(Me & Kathrynne — I was pregnant with Kaitlynn & in the middle of morning sickness here!)
“How did you balance your small children along with starting your blog during those early years?” – Ana
Great question, Ana! It can be tough to find time to run a business while juggling being a mom at the same time, but it is definitely doable! In fact, I truly believe that it is not only possible to do it, but to do it well. However, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons along the way.
My first book was all about how I failed at balancing motherhood and a business and the lessons I learned from that. When my kids were ages 5, 2, and newborn, I was also running 3 blogs (crazy, I know!!) doing a lot of other things.
I had started way too many things, taken on way too many responsibilities, committed to too many things, and then found myself completely exhausted and overwhelmed.
To try to do everything I felt I had to do, I pulled all-nighters, pushed myself too hard, sacrificed sleep, and burnt myself out. I almost lost my marriage, health, and my business in the process of trying to do way too much.
(Kathrynne & Kaitlynn — just a few days after Kaitlynn was born!)
I finally got to a place where I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I hit rock bottom, and I was in a really bad place. In desperation, I poured out my heart to my husband, telling him how overwhelmed I was and expecting he would give me a pep talk and encourage me.
Instead, he told me these powerful words: “Crystal, you are bringing this on yourself.”
I didn’t want to hear it, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I realized deep down in my heart that he was right. I was the one who was saying yes to way too many things. I was the one who was feeling obligated to take on too many responsibilities and commitments. I was the one who didn’t have good boundaries in place and was stretching myself too thin.
As I pondered Jesse’s words, the truth hit me: I was the problem. However, this was also good news, because it meant that I could be the solution!
With this in mind, I went on a life-changing journey to really discover how to climb out of the crazy pit I had dug for myself. It’s been a process — and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. I often take two steps forward and then one step backward.
Sometimes, as in the case of much of last year, I felt like I took more steps backward than I did forward. I’m a work in progress and I’m constantly making mistakes and learning as I go along.
With much trial and error, here are 4 keys I’ve discovered to keeping my sanity as a work-at-home mom:
1. I Don’t Have to Do Everything
After much failure and struggle, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to do everything. In fact, I can’t do everything.
In order to carve out the time for this to be a priority, I have to say “no” to other things.
Jesse does half of the homeschooling, we have a part-time Mother’s Helper, my team takes care of almost all of the administrative details of running the business, my kids help with the laundry and cleaning.
Both motherhood and writing fulfill me, and I’m finally at a place where I know that there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a beautiful thing! I encourage you to embrace who God has made you to be, and which direction you feel He is taking you in — and then guiltlessly delegate or delete things from your life in order to be able to accomplish that.
2. There Is No Such Thing as Perfect Balance
I’ve had to stop believing the myth of perfect balance, and instead try to reach a healthy balance. For years, I chased after the illusive “perfect balance” until I finally realized that there is no such thing as a perfect balance.
Instead, I’ve started aiming for a healthy balance. To me, this means that I’m investing time in each area of priority in my life over the course of a week, month, and year. That when I look at my year as a whole, I see that I’ve really poured a lot of time and effort into those few areas that are the greatest priorities.
I’ve had to accept that every day is going to be and look different in my life right now. Some days, I’ll be focused more on one priority and some days, I’ll be focused more on different priorities.
For example, when I launched a couple months ago, it was all hands on deck for a few weeks to make it through the book launch. My husband took over a lot of the responsibilities at home and with the kids while I dedicated the majority of my time to book launch responsibilities.
On the flip side, though, when we went to South Africa as a family, I was offline almost the entire trip and just focusing on spending time with my family and enjoying the experience as a family.
This is what a healthy balance is. Sometimes, I have sprint seasons where for a few days — or even weeks — I am working more hours to complete a big project. And some days and weeks, I’m offline most or all of the day to focus on my family.
Give yourself grace to not feel guilt in either mode. It’s okay to focus more on priority some days and more on another priority on another day. Look at your week as a whole, your month as a whole, and your year as a whole when determining how balanced your life is.
3. I Have To Delete & Delegate
When I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to something else. I have had to ask myself often, “Is there anything I’m saying yes to, that I really should be saying no to?”
It’s so important to learn what you want to say yes to most often. I can’t pack my schedule so full that my family gets the leftovers, because I want my family to get the best parts of me.
Over time, I have recognized that my saying yes often stems from comparison. I try to compare myself to other bloggers, mothers, and business owners. I want to be all things at all times.
The truth, though, is that I can only do what I can do. Nothing is perfect, but I am doing the best that I can possibly do. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I am me, not someone else, and the only person I should compare myself to is me!
4. I Have to Prioritize Self-Care
I have such a driving personality, and I struggle to prioritize myself. I always want to go, go, go and help as many people as possible. I always have more ideas than I have time.
I’m learning more and more how important it is to give myself grace, to take it slowly, to rest, and to pour into myself so that I have the energy to pour into others.
I have to make sure I rest and refresh myself. There is so much refreshment that comes from stepping away from the noise on a regular basis. That’s why my word for 2016 is Rest!
More Practical Ideas:
Looking for more practical ideas on how to balance running a business and having small children? Here are some more suggestions:
- Hire a teen to come over for two hours every afternoon and watch your kids while you work.
- Talk to your spouse about sharing some of the cooking, errands, or housework.
- Look at your schedule and responsibilities and ask yourself, “Is there anything on here that I don’t need to be doing at this season?”
- Use paper plates for meals.
- Become best friends with your crockpot and stick with very simple meals.
- Swap childcare with a friend one afternoon each week so that you can focus on business stuff without interruptions.
- Turn on a DVD and put your kids in booster seats with a snack while you get in a little work.
- Have your kids have an afternoon quiet time when you get your work done.
- Take your laptop outside and work while your kids play (this works best if you have a fenced in backyard.)
- Get up 30 minutes earlier and knock out some work before your kids get up.
- Buy simple convenience foods a few times per week to save yourself time.
- Lower your standards on what a clean & organized house looks like.
- Talk to your spouse about going out and working at a coffee shop 1-2 nights per week while Dad spends time with the kids & puts them to bed.
What advice & suggestions would the rest of you have for Ana? Let us know in the comments.
P.S. If you’re looking for even more practical tips on this subject, be sure to check out this post I wrote a couple years ago on how to balance motherhood & blogging.
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