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Q&A: How do you do it all and stay sane & happy? (Part 2)

If you missed Jen’s question in part 1 last night, please take a few minutes to go read it. The comments were packed with fantastic wisdom and advice. Plus, I think it’s so encouraging to just be reminded that we all struggle with somewhat similar things. It’s good to know that none of us are alone in this journey!

I promised some specific advice for Jen’s situation. After contemplating it as I went about my various tasks today, here are my thoughts:

1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Moms

There are no supermoms. Seriously. None of us have our acts together.

Some of us might have cleaner homes or more organized schedules, some of us might be able to juggle more things or decorate our homes beautifully or whip up amazing recipes, but we all have plenty of warts and struggles. Believe me.

I have yet to meet a mom who didn’t have things she struggled with. And if any mom says she doesn’t struggle with anything, I can guarantee you she’s not being authentic.

2. Make a List of Your Priorities

Take time in the next few days to find a quiet hour and sit down with a blank piece of paper. Start mapping out your thoughts of what you want to be your priorities for this season of life. Keep these short and sweet, no more than 3-4 priorities for starting out. (You can see my current list of eight priorities here. The first four are my main priorities. The other four are my secondary priorities.)

Review these priorities with your husband and close friends for input. Once you feel like you’ve got a solid list that you’ll be happy with 25 years from now, type it up or write it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror or stick it on your refrigerator.

Before adding anything new to your plate or saying “yes” to any commitment, check your priorities list. This helps you to really consider things and not just pile all sorts of commitments on yourself that you’ll later regret.

3. Keep a Running List of Other Things You Want to Do

It sounds like you might be a lot like me in that you have a hundred and one new ideas each week! There are books I want to read, things I want to do with my children, places I want to visit as a family, people I want to reach out to, friendships I want to maintain, skills I want to learn, character I want to develop, business projects I want to experiment with, house projects I want to work on… the list is practically endless.

And very quickly, it can become daunting and overwhelming — if I let it. Instead, just keep a notebook with a running list of ideas. That way, you’re recording them somewhere and they are out of your head vying for your attention.

4. Choose One Thing to Focus on At a Time

A surefire way to set yourself up for failure is to try and re-invent your life overnight. It’s just not going to happen. Or if it does, it won’t last longer than a short while. Instead, take your list of priorities and your running list of things you want to do and map out one area of your life to focus on at a time.

I recommend picking the habit or change that is going to most significantly effect your everyday life. So think about what your biggest hangups and struggles are and then choose an area based upon that.

Make this habit your focus for 3-6 weeks. Once you feel like it’s truly become ingrained in your life, you can move onto the next habit or skill. But be careful that you don’t add something new too quickly. You’d rather improve a little bit more each month than to try and go full steam ahead and end up back where you started after a few months of effort.

5. Cut Yourself a Lot of Slack

Most importantly, give yourself lots of grace! You have a lot on your plate right now: you just moved and you have a six-month-old. Plus, it sounds like you no longer have the support you had before you moved.

Adjusting to being a new mom is a huge. Throw moving in there, too, and you’ve got a lot of big learning curves you’re shouldering at one time.

Now is the time to keep things really simple and to lower your expectations of yourself. Don’t worry about making elaborate dinners or cleaning your baseboards. Maybe even buy a few packages of disposable diapers instead of cloth diapering while you get settled in your home?

Don’t stress too much about trying to clip a bunch of coupons or shop at three different grocery stores. Just stick with simple, inexpensive meals and focus on stocking up on the loss leaders (or do more of your shopping at Aldi, if you have one nearby).

6. Remember What Will Matter Most in 25 Years From Now

Finally, constantly remind yourself about what is really going to matter at the end of your life. Love on your baby and husband, cherish and embrace each day, and don’t forget to make sleep a priority.

In time, as you become more accustomed to your new area and your baby grows, you’ll be able to do more. But don’t be so anxious to do-do-do that you forget to take time to just soak up and savor the moments with your precious baby. They are fleeting!

Photo credits: Big Stock, Pinterest

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  • Mackenzie says:

    This is great advice Crystal!

    I know for me, the prioritizing thing is a big one. I took a step back today from the to-do lists and just focused on me and my daughter. No check-marking things off a list. I just needed to…be.

    Prioritizing what’s important is what I need to focus on. Yesterday’s post and today’s post have been lifesavers 🙂

  • Kandace says:

    Yes! There is no pinterest project or organizing activity or anything else that is more important than being with and caring for my children. They grow up so fast! It’s so important to be fully present with my kids– for my soul and for theirs. It’s something I have to be very intentional about and really think, “Does this matter? Can it wait? Do they need me more now than anything else?” Be fully present. Thank you!

  • arianna says:

    I really like the quote in the picture. I often try to do so many things and sometimes I don’t play with my kids enough. I am going to transcribe it, frame it and display it prominently in my house. Thank you so much for such an important reminder of what really matters the most.

  • Jenny in UT says:

    great advice — and so very, very practical

  • Kristen says:

    This was beautiful. I loved it so much I printed it so that I can frame it later. Another reminder to “be present” with my children and let other things go. They grow up so fast…

  • I love reading this as my husband and I celebrate our 14th anniversary today. This is always our day to think about priorities and where our lives will take us the next 25 years. I just posted on how to make marriage work- and last. Sadly, our families can sometimes take a backseat to the little things in life (how do I let that happen when I know not to?!)

  • Thank you for the series, Crystal. You are right, nobody has it all together!

    Regarding priorities…

    I read a great tip in a magazine, used it last night, and my whole family was much happier after dinner. Usually I clean up dinner for at least an hour and then it seems like it’s time for bed.

    But this tip was to set a 5 minute alarm when you child asks you to play with them. So my son asked me to build Legos and instead of cleaning the whole kitchen, I set the timer. It got the dishes into the dishwasher at least. And then the whole family had fun playing for quite awhile!

    I still have dirty dishes to wash this morning but there’s no regrets to just cleaning for 5 last night. 😉

    • This is great. For several years when my children were younger and not quite so able to help clean up after dinner I never did the dinner dishes after dinner. We just scraped them and stacked them in the sink (I’ve never had a dishwasher so we always hand wash). The next morning I would wash them with the breakfast dishes. My husband’s family time was very limited at this stage in our lives and I wanted to be with him and our children – not cleaning the kitchen.

      Our routine has changed now that my children are older. I have 4 teens and pre-teens (5 when my son is home from college) and it only takes us about 15 minutes to clean the kitchen after dinner. We all just work and get it done.

    • jenn says:

      I read that the other night too! I need to implement it!

    • Stephanie says:

      I read that too and loved the idea! I think it was in Family Fun!

  • Laura says:

    And when you fail at something – which you will – remember that you can only fail when you are making an attempt or have a desire to succeed. Failure let’s us know that we ARE moving forward. Failure really is a sign of progress so don’t let it keep you from continuing toward your ultimate goal. As Crystal points out so well we are all limited by our talents, circumstances, and time – none of us can have it all. Failures help us understand our own limits and desires – that’s a good thing. Rethink, adjust, learn and keep growing!

  • Lana says:

    As a Mother of 5 whose baby is 21 I so agree with #6! You cannot go back and do it over and before you know it they have grown up and married and like 3 of our 5, moved away from your hometown. If I could go back I just would not be so uptight about everything.

  • Savannah says:

    Beatifully written! Thank you so much for this post. I definitely needed the tips and reminders.

  • Christine says:

    i think if you make God & people (furry ones too) a priority v. things everything else will fall into place. when i started out as a single foster parent who works ft i made myself crazy and physically sick trying to maintain the homestead and be mom, friend, sister, daughter, etc.

    I was forced to let go of my perfectionism and it was painful; felt like a failure. Although I have chores scheduled they no longer take priority over an invitation or spontaneous interaction with people. My house is clean but no necessarily neat, laundry sometimes piles up until someone runs out of undies, pots may stay in sink overnight or two, etc.

    If i was blessed with a hubby my life would be a breeze but until then when I’m overwhelmed with to-dos I agree with Crystal, write ’em down and get them off your chest. That stuff will always be there or replaced by something else; that’s life. On the other hand your family and friends won’t always be around.

  • Shelly says:

    I like these ideas. I know I can be one who doesn’t focus on one thing at a time. I want to get it all done and end up running myself ragged trying. I have set up a priorities list and that is really helping me get the things done that are most important. Last week I did not have time to clean as I normally would. I cut myself some slack and just made up for it this week.

  • I love these–especially the one about cutting yourself slack! It took a counselor to point out to me that I gave lots of grace to other people but not much to myself. I’ve gotten so much better about that now, and it makes a huge difference. HUGE.

  • Jen E says:

    Thank you.
    I love the advice and wisdom of those who have been there and done that. I feel like my vision of “mom” is this unachieveable fantasy. My mom was so strong – working, cooking, maintaining a household, surviving a divorce, keeping us kids safe and happy, becoming pregnant in her next marriage with 3 teenagers, and coming out the other side probably the happiest, wisest grandma ever (yeah I love my mom). And I see you and others that I look up to. I appreciate your insight and stories as a new mom with a 6 month old. Everything doesn’t happen overnight. Every part of this article is right. There is about 50 things right now, projects, cleaning, cooking, researching that I could start right now. But they just aren’t a priority right now. And they won’t matter in 25 years. My son matters. And my husband matters. And my sanity matters. Time to cut back the list and add them to my I’ll get back to you later list. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. And thanks to all the other comments and support as well.
    PS Also a big thanks for making this 6 important key points. I’m sure this is one of those topics people could go on for days about.

  • Liz says:

    If you have children, your main priority is raising them. Whatever age, your children need your full attention, not just the fringes of your day.

    And believe me, the cleaning experts and the organizing gurus you follow are not going to be making inspection tours.

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