I’m often asked how I balance everything on my plate—working at home full time while taking care of three little girls age four and under, being the best mommy to them that I can be, making homemade Christmas presents, blogging, etc.
While I’d like to share some of my best organizational tips with you, I first want to clear up one misconception. I don’t think I’m busier than any other mom ... it’s just a matter of how my time is spent. We don’t do a lot of playdates, and I’m perfectly happy to stay home, so we don’t go a lot of places during the week either. My girls aren’t currently in any activities, although I’m thinking of looking for a ballet class for Pumpkin Doodle if we get a second car. I’m not a phone-talker, and I’m often behind on email. I don’t get as much time to work on crafts as I’d like, and I don’t read as much as I wish I did. And if I’m being totally honest, I don’t spend as much time reading the Bible or praying as I could. On top of that, I’ve cut out a lot of things out of my weekly commitments lately to simplify things.
So while my commitments may be different—and probably not as fun—it’s not as if I’m busier than the mom who goes on playdates or activities several days a week, the mom who is currently homeschooling one or more children, or the mom who clips coupons and cooks everything from scratch. I’m definitely not a supermom or perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I still find myself wishing for more time in each day!
With that said, my first tip is the least glamorous of them all—simple discipline. I promise the rest of my tips are more fun, but I felt like I needed to get this one out of the way first.
For me, discipline means that I make a schedule each day and stick to it. I try to build extra time and flexibility into that schedule, but my mornings are fairly rigid and my goal is always to get as much done between 8 and 10 a.m. as humanly possible so that I don’t have a to-do list nagging at me all day.
Unfortunately, discipline also means that I spend less time on the Internet, something I’m getting better at the more I practice it. I don’t chat on IM nearly as much as I used to. I don’t spend time on my favorite online forum. In fact, I don’t even check my blog reader until my lunch break after I put the girls down for nap. It’s a sacrifice, but it means that I have more time to take care of things that need to be done and to spend time just enjoying my family. This is especially important for me when I’m working. In fact, if I find myself getting easily distracted during work time, I get up and go take care of the laundry or something else so that I’m not just wasting time.
Discipline also means that I stay on top of the chores everyday, which ultimately takes less of my time than letting it go and then catching back up. Sure, there are times when I have a sick kid or I somehow end up with more work than I expected or wanted and I let things go and play catch up later. But on a daily basis, I find it much easier to focus if the house is relatively straight and clean. (And believe me, it is relative because my standards are a lot lower than they were, oh, four years, one month, and one day ago!) For me, that means that we clean up toys before lunch and dinner every day. I load the dishwasher or wash dishes after every meal. I fold laundry as it comes out of the dryer and put it away every few days (which is huge for me—laundry has been the chore I’ve struggled the most with until the past few months).
Finally, I also schedule time for play, reading, and crafts with the girls. While I strive to make the most of every moment with them and often include them in what I’m doing by singing songs, having them help me, telling stories or snagging them for a hug, cuddle, or tickle, I also know how easy it is to nudge play time out of the day with things that “need” to be done. I don’t feel the need to play down on the floor with them for hours a day, but I do schedule time each morning to either do a craft or read together, and free time in the afternoon to just be together.
Do I have this discipline thing down pat? No, not by any means. But I do find that the more disciplined I am, the smoother our day goes and the more time I have to focus on what’s really important.