How to Balance Parenthood With The Rest of Your Life
Earlier this year, I received this message on Instagram…
“Do you have any advice on balancing mom life with everything else? We only have one and we are just drowning in a messy house, work, no sleep, and it just seems impossible.”
Ummm did I write this? Because it may seem like I have it all together, but I feel like this all.the.time. Being a parent is hard work, no matter how many kids you have. While I do have some tips on balancing parenthood and life, I absolutely don’t have it all figured out. So, I polled my community on Instagram and asked for even more advice to make this a robust post with lots of ideas to help all of the parents out there.
Delete the Term “Balancing It All”
Balance. It’s impossible. Ever since Rory came into this world, followed soon after, by Ellis, I haven’t felt balanced one bit. I either feel like I’m rocking it as a mom and giving my all to them, therefore neglecting work, my husband, and tasks around the house. Or, I’m giving my all to my job and feeling lackluster in the mom department. Balance is not possible when you’re a parent and you’re never going to feel like you’re doing everything right…and that’s okay!
Establish a Schedule & Routine
I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve found that having my kids on a schedule is a lifesaver for our household. You might think that that would make our lives rigid, but I find that it gives us greater flexibility. I can plan more outings when I know their nap schedules and Ellis’ feeding schedule. (And by “outings”, I mean trips to the grocery store, the park, and the coffee shop.) We’re home between 12:30 pm-3:00 pm for the big nap of the day, when both Rory and Ellis are asleep, and the mornings and late afternoons are then open for activities.
We follow the Moms on Call routine and started it with each of our kids around four weeks of age. (I follow the schedules outlined in their books.) It got them both sleeping through the night by 12 weeks and gave them consistent nap times. Ellis is still working on taking longer naps (he is quite the catnapper these days…ugh), but I know he will get there.
All this to say, having my kids on a schedule and solidly sleeping through the night carves out chunks of time for me. I know that after 7 pm I am “off duty” and I also have a couple of free hours in the afternoon to take care of anything that needs to be done.
Don’t Do Anything During Nap Time That Can Get Done While They’re Awake
I got this advice a few months after having Rory and it was a gamechanger for me. I clean up meals, unload the dishwasher, do laundry, and more, all while the kids are awake. It’s important for kids to see the work that goes into running a household and to help when they can. Rory isn’t even two, but she helps me with lots of things around our house and she absolutely loves it. (Her favorite is putting the silverware away from the clean dishwasher!) And if she isn’t interested in helping, it’s a good chance to practice independent play.
And even though Ellis is still little, he comes with me, around the house, as I do chores. I’ll have him do tummy time while I’m folding laundry, or play peek-a-boo as I do the dishes. Kids don’t need to be playing with toys to have fun.
Then, during naps I can do anything that can’t be accomplished when they’re around, like taking a shower, working out, getting work done, and more.
Invite Them Into Your Routine
Finn and I take turns putting each kid to bed – he takes care of Ellis one night, while I handle Rory, and then we switch. On my Rory nights, she always helps me get ready for bed after dinner and I think it’s her favorite part of the day. She shrieks “Mama’s room” the moment she is done eating. We then go upstairs where she picks out my pajamas for the night and then she watches me as I wash my face, brush my teeth, and do my extensive skincare routine. She LOVES it. I’ll pretend to put “makeup” on her and she’ll spend time going through my jewelry and putting on headbands.
By the time I put Rory down for the night, I’m completely done with my personal bedtime routine. Once she is asleep, I can fully enjoy myself during the evening.
Make Achievable To-Do Lists
On days when I have childcare – Monday, Wednesday, Friday – my to-do list is jam-packed with appointments, calls, work, and tasks. (I use Trello to plan out my weeks.) On those days, I don’t waste one moment of time. But, on the days when I have the kids all by myself, I have to make my to-do lists achievable. Perhaps it’s just going to the grocery store or keeping up with blog comments during nap time. Or walking to the mailbox to send a letter. My to-do list is very short and manageable on those days. This list has enough to make me feel like I’ve accomplished something, but it’s not so long that I will feel stressed if I don’t get those tasks done. When you’re a parent, you’ve just gotta lower your expectations.
Prioritize That To-Do List
With that being said, there are just some things that you simply won’t have time for and that’s okay. Many of my readers shared this Nora Roberts quote.
“When juggling as much as you are, remember that some balls are glass, and some are rubber. You can’t drop the glass balls.”
Figure out what must get done and the things that absolutely need your attention and don’t worry about the rest. For me, that might mean that the sink stays full of dirty dishes and I don’t get to the grocery store until tomorrow. Life will go on if those things don’t happen. Figure out which of your balls are glass and focus on those.
Ask for Help & Delegate Tasks
You can’t do it all and there is no shame in asking for help. I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything without Finn, my mom, and daycare. And if you can swing it, figure out what tasks you can delegate to someone else. Hire a bi-monthly cleaner, order groceries for pickup, have the kid down the street cut your lawn… Think through tasks that stress you out and eat up time, and find a way to get them off your plate.
I have friends who are parents and also work full-time, but they never want to miss out on their kids’ bedtime ritual. They hired a teen in their neighborhood to come over for an hour each weekday while they bathe the kids, read them lots of books, and tuck them into bed. The teenager cleans up dinner, runs the dishwasher, puts toys away for the day, throws a load of laundry in, and tidies up while they’re busy with the kids. (Ummm, this is a parent’s freakin’ dream!) Yes, this is an added expense, but it works for them and allows them to fully enjoy their time with their children.
Show Yourself Compassion & Take Time For YOU
Balancing parenthood and life is all about finding compassion for yourself. It’s easy to think other people have it all figured out (spoiler alert: they don’t!), but know that you’re doing your best. You love your kids and that’s really all that matters.
And I know the term “self-care” seems like a joke when you’re a parent, but it really is important. As I mentioned in my post about The Year of Casey, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You’ve gotta make sure that you’re caring for yourself so you can, in turn, care for your family. Self-care looks different for everyone. For me, it might mean a bath, a night watching silly TV shows, a good book, or a glass of champagne. Find what recharges you and figure out how to make it a core part of your weekly routine.
It’s Just a Season of Life
Right now, my life is pretty chaotic, with a baby and a toddler who need me. But someday, they won’t be so little anymore and I’ll look back on this chaos with rose-colored glasses and miss it. Finn and I keep saying that our 40s are going to be legendary with lots of date nights and vacations with just us two…ha!
Even though the days are hard, this is just a season in my life – a tiring season – and I’m doing my best to embrace it.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.