Admitting that I can’t do it all…or even half of it


iStock 000009700656XSmall Admitting that I can’t do it all…or even half of it
One of my big goals for this new year is to finally get things under control, broadly speaking. Ever since I left the workforce about three years ago I’ve tried various Fly-Lady-inspired methods for getting organized and developing a routine to stay organized. I am a naturally scattered and lazy person, but I yearn to run my household with a lovely rhythm, knowing that every task has its place on the daily or weekly schedule, that it will all get done so long as I follow my routines.

Yet, in three years, that has not happened.

To give myself some credit, I’ve made great improvements. I’m more organized and do have more of a routine than when my first child was born. Yet I have never quite been able to conquer that nagging feeling of being a day late and a dollar short, so to speak. I have good days and even good weeks but, most of the time, I feel at least a little bit overwhelmed and out of control. The bills get paid on time, but it’s always in a frantic rush at the last minute. The house stays somewhat orderly (emphasis on “somewhat”), but there are always tons of things on my to-do list that I never get to, leaving me with a vague sense of failure at the end of each day. My husband spends almost all of his time outside of work just helping out around the house, yet it’s still not enough. I visit friends and have free time for myself, but it’s always with the feeling that there are 1,000 other things I need to be doing.

I’ve been surprisingly good about letting go of anxiety by making the conscious choice to trust that God will work it all out if it’s in his plan…yet I’ve been getting the sense that I’m not living up to my part of the bargain, that there’s something different that I needed to be doing. But what?

After standing in a sea of new Christmas presents and suitcases full of clothes from an out-of-town trip and having a little “I NEVER HAVE TIME TO GET ANYTHING DONE AROUND HERE” freakout session last week, I picked up Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life to re-read in a search for answers. As I flipped through the first few pages, something immediately jumped out at me: the Rule of Life for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. In discussing what a Rule of Life is, she gives the example of the Missionaries’ daily schedule:

Daily Schedule for the Missionaries of Charity

4:30-5:00 Rise and get cleaned up
5:00-6:30 Prayers and Mass
6:30-8:00 Breakfast and cleanup
8:00-12:30 Work for the poor

12:30-2:30 Lunch and rest
2:30-3:00 Spiritual reading and meditation
3:00-3:15 Tea break
3:15-4:30 Adoration
4:30-7:30 Work for the poor

7:30-9:00 Dinner and clean up
9:00-9:45 Night prayers
9:45 Bedtime

A few things immediately jumped out at me: the first thing I noticed was that the main goal of the Order, working for the poor, only took place between 8:00 – 12:30 and 4:30 – 7:30. The second was how long they allowed for meals and cleanup. The third was how much time they devoted to prayer. The fourth was how early they went to bed. And the final thing I noticed was the simplicity, the focus only on prayer and working for the poor. Just reading through the schedule made me feel peaceful. What a calm, lovely rhythm the Missionaries of Charity must have to their days.

I looked at this Rule over and over again, and it struck me how very different this schedule was from my own — and not just because we have different vocations. Unlike my daily schedule, theirs spoke of focus; of calm trust that time with God is time well spent; of not trying to do everything all at once. They allow plenty of time for each activity, not trying to cram meals and cleanup into a small time slot, not staying up a few hours later to get more done. It occurred to me how very different their schedule would be if I’d created it for them:

Daily Schedule for the Missionaries of Charity…If I had created it

5:00-6:30 Prayers and Mass [no time on schedule for rise and clean up]
6:30-7:15 Breakfast and clean up [shorter time so that they can hurry up and get to work]
7:15-11:00 Work for the poor [more hours here]
11:00-12:30 Teach religious education classes to children [new activity]

12:30-1:30 Lunch and rest [shorter time so that they can hurry up and get to work]
1:30-3:00 Visit hospitals [new activity]
3:00-3:15 Tea break
3:15-7:30 Work for the poor [cutting out Adoration to get more done]

7:30-9:00 Dinner and clean up [shorter time so that they can hurry up and get to work]
9:00-10:00 Make Rosaries to give to the poor [new activity]
10:00-10:30 Night prayers* [shortened since, hey, nobody has that much time for prayer]
10:30-11:00 Spiritual reading
11:00 Bedtime*

* Night prayers would usually be skipped in order to finish up things that didn’t get done during the day. In practice, bedtime would be more like 11:30 for the same reason.

Basically, I’d try to do it all: we wouldn’t limit ourselves to working for the poor! We’d visit hospitals and make Rosaries and teach religious education to children and even squeeze in a few more hours of work for the poor; I’d cut out a lot of that prayer time to focus on more “practical” things; I’d squeeze in a few more hours of productivity by cutting down time allowed for meals, morning rising, etc….And the poor sisters would be frantically running all over creation, collapsing into bed at the end of each day feeling overworked and scattered, feeling rushed as soon as they woke up the next morning. They’d live in a state of feeling perpetually overwhelmed and behind…sort of like I do.

I decided to completely re-think my own schedule, and my approach to life.

Inspired by the beautiful simplicity of the Missionaries’ daily schedule, I decided to rethink my own schedule with the single goal of creating harmony and peace in my household. Rather than looking at my list of things that “had to” get done around the house and seeing how I could squeeze them in, I first wrote out how long it takes to do the very basic things such as eating, dressing, baths, etc.; then, after I had allowed for realistic estimates of how shockingly long it takes to complete basic tasks with three kids ages three and under (e.g. 1.5 hours for each meal and cleanup), I set out to fill in the time I had leftover.

I turned to my husband for help. He suggested that I prioritize my list of household tasks that need to be done each day/week/month (including things like visiting friends and free time for me), and then we’d go through the list and write in each task where there was an open slot on the schedule. I brought my list over to the couch and started ticking off items. I had just gotten started when my husband interrupted me with, “That’s all.”

I paused to ask him what he meant. “That’s all you can do in a given week,” he said. “Look at your schedule, it’s full. That’s it.”

No way. That couldn’t be it. I had barely even gotten started reading my list! But he was right. When I looked at my schedule with the primary goal of creating a peaceful life and household, trying to emulate the focused simplicity of the Missionaries’ schedule, I realized how very little I could realistically expect to do.

Of course I’ve always known that I can’t do it all — I’m a natural slob so it was no problem to accept the fact that my house is going to look nothing like Martha Stewart’s. But I had never realized just how little I can really do in this phase of life. My goal when sitting down to create routines and schedules was always to “get things done,” so I’d aim to squeeze in as much as possible. I would drastically underestimate how much time was needed for each task in an attempt to fit more in (I realize now that nothing takes “just five minutes” around here). When my goal changed to “bring peace to my household,” it became glaringly obvious that obtaining peace was going to involve sacrificing a huge chunk of my to-do list; that I would have to give up not only on the idea of being able to do it all, but the idea that I can do much of anything other than just keep diapers changed and kids fed and the toys and dirty dishes put away and have some quality time with the kids and free time for myself.

I looked at all the things left on my list: vacuuming the upstairs, a second weekly grocery store trip, cleaning bathroom sinks, organizing the kids’ clothes and shoes, regular dusting, a deep clean of the stove and oven, doing a big fridge and freezer cleanout (just to name a few) — when were these things going to get done?! My husband pointed out that this phase of life is only temporary, that in the future we’ll have older children to help. In the meantime, if we’re to have a peaceful household, it will come at the expense of these tasks. They’ll get done only sporadically, whenever he or I have some unexpected free time to tackle them, if at all. But there is simply no room for them on my standard schedule.

In some ways it’s been difficult to come to terms with how little I can do. It’s hard to believe that my to-do list for tomorrow has only “laundry” on it — surely I can do more than that in a whole day! Yet when I picture doing laundry in a peaceful state — unflustered by having to stop folding clothes for diaper changes, laughing along with my toddler as he very inefficiently attempts to separate lights and darks — I realize that it requires a lot of time.

I realize now that at the root of my near-constant feelings of not getting enough done was only slightly due to laziness or disorganization: it was due mostly to having too much on my plate, to an unwillingness to take anything that I’d deemed “important” off of my to-do list, and to a reluctance to give up control. I wasn’t willing to admit that I might be limited by inconvenient facts of life like, say, how many hours there are in a day.

Letting go of the majority of my household to-do list is actually just the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve realized I need to change about my daily life, but I’ll save that for another post since this one is long enough. Luckily blogging made the cut of things to do during free time, so I’ll undoubtedly be writing more about this subject as I attempt to make 2008 the first year that I (with my husband’s help) turn my house into a home that is a calm, peaceful place to live.

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Enter the Conversation...

52 Responses to “Admitting that I can’t do it all…or even half of it”
  1. Matilda says:

    Our thoughts have been so similar lately but I haven’t commented much about it. Your husband is right and what a good helpmate he is to you to point out that this phase of life is only temporary. We are entering into the next phase where we do have older children to help us (my oldest is 10 at the end of the month), but my problem is that I have done it all for so long, I don’t know how to have them help. Sure, I’ll ask them to do things here and there and they pitch in gladly, but I haven’t worked them into any kind of “schedule” since I don’t have one for my self. Crisis cleaning is what I do at best. I am working on it and getting better by little bits, but I don’t know what to do with the big kids.

  2. Catherine Shaffer says:

    OMG, Jen, you have really got it. I am so grateful to read this post right now because it is the missing link in so much I’ve been trying to fix about my own life and my own schedule. And I am sure I am not the only one, because what you are describing is the American way. We. Are. So. Busy. Especially Moms. Kudos to you. I would love to hear your progress on this.

  3. Karie, the Regular Guy's Extraordinary Wife says:

    Jen,

    Just picked up a copy of “A Mother’s Rule”. Boy you (or your husband) put it succinctly – you can’t do it all. I do “flylady” but I don’t do her missions, but I do make my bed, clean my bath and get some laundry done every day. These were the most important to me and so I have gotten them “incorporated”. But as for the “missions” or “hotspots” they are still on the “undone” list. But your insight is exceptional. I am looking forward to reading more of “A Mother’s Rule”. I am hoping to increase my prayer life now.

  4. Sarah L. says:

    I’m sure you’ve heard before that, as moms, “we can have it all, just not all at once.” Maybe someday my house will be super clean again, but I am sure my kids would rather look back on their time at home with me and think of the fun things we did together than thinking fondly of how clean the house was. I know the housework will improve as the kids grow and gain independence (they are all 5 and under right now).

  5. Colleen says:

    I have been struggling with this exact same thing! My husband and I have been having discussions about it for months. My inability to check things off my to-do list has often left me feeling like a failure at the end of the day, often with tears of frustration. I’m slowly coming to realize that the chaos in my home is really more a result of my state in life (a mother to three small children) and not because of my personal flaws. This realization is so freeing!

    Thank you for sharing your continuing journey. It helps me so much to know that I am not the only one struggling. It’s not Colleen’s struggle, it’s the struggle of every mom with three small children.

    I’ve read Holly Pierlot’s book as well and I have been having difficulty figuring out my rule. Now I realize what the problem is. I have been trying to squeeze too many tasks in. I’m going to go try again now and attack it the way you did. A peaceful household is number one priority, not the long lists of tasks. I’ll just keep reminding myself that it’s okay if some (or most!) of the tasks just don’t get done.

  6. Tausign says:

    I am a lay Catholic husband and father who has been professed in a ‘secular order’ and lived under a ‘Rule’ for over 2o years, and so I immediately was drawn to your topic. I’ve also enjoyed following along a few blogs watching lay people try to integrate their spiritual ‘callings’ with the mundane of everyday life.

    Please allow me to quibble with one observation you made regarding the daily schedule of the Missionaries of Charity. You were surprised with the time they spent on their… ‘main goal of the Order, working for the poor’. My own take is that it’s better to describe this as ‘their chosen apostolate’. The main goal of the Order would probably be described as ‘the transformation and sanctification of the Sister’s lives’. This would help to explain the amount of time spent in prayer, and the rationale for simplicity in their lives.

    Forgive me Jen if I’m being too picayune, but I believe it’s vital for understanding our true ‘vocations’ – whatever our daily tasks involve. You’ve heard the cliché of the devout single person saying, “I’m looking for a marriage partner who loves God more than they do me”. The worldly person would role their eyes, but those who love God understand the meaning of that statement. So, Mother Teresa taught and structured the sisters lives to love God deeply so that they could love the poor deeply.

    Keep this in mind as you draw up your own ‘Rule’ of life; if it is truly a ‘religious’ rule then the subject will be on your relationship with God. All the activities and relations of your life become transformed…because you do …and the laundry gets folded besides!

  7. Dustmite says:

    I am pretty sure that my inability to not get things done in any real timely fashion is indeed due to laziness! That said, we do get so caught up in our frenzied life and when we do try to make a change for the better we often feel so lost and return to our ways. I wounder how much of life we are truly missing as a result. Anyhow, loved the post (I usually do!) and found myself relating either through my experiences or my wifes. Definite food for thought.

  8. Ouiz says:

    A wonderful post, and fits in EXACTLY with what I’ve been going through around here as well. My dh, after hearing me crying over the state of chaos in my home, spent the last few days of his vacation helping me think out exactly WHAT needed to be done, what the next step was, and how we could achieve it. Simple solutions to problems that caused some serious depression… I also sat down and reworked my “control journal,” and had to cull out a lot of “extras” I had allowed to creep in here and there.

    As you said, this is not the stage of our lives to cram in a lot of extras! In order to have a peaceful home, we have to opt for simplicity and a rather sparse “to do” list…

  9. nicole says:

    I have read that book more than once, but have yet to implement any of it. I have been realizing my own reality of what I can and cannot do. I wish I could say it had to do with running a peaceful household, but it does not. It has more to do with what I can do outside of the home. I have finally learned that I do not have to attend every meeting, or every get-together, even when it is close friends. It is okay to be tired and want to stay home and hang out in my lazy clothes. It is refreshing to give myself that freedom. Now I suppose I will work on getting my house in order.

  10. Jennifer F. says:

    Thank you all for your comments — it’s SO nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

    Tausign –

    You were surprised with the time they spent on their… ‘main goal of the Order, working for the poor’. My own take is that it’s better to describe this as ‘their chosen apostolate’. The main goal of the Order would probably be described as ‘the transformation and sanctification of the Sister’s lives’….Mother Teresa taught and structured the sisters lives to love God deeply so that they could love the poor deeply.

    I don’t think that’s quibbling at all. I think you bring up an important point and really appreciate you pointing that out.

  11. Melora says:

    I’m glad blogging made the cut!

    Your schedule for the Missionaries made me laugh because I spent quite a bit of time yesterday making up a Beautiful chart for my childrens’ school schedule. Every minute between 8:30 and 3:30 is mapped out (of course the 5 yr old’s day is mostly “break time,”, and the 9 year old has breaks too, but I scheduled things like “2:45 – 3:00 Penmanship, 3:00-3:15 Memory work” etc., with no time at all for transitions. It will take a little more tinkering to get it right, I think, but your frantic missionaries rushing from one activity to another reminded that we(at our house) need structure in our day, but not frantic jumping from one activity to the next!
    You and your husband are wise to remember that the dust will wait, but the babies won’t. Ed caught me sitting at the computer the other day laughing and asked what was so funny. I told him that I had been reading someone’s suggested cleaning schedule, and that they actually had “polishing the front of the dishwasher” scheduled for one day every week!

  12. Sarahndipity says:

    Oh boy, can I relate to this! “Scattered and lazy” – yep, that’s me. :) I have a 3-year-old daughter, and a full-time job, and there’s housework and errands that need to be done, and I’m trying to become a successful poet, and there’s 5 million books I want to read, and I’m trying to spend quality time with my husband and my daughter and my family of origin and my friends, and then there’s my prayer life… I have a very hard time not trying to “do it all at once.” But you’re right, there’s only so much that one can do, especially at the stage in life when you have young children.

  13. maggie says:

    I’ve come to the same conclusion (can’t do it all) and I only have ONE kid. And I haven’t really submitted to it either. I try to do so much- mom’s groups, church stuff, visiting friends, planning get togethers, hosting parties and dinners, making sure family gets to see the baby (see how cleaning is nowhere on this list? My bathrooms are disgusting) and then I wonder why the baby and I are both so cranky. I LOVE being busy, but your husband is so right. I’m not exactly serving my family by doing all the things I think I’m doing for my family. The goal today? Go to the grocery store. That’s it!

  14. Stina says:

    This post is perfect for me right now. Thank you for making clearer how I can “deal” with my constant feeling of “failure.” I don’t know if I should let my husband read this post though…he’d say, “See, I told you so.” Thanks again!

  15. Sarahndipity says:

    Let me add that I’m quite impressed that you still manage to blog almost every day. I’m horrible about updating my blog.

  16. sarah e. says:

    This is just the advice I needed, and I can see that I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Roz says:

    Great thoughts, and a wonderful contribution from Tausign.

    A random thought: I read your post with a guilty thought of “Well, of course that’s how it is with small children, but I don’t have that excuse to get as little done as I do.” But I’ve grown to know myself more. For whatever reason, I tend to function at a lower speed than some (except when I turbocharge into overdrive just before guests come [grin]), and I guess that’s something I just have to come to peace with.

    I recently turned down an opportunity for what might have been a good job because it would mean a 40-50 hour week plus a significant amount of travel. I could do it, and the money would help, and I would probably enjoy it. But it would have a huge impact on my relationship with my husband and my spiritual life. It just seemed too expensive for me, since I thrive on having more margin around the edges.

    Wise move? Cop out? Who knows. But it seems like the best approach for now.

  18. Mary Poppins NOT says:

    Jen~

    I was at the “3 under 3″ stage about 11 years ago. Wow. And it is so good you are getting a handle on this now. I regret all the angst I had, and thus, the sweetness I missed, over “things I had to do”. I have had things to do every day since. That never ends, but my “babies” are now taller than me and the sweet chubbies are gone.

    Thankfully I have had four more children, and am learning to just let some of this go. But it is a constant struggle. Your insight as far as being reasonable in your expectations for the day, so as to keep your priorities straight is right on. I commend you!

  19. Anne Kennedy says:

    I was immediately put in mind of Amy Carmichael’s ‘Hem it with Quietness’ bit. Can’t lay my hand on the book (babies in the way), but the bit about the quietness of the dew, layering in and protecting the quiet, and the not being troubled and busy about many things. Off to hunt up the book to get the quote right. Its from ‘His thoughts said…the Father said’

  20. Arden says:

    Well, I am the mom to 7 children and I do it all, with one hand tied behind my back. O.K. ya’ll can slap me now.

    I often quote the old Clint Eastwood movie where he says, “A wise man (mom) knows his limitations.” It is so true.

    One myth I want to dispel is it gets easier when they are older. Not so much. They have their own lives and need rides and they sleep a lot. lol Then you have the little ones that still nap, need help with everything and go to bed early. Teens like to talk to you at night, late at night and little guys get up EARLY. I probably get less sleep now than I did with a house full of littles.

  21. Thea says:

    I just happened over here by way of Toddled Dredge, but I love your blog! This post was wonderfully focused, and was absolutely what I needed to hear right now.

    I will be back to read more, I can tell!

  22. Anne says:

    Thank you for this post. I read this book a year or so back and made beautiful full color schedules jam packed with productivity. I haven’t seen them since because for some reason they didn’t work (haha). Your post was a real eye opener for me. I guess I needed to hear that I simply can’t do everything I think I should and that’s okay. I remade a “routine” last night, giving lots of time for meals and clean up and mornings and bedtimes, something I always rushed in the past because I hated to “waste” precious time. Anyway, thanks for the adjustment to my thinking – it’s really a relief.

  23. Literacy-chic says:

    The trick is really to surround yourself with people who are LESS organized than you and then congratulate yourself on how well you’re doing!! What? Doesn’t everybody do it that way?? ;) LOL!

  24. Rebekka says:

    Do you think that maybe you might be undermining yourself by thinking of yourself as lazy?

    I too have thought of myself as lazy and disorganised for a long time, but recently have begun to realise that this is more a sign of being overwhelmed than lacking self-control.

    Reading this post helps me see that the key to me being overwhelmed is not some sort of innate stupidity, but that my plate is just too full. Thanks. (Again… All your posts are great.)

  25. Brittany says:

    Wow… so the MCs only get around 6-7hrs of sleep. That is really intense.

    After a day like that I do not think I’d have the presence of mind to do an 11pm spiritual reading! :-)

    We has a schedule somewhat like theirs (not entirely, though) and my new years resolution involves “drinking tea” every day, because I often feel I am so “work focused” that I forget the whole point of this life is to be “God focused”.

  26. Ginny says:

    Your life sounds like mine. I got A Mother’s Rule for Christmas, and hope to fit reading it onto my to-do list sometime soon. I am trying to do it all, get every nook and cranny organized in anticipation of going from 3 to 5 kids in a couple of months while homeschooling my special needs son. Please keep posting on this topic-this is my New Years Resolution as well, to get organized, let go of control-and have a peaceful home.

  27. Abigail says:

    Oh my, this post hits close to the bone. I’m not even close to recognizing that all the “not done” items on my To Do list are not a result of my personal laziness, but rather so many young ones in my household. “Blaming Mom” seems like an easier road than submitting that it may be many a moon before my life feels like my “own” again. Hope you keep us posted on this new tactic over the coming year!

  28. Tausign says:

    This post seems to generate unending interest. I wanted to post on something similar regarding my take on the ‘Catholic Mom blogosphere’. Thanks to this post I plunged in. I hope you and your readers have a moment to read; ‘Caught In the Catholic Mom Vortex’. The url is: http://tau-cross.blogspot.com/2008/01/caught-in-catholic-mom-vortex.html

    Peace and all good.

  29. el-e-e says:

    I hadn’t come to your site to read in so long – before the holidays – because of the same feelings of stress, and when will I get it all done-ness.

    Here I am in the New Year, feelinng refreshed!

    For myself, it’s meant STOPPING myself from making to-do lists. I know what needs to be done, and having long lists of tiny items waiting to be crossed off was just starting to be too much. This weekend my husband and I, list-free, accomplished more than we would have otherwise.

    I like that you want a gentle rhythm to your days. I hope you achieve it… but no pressure. :)

  30. Robyn says:

    I was directed here by my sister, Mile High Mama, and think I’ll stay. I’m adding your blog to my RSS feeds.

  31. TwoSquareMeals says:

    Thanks for this post! I am a perfectionist slowly learning to let it go. My house is messy now and I am actually sitting down to rest. That’s a big one for me. I have “Mother’s Rule” but have yet to read it. I’m inspired.

    I do often worry that all of this FlyLady stuff puts pressure on us to find a way to do it all happily and with no stress. I am learning to find what works for me, pray about finding a balance between laziness and proper priorities, and enjoy the moment. It is hard.

    Anyway, thanks for the post and the comments it has inspired. Looking forward to hearing updates!

  32. Andrea says:

    Excellent post!!

  33. Rebecca says:

    Goodness, I found my twin. :P Hubby and are both naturally lazy, and naturally… well… slobs. Almost every single one of my friends are neat freaks, so I'm constantly comparing myself to them. We don't even have kids yet, but I'm constantly trying to cram waaaay too many things into my schedule. Gotta let go.

    As I was writing this comment I realized something. I was just over at a friend's house the other day. I'm very good friends with her mother as well (who she lives with while she is in college). It just occurred to me that my friend's mother's house is not what one would consider neat or especially tidy. However, I never noticed it before now because when we go over there she makes us feel welcome. She makes being there so entertaining/fun/stimulating that you don't even notice the state of the house. She has thrown fun parties or hang-outs at her house since I was in high school. Her doors are always open. Sure, you might have to move a toy to sit on the couch, but who cares?

  34. meeks says:

    Guess what…you are probably right brain dominant. All those words you used…lazy slob etc etc, aren't you…they are just because you tend to think in a collective kind of way, rather than sequential (what is needed to get things done in an orderly way, rather than being overwhelmed at the collective task). You are probably creative and spontaneous and a go with the flow kind of person. They are all right brain attributes. I read a book called "Organizing for the Creative Person" by Lehmkuhl & Laming. It was so amazing to know the reasons I did the things I did, and that I wasn't alone (or faulty) and that there were ways to combat it!! All the best!

  35. Clara says:

    This post hit home! Sounds similar to me, except no children yet. I struggle to get everything done I think I “should” in a day and drastically underestimate how long it will take me to do a task…thus I am always in a state of near panic and constantly feeling overwhelmed.

    I will have to try the exercise you did with your husband. :) THat sounds useful! Because lately, what has been dropped the way-side in my schedule (which by the way is in my head, not paper) is me-taking care of me! No reading, no knitting, little socializing (except for work). I think I need to change this and ask God to help!

    Thank you for sharing this!

  36. Rebecca says:

    This is outstanding and really makes the point that we just need to zero in on God’s calling to us in our current stage of life and be faithful in that. I left my full time ministry job to care for our daughter at home after spending 2 1/2 years feeling like I was doing nothing well. It is very freeing! I know what I am about now.

  37. Carrie says:

    I had read this post before and loved it, and am rediscovering it again…I linked it on Facebook and just messaged a friend who had commented on it:

    This right here:

    ” When my goal changed to “bring peace to my household,” it became glaringly obvious that obtaining peace was going to involve sacrificing a huge chunk of my to-do list; that I would have to give up not only on the idea of being able to do it all, but the idea that I can do much of anything other than just keep diapers changed and kids fed and the toys and dirty dishes put away and have some quality time with the kids and free time for myself.”

    is so helpful for me. I think I’m going to put it up somewhere. I totally struggle under the weight of to-do’s…and I get so irritable and snappy when everyone CONSTANTLY interrupts my unending quest to feel like a better mom and wife because the to-do’s are checked off. I get disrespectful to my children and sassy and de-prioritize the things that are actually priority.

    “Bring peace to my household…” I really like that a lot.

    Thanks SO MUCH for this post, Jen.
    Carrie recently posted..HA!!

  38. Tara M says:

    Wow…this blog caught me in a moment where I am dealing with that exact tension. There is so much to do…and yet the world would not end if it did not get done. Thank you for your honesty in this post.

    I am a new reader…this is the first blog post of yours I have read and it realy connects with me. I look forwrd to more!

  39. Naomi says:

    Thank goodness I found this post and read it! I feel relief realizing that my expectations are way out of line. Maybe I could expect to accomplish just one thing per day outside of daily life with children…

  40. Nicola says:

    Thanks to Steady Mum for guiding me to this post – as an Australian Mum with two teenage boys, one who’s just left home – I’m still struggling with the same issue: trying to do too much with too few hours. Recently I discovered ‘The Pomodoro Technique’ (google it), downloaded the book and implemented the system he described. It’s an incredible reality check on how much can realistically be fitted into a day. So now I begin my days by taking half an hour to review what needs to be done and to make a plan. For each task on my list for the day, I estimate the number of ‘Pomodoros’ it will take (a half-hour slot that includes 25 mins of focussed effort and a 5 min break). I also estimate how many Pomodoros are available during the day for ‘work’ (structured/focussed activities). Sometimes there are only 4! This technique has taken most of the anxiety out of my days because I am developing more realistic expectations for what I can complete on any given day. It also helps me to be more present with whatever I am doing. And it reminds me to take regular breaks, including some longer ones where I breathe, stretch, walk outside or relax with a book. It’s early days for me, but I’m getting more writing done, procrastinating less (if at all), and feeling a lot more productive. There’s something wonderful about drawing five or ten or fifteen little boxes and being able to fill most of them with crosses (for each completed ‘Pomodoro’). I used to think I was lazy, as many of your readers comment, but now I realise I was just overwhelmed and that my anxiety and confusion paralysed me. I love the idea of drawing up a schedule like the one you quote from the Sisters of Mercy – including time for meditation and prayer every day. Or yoga and meditation before bed and morning pages when I wake, in my case. Thank for your honest and enlightening post.

  41. Lynn Hand says:

    You have so blessed me by this post.

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  1. [...] commentor Steve G. had some great thoughts to add to my post about bringing peace to my household, so I suggested that he do a guest post. You can see Steve's other guest posts here — scroll down [...]

  2. [...] Admitting that I can’t do it all…or even half of it [...]

  3. [...] vocabulary.) is sweeping the kitchen floor, and I might not even get that done.  And that that’s okay right now.  But I’m Me, I’m Type-A, I’m an organization freak and a perfectionist and a [...]

  4. [...] St. Benedict is one. He was known to rise in the early hours to recite the Psalms, a practice he eventually commended to his entire religious order. Even today many monastic orders wake up at 3:00am or 4:00am for communal prayer. Mother Teresa’s nuns, the Missionaries of Charity, are early birds, too. They start their busy schedule each day at 4:30am. [...]

  5. [...] St. Benedict is one. He was known to rise in the early hours to recite the Psalms, a practice he eventually commended to his entire religious order. Even today many monastic orders wake up at 3:00am or 4:00am for communal prayer. Mother Teresa's nuns, the Missionaries of Charity, are early birds, too. They start their busy schedule each day at 4:30am. [...]

  6. [...] told me that this concept is attainable. Especially after I started thinking about hard stops and balance and sacrifice, I became more convinced than ever that family life — even big family life — does not [...]

  7. [...] isn’t involved in 50 different activities; that the norms of our culture push us toward a totally unnatural pace of life…but you get the [...]

  8. [...] If it goes anything like it did for me, you might be surprised by just how far away from 24 your total is. It’s lesson 1,784 for me that modern life tempts us to put waaaaaay too much on our plates. [...]

  9. […] wanted to share this article with you for well over a year now, and coming across it again the other day reminded me of it. […]

  10. […] Check out the daily schedule of the Missionaries of Charity that I posted in this post (scroll down), and notice how it speaks of a life of balance and buffer. […]