I got an email recently asking how I “fit it all in.” Which is funny, because most days, I decidedly do not feel as though I am getting it all done–far from it. And I’ll say here as I have said before and will no doubt say again: when it comes to Doing It All, I can’t, I shouldn’t, and I don’t. No one can really do it ALL. It’s not really possible to achieve a balanced life by doing absolutely everything–and even if you’re able to get it all done, you’re probably not doing it all well. So let’s take that one off the table. I don’t think I should do it ALL, anyway. I want the work I do to be the best work I can do, and more importantly, I want the work I do to be work only I can do–which is to say, why would I spend my time working on something I know someone else can do better? Let them do it, get the glory and accolades they deserve for doing something they’ve been gifted to do, and then I have more time to focus my talents on the things I am gifted to do. Toward that end, I don’t do it ALL. I have a whole host of people in my life who make it possible for me to pursue the things I do and still get a realistic amount done: my husband, who is a great dad and is home for supper and bath time every single night, even though he is also self-employed and could stay at the office for weeks; my oldest child, who does the dishes every single night of her life (mostly without complaining) and relieves me of my most-hated household task; an every-other-week maid who takes care of most of the other non-tidying household chores; the amazing staff at the Whipstitch shop–Diana, Elle, Theresa, Holly, Laura and Melanie–who bust their tails every day making it beautiful and welcoming you and shipping orders and taking care of tasks so that I don’t have to be there seven days a week (or even two days a week); my editor, who keeps my writing in line and on track for publication; the teachers at my children’s schools, who make sure my kids are taken care of and loved and learning while they’re there during the day, which gives me more time to get things done on my end. There are a whole pile of people I could thank–and so could you, because even if it’s just the dude who bags your groceries each week, if we’re paying attention, we’ll realize that none of us are really alone. How awesome.
Having said all that, I did do a “day in the life” post way back for Made By Rae. I’d actually forgotten about it until Rae was in Atlanta recently and mentioned it–and the alarming level of detail I included in my original email to her which she was obligated to edit down to a reasonable size. Thank heaven she’s a former scientist, too, and realizes that it’s hard to shake the habit of recording every single detail. That post is a little out of date, since we’ve moved twice since then, so just for fun, I jotted down details about my day last week to share with you–every day around here is a little (and sometimes a lot) different from the next, so it didn’t seem to make sense to do an “average” day. This is one specific day, with some rambling about what else might have happened.
NB: I have been told that when people hear about my schedule that it makes them tired. I guess I understand that, and at the same time, I don’t feel that way. I mean, I go to bed tuckered just like everyone else, but I guess (1) I figure lots and lots of people have busy lives, so mine isn’t really that different outside of the details, and (2) I like my life, so even if I wasn’t doing these things, I’m sure I’d be doing something, and don’t miss the things I don’t do in order to do the things I love.
Read on for a startlingly detailed account of a day in my life. If you want.
This is a Day in Our Lives
6:30 am: The children wake up and come into our room, one by one, for a snuggle. The youngest has to be fetched, so my husband gets up and brings her from her crib after a couple minutes of her calling, “Daddy!! Daaaaaadddy!!” from her room across the hall. We all hang out in the bed until the 3-year-old starts kicking and the baby sits up and pipes, “EAT!” Then it’s time to head to the kitchen for breakfast.
7:00 am: The children get oatmeal with raisins and milk most mornings, because our very scientific study has proven that they’re jerks if they don’t get some protein in the morning. Cold cereal will not cut it–they need something that sticks to the ribs. One cup of quick oats, a handful of raisins, and two cups of 1% milk in the microwave for four minutes, then divided between three bowls. They all clean their bowls.
7:15 am: While the kids are eating, I sneak back to the bed and get under the covers again. My husband, who is already bathed and dressing, chastises me for not getting a move on. He’s right, but it’s still irritating. I’d rather go back to sleep.
7:30 am: I look at the clock and do the math, realizing I have to get going if I’m going to get the kids to school on time to get back home when I need to in order to get the rest of my day started. So I collect clothing for the two youngest and head to the living room to get them dressed. I run into the #2 child in the hall and send her to her room to choose her own clothing–at nearly-six, she’s plenty old enough and does a pretty good job. While I’m getting the littles dressed, I check in with our oldest, who is packing her lunch and getting ready to head to school on her own. She needs to stay after school to see her adviser, so I give her permission to come home late.
7:42 am: I begin the never-ending hunt for shoes for these creatures. No matter what system I introduce, somehow at least one shoe is always, always missing at a crucial time, and since we’re raging cheapskates, none of our younger children have more than two pair, which makes one missing shoe an issue every. single. day. I wander the house, rounding up the kids, who have run off after getting dressed, and corral them toward the den again. I locate the missing shoe in the formal living room, under the coffee table.
7:52 am: I make lunches for all three younger children: sandwich, yogurt, Goldfish, fruit. I gobble down a hard-boiled egg that my husband has made for me when he made himself a couple for his breakfast. I kiss him as he heads out the door to his car. The kids all holler, “BYE, DADDY!!” which never fails to make my heart beat faster (for real, I’m not just putting that in there, I really do love it when they do that).
8:03 am: The youngest and the next-to-youngest are squabbling over which of them will ride in the car seat in the very back of the minivan. This is my own fault, for letting the youngest sit in her brother’s seat when he’s not there, which means she now thinks that’s OK to do all the time. Some wrestling ensues. It’s a physical act to squeeze every small body into a seat that is securely fastened. The five-year-old buckles herself, and watches the scene with disinterest.
8:07 am: We pull out of the garage and head to the children’s schools. The kids call for Mary Poppins on CD for the 99 millionth time–it’s a copy of the soundtrack that my oldest got when she was little, and rediscovered during this most recent move. She played it for them in the car when my mother was visiting, and now we can’t seem to shake it. Only our son and I are tired of it–everyone else thinks it RULES. I hum “Spoonful of Sugar” sometimes in my sleep.
8:32 am: We arrive at school for the two middle ones, and I walk them to their classrooms. Our son goes into his room with nary a look back, as does our daughter. We seem to the be the only family who doesn’t have to wrestle with tears at school, for which I am insanely grateful.
8:37 am: I’m back in the car with the youngest, driving to her preschool next. While the other kids are at school until 3, she’s not yet two, so her school ends at 1 pm. It’s a whole lot closer to our house, though, so I drop her off on the way home. We start Mary Poppins all over again on the drive.
9:02 am: We arrive at the youngest’s school, only two minutes late. They loooove her here, which is awesome, but I don’t think they love me as much. I am the mom who never writes her name on the diaper (but we never have a marker that isn’t dried up!), and I always see their looks and interpret that as disapproval. Which makes me think, “Why don’t they just write it on there, then? It’s not that hard!” Meanwhile, I’m sure they’re thinking, “Why can’t she just write the name on the diaper? It’s not that hard!” We are at an impasse. I sign the baby in and head home.
9:07 am: I arrive home, park in the garage, and head inside. First stop: a real breakfast. I have some store-brand granola (“Healthy Cereal!” it says on the box) and some plain, non-fat yogurt. I tried that Greek stuff, and it had more protein, but didn’t taste as good. And I used to do the vanilla because I hated how the plain tasted, but with the vanilla you might as well be eating ice cream for all the health benefits it gives you, so I learned to appreciate the taste of the non-fat plain. And I hate to say it, but now I prefer the plain. It bugs me when the dieting experts are right, but there it is.
9:10 am: I’m checking email while eating, seeing if there are any fires that need to be put out. There’s a note from a prospective student at the shop, so I forward that on to Elle. There is a notification from the bank to deal with, a couple messages from customers to forward to Diana, and some items to flag for “later,” a mythical time in the land of email that never seems to come. The rest is junk, so I delete it. I finish eating breakfast while clicking through my Google reader and looking at what everyone’s been up to.
9:30 am: I take a shower and get dressed. Mostly, while showering, I think about what needs to get done and do some mental prioritizing. I also have some imaginary conversations with people, mostly to work out anxiety or anger, so that I won’t have to have actual conversations because when I say things out loud in the shower I realize how ridiculous I sound and it saves me from having to say it in person and make a fool of myself. I spend the last few minutes while I’m washing my hair spending imaginary lottery money. Math can be fun. After I get out and get dressed, I take a load of laundry to the washer and put it in, then take the clean stuff out of the dryer and take it to my room, to be folded later.
10 am: This is when the bulk of my work takes place. I finish editing an e-course post and get it up, with a couple snafus along the way (my video server was down and I couldn’t get the video uploaded, so I had to figure out a workaround, and by the time I did, the server was back up, which wasn’t a problem except that I lost 45 minutes of my day). Once the video is up on the server, I edit the text for the lesson and make sure the accompanying PDF is working correctly. I post the lesson live, then remember to email my students with an update. I have some emails to write to my in-person students, too, so I write and send those, along with some replies to send from folks who’ve written asking questions about current classes. I respond to some comments on my e-course, and then write a reply to someone who has sent a very kind email about Stitch by Stitch. I congratulate myself for having turned over a new leaf and doing such a good job keeping my communications current; then I admit silently that I don’t think it will last.
11:48 am: The phone rings and it’s the hospital where our son had his dislocated elbow treated last November. They’d like to argue about the bill–again–while I work to convince them that no matter what code was used on the ER form, this was, in fact, an actual emergency that deserved to be treated in the emergency room. They do not enjoy the argument. They also regret that they called me right before lunch. I feed the fish while she “checks her records.”
12:15 pm: I have some lunch–a sandwich and some cheese crackers. Big glass of ice water with half a lemon squeezed in it. I eat while checking Twitter and responding to tweets. I check my email, again, in case I’ve gotten something really cool or someone else has magically cleaned out my inbox–either one would be fine by me.
12:30 pm: I set up some quick photos for the blog, and shoot those in the last minutes I have before I have to pick up the baby. The light isn’t perfect, but I’ll fix it in my editing software. I check my email one last time. For fun.
1 pm: I pick up our youngest at school. She blows kisses to her teachers and waves good-bye to all her little friends on the playground. She insists that I pick her up and let her drink from the water fountain, which I do. We listen to Mary Poppins in the car on the way home. Again.
1:15 pm: We walk in the door and baby heads straight to her bed for a nap. Well, straight to her bed AFTER having a graham cracker and sipping some ice water, all while I hold her, just shy of tapping my foot and saying, “C’mon, kid, we don’t have all day!” She gets in the bed but doesn’t want to lie down: “I sit, Mommy!” I close the door and she says, “See you later!”
1:20 pm: I sit down to polish off edits for my next book, which are due basically any second now. There are a lot of little things to go over, and I don’t want to miss anything. My big fear is that this one will come out and I’ll hear the dreaded sophomore jinx: “Well, it’s not as good as the first one.” So I want to be super extra careful here. I scribble away on paper, then transfer those to something more coherent in a doc file.
3 pm: I have to wake the little one to get in the car and pick up her brother and sister, which I really don’t like to do. But since we’re already late every single day–I’m supposed to pick them up at 3, but I’m usually leaving the house at 3–I really can’t let her sleep any later. We drive to the school and traffic isn’t too bad, thank goodness–the alternate route we rely on when there’s a wreck on the highway takes twice as long. I get our son first and our girl second, since I used to get our girl first but she asked me to get our son first because “I like it when everyone is here to see me as I come out of my class!” We get in the car and head back home. There is a wrestling match over the back car seat. I finally get fed up and move BOTH car seats to the back, and then they don’t like that, either. I buckle them in and wash my hands of the whole thing.
4 pm: We arrive at the grocery store. I refuse to give up any of my precious child-free hours to do things like fold laundry or shop for food, so it all gets done in that after-school no-man’s-land between 3 and 6. The two little ones ride in that cart that looks like a car, which handles like it’s rolling through caramel and corners like a semi truck, but has plenty of room; the 5-year-old walks/wanders/touches things. We get a week’s worth of groceries, including a frozen pizza for Friday night and another bag of chocolate chips for cookies: I have somehow convinced my eldest that she is allowed to bake cookies for us if she’ll also cook dinner. And she bought it! Friday night is totally my favorite night of the week.
4:45 pm: We arrive home, just in time to greet my oldest as she gets home from school. I put away groceries while the little children terrorize one another in the living room. At one point, I have to go stop the boy from stepping on the baby’s head as she lays on the floor. The five-year-old fibs and says she had no idea what was going on. I send them all to their rooms for “quiet play,” which I know will only last a few minutes, but it’s worth it. I take the opportunity to start supper–we’re having meatloaf and “nummy,” which is what the kids call the creamed corn casserole my mom gave me the recipe to make, along with green beans and some salad, which the two littlest ones won’t eat. I get the baked items in the oven and set the timer.
5:15 pm: At which point I realize I haven’t put up a blog post for the day, so I fix that real quick using the photos I shot earlier, then beat myself up for not doing it sooner, followed promptly by reminding myself that the blog should be fun and not give me angst. So then I beat myself up a little for letting myself get anxious about the blog. Then the kids come out and want to play again, so I let them. I try to distract them by leading them to tidy the playroom and pick up their toys and put away lunchboxes while I dash around the house tidying up before supper–putting jammies back where they belong and finding stray crayons and Legos and Thomas trains and stuffed animals in the most unlikely places. The peace lasts all of 45 seconds before I cave and sit them in front of “Arthur” while supper finishes cooking.
6 pm: My husband has arrived home from work and changed clothes, so we all sit down to eat. We don’t have a dining room table, and if we did, I’m using the dining room for my studio until the basement gets finished, so we wouldn’t be able to eat there, anyway. Instead, we eat at the short table my mom rescued from a Baptist church Sunday School auction, sitting in those little kindergarten chairs and trying not to let food get into the cubby compartments that are filled with construction paper. My husband and I work hard to fill one another in on our days, in between guiding our young people to a life with better table manners. Ahem.
6:20 pm: I have to scoot and get to the shop to teach a class, so I kiss the babies as they finish dinner. While I’m gone, my husband will bathe them and read to them and get them to bed around 7 or so. Our oldest child will wash the dishes and clean the kitchen (I hope). I hit the highway and check my traffic app on my phone to decide which way to drive so I don’t get stuck behind a wreck.
6:50 pm: I arrive at the shop, only a tiny bit later than I usually would, and greet my class. Diana is there, so we catch up with what projects she’s sewing, and what new fabrics have come in, and which customers she’s seen lately. She shows me pictures of what she’s sewing at home, and I try not to shop for fabric. I repeat to myself: “I do NOT need more fabric.”
7 pm: Class begins, an Intermediate Sewing class with some really lovely ladies. We’re making a ruffled half-apron, and they are killing it, they’re so awesome. The whole class flies by, because no one hits anyone else or needs a diaper changed, and they all have actual opinions and ideas that don’t involve refusing to do anything I tell them. It’s a nice break to talk to other educated women outside of my home about things that matter to them. It helps balance some of the mom-ing I do the rest of the day.
9:30 pm: Class ends and the ladies leave. I give in to the temptation and cut some fabric for myself, and ring it up along with a new book and some notions before locking up the shop and setting the alarm.
10 pm: I get home and sit with my husband for a minute while he finishes up his work for the evening. I leave him to shut down his computer and get his things set up for the next day and walk down to our bedroom, where I realize I have left a whole load of laundry on my bed that needs to be folded. I briefly struggle with wanting to move it all to the bench/floor, but then I realize we’ve been doing that for days and days and it’s really time for me to get it folded. So I fold a little laundry before he gets to the room.
10:30 pm: We brush our teeth and floss side-by-side in our jammies, which strangely is just what I always imagined marriage would be. I climb into bed and read a single chapter in Game of Thrones, which I picked up a few weeks ago at the grocery store (on markdown!). I’m really enjoying it, but only let myself read it at night before bed, so I get one or two chapters at a time. I think that’s working out for me, though, because it means it’ll last longer. My husband comes to bed, checks his phone one last time, and we turn out the lights. There is brief hand-holding before we fall asleep.
Seriously, this all really happened. Some days I don’t have a class in the evenings, and others I do have a class from 10-12:30, but other than that, it’s about like this. We’re creatures of habit, and I love that I have the privilege of making days like this my habit. Hopefully this answers some of those questions about how I do it all–the straight and short answer being that some stuff never gets done, some stuff we do super fast, and other stuff we carve out the time to make it happen. How about you? What techniques do you use to fit in the things that you want to keep at the top of your priority list? I’d love to hear about them–I can use all the help I can get!