Photo by Mark Klotz
Kelly is American and lives in France with her three children and handsome French frog of a husband. She blogs about frugality for the rest of us at Almost Frugal, frugal food at Almost Frugal Food, and blogging at Pretty Your Blog. She is a fulltime graduate student in marketing and, in her spare time and fuelled by strong coffee, she sews baby blankets for her Etsy shop.
Living life today means juggling many hats: as a person, a professional, a spouse, a parent, a friend, a volunteer. Sometimes the different roles come together smoothly; sometimes bringing it all together coherently takes more of an effort.
I have a busy life by anyone’s standards. I have three young kids, a husband who works full-time and several volunteer commitments. I’m also a graduate student in marketing and I maintain three blogs. There’s a lot on my plate.
I am often asked how I manage to ‘do it all’- how I juggle the many commitments of my busy life. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy. Sometimes things get overlooked. I often go to bed later than I would like. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater. But I get so much meaning from each of the hats I wear that it’s definitely worth the high-flying juggling routine.
Here are my three guiding principles.
1. Playing by the rules.
These rules are not of the external variety, although of course I obey the law and slow down stop at stop signs. My rules are the rules that I signed up for when I accepted each new role or hat. For example, when I got married, I agreed to love and cherish my husband – playing by the rules means that I put energy into furthering our relationship. When I enrolled in school, I committed myself to furthering my education – playing by the rules means studying hard and doing my homework in order to learn as best I can.
Playing by the rules reminds me of what is really important in my life. Of course, it’s easy to get overextended without other tools in your pocket. Which leads me to…
2. Taking turns.
Everyone takes a turn. One of the most important things that I have learned in the past few years is that I am not the sole person responsible for making sure that my life runs smoothly. Other people are here to help, and I have to need to accept, as well as ask for, that help. My husband is just as capable of loading the dishwasher as I am, and going along behind him and reorganizing his work just because “my way” is better is both demeaning to him, and a waste of my time. I am not the only volunteer in the organizations for which I volunteer, so if I want to be as good a volunteer as I can be, I need to work with the others, not on my own.
Trying to do everything by myself is only an exercise in frustration. I get frustrated because I have to unload the dishwasher before cooking dinner, but I also need to jot down notes for tomorrow’s presentation. Meanwhile, the kids need to take a bath, the phone is ringing, and my head’s going to explode. Instead, to each his own – I am the only person capable of writing down the ideas for my schoolwork, but my kids are able to set the table or start getting ready for their bath without me. And other things, while they need to be done, don’t need to be done right away.
While I juggle many different things, some things are more important than others. My family comes first – so I make it a point to dedicate the evening to them. Once the kids go to bed, however, it’s a different story. Then I plunge into my schoolwork, start a load of laundry, read the mail, and prep the next day’s dinner. Similarly, my school work is also high on the list. So I work during our lunch break, and I also use my half hour commute by tram to catch up on my reading. By not trying to do twenty things at once, I do each thing better than if I tried to multitask.
Folding the laundry, on the other hand, is not a priority. I’m happy to let things sit in the laundry basket until the weekend, and I don’t mind wearing wrinkled clothes either. “Life’s too short to iron” has always been a motto of mine, and my current situation has only served to confirm that.
Here are some tips for you:
• One of the most important skills to master is the art of saying no, without which all your careful prioritizing, turn-taking and playing by the rules will be useless.
• Ask for help – don’t expect the people in your life to be able to read your mind.
• Get stuff out of your head. As Tsh on Simple Mom says, recording your obligations actually helps you to be more productive, since you no longer have to remember every little detail.
• Play to your strengths. The way a presentation looks is important to me, and I design them well. So in group presentations, I set up the slide set and write down the others’ ideas.
• Don’t expect it to be easy all the time. It’s not always smooth sailing, one hundred percent of the time. Going back to school, at the beginning of September, was a big adjustment for me and my family, and not without a few bumps in the road.
Each of the hats I wear represents a part of me. I am happiest when I am able to wear them all. My priorities will be different from yours, however- and you need to figure out yours on your own.