(This is a revised version of a post I originally wrote when my now 6-year-olds were toddlers.)
I don’t think parents of multiples or military families or single parents or working moms are unique in needing to answer this question repeatedly. I suspect all parents get it, because seriously, parenting is a hard hard job. It’s physically, emotionally and creatively demanding, and, although its rewards are incomparable, there are days it’s a thankless slog.
So, how do I do it?
My 2-second answer to the question is, “I do the best I can.”
My 20-second answer is, “I prioritize, and I lower my standards. I figure out what really matters and what’s necessary. Then, I let everything else slide. The kids and my job need a level of attention that cannot be compromised. I have to care for myself enough so that I am mentally and physically healthy enough to manage those things. Everything else has to fit in around those top priorities.”
Here’s the long answer:
My priorities are clear. In order, they are:
- The kids’ immediate well-being
- The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
- My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
- The kids’ relationships with their family members who don’t live with us, including their father, stepmother and stepsisters
- A healthy diet for the family
- My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
- Friends and remaining family
- Community participation
- Housekeeping and home maintenance
I look at the balance of my life in two-week chunks. I might not get to cleaning, talking to relatives, exercise, or even reading with the girls, every single day. I may go a week without making a meaningful contribution to my community. Within each 14 day period, though, each of the areas I value should have had some attention, in proportion to their place on the priority list.
How do I fit this blog into my life? Well, blogging helps me work through the most challenging questions of the day, reminds me that the kids are the primary reason I even try to achieve balance, and keeps me connected with the amazingly supportive and smart community of parent bloggers. Priorities 1, 2, 6 and 8 addressed in one fell swoop. Again, the 14-day balance helps me stay on top of things. I don’t write nearly as regularly as I publish. Some days, I’ll have three things to talk about, and I’ll publish the extra drafts on days when there’s a gap and I don’t have the time, energy or creativity to come up with a timely post.
Here’s the big secret. I don’t do it all. On a given day, I either don’t sleep enough, don’t clean enough, feed the kids junk like mac and cheese and hot dogs, don’t shower, or don’t take any time to sit and breathe.
So, how do I do it? I don’t.
Sadia is a recently divorced mother of 6-year-old twin girls, M and J, having spent 8 years as an army wife. They live with three cats in the Austin, TX area, where J and M attend Spanish-English dual language public school and Sadia works at a large university in information technology.