I’m a doer. I like to be busy. I enjoy helping others when I see a need. I work part-time from home. I am an eclectic homeschooler, which can sometimes mean quite a bit of planning and prep for lessons. I also have responsibilities at home – from laundry to cooking to cleaning.
As you can imagine, my schedule is pretty busy. Some weeks are busier than others. There are some nights I find myself awake into the wee hours of the morning to get everything done (which isn’t quite as easy as it was in college).
Caring for our families and teaching our children are commanded in the Bible. But so is serving and being in community with others. How can we possibly get it all done? The key is finding a balance.
Limit Outside Activities
I’ve heard it said many times in my short time as a homeschooling mom that it’s funny it’s called “HOME”schooling because we’re hardly ever home. I adopted this mentality my first year and found myself very burnt out early on.
With an active and energetic only-child in kindergarten, I felt that I needed to have her involved in as many activities as possible. While she enjoys these activities and the opportunities for socializing, we had to cut back the number of activities she was involved in. We didn’t have time to be at home to do our lessons or the dishes or even to just relax and enjoy each other!
We still have a pretty full schedule, but it’s much more manageable now. We are home most mornings, which allow us a slower, more relaxed start to our day and time to get our schoolwork done and most of our outside activities happen every other week or just once a month.
Learn to Say No
This is so difficult for me, but probably the most important. In addition to saying “no” to more things for our kids, it’s necessary to say no to filling our to-do lists with volunteer roles and tasks.
At one time, I was on the board of three different local youth organizations – all great community groups that we were involved in that run solely on volunteers. Because I wanted to have a say in creating the best program possible for my family, I volunteered to be a part of them. I quickly found that I wasn’t able to give the time and attention to each that they deserved and was, in fact, having the opposite result than I had intended. I have since stepped down and remain a part of just one now.
Being able to say no goes beyond just volunteer roles. It could be a task in your co-op group, doing a favor for a friend, or even a playdate with your neighbors. While we, of course, want to be able to help out in our personal communities whenever we can, we also need to recognize our limits and know when we need to say no.
Use the In-Between Times
I find that I often have little bits of time throughout the day, usually, around 30 minutes. It could be the time we have at home between park day and dance class, the time until a work meeting, or waiting in a line somewhere. I struggle to get things accomplished in those small spaces of time because I don’t like to start a task that I won’t be able to finish – whether it’s chores, school, or personal.
However, I’ve recently started forcing myself to push beyond that mentality and just start on something – usually something like folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen. I often don’t finish the task, but it means I have that much less to do when I am able to return to it later in the day (or week).
Set a Timer
I personally haven’t tried this yet, but a close friend of mine has found setting a timer for 30 minutes and doing as much as she can with that time has greatly increased her productivity. She uses it for both household chores as well as work.
She finds it very beneficial when she has to use social media for work. We know how easy it can be to get sucked into social media and lose sight of what we originally logged on to do in the first place. Knowing she has a limited amount of time on Facebook or Instagram forces her to focus on completing the tasks she needs before going down that rabbit trail that we emerge from two hours later wondering where the time went.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts and utilizing all the techniques, we still find we just don’t have enough time, particularly when we are interrupted every 30 seconds by kids who are hungry, bored, crying, or arguing. Yes, our primary job is mothering our children, but sometimes, we have deadlines or tasks that just have to be done.
It has come to a point where I have needed to seek out help. My husband and I sat down and have agreed that at least one weekend day per month, he takes my daughter out of the house. Whether it’s a park, an indoor play area, shopping, or a fun father/daughter activity, it has allowed me to have at least half a day each month uninterrupted.
I have also started looking into hiring a “mother’s helper” once per week. Ideally, I’d love to be able to find a homeschooled high school girl who can occupy my daughter for a few hours a week. A friend of mine has a teen who comes in the afternoon once a week for two hours. She’s still nearby if there are any major issues, but having someone who can get them something to drink or fix a broken toy allows her to stay focused on what she needs to accomplish.
I recognize that this is not financially possible for every family. Consider doing a swap with another mom in your neighborhood or homeschool community. Take turns watching each others’ children for a few hours each week so each of you have the chance to accomplish tasks uninterrupted.
Being busy is something our society values. It’s hard to not get caught up in that. Our kids enjoy playing sports, dance, karate, music lessons, and more. Providing opportunities to develop character through service is an important part of raising godly children. Teaching them, by example, how to balance all of these responsibilities and activities is also crucial. There will never be enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. Choose what is important to you and your family; what is important to God.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8