I’m not really one of those “Women can have it all!” fanatics. I don’t do everything and I certainly don’t do everything well. I delegate, I have occasional meltdowns, sometimes I am a hot mess. Balance is something that sounds nice in theory, but also seems somewhat unattainable while I’m wiping snot from Everett’s face for the seventeenth time today.
Having said that, I strive for balance. I attempt to be a good wife and a good mom. I try to be a good writer and a good photographer. Sometimes I sway back and forth, my energy levels and priorities playing an aggressive game of tug-of-war.
For me, balance usually comes down to time management. When I am managing my time well, I feel balanced in my roles, and when I’m not managing my time well, I feel like a hormonal pyschopath. It sounds like a simple concept, but time management can be really challenging when binge watching Dexter is a viable option on the table.
Nevertheless, here are some tried and true balance strategies that I currently use to a) manage my time, and b) keep myself sane. If you have ever wanted to know how I “do it all” (even though I don’t), this is my secret sauce:
1. I have a babysitter. Taking small, short breaks from Everett to do things for myself makes me a better mother and a much better wife. Right now I have between 6-8 hours of babysitting a week—three hours with a paid babysitter and about four hours with a babysitting swap. I typically use that time to write, to work on my photography business, and to go to barre class. It’s amazing how refreshed I feel after exercising my body, mind, and creative spirit.
2. Brett and I go on dates. This is a new commitment we made in 2014 and boy, am I glad we did. We’re two dates in to our year of dates plan and so far, we are loving it!
3. Everett does independent play time once a day. Mommas: this is huge for me. Every morning, Everett plays in his crib for 45 minutes while I take a shower and get dressed. Most days I get dressed in yoga pants and slouchy sweaters, but that’s besides the point. I like starting my day with a hot shower, and once Everett transitioned to one nap (around 13 months), I knew I needed to figure out how to make that possible. A few of my friends were doing independent play successfully, so I decided to give it a shot. We started at 15 minutes and worked our way up to 45 (some days we do a whole hour). Nine months later, this is still working really well for us. Everett is totally used to the routine and even gets excited to pick out what toys he wants to put in his crib. He runs around the whole house shoving little cars and trains between the crib rails before I set him in there. I turn on Toddler Radio on Pandora, shut the door, and retrieve him after 45 minutes, sometimes longer if he’s having fun.
4. I get out of the house, alone. Since Brett commutes and works a normal 8-5 job, he enjoys being home a lot more than I do. I usually leave the house one or two nights a week, to go to barre class or to write from Starbucks, while Brett has special time with Everett. I’m never gone long, normally just an hour or so, but it often feels like a mini vacation to be by myself.
5. Sundays are family days. We live for Sundays. Every Sunday we go to church as a family, grocery shop at Trader Joes, make a big lunch at home, and then relax all afternoon. We cook dinner at home, sometimes take a walk along the river, and then Brett and I clean the house once Everett’s in bed. I love to end my week with rest and a clean house.
6. Friendships are a priority and commitment. I’m in a bible study that meets twice a month and a playgroup that meets once a week. They are committed gatherings, and that’s why they work so well. There are coffee dates and pedicures and movie nights in between those commitments, but I love having dedicated friend time on the calendar six times a month.
7. Nap time rituals. I have little rituals that I savor during nap time, the most holy time of the day. First I pick up all the toys and light a candle, transforming my living room into an oasis. I eat my lunch. I read, I rest, I work, I make to-do lists and cross items off. I treat myself to a piece of chocolate. I soak up the only silence I will experience before bedtime. Have I mentioned that I will probably completely lose my mind when Everett stops napping altogether? Because I will. I will actually lose my mind.
What’s your secret sauce to keeping yourself balanced?