on “doing it all”


doing_it_all-1Last week, I received an email from a sweet reader asking how I manage to do it all and make it look so easy–“I’m not even homeschooling and I can barely hold it all together,” she added. From where I read her words I surveyed the mess around me–my unfolded laundry still sitting in the basket, our books and notebooks scattered across the table and chairs and floor. In that moment, I might have spouted a whole series of unfinished TO DOs, everything from meal-planning and some sort of exercise with the kids to finishing a writing piece, calling a friend, paying a bill, or arranging an overdue date night. When had my floors last been swept and wasn’t there something my husband asked me to do on his way out this door? I might have actually laughed out loud at myself. For anyone who has ever asked me this question, I can only ever respond, “I really don’t.”

For those of us who really long to parent well–the majority of you reading this, I imagine–it is that word well that can often result in our trying to do everything in the first place. We want to raise well-adjusted, well-educated, well-dressed, well-informed, well-liked, well-prepared, well-[whatever other goals you may have] children and yet remain well ourselves. We want to look and feel well. We want to perform well in our work in and outside of the home. We want to eat well, read well, pray well, and of course rest well.  We want to take care of the of earth well, take care of those outside our homes well–and of course, our homes, too!  It sounds ridiculous written out like this, yes? Yet we try. And then we scroll through our media feeds and other online communities, where we all share our beautiful [homes, travels, children, partners, friends, meals, work, etc.] and it appears as though other parents are actually doing it! We have somehow missed some well-known secret or truth to meeting all of our goals–or maybe that’s just me.

The truth is my house is not always clean. Our meals are not always gourmet. I sometimes wear sweatpants all day or let my kids play and draw/paint instead of doing their “school” work (ahem–like right now). I am sometimes grumpy with my family and often forget to brush my own or my girls’ hair. For every beautiful moment or thought I write here or elsewhere, there are other potentially beautiful things I am not doing. It’s the nature of living with limitations of time and our humanity. They force us to choose. Although I have no magical secrets, I do have a few things I’ve learned in my journey of motherhood and home-education that help me choose well for myself and my family. Here’s a few, just in case you’re interested:

let go of perfectionism // You cannot give 100 percent of yourself to everything. Something will always give. If you tend to be a perfectionist (ding, ding, right here), as a parent, it will serve you well to learn and practice the phrase “well enough” and to see each piece of your life in the context of the whole. Perfectionism can be valuable at time, but it can also waste time.

do what you (and your family) love //  Each family will value something a bit different, and it’s good to know what those values are. Many times in parenthood, instead of choosing between good and bad, we’re forced to choose between two good options, two things we want. In those times, my husband and I begin to assess which option more closely aligns with what our family values as a whole. Sometimes this can help us choose spending money on travel or a new home project. Other times it can be making a decision about our extra activities. 

evaluate how you use your time // This seems perhaps the most obvious, but spend a week recording how you use your time–and be honest. (There are several apps to help with this if that’s easier.) How does your time match up with your values? For instance, I really value writing and photographing, which can sometimes compete with time I need to spend with the kids in our school routine. Each morning I wake up at 5 am to write/work until 7 when I force myself to stop and switch gears to our usual routine. If I need to resume working, I’ll do so in the afternoon when possible. Although these are two things I value, I have to choose how to prioritize my time.

say “no” confidently // For some of you, this will sound ridiculous, but I actually have a hard time telling people no. I want to support what others are doing and honestly I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. There’s simply not enough of any of us to say “yes” to everything. Don’t feel guilty for turning opportunities down, even good ones. Also, there are certain seasons in motherhood that require us to say “no” more often. If you’re in one of those seasons, enjoy it. Those seasons can be some of the sweetest times, and they’re sure not to last forever.




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  1. Pingback: Homeschooling | Encouragement for the Little Years - cloistered away

  2. Bethany,
    So glad I got to read this tonight because I can really relate to it – especially what you said about perfectionism. I so admire you for getting up and working from 5am till 7am ever morning. That’s what I aspire to do!
    Ronnie xo

    1. Author

      I’m so grateful to hear this, Ronnie. And the getting up at 5 am is more of a necessity at this stage of life. I find I’m a better person when I’ve taken a little time to write, process, and slowly ease into the day with the kids–and it only works because all of my children now sleep through the night. ;) Best to you as you find your own space raising your precious brood. xx

  3. Nice post and thoughts, Bethany. I think you said things beautifully without making excuses… sometimes I feel guilty when folks say similar things to me, but obviously we all know social media doesn’t show every aspect of our imperfect selves and lives. you’re a wonderful woman of God and I appreciate what you share. xo

    1. Author

      Yes! The truth is I love well-designed things and spaces and images, etc. At times, I have felt guilty about this, that it is somehow less noble because of its superficiality–which it can be–but as I mature more into who I am, I realize this is just who I am. With this love, I do hope to share honestly during these years, to remind us all to find beauty in everything, even the really hard things. Thank you for sharing yours. x

  4. I love your post ! It’s so difficult to have this in mind when reading others families blog. Of course whe want to show the mots beautifull moments in our lifes, but that doesn’t mean that the rest you talking about (laundry, mess, dirty floor…) doesn’t exist.
    Thank you for reminding me this.

    1. Author

      It can be incredibly difficult to remember; you’re right, Eve–even when we all know it’s true. It’s always good to hear it again, though, to remember we’re all flawed and working through the often difficult task of motherhood.

  5. I learned the word “no” a few years ago and I never looked back! Since then, I have encountered so many mommas that struggle with this! I love this post! These are words I know and words I need to be reminded of every now and then. Thank you so much for sharing, Bethany!

    1. Author

      Yes! Well said, Christi. It also took me a long time to say “no.” I always felt guilty, but I’ve learned it’s necessary for everyone’s well-being, especially in child-rearing. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Bethany, thank you so much for sharing. Always enjoy your writing, your inspire me daily in my own homeschooling journey!

    1. Author

      Of course, Jackie. I’m so grateful to share with you, and I’m glad to hear it’s an encouragement in your own days half way around the world. ;)

  7. Thank you for this post. I love what you wrote about “do what you and your family love.” I needed to hear this – now. Especially since the holidays are rolling in. Life gets a little more busier and its always nice to pause and reflect on how you spend your time during the days!

    1. Author

      The older our children get, the easier it is to get swirled into the busy life. It’s hard on all of us. Honestly, there are some things in our life that do create busyness, but they we love doing them. These things are worth the cost, but often I find our family caught in cycles of busyness for things that don’t necessarily fill us in other ways. Once we recognize it, we’re able to make choices to say “no” more often and feel confident about it. Thanks for sharing, Anna.

  8. Can I ask a practical question? When you get up at 5 am do you shower/dress then start working or do your work first and then shower/dress afterwards. Also, do have a “devotional/quiet time” too? If so, when do you do this? As mentioned, my work time has been afternoons, but I’m thinking of adding some mornings too and was just wondering how you generally organize your am.

    1. Author

      Great question, Danielle. I usually shower or bathe before bed at night, and I don’t get dressed until after waking the kids up and eating breakfast in the morning. I do sometimes begin the morning in prayer or reading, depending on the day; other times I find quiet in other parts of the day, and sadly, some days not at all. If I do the latter too often, I feel worn thin pretty quickly though. There are some weeks I feel more tired than others (like this one), and I may pick one or two mornings to sleep until 6 or even 7 if I feel my body needs it. But most of the time, I find I’m restored having taken some time for myself before the day begins. The harder part is being disciplined about stopping when that hour comes. ;) I hope this helps!

  9. Loved this. I’m actually in the midst of writing an article for Ungrind webzine called “The Art of Saying No.” It touches on some of the things you’ve learned here. I especially love this question you ask: “How does your time match up with your values?” Great point. My afternoons are also my writing and photography time (not much photography anymore, concentrating on the writing). I guard it with my life. I don’t do laundry, yard work, or anything during that hour and a half. My kids have quiet times and we don’t do extra curricular stuff during that time. It can be hard, but worth it if it matches your values, as you say.

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