“You must be so busy. How do you do it all?”
I hear that statement often when someone hears I have four kids, I homeschool, I write and I read entire books regularly.
The reality is, I’m not overly busy. But it’s taken years of figuring out how to live a simpler life ... and I’m far from “doing it all.”
Attempting to do everything leads to burnout. And when this mama loses it, it isn’t pretty.
There’s an image of a stay-at-home mother that permeates society, I’ll call her the Pinterest Mom.
She has well-behaved children, a tidy home, picture-perfect dinners on the table ready to greet her husband, healthy packed lunches for her children (complete with cutout sandwiches and fruit kebobs) and made-from-scratch cupcakes for a treat at school. (She even keeps up with the dang Elf on the Shelf!)
The struggle is real when it comes to striving for that Pinterest reality.
In a society that doesn’t reward staying at home (no pay, no raises, no promotions, no affirmations), we have the pressure of showing we’re doing things that matter.
“Am I enough” becomes the repeated refrain in the back of our heads. We have to ensure the picture we’re presenting to the world looks like we are more than enough.
What do we end up doing?
We stay busy making the outside look good.
Another trip to Target fills the empty places within us with adorable kitchenware found in the Hearth and Home section (thank you Joanna Gaines). We distract ourselves with Facebook, desperate for recognition that our kids are adorable or our homes are gorgeous, so we can ignore the weight piling on our shoulders.
The weight of balancing it all, of our exhaustion and of our neglected relationships.
- The time you spend with your kids is filled with yelling and frustration because you’re trying to keep the house spotless or attempting to finish up the perfect Yoda cookies- complete with piped icing details.
- You’ve resigned yourself to busyness. It’s just how it is; everyone is busy.
- You can’t remember the last date you had with your husband.
- You’ve been attempting to have dinner with your girlfriends for over a month.
- You daydream of being alone in a quiet place, with no toys, no one to feed and piles of books surrounding you.
- As you lie in bed at night, you wonder if you’re doing anything that really matters.
That time I had to donate a trash bag full of matchbox cars.
At a time when minimalism started popping up in the mainstream, I was ready to live differently.
Staying the same wasn’t working anymore, and I was desperately searching for another way.
I started following minimalist blogs. While I wasn’t feeling the need to go to the super extreme of owning 100 items, I did feel the need to clean out our house. A lot.
All it took to keep my boys happy at Target was tiny cars. Multiply Target trips over a number of years and you end up with an entire trash bag full of matchbox cars. No child needs that many cars!
Once I cleaned out the stuff, I realized I needed to go a step further and clean off our schedule.
If I wasn’t going to “do it all” what should I focus on? How would I know I was doing the best things?
I started tapping back in to my inner self — the woman I was becoming as a mother and as a person. They are certainly intertwined, but also separate. How could I live celebrating both?
The biggest secret about how I do everything?
Once simplifying became a rhythm of life, I began to grow in new areas. My relationship with Jesus deepened, Dan and I had space in our life to consider adoption (and eventually go for it!), and I had enough brain capacity to handle learning about race.
Busyness prevents growth in our lives because every minute, every inch, is taken up already. Physically and mentally we are maxed out.
When you open up the space in your life by simplifying, it’s like transferring a plant to a bigger pot. In the small pot, the plant’s growth was stagnant, but with extra space, the plant begins to grow again.
I make intentional choices about what my next steps are in each season of life that align with Jesus and my family.
How I make those choices comes down to prayer and a growing self-awareness.
Knowing your personality can be a powerful way to move forward. I’ve done various personality tests over the years, but a good place to start is a Myers-Briggs personality type (I’m an INFP).
There is a strong sense of comfort in knowing who you were created to be and accepting who you are.
To prove I don’t do everything, here are some intentional choices I’ve made.
Some things I don’t do:
- Long workouts — I walk the dogs instead.
- Netflix binging — We occasionally get hooked on shows, but typically I watch less than one hour of tv a week.
- Facebook scrolling — I love Facebook for the groups I’m in, but I don’t scroll anymore. It may seem impossible, but I don’t miss it.
- Meal planning and cooking — My amazing husband has taken over the majority of this role. He’s always been the better cook!
- Deep cleaning — I try to keep the clutter down, but deep cleaning is rare.
Things I do:
- Wake up at 5 a.m.
- Spend time with Jesus.
- Homeschool (we are headed back to public school next year).
- Read books to my kids.
- Date my husband.
- Volunteer my time in the racial reconciliation ministry at my church.
The things that are most important to me in this season are my relationship with Christ, my family, racial reconciliation and you!
There is so much beauty in a slowed-down, simplified life, and I continually pray that my words reach you in the deepest places of your heart and soul.
I want to help you realize being busy is not the only way to live life and to shift your perspective enough to see what slowing down can do for you.
If I hadn’t started on a path to simplifying, I wouldn’t know Jesus intimately. I wouldn’t have my little Levi through adoption, and and I wouldn’t be aware of race. I wouldn’t have this blog.
The things I’m most passionate about, that set my heart on fire, that give me purpose wouldn’t be happening.
I would still be restlessly wondering what I’m here for.
Forget about doing it all and simplify.
Live your one life passionately and inspire others around you to do the same.
For extra motivation, think about your 80-year-old self once in a while, and ask her how you’re doing.