One of the most frequent questions I get asked is: “How do you do it all?” Before going into an explanation, I am quick to say, “I don’t.” The person asking the question either gives me a puzzled expression or an irritated look at this point. Here’s the thing, I believe having balance in all our roles is a myth. When I try to achieve the elusiveness of balancing it all, it usually ends in frustration and something (or someone) ends up suffering. The pursuit of balance can breed an unhealthy pursuit of perfection. When it becomes obviously unattainable, shame and defeat rush into our hearts and minds, and this keeps us from fulfilling the purposes of God in and through us. So…what are some ways we can effectively juggle all our responsibilities, and still do them with excellence?
1) Prioritize our tasks and responsiblities.
As busy women, we all have “to-do” lists and a plethora of obligations, meetings, and events needing to be scheduled. I try to make my lists according to priority. An unspecified list forces me to impossibly balance all my tasks by giving all my tasks equal value; a prioritized list gives me attainable focus, and gives all my tasks different degrees of importance. My current primary “day job” is homeschooling two kids. I also work as a physical therapist and serve in ministry on an on-call and part-time basis. Obviously, your priority list will look different than mine depending on your specific roles and tasks.
My priority list:
1) Relationship with the Lord
*Although self-care is technically not a role, It’s a priority. I’ve come to realize I cannot function effectively without it. I make sure that I don’t go more than a day or two without purposely scheduling time for myself. For me, self-care can be working out, a night out with friends, or even 15 minutes with a book in my comfy chair.
The first two on my priority list are constant; the last four regularly change in their order of priority. When I make my monthly, weekly, and daily schedules, I prioritize my tasks according to this list. It gives me freedom when replying “yes or no” to things, and provides me ownership of my own schedule. For example, when I get called into work, it means that we may not be able to do our full homeschool schedule that day. At this point, work temporarily becomes my #3 in front of homeschool. There are other times when I say “no” to going into work, because I know I will be serving at church for long hours that week or there are certain things we need to get done for homeschool on those days. Other times, I decline leading worship one weekend to spend more time with my husband and kids. I’m not always perfect with prioritizing. There are times that the kid’s games or recitals may be missed due to work or ministry. Occasionally, I’ve gotten home from a ministry trip only to have my husband leave the next day on a business trip. This is not the normal; it is the exception. It will happen. It’s sometimes necessary and unavoidable; and it’s okay! We shouldn’t be chained to our priority list; it simply gives us a template to work from.
2) Integrate our roles.
Many times we compartmentalize our roles, and identify them as being exclusive in and of themselves. However, by integrating them, it places value on them, which allows you to still feel accomplished in your tasks. For example, being a homeschooling mom is part of my ministry, and I also consider it work sometimes. 🙂 We have playdates and field trips with families that don’t know the Lord, and we’ve been able to be an example of Jesus’s love to them. I’ve had opportunities to encourage other women as they busily navigate work, motherhood, and ministry. Many days, I just don’t have the energy to homeschool, but it’s my job right now, so I find the motivation to get it done.
My ministry can sometimes be work if I get paid or need to follow a specific schedule. My career as a physical therapist is part of my ministry, and also helps me be a more happy and fulfilled mom and wife. Some highlights of my career are praying with a co-worker as she gave her life to the Lord and working with a patient who recommitted his life to the Lord. Ultimately….my relationship with the Lord guides me in everything I do.
Prioritizing and integrating our many roles and tasks allows us to see “balance” differently. We also need to give ourselves and each other grace and mercy. We are not perfect beings, and occasionally, the ball gets dropped. We’re all trying to do the best we can with what we have. Colossians 3:23 tells us to do everything for the Lord and not unto man. Keeping that in mind as we set our schedules will provide focus and value to our daily lives. Remember, balancing it all isn’t the goal, doing it all for the Lord is.
P.S. In case you need practical items to help you get started, this is what I use:
Personal Planner. I’ve tried using my phone calendar, and it was not working for me. I am a pen and paper type of gal, and like the ease, space, and layout of a paper planner.
Family Calendar: I keep this on the refrigerator, so everyone sees what we have going on. Ours has separate lines for each family member every day. I buy it at a calendar kiosk at our local mall, but I’m sure you can find one on Amazon.
Homeschool Planner: “A Simple Plan” Homeschool Planner. I get ours at Mardel Christian Bookstore.
Eraseable pens: I LOVE these things! They are practical and come in fun colors….WIN! WIN! I get ours from Amazon.