kids, I don’t volunteer in their classrooms {except once/month to teach art in my first grader’s class}, I don’t publish a blog post everyday, I don’t tweet, I don’t answer my phone.

See? All kinds of things I don’t do. Many of them are good healthy things that I think I should be doing. It’s hard to let them go and not feel like I’m somehow failing.

At the root of our striving for balance is the desire to have peace.  To truly live and enjoy and breathe and not feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions. While there are certainly tips that can help with managing your time {say no more often, hire a babysitter/housecleaner/landscaper, limit tv watching, etc} none of them actually get you to the point of a perfectly balanced life. If they do, I’m guessing it doesn’t last long.  And what’s even more frustrating is that what works for one person might not work for another. We all have our own set of expectations, dreams, desires, jobs, responsibilities, passions, talents, chores, relationships and make daily choices based on those circumstances.

Which is precisely why this type of post is both dangerous and really not that helpful.

I wonder if this whole balance thing is really all about comparison.  I wonder if you read this blog and see four kids and a pretty house, a constant stream of projects, a business being run and then look at your own life and feel like you are not measuring up? Maybe you have little ones who if you left them on their own to occupy themselves so you could wallpaper your laundry room, you would be risking not only their safety, but total destruction of every other room.  Maybe by the time you get home from your day job you haven’t the energy to make a real dinner, let alone sew a pillow or fold a pleat.

Believe me, I get it.

I wish it weren’t so, but I struggle often with comparing myself to women who seem to be doing a much better job of {fill-in-the-blank} than I am. The problem is, I only have a small snapshot to base that judgement on. I don’t really know what things they sacrifice in order to do {fill-in-the-blank}. When I say to myself, “my goodness, how does she do it?!” what I’m really saying is, “Well, great. If she can do all of that, why can’t I even manage this? What is wrong with me?”

Please hear me: the last thing I want you to click away from my blog feeling is inadequate. This place is meant to encourage and inspire you and so I hope beyond hope that instead of looking at this snapshot of my life and wondering how I do it, you’ll also see that I sacrifice a lot of good things in order to make it happen.

reading instead of making dinner

I’m a regular mom with a full life. I lose my patience, I stay in my pajamas all day, I forget to reply to texts and sometimes my family eats cereal for dinner when I am too lazy to get up from reading my book.

That really did happen. This week, in fact.

My friend Jami wrote a really good post on balance. Seriously, you should read it. She reminds us that balance is not the thing we should be aspiring to, but rather obedience. Obedience to what is important in this moment at this time in our lives.

Rather than going after the illusive balancing-it-all thing, and rather than comparing ourselves to other women who appear to have that balance perfected, we really just have to make daily right choices for our own lives. We need an awareness of when to let go and when to push through. What things to give up and what are most important.  It’s a constantly evolving routine.

So I guess in answer to the most common question of how do you balance it all, my answer is:

I don’t.


{I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you have tips that help you manage your time and responsibilities? Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you compare yourself to others?  Please share …}

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129 Responses to thoughts on balancing it all

  1. Meg April 22, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I think it’s already been said, but I’ll say it again. Thank you so much for this post. It’s such a good lesson to take a step back and think about what is really important to you in the big picture. All of those things that we DON’T do because we ARE doing something else may be important – but we can only do so much, and that’s OK! I certainly don’t feel inadequate today after reading your blog – I feel inspired and encouraged! I hope I will take the time every once in a while to step back & make sure I’m covering all the REALLY important things, vs. just the “urgent” or even unimportant-but-in-your-face things :)

    Again, thanks for your honesty & sharing your experiences with us :)

    • Jessica Bautista December 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      I found this post linked to one of your more recent ones. I just wanted to thank you, even if you never read this! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Rinské Perkins March 19, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      One of my favorite quotes…”Comparison is the thief of JOY!” – Teddy Roosevelt

    • Carlie September 16, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      your honesty and transparency is so encouraging and refreshing. Thank you, I really needed to read this tonight. Thank you for sharing your talents and creativity it is a true gift from God that inspires me to step out and try a project of my own. God Bless

  2. Susan April 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I am late getting to this post of yours (one of the things I don’t do is keep up with blogs I love) and am reminded of a lovely, simple saying that -for me at least- captures how I feel after reading you words: “comparison is the thief of joy.” Your post reminds me that all the things that the super mom next door seems to be doing does not diminish all the things that I am doing. Comparing myself to her only robs me of my pleasure in my own family, life, goals, and accomplishments. It reminds me that I am whole and complete for everything that I am AND for everything that I am not. What a relief!!! It is really such a gift that you share yourself so honestly with virtual strangers (or maybe virtual friends is a better way to say it). Bless your heart!!!

  3. Casey April 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Thank you for this post!!!

  4. Linda Chaput April 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    How I needed this post today…. Thank You for your honesty. I guess we all judge ourselfs to harshly…I’ve been cleaning and working all day at home and I haven’t even touched the major things that I wanted to acomplish. I am bone tired from waitressing 5 days aweek, helping with my grandson and trying to be creative and fix my house at the same time. I had an extra day off this week and I had planned on being creative and either painting my hutch or prepping the piano to paint it. Well my allergies went haywire and I felt like #@%^. But I forced myself to do something creative. I’ve been wanting to make a book page wreath for so long, I’ve pinned several. So I pick out the easiest one I could find being that my head was pounding. Looked so easy, the pinner finished in no time. It took me four and a half hours. All the time I wondered how these creative, artistic women that I follow do it. Houses are gorgeous…Clean… and they have time to be creative…. Thank you for your post, I guess we all need to give ourselves a break….. P.S. my wreath, I adore it… was worth the four and a half hours of moaning and groaning and proving to myself that I could do it…….

  5. Ilana April 23, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    This blog was so beautifully honest! I love how you balance beauty with reality in your blogs and tutorials. It is always so encouraging and inspiring to get your blogs in my email, a true gift. Thank you for sharing your talents and faith with so many women. My friend has recently started an instagram challenge called me unmasked and its about women being about to share their real life without the pre-planned perfection that we so often present in our instagram/ blog images. So that we all feel a little more human together and remember not to compare ourselves to the “perfection” of others. And it so relates back to what I read in your blog today! Its is ok to be imperfect! Thank the Lord for His amazing grace! And thank you for being courageous enough to share :)

    Incase you would like to check out her instachallenge, here is the link:

  6. Julie April 24, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    LOVED this post. Eye opening. Thanks for sharing your dose of reality!

  7. Heather Johnsen April 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    I happened across you blog last spring while looking for a morocan stencil and have followed since, checking in periodically to see what amazing projects you are up to. I have had an exceptionally difficult week and reading you & your friends perspective on balance hit me in the heart. I am a working mother of a teenager, definately at a different stage in my family life but still struggle with finding balance which seems to forever elude me, like it is a set formula that I have to follow daily. I now have a new way to strive for balance, which really seem to be to follow my heart. Thank for the sharing so freely and with such heart felt honesty.

  8. Michelle June 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Thank you. What’s most important to me in my life, now. That is what helped me the most in your Q&A response. I find myself at a crossroads in my life. Turned 40 last November (did I really?), went back to school earned by Bachelor’s degree (this year), finding my relationships aren’t what I thought they were, feeling more alone than I ever have in my life. Starting over. Don’t know where to start. Have so much to consider, so many steps to take. Feel so inadequate. Where have I been all my life? Finally coming back to my “authentic self” I think.

    Now, after reading this, at least maybe I can begin to think about what is most important to me in my life, now. What do I want now, and then the steps to take will become more clear. I am holding on by my fingertips, trusting God. Thanks so much for sharing. It really has helped me today.

  9. Lee Ann G. August 8, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Thank you so much for being so real and honest. Its so refreshing and helpful.

    ♥Lee Ann

  10. Jill September 12, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    This was so, so good to read! Thanks for being vulnerable and real with us, you readers. It encouraged this mommies heart.

    • Jill September 12, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      *your readers

  11. Pam keys September 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    So nice to here you be soooo open and honest! You are an inspiration! God bless you so much for sharing these things with strangers a and allowing yourself and your life to be used for such beauty!

  12. danielle September 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Thank you. Searching for words as to how I feel after reading this and the only one that comes is…peace. It’s nice to know you’re human and not afraid to share your strengths and weakness. And to be reminded in a loving way of some of my own goals for self improvement. Time to stop reading and go get doing :)

  13. Shelly September 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Thanks for sharing and being so honest and open – I ‘ve been feeling a little overwhelmed this week and that was just what I needed to read!

  14. Julie November 3, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    I typing this from work when I should be working, but I ran across your blog a couple weeks ago, mainly because its so pretty. This is the first post I have read all the way through (short attention span, to much to do…) and it so hits home. Great Post, love it! Love your pictures and your ideas. Every is beautiful.

  15. Elaine Lovett December 9, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Dear Emily,Good morning from a rather gray Milwaukee! I first wanted to mention something I recently observed.I know many Emilys,one being my third child of five.This lovely college graduate daughter of mine is now a Nautical Scientist.Can you tell Im proud!?
    Emily follows my oldest with his art degree and my second son who is a physicist.As a single Mom,I will say getting them to this point in their lives has been a difficult struggle but worth every ache and pain.
    I am also an eighth grade teacher,which at times feels like a second family,educating,enjoying and loving.
    Not long ago,despite the organized chaos,I met what I thought was a terrific man,close to Jesus and willing to love us all.He moved from his home,far away and asked me to marry him.Believing God had meant for this all to happen,Isaid yes,and planned a wedding and a middleschool graduation and reception at the same time.Both events went well.The wedding was the kind dreams are made of.Loads of pretty things and people I love.My only dismay was that my siblings,two of them,flew from the east coast to be there but my parents,due to my Dads severe illness,could not come.
    Soon after the joy of the wedding,I began to see the doctor for migraines,which as a teacher is understandable.I had the doctor tell me it was a virus,I needed to work on my core,I then had arthritis.
    The list goes on. That entire time involved a stressful staff shake up at work,resulting in me taking a position at another school.
    Adding to my list of symptoms was the fact I was experiencing double vision.Most people,including my doctor and new husband treated me like a hypochondriac,whiner.Almost a year after the migraines and back pain,the doctor broke down and ordered an MRI,which revealed,not a back problem,but a large brain tumor! I felt as if I had been hit by a train! My children!! what about my children!!
    My husband was a none supportive spouse.How could I do this to him….he was not employed!!
    I will not bore you or gross you out with the craniotomy details,stroke,the loss of vision in one eye the pain and daily paralyzation,my point is that my frustration is knowing how to balance it all and not having the capability to do it! I can’t even drive to shop for Christmas gifts.I can’t stay awake or expend the energy to bake my 12 variety,Christmas cookies and mail them to relations out east.Its myself,I don’t measure up to!
    My ultimate point is to thank you for the pretty,imaginative things you’ve brought into this life of mine and to mention that you,my Emily,all the Emilys I have ever known are goal oriented adventurous hard workers with a solid foundation in their faith.What a great name,Emily!
    I’ve taken enough of your time,I’m off to try and finished a craft project! Merry Christmas to you and your family and God bless you all with good health and happiness this new year! An admirer,Elaine

  16. Tracy January 12, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Thanks for your honesty. Great Blog.

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