Generation Cedar


Balancing Your Life: Define “Everything”

I get a lot of questions about how I “balance everything”.  This is the first of a series about that question.  But before I talk about the practical stuff, it is paramount to understand that all else is contingent on one important fact:

You can only balance “everything” if your “everything” is balanced.

OK that’s catchy, but what I mean is, you can’t actually balance everything. Most of the problem we have with time is that we are trying to juggle too many things.  There are only 24 hours in the day. Unless we pare down our priorities, making our everything doable, no amount of scheduling or time tricks will matter.

Homeschooling moms face a particularly steep challenge in this area. For one, because of the freedom we feel being at home, it seems like we should just be packing in all we can to take advantage of that freedom.  But we end up being enslaved to busyness instead!

Additionally, we feel pressure to raise “super kids” in order to prove wrong the many who think we’ve made the wrong choice by homeschooling.  This can drive a family to overload their schedules with too many extracurricular activities and lose focus of more important things.

Thirdly, some moms feel that others will think them “lazy”; perhaps the need to prove everyone wrong results in an overextension of ourselves and our families.

The first step to finding balance in your life:

1.  Define “everything”.

Again, this is paramount. If you aren’t willing to take this step seriously, there is no point in taking the others.

  • Write down priorities–tangible and abstract. Begin with a piece of paper and make two columns with those categories. Ask your husband to tell you what the most important things in your family are to him.

For us, it starts with relationships.  Anything else we do in our lives MUST facilitate and nurture the relationships in our family.  If a certain thing hinders that, it’s not worth doing.  Of course I’m referring to regular activities, not the occasional tending to special needs that will arise.

Most families are over-committed.  There are too many lessons, too many projects, too many ministries, etc.  We have to recognize our seasons of life and not try to fit all into one season, or feel guilty about it.  There will be time later for volunteering as community coordinator.  Try to understand the biblical analogy of the body of Christ and realize you won’t function well as an arm if you are also trying to perform the tasks of a leg.

As you define your everything, make sure any activities, commitments or projects in your “tangible” list do not prevent your priorities in your “abstract” list.

For me, if I’m feeling pressured by too many deadlines or places to go, the first place it interferes is in my attitude toward my children and husband. Stress builds and I find myself speaking harshly, being impatient and rushing what should be an enjoyable rhythm in our day. It interferes in our relationships–our priority. So we guard our time from outside activities VERY carefully.

Once your list is on paper, don’t be afraid to cross some things out and follow through by canceling or rearranging those things in your life.

Can you stagger lessons so you don’t have three in one week?  We alternate piano lessons and do every other week.  It’s cheaper and saves time.

Really question your church/community commitments.  Are you volunteering to fill roles that aren’t yours to fill?  Remember that if you have children at home, they are your full-time ministry.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do outside projects or volunteer work, but just that you need to give an honest look at their time restraints.

Define your everything. Force yourself to look at it on paper and decide that you are going to create margins in your life that will allow you to serve your family to the fullest of your ability.

Check out Large Family Logistics for a wealth of practical information about running a busy household.

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32 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this, this is something I’ve been struggling with lately. My oldest (and only girl) is VERY social and would be active and going, going, going all day long if she could. I often feel like I’m holding her back since we’re pretty much home all the time because of babies and pregnancies. I worry that someday she may resent me…do you have some children who are particularly social and want to be really, really active? How do you meet those needs for them, esp. if you are worn out and tired dealing with pregnancies/babies, etc.

    1. Thank you Kelly for this. I agree completely about defining “everything.” Thank you for putting it into words.

      Kristi~ I think it is wonderful you have a social child. Don’t feel guilty. God placed her (with her personality) in your home for a reason. She can learn to be content. She can also channel that desire to be social into service for others…card making to encourage others, prayer for others, a pen pal, enjoying her siblings.

  2. I am sitting here on the verge of tears as I read this! Your words spoke to my heart in God’s perfect timing. We have 6 children now. The baby is just 4 months old. I am feeling way to comitted! Too much to do and feeling like I am doing an awful jobs at times. Thank you for this!!!

  3. I have not commented for some time here mainly because I am trying to balance my everything but I just wanted to say that this post is so spot on and I believe it will minister to many women who read it. I have been down that road of trying to accommodate everyone and everything. Today I carefully and prayerfully consider every request. If it stops my family coming together we don’t do it. Sports and other extra curricular activities are often scheduled at times when we should be preparing and sitting down to dinner together. I am so glad we dropped those that cut into this precious time of the day! I defend it fiercely!
    I see so many homeschool mums trying to fit in so many extra activities at the end of the day. Add in the support groups and activity days and it can end up the case that you are out of the home more often than you are actually in it! It’s hard to homeschool if you are never home. We didn’t drop all outside activities but cut back on the number and chose ones that everyone enjoyed – which explains why I have 5 ice skaters and no soccer players. We do cater for a few individual dreams such as learning Mandarin something I cannot teach. Others are assigned time to pursue their interest at home with the occasional course here and there. I liked your idea of every second week – why not!

  4. It was hard for me to make that definition clear. There are so many good, worthy, and wonderful commitments any one of us could make. Guilt is often a tool we use on ourselves when we have to say no to a “worthy” cause.

    However, what was harder for me was the daily things I have to define. Sometimes a daily chore is not in my everything list because one of my children needs something. Sometimes a certain lesson that I had planned for our school day isn’t in my everything list because my husband has a true need. So I find the daily pruning to stay flexible for those needs are so much harder to define when you are thinking, “but I really need to get those socks washed”.

  5. Kelly,

    Wow! Thank you!! Every wife and mother needs to read this! You should make this series into a book! *AWESOME POST* 🙂

  6. Excellent post. I’m asked ‘how I balance it all’ all the time. I never thought to ask specifically what they mean by ‘all’. My activities are probably drastically different than theirs. You also are right about relationships too. Great post, especially these busy days.
    ps. hope all is well with you and baby!

  7. Amen! I get the same way…irritable and cranky when my day is too full of going here and there. Having 7 (soon to be 8) ages 13 to 2 makes it interesting indeed! We’ve tried different things…sports, lessons for this or that. I think we’ve found our balance. We have decided to focus on lessons or activities that they can use when they get older. Our kiddos take piano lessons. While they are at their lesson, the other kiddos and I visit the library next door..perfect! We are also involved in 4-H. They enjoy it and learn a lot of life skills that will help them in the future! Since our 4-H group is comprised of homeschoolers we meet during the day once a month. Works out great! I try to get all of my errand running done on piano day so we are basically gone on Wednesdays. I’m thankful that my kiddos don’t mind being home most days. They love it here! What a blessing!

  8. Thanks for this post. I sat at a meeting yesterday afternoon with a group of Deacon’s wives. I am the Pastor’s wife and we shared various prayer request….which was a needed and blessed thing. After that though the discussion went to various church ministries that “needed” help. I felt increasing pressure to “volunteer” but had to restrain myself because I have six children at home who are my responsibility first. This morning as I thought on it the guilt came. I don’t think the other women expect me to volunteer but the pressure came from within. I agree that too many stay at home moms and homeschooling mom’s sometimes forget the main ingredient is “home”. Your suggestion to ask your husband is the best advice for those of us under self-induced stress.

  9. Agree!!! Just wondering how you fit in exercise for you (if you do)??? I try to get up early before the kids but that doesn’t always work…Thanks…

    1. Heidi, I only have two daughters, but I’ve found we can do a ‘walk at home’ workout together, and we can count it as p.e. for school. Sometimes, when the weather is nicer, we google a 1 or two mile walk around the neighborhood or to a store to take instead. I find myself sometimes worried that I’m not exercising ‘enough’, but try to remember that a mile is a mile, no matter how long it takes. I also try to remember that I’m exercising as a model for my girls to follow, and my ‘slower’ miles might come in handy when they have toddlers some day!
      Hope that helps!

  10. The thing I always debate about is how “clean” to keep my house. I have four boys six and under(down to 10 mos). In the summer time, they are outside constantly, and tracking in all kinds of dirt. It seems like I do nothing but sweep/mop/vacuum all the time! I do my best to engage them in some cleaning and work, but are pretty young to do a whole lot. Speaking of which, how does a mom of many teach her children to work?? My boys frequently express a high degree of displeasure when given tasks to do–and I do it quite regularly. Both with me and alone.
    There are days when in my mind, it’s more important to relate to my children than have a clean floor. I can’t always do both. Somedays my house is just plain messy/dirty, but my boys and I are having a ball rolling, wrestling and playing with playdough, and we all feel better as a result.

    1. No shoes in he house will save you much dirt and nasty germs…..

      Plus, when my daughter would misbehave, her punishment for taking my time away from me is doing something I would normally have time for: dusting baseboards, cleaning light switches and plugs, edging the carpet. I am a little sad she is so good now…

      1. Laura,

        I also have boys so I understand where you are coming from. Sometimes it seems to take forever to find out what works and not everyone else’s ideas work for us, but maybe some of my ideas might help…

        I don’t let my boys wear shoes in the house. We have a mud-room and they have rubber boots for chores.

        I was recently trying to think of a creative way for them to enjoy barefoot summers without ruining my carpet. One idea I am thinking of implementing is that they will have to wash their feet (maybe have a pan with washclothes and a towel sitting by the door or something.) Another idea is to have them wear crocs that they can slip off easily.

        I used to have the same issue with getting my boys to help around the house. One thing that really helped me was for them to do the same chore consistently every day. Now it is just something that they expect to do. Some days they do it even without being reminded (I have lists written for them (and a list with pictures for my youngest). If they complain, they will do not only their daily chore, but another chore on top of it. This helps tremendously! 🙂 Praise also goes a long way when they show initiative.

  11. Thank you for that reminder! I just asked for prayer about this. I have so many things “to accomplish” that I forget my main relationship goal and training goal with my children. They are what I need to be working on, rather than just getting the shopping, cleaning, and schooling done. God is always so timely on reminding me. Thanks for being His reminding voice.

  12. Great post! I always do enjoy reading your blog so much when I can as I am still a working mom (hopefully not for much longer). Could I ask a favor of your readers? I live in Alabama and I was hoping that you have friends and readers from my state as I need some help trying to find a church. I live in a small town and we just haven’t been able to find a church that has what we are looking for. I would like a church that is family integrated, has conservative beliefs concerning dress, music and women’s roles as wives and mothers. I live about an hour from the Auburn-Opelika area, that is the closest larger city to me. If someone could help me I would appreciate it and I hope you don’t mind me using your blog for help with this request. Sorry if this comment is choppy, I’m typing it at work between customers.

    1. Hi Beth,
      You may have heard of it before, but there is a website that lists all of the family integrated churches. Many of them have links to each church’s website as well. Not all of them are the same denomination (although most are Reformed Baptist or Presbyterian, and some are Arminian Baptist). I hope you can find a wonderful local body to join!

  13. Thank you for this! I’ve been needing this lately. I’m terrible unorganized and unscheduled. We’ve made the commitment to homeschool and recently the commitment to let go of our control over my womb. I’ve been reading all sorts of books and blogs and have the best intentions, but my biggest struggle is organization. I can’t get everything in my mind into action. So I’m looking forward to the rest of this series!

  14. Amber I’ve bought the book ‘Large Family Logistics’ by Kim Brenneman which is SUPER. I don’t have a ‘large’ family (3 kiddos so far) but it has been tremendously helpful in the areas of organization and prioritizing. I know what you mean though, read a TON and then to put it into action is another thing. Keep working at it though, it WILL pay off! Even if you’re still disorganized, your kids will see that you really tried hard to show/teach them how to do things instead of giving up and letting it slide. You can’t master everything all at once. Prayer and God’s Word will put you on the right path and encourage you. All the best!

    1. I have only two children, but my copy of “Large Family Logistics” arrived in the mail today. (Got the free Mama Duggar DVD with it too.) My friend, who has a large family, has the book and I was impressed with it.

  15. Thank you by the way for posting this. Looks like we’re all struggling with this?!
    It seems to me life was much simpler when my mom was a young mom. Simpler dinners because they didn’t have the endless courses to choose from at the click of a button on their laptop in the kitchen, simpler weeks because they only had one car, cleaner homes because they didn’t have as much toys…simpler budgets too 🙂 And their kids we’re probably much less stressed than kids today…

    1. I think you are so right. I feel like I am failing all the time keeping up with everything and often wonder how women of past generations did it. I often wonder about money. It seems that the montra of today is you need two incomes to live. But I look around me and realize it is not that things are more expensive (income has gone up with cost of items), it is that we see more things as “needs” including activities. The house we live in is considered small or just a “starter” house. But when it was built in 1954 it was some family’s dream home. We have two vehicles, but our grandmothers generation was happy with one, not to mention cable, cell phones, internet, gym memberships, etc. We are filling our lives with things that not only cost us time, but money as well. What happened to being content?

  16. Achieving balance…I’ve found it very helpful to keep a time log just to see where my time is going (as opposed to where I THINK it’s going!) I read the book “168 Hours” by Laura Vanderkam and it has revolutionized how I think about my time.

  17. Kelly, there is so much wisdom in this post. Again, as I’ve said before, you are truly anointed in this area of home and family life.

    I’m not implying lack of anointing in any other area, but you simply shine in this area!

    God bless you and your newest little one. He is beautiful! It’s wonderful to see mommies savoring the days when their children are little–and all the ages they are–and still with you!

  18. Heather, thanks so much! I went to the website and found a church we might be interested in-we have to find out more details!

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