Words by: Tanyell Cole
“WHAT?!” “Are you serious?” “…and you homeschool?” “I don’t know how you do it.” “You are a superwoman.”
These are the typical responses I get when someone asks me how many kids I have, where they go to school, and what my husband and I do for a living.
“How do you do it all?” they ask. My answer is simple: I don’t.
The truth is that balance is an illusion, a false reality, and an unrealistic goal sold by motivational speakers and coaches. There’s no way for me to “balance” everything going on in my life. Here is what I do instead.
When I am working, my attention is 100% focused on my business. When I am schooling, I focus my attention on schooling, and so on. Whatever I am focused on is what has my attention. To try to find balance would mean spreading my focus evenly across everything that I have going on. In my experience, this isn’t realistic. How do I know? Because I have tried and failed at doing it.
Accepting that balance will never be part of my life freed me to relax, have more patience, be flexible, achieve more, and just enjoy life. It also has saved us tons of money with less burnt meals and takeout. The best part has been learning how to manage it all. So, how do I do it?
Here are the four keys that I use to manage my busy life in the midst of all of the roles I play: Self-care, Setting boundaries, Using a schedule, and Establishing Modes
Self-care is so important. If I’m down, everything is down. I remind myself of this every single time I go into a “selfish” mode. Self-care requires a bit of selfishness, which is a dirty little word that us mothers shouldn’t speak of, right? Wrong. Whenever guilt creeps in, I simply remind myself that self-care allows me to not only nurture myself, but to take care of others, too.
I have created clear boundaries around the things in my life, especially my time. Knowing what my boundaries are makes it easier for me to decide if something is worth being flexible enough to accommodate making it happen. Enforcing my boundaries also makes it easier for people to respect my time and my “modes.” More on what “modes” are in a bit.
Using a schedule
I try to schedule everything. If it’s not on my schedule, then it doesn’t happen. Having a schedule not only helps me stay organized, but also helps me remain firm with my self-care and boundaries. If my kids have an unscheduled event come up that requires my time but doesn’t align with my self-care or boundaries, then I will say no.
There was a time when I tried to be “Superwoman” and do all the things, be all the things, and give all the things, and I found myself running on empty. I thought I was balancing the universe by running here-and-there, doing this-and-that. In reality, I wasn’t balancing anything; I was neglecting myself and other important areas of my life.
A “mode” is a mindset shift trick that I use to make sure that I am managing my time appropriately and giving my focus to what matters.
For example, “teacher mode” is used during school time, where I will turn off my phone and not discuss non-school topics. “Wife mode” is used for nurturing my marriage, not for discussing work or the children, and so on. Sometimes “modes” collide because life happens, but once I’m able to pivot back to the “mode” that requires more of my attention, I do. Overall, my goal is to limit distractions in order to be present with whatever requires my attention at the time, not to balance my time. There’s a difference.
While balance seems like a goal of many, for me, striving for it causes more harm than good. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough, giving enough, or aren’t being enough. As a woman, business owner, wife, homeschooling mom of 12, and everything in between, I give myself large amounts of grace and take it one day at a time, accepting that balance is something that I will never have. For me, using a combination of the four keys, plus a lot of grace, beats out striving for balance every time.
Tanyell Cole is a wife, mom of 12, author, and owner of Jumpin’ Jellybeans Boutique Play Space. She has homeschooled for 15 years and will graduate her first homeschooled Senior this year.
Tanyell is an advocate for relaxed parenting and adoption and believes in living the S.N.O.B. life (Strongly, Non-traditionally, Organically, and Boldly) everyday. Follow her on her blog, Instagram, and YouTube.