Balance

How do you achieve it?

Seriously.

I feel like there is just never enough time to do everything I need and want to do.  I keep looking at my life in my head and wondering what I can cut out.

The Town Book Club?  I’d rather not.  It’s my only connection to this little town, I enjoy the social interaction, and it is the freaking only place I can go that isn’t at least a 20 minute drive.  I can’t put into words how refreshing it is to have somewhere to go in the evening that doesn’t involve prolonged trips through corn and wheat fields.

The Church Book Club?  Again, I’d rather not.  I enjoy the social interaction and being able to discuss books with others who approach a lot of themes with a similar perspective.  Plus, it’s how I make friends. 

Homeschool?  Let’s face it, if three of my children were gone most of the day things would be much more manageable around here.  That, however, brings me to another question:

How much time do you other homeschooling moms actually spend doing school with your older kids?  Because, honestly, me?  Not so much.  If they have a question about something I explain it to them.  If they have an assignment that needs checked I check it (but they can check lots of their work on line or in the teacher guides that come with the curriculum).  If they need help setting up a science lab I help them.  Other than that, they pretty much do their work on their own, and this causes me no small amount of guilt.  However, they are learning what they need to be learning (I do keep track of what assessments they are passing, which is almost all of them), and I have no idea how I would actively present each lesson to each child when I have three children working on three different grade levels.  So, what do you all do?  Should I be feeling all this guilt?  And please don’t misunderstand, it’s not like I don’t interact with the older kids at all, because I do.  They frequently come to me throughout the day, and if they haven’t asked for help lately I ask them if I can help in any way, all while I am doing very hands-on teaching with Midge, who is doing kindergarten, and trying to keep the baby alive and Tank Boy happy.  It is chaotic at times.

Anyway, back to wondering what I can cut out.

Homeschool?  At times this seems like the most logical choice as far as freeing up my time, but I still am not convinced it is what is best for them

House Cleaning?  Well, it’s not like I’ve ever been one to devote lots of time to that in the first place, so I don’t see how I could possibly cut down on it, unless we hire someone, which we aren’t doing.

Which brings me to the final thing that eats up a large portion of my time:

The computer?  I’ll admit it, I’m an addict.  First thing every morning I check my email accounts and my blog.  If I’ve been out somewhere, the first thing I do upon returning is check my email and blog.  Throughout the day I am reading blogs and checking news and checking email and, yes, checking my blog.  What can I say?  I love the comments.  Plus, after years of being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, blogging is the one thing that has really helped me feel not so isolated from the rest of the world.

I keep thinking maybe I can just cut down on the number of blogs I read, but wow!  How to decide which ones to drop??

So I’ve been pondering this and pondering this for quite a while, realizing that something has to give so that I can fit in the things I need to fit in but haven’t been (regular scripture reading, more book reading (I have a stack almost as tall as I am of books I want to read, have bought so that I can read, but haven’t read yet), researching for the book my friend R~ and I want to write, etc.); and as I’ve been pondering this I’ve thought repeatedly about a lesson I’ve both seen and taught at church many times.

My Mormon friends will probably recognize this one:  You get a jar of some kind, some large rocks (like a-bit- smaller-than-an-egg sized), some pebbles, and some sand.  The jar is your life.  The large rocks are the most important things in it.  The pebbles are the other important, though less so things, and the sand is the stuff that is fun but not really a priority.

If you put the sand in the jar first you won’t be able to get everything to fit.  If you put the pebbles in the jar first, you’ll be able to make more fit, but still not everything.  If you put the larger rocks in the jar first, then the pebbles, then the sand, it will all fit.  The pebbles will naturally fall into spaces around the larger rocks, and the sand will fill up the rest of the space, if it goes in last.

So rather than just cutting things out, first I need to try prioritizing.

If I’m being totally honest with myself, most of the time (not all, but most) that I spend in front of the computer is sand.

The plan for now is to spend some time making a list of things I should be doing, want to be doing, and actually am doing, and then prioritize everything.  Once that is done, I need to give myself some boundaries, like “No blog reading until I’ve done a., b. and c.” or “No email checking until after I’ve done this, that, and the other.”  You get the picture.

That is the plan, but still, what do you do?  How do you manage, or at least try to  manage everything?  And, most importantly, am I the only obsessive email checker out there?

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.

20 thoughts on “Balance

  1. You are not the only obsessive email checker out there. It’s sad, but email and blog comments make me feel like, “Yeah, someone wants to talk to me!- someone who doesn’t call me Mom!” What a pitiful life I’m living. Do ya think just maybe I need to make time for some IRL friends?? lol!!!

    I’ll be stalking your comments because I’m in exactly the same boat and would love to hear the answers. My life is a constant struggle with finding balance. If you’re successful at making yourself wait to check email or blogs until you do a, b, or c first, let me know how you managed it, because I’m not so great at that, either.

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  2. I’ve never homeschooled but I know several families who do. All of them do exactly as you do–let the kids teach themselves and help out when needed. Sounds good to me.

    I too spend way to much time checking my emails and blogs. Maybe check them once a day? Or twice a day? Pick a time and stick to it? I dunno. It sounds like it would work, but I’m not going to try it. But I should. I lack discipline when it comes to wanting to feel good about myself, and getting emails and comments make me feel good. Don’t you hate NOT getting comments? As good as it is to see that someone likes what you have to say (or not) and takes the time to write it down, it’s really hard when, after several days and several posts, all you here is crickets.
    As for balance? I have very little me time. I’d love to finish my novel–I’m so close–but I’m so tired at the end of the day. It’s good that you take time for yourself, Elaine. REALLY good. Don’t skimp on that one.

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  3. Oh no, I never obsessively check email (she says, clicking back to the inbox window to hit send/recieve for the 300th time today). As I blogged the other day, I’m trying to get my priorities straight, do things that need to be done before sitting in front of the computer… but still, if I have an empty hour, I’ll pick blogsurfing over all the other stuff I could be doing every time.

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  4. I really only allow myself to check my email/blog once in the morning for about 10 min. and then when the kids are asleep and I’m grabbing lunch. I may be on then for like an hour. I really think my computer time is important for a SHM like me, though. I really do feel connected to some of you guys, like Michelle said, it’s like what I say matters to someone. Sometimes this is the only adult, outside connection I may get in a day. Although the computer time is a luxury, I think it helps me keep my sanity and gives me a much needed laugh.

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  5. You say “they are learning what they need to be learning.” One of the things they are learning is to work independently, which will be of enormous benefit to them for the rest of their lives.

    I occasionally wonder how I used to do all the things I no longer find time for, then I think “aha, computer.” It is epedimic. No, it is endemic.

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  6. I am totally obsessive about checking my email and reading blogs. A lot of times I feel guilt over what I should be doing instead, but it gives me a connection to the outside world that a lot of times we lack as sahm’s. I am trying to find that balance also-you aren’t alone.

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  7. I do much of what you are talking about. My girls at 2nd grade are finally able to do some self-learning and am I ever thankfull they are both doing 2nd grade!

    Of course, my blog has suffered because of it. One post a week stinks, but my house is in better order and I am happier so it counts for much. As I get into the habit, I know I’ll have more time for the sand-type stuff. Meanwhile, no matter what the important things are getting done! This last week I had quite a few days that I didn’t get to email until 10 PM…crazy, but so much going on and something has to give sometimes.

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  8. Ok, brilliant suggestion here…all you have to do Elaine, is get the iphone;) Hahaha, but no, seriously, hear me out. You’ll never have to sit in front of your computer, shaking kids off your legs again. YOu’ll be able to periodically check in with the online world without leaving the tummy time mat, or whatever.
    I’ll admit, I haven’t left a comment in awhile because I have pretty much cut-out reading blogs for the same reasons you mentioned. My life has to be my priority right now. But when the stars align adn all my kids are sleeping at once, I do stop in and visit my favs (yours has always been one).
    But for real…the iphone. Changed my life.
    Course, there’s always the opportunity to then be TOO connected, since you could check in constantly from wherever you are. Hmmm, just don’t do that, then it’ll be the perfect solution;)

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  9. I can so identify with this post. I was just thinking TODAY that I am seriously going to set limits with myself on the computer. The sand/rocks thing is perfect. Must do rocks first! Thank you for that…I do better with visuals. I also really like the iphone idea!

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  10. I totally recognize the rock story. We use it in teacher trainings and in our work experience class. 🙂

    I’ve been so swamped and overwhelmed lately I’m trying to prioritize and organize too. Making deals with myself doesn’t work a whole lot – not for me, personally. What has started to help me a bit better is focusing on organizing. I allot time for everything, including the relaxing time stuff like checking blogs.

    Okay. You may think I’m crazy for this, but this is what I have started to do – a lot of this based on a time-management seminar I took because I was feeling too overwhelmed.

    I have 2 calendars, one physical day planner calendar that is a week-by-week one, and a calendar on my phone/computer. The physical calendar I keep open at my desk, and it of course lists every appointment, everything due, every birthday, everything. The phone/computer one has the same thing, but with little alarm things on it to remind me of things coming up.

    I also have a journal that is divided into three to do lists, based on both things that have a deadline and things that are general things that have to get done. One section is for work. One section is for personal/home. One section is for crafts/creative stuff (this last one is more for my own sanity, which is what the trainer suggested in the time management seminar – for her, she said she keeps her last section with a to do list of books to read and music to download).

    At the beginning of the week I sit down and create a goal list of things I want to get done that week. I also create six post it notes (I don’t include Saturday – that’s family errand day) writing down exactly what needs to get done each day in order to complete everything that I need to in the amount of time I have. When the day is done I check it over and make any adjustments needed to the remaining post-its to complete my goals that week.

    I also include time to comment on blogs or email. I do both in batches. I flag the emails I need to respond to. I also cut down on the blogs that I comment on. I still keep bloglines/google reader to keep up with all the rest, but I have a folder in my bookmarks for blogs that I want to REGULARLY comment on (which I narrowed down from over a hundred to 26; much more managable). I still keep up with the other blogs and comment from time to time, but I set aside time, like now, to go into the blog folder and visit each one to comment.

    One of the things I like is that if something happens to throw a wrench in my schedule, I still know exactly what’s going on and how to adjust.

    I’m crazy, right? 🙂

    Oh, and the email thing. Um, yeah. I always have my email open, and have it connected to be on my phone. So – right there with you on the obsessive.

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  11. oooh, good topic.
    My goal is to spend less time on lessons actually. I strive to be in your shoes! I can NOT balance as long as I have to teach every single lesson. So we are getting there, slowly but surely. And no you should not feel guilty at all.

    As for cutting things, I have had very similar thoughts lately and I also realized internet was the only real area I could cut down (not out!) and I like the sand analogy. I got an iphone and when I’m not sick in bed like this week, it helps a lot. I can check email and blogs and get my fix when I am wasting time waiting at gymnastics, etc. I can fit ALL my email and blog reading into those spare moments which means what i use my computer for is just photography/photo editing/scrapbooking. Works MOST of the time but it is very hard to type on that phone and so I still save some emails and blog posts for when I have time at the computer or it would take me a year and a half and lots of typos just to share my thoughts. As you can see…this is typed on my computer because otherwise it would have been one line long with insane typos.

    I think I’ll take your tip and start prioritizing my time on the ‘puter too. I have some projects I have not even touched because they are big and it is just easier to read a blog instead.

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  12. Right now this is easy for me…quality time with friends and family, long walks with the pup, books and lots of them, neighbourhood chats over the fence. I know it won’t be nearly as easy once little Benjaminh joins the family. Blog reading is a pebble for me right now. Not a tiny little one but a good sized pebble. House cleaning on the other hand is sand. Sad but true. These are just 2 examples of “time fillers” that will likely chage places with the arrival of a wee one (I hope cleaning becomes a pebble…but it has been sand for so very long…).

    I can imagine the struggle. I agree that you can’t eliminate those out of house adult experiences that you so enjoy as they provide balance. I’ll be reading to watch how it is done with a half dozen kids and pet babies as well. Then I will try to be successful with one of each when my time comes.

    Soon, I hope,
    b

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  13. it seems many of us are in the same boat…
    for me it comes down to selfishness- yup, there I said it…
    Am I going to justify the messy house and the insane kids just b/c I “need” to check email and read blogs…
    yeah, this post is totally convicting to me…
    What I really struggle with is the all or nothing- I have done seasons where I “fast” from computer stuff, which is great while it lasts, then I get right back to the place where I am now… obsessively checking SO AS TO AVOID ALL THE OTHER STUFF….
    I really want to be disciplined in this area….ho-hum….

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  14. Ah yes. The elusive “balance.” Let me know when you find it. 🙂 I too am a compulsive e-mail checker. I’m not too bad about my blog yet, because not that many people read it. If you really do keep up with a hundred blogs as you said in an earlier post, that may the problem. When I read someone’s blog, it feels like I’m “keeping in touch” with them. Kind of like a phone call, but more passive. I was all set to say that you should prioritize your blogging the way you prioritize friends. Some people you have to talk to every day. Some, every week, once a month, at holidays, etc. But then I thought, “She is totally blessed to have found that many people she cares enough about to want to keep up with their blogs!” I’m just a big fat enabler…

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  15. “obsessively checking SO AS TO AVOID ALL THE OTHER STUFF….”

    Totally me. Yikes.

    Oh and re: the school stuff. At M.’s school, I know that they are mostly on their own, and the teacher just checks their work and occasionally gives them a new lesson. And it works great there…and I also agree with the above poster re: the whole independence thing. Heck maybe I should be homeschooling, we could save a boatload. But then I couldn’t obsessively check blogs and e-mail. lol

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  16. Homeschooling three older kids myself, I can tell you, the “mom” part of the workload gets less and less. I understand the guilt, and at the same time, I’m guilty because I’m relieved it’s gotten easier. I have a senior, a freshman, and a sixth grader. I really don’t have to spend that much time with the older two. The only reason I spend so much time with the sixth grader is because he’s the kid you have to stand over to make him do his work. I think in all I probably spend about 10-15 hours a week working directly with them. And, that’s only because I’m a control freak and I actually sit and read their textbooks and ALL of their assignments.

    I understand the sand. It’s 12:30 am and I’m here on the computer. Why? One, because I don’t sleep. Two, because it makes me feel connected to the world too. I’m not in the same situation you are. I also work 20+ hours a week outside the home. But, my connections with the world are on the net. I too check when I get up and before I go to bed and numerous times in the day. Prioritizing the computer time is hard when it’s your window on the world!

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  17. Being a day late getting in on this conversation, it’s already been established that you’re not the only one struggling with the computer. One of my greatest worries (and silliest) is how I’ll keep up with my friends online once the boys are home. It causes me real stress at times, but every once in a while, I’ll have a string of super-busy days and I live my life completely outside of the online world. I consciously make note of how much freedom and true life experience I’m missing out on by being so plugged in. Then I slow down a bit, check my email and wonder how I’d ever live without you guys.

    In my heart, I feel like God is numbering my online days. I know I have other work to do in my family, in my church, in my neighborhood, and in my community, including getting involved in social stuff like your book clubs or a Bible study. I agree that most of my online time is ‘sand’ and I know it’s a problem because I try to hide how much time I spend on reading and commenting on blogs from Keith and the girls. I always have homeschool planning or Quicken open in another window so I can make a quick switch to look like I’m working. Oy. Nobody buys it. “My name is Gina and I’m a blogaholic.” Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, so I guess I’m on my way.

    As for homeschooling, Annie and Susie are very independent because of their ages and maturity, but I still plan their lessons with them, answer their questions, help them study or quiz for tests, and keep up with their progress. I don’t feel at all guilty because I really believe that so many homeschoolers are such creative and willing learners because they’ve learned to wrestle a subject to the ground until they own it. They’ve learned HOW to learn and that’s what learning is all about. So we’re okay for now, but what about once the boys are home? We do a lot away from home and I drive somewhere everyday–homeschool choir, homeschool band, voice lessons, university classes. I try to run errands based on the part of town we’re in during their classes and since I don’t want the boys to be Carschoolers, I’m really going to have to use our home time to focus on the boys. Which brings me back to the computer. Ugh.

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  18. What a great plan, please keep us posted on how it all works out and I loved the analogy. I am about to get eight extra hours a day to my day and I want to be able to prioritize!

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