Above is a collection of pictures Tate drew me last week. It’s a series of four; Things Mom Does. She’s in her crayon period.
(And just so you know, that’s not me playing Atari on the bottom right.)
It speaks into the many things on my plate; the perpetual balls I’m juggling in the air at any given moment. A few weeks ago I got this Facebook comment from a reader:
It’s a great, honest question. But the part that speaks volumes to me is Delina’s quip, “Tell the truth.” I see a theme prevalent in our post-modern parenting culture — not so much that we can or should do it all, but that we should do what we can with our individual finite limits, and call it a day with our expectations. And if we hire outside help, we’ve somehow failed in a basic area of Homekeeping 101.
Do I have help? I absolutely have help, and I’d love to tell you about it. So do lots of other bloggers and writers, and I think there’s absolutely, positively no shame whatsoever in parents who choose to enlist outside help for their myriad tasks.
If you can’t tell, I have an opinion on the matter.
What I do
First off, let me tell you that currently, my “only” help is my husband, Kyle. But he helps a lot. We’re both blessed to work from home, so we share the parenting and household workload. I’m going to share my specific work schedule next week, so stay tuned for that.
But yes, he does a lot, and likewise, I do a lot to help him with his work. In essence, everything we do is “our” work. We love being together as a family, so we pursue most things as a unit. We have almost all three meals together, we clean the house together, and Kyle and I change about the same amount of diapers daily.
Along with having a regular contributor each Wednesday on the blog, I also have a virtual assistant who organizes guest posts, moderates comments, and responds to HARO requests, and Mandi Ehman also serves as the network’s ad manager. I’ve delegated these things so I can focus on what I love best: writing. Even with that, I only publish actual content on Mondays and Fridays. Weekends serve for a blog sponsor’s giveaway or links for you to explore.
What I’ve done
When we lived overseas, we could more easily afford regular house help. A good friend of ours worked in our home twice a month, helping cook, clean, and babysit. It wasn’t often, but on the days she was there, I was able to plow out a lot of work. Plus, she did a lot of the deeper-cleaning tasks such as windows and floors, so I could cross that permanently off my list during the season I was inordinately busy.
And while I wrote Organized Simplicity, I had a mother’s helper come two mornings per week so I could write. Close to my deadline, she came three mornings. I retreated to our bedroom to write, and she was in the rest of the house with the kids, occasionally taking them to the park or for a walk. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.
What I’ll do
This fall, I’m adding homeschooling to my plate. I’ll probably also start slowly on my next book, and Kyle will be starting a new position with his work. One of my first goals when we arrive in Oregon is for me to find a mother’s helper — there’s no way I can manage otherwise.
I’m hoping for a high school girl who can come over about three times per week (and if she’s homeschooled, perhaps she can do mornings) to help with caring for the baby, taking the older two to the park or to after school activities, and to generally help out around the house while I write.
SLM is also at a point where we acknowledge that to take it further, we’re going to need to devote more man hours to keep it growing healthily. I can’t really devote more time than I already give, so this means Kyle will take on more responsibilities. He’s already doing a lot, but he’s up for rolling up his sleeves for more. As revenue grows, he’ll be more able to justify spending more time on it. Our goal is for it to be our family’s main source of income in a few years.
What others do
I’d love to help dispel the myth that my fellow pro bloggers effortlessly run a successful business while taking care of perfectly-groomed children and an immaculate house. Here’s what others have to say:
• Kat of Inspired to Action says, “I just hired a house cleaner. I only have her come once a month for a couple hours, so it costs about $30. …While I doesn’t necessarily save me a lot of time (only three hours) the emotional boost of not having to do my most disliked chores gives me more energy to pour into the things I do like to do.”
• Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home says, “I have a mother’s helper who comes over one afternoon each week. She watches the kids and does some light housework (vacuuming, mopping, etc.) while I go to a local coffee shop to get in a few hours of uninterrupted writing. Occasionally, during seasons when I’m feeling really overwhelmed, she’ll stay an extra hour or two, or come a second afternoon.”
• Meagan Francis of The Happiest Mom says, “I almost always have some kind of outside help, but it varies depending on our situation and my current workload. For example, in the fall and winter I was busy finishing up the book and working on some other assignments… We had a sitter about 8 – 10 hours a week at that point. Now Jon is home almost every Wednesday and often another day during the week, too.”
• Mandi Ehman of Life… Your Way and the new ebook How to Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too says, “I have what I like to consider ‘inside’ help, since my husband, Sean, is a stay-at-home dad. I worked at home full-time out of necessity for more than four years without any outside help, but it wasn’t easy. We rarely left the house, and my kids watched more TV than I would have liked. These days, when someone asks ‘how I do it all,’ I tell them the truth: I don’t. I don’t change diapers during the day. I don’t make breakfast or lunch. I don’t do dishes, vacuum or mop. So, yes, I have lots and lots of help, of the very best kind!”
Sherry Petersik (and John and Clara) of Young House Love
• Sherry Petersik of Young House Love says, “[My husband] and I both work on the blog full-time as well as being full time stay at home parents, so that basically means that we switch off when it comes to tending the blog, doing house projects (that we then blog about) and taking care of our one-year-old daughter Clara. We usually tackle projects together while she’s napping or asleep for the night. And during the daytime one of us is on Clara-duty while the other is on blog-duty. It’s kind of crazy but somehow it works!”
• Lisa Byrne of The Well-Grounded Life says, “Right now, we are back down to no outside help, but for the past six months I hired a sitter to watch the kids in my home so I could work for 15 hours a week. This really allowed me to hit the gas and go into high productivity and content creation mode. I’ve found I’ve had to be loose and flexible around the ‘seasons’ of my business, in order to allow for the seasons of my family’s needs and of the availability of help we have.”
• Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky says, “As soon as I signed a two-book contract, I hired someone to come twice a month and help me clean. Without that help, my floors would never get mopped, my house would never be dusted, my mirrors would never be windexed and I would be a general ridiculous mess. I do not homeschool my kids, so I’m able to write while they are in school.”
• Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship says, “I use a 12-year-old mother’s helper for about 2.5 hours a week, every Tuesday morning while my older child (of two) is in kindergarten. I work like a madwoman to try to get so much done while she’s here!”
• Melissa Michaels of The Inspired Room says, “There is NO WAY I could do all I do by myself. Being a full-time blogger and pastor’s wife at a start-up church, I am busy all the time. My blog is our main financial support at this time, so it is imperative that I keep it going! I have to delegate, and really should delegate even more than I do… I have two college-age daughters, one of which has become my blogging assistant several days a week. While I still do all the writing myself, my oldest daughter helps me tremendously with organization, research, creative input and even setting up posts for me. …My husband does almost all of our housekeeping, much of the shopping and meal prep, a lot of our errands and takes our 10-year-old son to and from school every day so I can keep up with my growing business. …I also have three different people who help me at various times work on coding and maintenance of my blog behind the scenes. I am certain I would blow up my blog without that support, and I could not grow my business without that network of support.”
It’s this: Many, many people use the help of other people in their lives to thrive. If you read a blog and you wonder how on earth that person is able to do X, Y, and Z, I guarantee you they probably have additional help.
I know I’m convicted after reading my friend’s lifestyles. I acknowledge that I need more outside help than I currently have.
Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites
My friend and SLM colleague Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites says, “I currently function with zero outside assistance. Note I said ‘function,’ not thrive.’ Six months ago I felt like I was maxed out, yet since then I’ve taken on several more writing gigs and other side commitments. Duties at home don’t fade away when I take on more work, I just get spread thinner than a sheet of strudel dough. I realize that it is not healthy, and am looking into options for getting some help.”
Jen Schmidt of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam told me, “Every professional blogger comes to a crossroads in determining what outside help if any, is necessary. It was eye opening for me to find out that many of my good blogging friends had virtual assistants (sometimes two or three), cleaning ladies, and mother’s helpers come to their aid. I remembered thinking, ‘You don’t do it all?’ What a encouraging revelation that was for me.“
If you want to run a business or blog outside the home, realistically understand how many hats you’ll have to wear to keep it running. There is absolutely ZERO shame in asking someone else to wear a hat or two several times per week.
If you can’t yet afford outside help, lower your expectations and pile on the grace for yourself. You’re not made to do “it” all — no one is. Be gentle on yourself, yet acknowledge that it means you’ll need to work quite a few hours to keep your business running. I’m right there with you right now.
And if you’re an avid blog reader, rest assuredly that no one has her act completely together. If reading blogs discourages you, it might help to know that the professional blogger you love most likely has help from somewhere.
I was going to end with this thought, but Meagan Francis said it so well, I’ll just quote her instead (she also wrote a fantastic post last week on the subject):
“I used to feel really weird about ‘outsourcing’ certain parts of my life to outside help. I had this idea that MY mother did it all, and all the generations of women before HER did it all, and therefore I should be able to do it all, too. Then I started paying attention to the housewives in the 18th and 19th century women’s fiction I love, and realized — wow, all those women had help! And not just wealthy British ladies, either: people of all classes, even the tough-as-nails (and not rich) pioneer women often had a girl in the kitchen or sent out their ironing.
“I have come to realize that being an efficient homemaker isn’t about doing everything yourself — it’s about managing the home and all the tasks that go along with running it. That means knowing what makes sense to do yourself, and what you either don’t enjoy or don’t have time for so you can delegate.“
Do you have outside help? If not, would you like some? Where can you look?