Work Life Balance Project

August 23, 2011

The questions I find in my inbox the very most are always about work life balance. What does my day look like? How do I make time to blog? How do I do it all? The answer: I don’t do it all. I think doing it all is a myth. But I do know a few tricks. So today, as part of my ongoing 5th Anniversary celebration, I’m launching a Work Life Balance Project.

Like many parents, I’ve become an accidental researcher on the topic through trial and error, and by studying what seems to work for other people. I’ve decided to write up some of the things that have struck me. As part of the project, I’m intentionally making them easy to share. Each thought is constructed in less than 140 characters and I’ve included a hashtag (#WorkLifeBalance). If you read one that strikes a chord with you, hopefully it will be easy for you to share on Twitter or Facebook (or wherever it is you do what you do).

The term #WorkLifeBalance is probably not exactly right, but it’s as close as I could get. By “work” I’m thinking of the sorts of projects we do outside of parenting — PTA meetings, a job, scrapbooking, etc. By “life” I’m thinking of relationships and family time. Of course, there can be some overlap, this is just the general thinking on my part. Some of the thoughts will lean more toward Work and some more toward Life.

To be clear, these are things that have worked for ME. They may not work for you at all. Some you’ll agree with. Some you won’t. That’s definitely okay. This is an important topic and the more thoughts and ideas we share, the better. The thoughts are intended to spark conversation and discussion and I hope you’ll add your wisdom to the mix. I love being intentional about how we live our lives and design our days.

You can find my first five thoughts on the topic below, and I’ll be adding more as I go. If you have something you’ve learned (that you can condense to 140 characters or less) and you’d like to share, please do. Please, please! I’ll add my favorites to the list.

 

1) Doing it all is a myth. Doing what you love is the goal. #WorkLifeBalance

No one is doing it all. If it looks like they are, it’s a mirage. On days where my blog is really good, that means I spent a lot of time on it and had to let something else go. Usually it’s the housework. : )  There’s no point in doing it all, the better goal is to spend your day doing things you love.

 

2) It’s okay to ask for help. If you have a parenting question or if you need an extra hand, ask someone. #WorkLifeBalance

Ask for what you need. Don’t assume people will know. Your spouse doesn’t know what you need. Neither does your mom. Neither does your sister or your best friend. If you need help, ask for it — and be specific. There’s no shame in needing help. Everybody needs help.

 

3) As parents, we joke about sleep, but it will make or break your day. Make it a priority. #WorkLifeBalance

Everything is better when you’ve had enough sleep. I know it seems impossible, especially when you have a newborn, but do whatever you can to make it happen. Trade babysitting with a friend and use your free-time to nap. Skip your favorite TV show and get to bed as early as possible.

Different people need different amounts of sleep. I do best on 8+ hours. If you’re the same, after the newborn stage, get serious about helping your child sleep through the night. Not everyone is comfortable letting their baby cry it out, but it worked wonderfully for our family. I use this book as a reference for sleep-training.

 

4) Multi-tasking creates poor results. Do one thing at a time and do it well. #WorkLifeBalance

Sometimes it can’t be helped — we’ve all made dinner and had the baby on our hip at the same time. But when possible, do one thing at a time. Play with your child, then let the child play on their own (or with a sitter) while you do your daily tasks. Put down your phone when it’s family time. Wait until your kids are asleep to start that new project. Twenty minutes of uninterrupted, concentrated work is far better than an hour of trying to do 5 things at once.

 

5) Manners matter. Be nice. Play nice. #WorkLifeBalance

If you send that snarky email, it will only create more work (and a headache) when you have to manage (and obsess over) the aftermath. Just be nice instead. If you do something rude or mean, apologize as quickly as possible.

 

I’d love to hear your take. Is this sort of thing helpful to you? Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts? Do you have your own wisdom to share?

P.S. — Ben Blair took these photos behind the scenes during our French Greys Family Portrait . By the end of the photo session, sweet June was worn out.

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{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah G August 23, 2011 at 5:22 am

I think one of the reasons why you’re so successful is that you’re so fantastic! I agree with everything you’ve said, especially the last point. You’re a very graceful busy person and I have a lot to learn from you. It’s easy to get caught up with the hurly burly, but it’s important to stay calm where possible, and take a moment to be grateful for what you have.

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2 Angela Noelle August 23, 2011 at 5:35 am

For me (and I’m still learning!), one of the most important things I attempt to remember is to “Accentuate the Positive” – whether a day is filled with drudgery or beauty is largely determined by what we choose to see in the moments that make it up. We’re also less inclined to seek sympathy for our daily balancing act and instead be passionate about what we choose to spend our time doing.

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3 Design Mom August 23, 2011 at 6:25 am

That is so true, Angela! I love your thinking.

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4 kpriss August 23, 2011 at 5:39 am

First – thank you for sharing. And doing it so gracefully! It’s always nice to know some of the people I’m looking up to, like you, are not that perfect (cue – not doing it all, all the time)! It makes me feel better about myself and what I can, and can not do.

As much as I would like to say I love to improvise and take every day as it comes, I really require some serious planning – we have four kids under 7, the youngest just 10mths old and every day I end up being mad as the proverbial Mad Hatter since I don’t get to do everything I want.

From the kitchen chores to doing laundry or scrapping the toilets (what? don’t you? come on…) to attending to every kid’s needs, it’s a mad race against the time. I came to understand that I cannot do it all and I made peace with myself and my limitations. Being nice and carrying, helpful and teaching the kids this and that is one of my main priorities. Cooking for the entire family just got easier as, growing up, the kids ask what they wish for their next dinner (breakfast, you name it).

Anyhow, I made this longer than I wanted to – bottom line – like you said – better do what you love than anything / everything else. Your inner balance works miracles on the way you handle your day, your chores and yourself after that. Do what you love! (try to find something you love and also share it with the kids – we have these diy projects where they all get to do or watch and I get to fill my do what I love tank for the day).

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5 Amanda August 23, 2011 at 5:39 am

I especially love that last tip! I think it’s one many people wouldn’t think of in relation to a work/life balance.

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6 Louise August 23, 2011 at 5:47 am

I just think you are brilliant, too!! And I’m looking forward to the discussion on here about this.

There are a couple of things I say to myself when I am trying to manage my life! The first is ‘begin with the end in mind’ – every morning I try and think to myself, what one thing do I want to have accomplished today / taught my child today? If I can fill that goal, then I will feel like I have done something, which is valuable to my pysche! Of course, I think that mantra is helpful for the bigger picture of life, too.

The other is being aware and appreciating the season I am in, in my life. There are things I can do now that I won’t be able to do later, and it’s about making sure I do the important things pertaining to that season right now.

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7 Design Mom August 23, 2011 at 6:28 am

The idea of daily mantra is appealing to me. Very cool!

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8 Sarah August 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I love this Louise! I also like to have a few daily/weekly goals in mind when I wake up every morning. I aim to have one for each area of my life — a parenting goal, a fitness goal, an intellectual goal, a relational goal, and a spiritual goal. They can be, and most often are, very very small — reading one chapter of a book, going for a short walk around the block, making sure to take a few moments to really connect with my husband, exploring the backyard with my little one, etc. Like Gabby said, you can’t do everything, and so I like to keep my goals simple and attainable.

My husband and I also have some larger personal and family goals that we chat about every few months. It is great to revisit them, decide if they are still important, talk about ways to help each other achieve them and how we can set daily goals with the bigger picture in mind.

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9 Tasha August 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

It’s funny to me that so much of discussion about child rearing/family fits into my love of work, teaching! In the classroom nowadays I often feel I cannot do it all – especially with more demands and my school taking on a new curriculum (that we are writing as we go!), etc. I usually decide to really focus at some point of the day/entire day my attention on one particular child. I keep a mental list of those with current needs and try to give them what they need:) I always pray for patience on my way to school, too!

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10 teresita August 23, 2011 at 6:04 am

I totally agree with everything, and those are rules for me too, mother of four, wife, teacher, blogger, and writer. What is key for me is to write everything down, and with priority in a busy day. But I don’t feel bad if I can’t finish it, I know i’m doing my best when I look at my happy kids enjoying a comfortable loving home. That makes me and my husband happy too.

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11 Marcia Francois August 23, 2011 at 6:07 am

Oh, I love this post on so many levels that I’m going to try hard not to gush :)

I coach time management and you’re saying (more eloquently) things I say all the time.

Love how you talk about focus vs multi-tasking and on a physical level about sleep. One of the first things I work on with overwhelmed women is their sleep. It seems counter-productive when people want to put those “time management strategies” into place but it’s amazing the difference in productivity and general happiness.

Also, VERY cute pics of you and sweet June – Ben Blair was very clever to get these.

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12 Design Mom August 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

Ben Blair takes photos that make me feel pretty. A great quality in a husband! : )

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13 Marcia Francois August 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

A very important quality in a husband – you do look very pretty in those pics :)

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14 Laura Mayes August 23, 2011 at 6:13 am

I love this line: “being intentional about how we live our lives and design our days.”

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15 Melissa L. August 23, 2011 at 6:27 am

These are all important tips/reminders. I especially relate to #4. I used to think that multitasking was productive, now I view it as more work and less quality. For me, it is difficult to be intentional and focused when my mind is going in five different directions. Also, without the proper amount of sleep, I feel depressed and so, so scattered.

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16 'rachel August 23, 2011 at 6:27 am

Excelent! I am so glad you are dong this.

I’ve done the others naturally but #4 is my downfall. It has lead to more chaos and unfinished projects and unhappy children and spouse than any other things in my life. That day in the Denver airport you said something similar to rule #4 to me. It has been taped to my fridge ever since. XOXO

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17 Ashley August 23, 2011 at 6:56 am

Love the project and I could definitely use all this advice! Please keep it coming! Thanks!!

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18 Jan @ Family Bites August 23, 2011 at 7:01 am

This is a great series! I’m so glad you’re doing this.

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19 Dee Britton August 23, 2011 at 7:03 am

Gabby, I am a first time visitor to your site and I love it. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading additional posts. I am doing what I love as I too have taken 12 months to travel around Australia with my two teenage children and my husband. I have been guilty of trying to do it all and be super mum but am in the process of creating a great team around me to do the things that I don’t love.
Thanks for being a shining light.
Dee xo

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20 Christina August 23, 2011 at 7:03 am

That photo BB took could win a contest! Oh the tears and yet the consolation. Motherhood and the beauty of life!

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21 Ann August 23, 2011 at 7:03 am

Wonderful post! We’re big Weissbluth fans over here, too. I’m grateful we read it before our first one arrived. It helped managed our expectations about sleep — or rather, lack thereof — for the first 6 weeks and gave us some hope that things would likely get better from there . It also helped us identify sleepy signs so we could get baby down before he got over-tired.

People can have strong feelings about sleep methods so I normally don’t offer my two cents, but if they ask, I enthusiastically tell them about Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.

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22 Ayme August 23, 2011 at 7:07 am

I’ve always loved that you’ve been honest about achieving balance. You make it look so easy, but it’s good to know that we’re all working on it.

I’ve gotten a LOT better lately about a very rhythmic schedule. Even down to meals (Monday night is sandwiches, Tuesday night is soup, etc.). Simplifying my life equals more time left for me.

My biggest tip is to say no more often. No to all those extra activities. No to TV. No to more stuff. More peaceful time at home is more nourishing for us and leaves me with lots of free time.

Great topic, thanks for sharing! :)

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23 sharon August 23, 2011 at 7:16 am

gabby is a gracious employer too, lol, I love her family, dont want them to go back to America !!!

Good tip about sleep, I think everyone is crabby when they dont get enough sleep, no good trying to work, when all you can think about is your bed!!

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24 Noemi August 23, 2011 at 7:19 am

My problem is that i always make lists and when I don’t finish them, I’m upset. I know it’s wrong and everything can’t be done that you write on your list. I’m a perfectionist and it’s not all the time good. I have to learn this step-by-step. Not everything has to be perfect. As you said I have to find the balance too.

You post is great and I agree with you a lot. I especially like nr. 2 ask for help when you need it. Many moms forget this but I think it’s very important to ask for help when you need it.

Your post reminded me a wisdom quote from Catherine Pulsifier:
“Looking back at the times where I allowed my work to create stress and frustration in my life, I now realize what I thought was important really was not. I am not saying you should not take your work seriously; what I am saying is that we need to realize that life is all about balance.”

Thanks a lot for sharing your opinion with us:)

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25 Sarah August 23, 2011 at 7:19 am

Thanks Design Mom! Great tips! I totally agree with the one about focusing on one thing at a time. It’s too easy to multi-task 50 things badly.
Your last tip brings the old addage “you win more flies with honey” and I’ve always found that to be true!
One of my personal favorite words of wisdom: occasionally delcare a Mommy Mental Health Day. What that means is you ONLY do the essential most important things. No phone calls, turn off the computer, don’t do any chores (you do have to feed the children…but don’t clean up if you don’t have too! Use paper plates) DO play with the kids, DO sit and read a book, DO take a nap when the kids are. DO have pizza for dinner. I always feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle everything the next day!

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26 Giulia August 23, 2011 at 7:26 am

The magic of sleep! Oh how I’m glad that most nights I get enough now that our youngest is 2.5…it has made a huge difference.
I agree fully with your tips, I particularly like the ‘be nice’ one. That is what I like so much about your blog, you are positive and happy in what you write about…there is so much negativity to be read and seen that I really appreciate it.
I still have trouble not wanting to do ‘everything’, particularly as the things non kid related take a back seat…that’s just my impatiens and having kids has taught me that sometimes I just need to wait :)

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27 Sherri August 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

So much of what you say here resonates with me. I have four kids – I am a freelance writer – and I do a lot of volunteering, which means I have little time for the cleaning, the me time (including like… dentist appointments). Hubby is a busy creative director for a marketing firm (of course, there are no regular hours there), AND he coaches soccer, does consulting work, etc. so… we really have to manage it all. Sometimes, just taking a deep breath and listing what needs to be done is helpful. It was good for me to read your words and apply some of these simple details to my day…. Puts it all in perspective, ya know?

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28 Meagan @ The Happiest Mom August 23, 2011 at 7:57 am

Oh, I love this series! From years of balancing a writing career with my family of 5 kids, have a couple of my own “rules”:

There’s no such thing as perfect balance. Prioritize, be flexible, & make the most of the day you have in front of you. #WorkLifeBalance

Keep both a “someday list” and a “to-do” list. One is long and all-inclusive. The other is streamlined and short. #WorkLifeBalance

Do fewer things. Do them better. #WorkLifeBalance

Do the things that matter first. Fill in “extra” time with the rest of it. #WorkLifeBalance

Don’t try to be some idealized version of a successful mom. Be the mom you are. #WorkLifeBalance

Thanks for starting this discussion Gabrielle!

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29 Victoria August 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

Someday list and a to – do list! Love this idea.

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30 Giovanna August 25, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Love this Meagan.

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31 Alicia W. August 23, 2011 at 8:05 am

Great advice! I will be thinking about it as I go about my responsibilities today!

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32 bp August 23, 2011 at 8:13 am

Oooohhh!! I love the pictures! And great idea, too! :D

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33 Mrs. Kate B. August 23, 2011 at 8:14 am

The first commenter described you as a “graceful busy person,” and she is so right. I find that so inspiring. Also, I *love* work/life posts from parents, especially parents with large families. I am really looking forward to reading more of this from you, in particular (and I also love reading “daily diary” kinds of posts too, hint, hint :).

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34 Roxanna (miguelina) August 23, 2011 at 8:22 am

I have to admit that I sometimes wonder how you “do it all” — thanks so much for sharing this, you’re wonderfully real. Every single piece of advice is so simple and yet so true — that’s how the right answers usually are, right? Simple and true.

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35 Heather B. August 23, 2011 at 8:33 am

I have major work/life balance issues. Especially since I have ‘two’ jobs. The 9-5 one and then the one where I write about my feelings and politics and whatever else on the Internet. And it’s hard. I admire all of my parent friends for just being real about how there is no doing it all as that would be next to impossible.

In other news: That last photo of June broke my heart. Don’t make the baby cry!

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36 sarah August 23, 2011 at 8:40 am

this is a fantastic post, especially for me since i’ve been struggling with working from home (as a marketer), being a mom, taking care of the house, etc. all of your suggestions are great, and i had a few things that i use regularly that have helped a bit:
- make lots of lists–i keep a weekly to do list, along with daily ones that have the tasks broken down. sometimes i even calendar tasks to make sure i get them done. i have procrastination and time management issues, so this has helped me stay on task.
- if you can afford it, don’t be afraid to get outside help for your children if you work from home. i found that with my toddler at home with me i absolutely could not get enough work done, and i also never felt like i was giving him enough attention. so i enrolled him in daycare part time, and it’s helped immensely (not to mention the fact that he LOVES the socialization, which helped eradicate any guilt that i had).
- my husband and i have worked hard to split up tasks so that neither feels put-upon or like they have to carry most of the burden. it takes a lot of constant communication and there are break-downs at times, but for the most part we make a wonderful team and it helps both of us feel like we’re invested and helping one another.
- i think a lot about priorities. i have to consciously work on prioritization so that if and when i do give up one task in favor of another i know that i won’t suffer in the end based on my decision.

it’s still a constant and daily struggle making sure things stay balanced, but my step-mom gave me some of the best advice i ever got when going off to college: aim for total balance, understanding that you’ll never actually achieve it (very few people do), but when you actively work towards it you’ll get a lot closer than you otherwise would have. basically a better way of saying that no one’s perfect, so give it your best and don’t beat yourself up too much!

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37 Maria Ortiz-Cintron August 23, 2011 at 8:50 am

Thank you so much for this post! I really appreciate your comment on multi-tasking being more of a hindrance than a positive. So true. It’s clear that focusing on one task at a time and giving that one task the time, attention and nurturing it deserves is the best and most productive way to honor our work, our time and our efforts! I am SO looking forward to hearing more from you on the topic of Work/Life balance!

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38 The New Diplomats Wife August 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

very relevant – and all good reminders!

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39 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag August 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

Love the post…but I really love YOUR HAIR! Looks fab! Very Nine d’Orso! I want a long side bang like that. :)

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40 Erin {i can craft that} August 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

My daily monta is “You are not being graded, so there is not such thing as failure” So many of us moms feel like we are going to fail and that we need to do it all but there is no grading standard so you cant fail and to add to that “Sometimes surviving the day is the greatest goal” forget housework and great meals, and all that. just keep the baby happy and survive it. Dishes will wait for you (forever)

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41 liz August 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

I’m just so happy to learn that you require a full night of sleep like the rest of us! I keep hearing about Martha Stewart-types that only need 4 hours or something and I think, how is a normal sleeping person supposed to compete with that? Of course, it isn’t a competition, but we’d all like to be as productive as possible, right? Thanks for making life with a pile of kids look so appealing online — I have 5 and I often interact with people who I can tell think I’m crazy. And I love you for tip #5, which would have been number one on my own personal list. Kindness, after all, is the only thing that really matters.

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42 Kristen August 23, 2011 at 9:45 am

AMEN! Amen to all of these. Thanks, Gabby, this is just what I needed to be reminded of this week.

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43 Erin August 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

That last pictures is so tender! It is such a real-life moment in your day as June’s mother! I think Ben Blair captured that moment of motherhood perfectly. How many times have we instinctively soothed a crying baby, or offered comfort to a crying child, without realizing it as the beautiful act it is? Powerful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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44 Jennifer Hill August 23, 2011 at 9:50 am

before i had a child i asked a dear friend how she ran her own business, was a wife and a mother… how did she do it all? she said “I’m not doing any of it particularly well.” It made me laugh and understand that you have to cut yourself a break and things will come in and out of priority.

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45 nicole August 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thanks, Gabby. I’m a new mom and struggling to do it all: commute to NYC for work, take care of my 5 month old, launch a boutique event planning company and be the best mom/wife/friend/sister. Your post helps remind me what I need to focus on. Honestly, thank you.

Nicole

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46 jan August 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

great tips – i always forget not to multi-task – : ) thanks for this!

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47 Mags August 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

Funny timing — I just happened to come across this quote from Emma Thompson yesterday, which echoes your first tip pretty closely: http://pinterest.com/pin/130734462/

I think it’s really freeing to understand that you can’t have everything all at once — and, what’s more, it would be sort of crazy-making if you did. It takes some of the pressure off to do it all, now, at the same time; and instead lets your prioritize, think about what you really want and in what order, etc.

Thanks for starting this conversation!

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48 Erin R August 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

Love this! I very much agree with #3! Sleep is so essential, and I feel like I can accomplish so much more, and do it with a smile, if I’ve had a good amount of quality sleep. (I admit I’ve been a co-sleeper kind of parent, but now that my 5th child is 3 and I’ve had my bed to myself for a few years…It’s heaven!!) Asking for help is also great….for years I never wanted to ask anyone for help, proving that I could take care of myself and my family on my own…….wrong, I find people are happy to help, and I am happy to help in return, no shame or feelings of inadequacy involved! It sure lightens the load and has created some nice bonds between friends and family!

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49 Kellie@My So Called Green Life August 23, 2011 at 11:09 am

This is perfect! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered to myself how you do it. I can barely manage 3 kids and taking a shower some days, yet you always seem so put together and on top of things. Thanks for sharing!

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50 Jenny also August 23, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thanks for doing this series. I think about this stuff ALL the time. And amen, especially the sleep! Sleep Training is one of the best things I ever did for my kids, my husband, and myself. I wish I hadn’t tortured myself about it so much. No one can do it all and we can do even less without sleep.

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51 Deb August 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

Love these, Gabby! You are so, so wise and I love hearing what has worked for you. Thank you for being honest about having to let things go sometimes. It’s so easy for me to be hard on myself… I want to be superwoman so badly, but every time I try it never works out.

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52 Katherine August 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

I really needed this today! Thank you so much for posting your thoughts.

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53 Summer August 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

That last one….I’ve always had a hard time finding the balance between being nice (which, I’m naturally a nice, laid back person) and being, well, let’s say “assertive.” I guess I just think it’s expected in the corporate world to be mean. I guess I do see how one can be assertive without being snarky (I should also mention I’m also naturally snarky, hahaha). Anyway, that’s interesting. Thanks for that!

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54 Amy August 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for sharing and your honesty too.

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55 Meisi August 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Great Gabrielle! One of the keys of my successfulest days is to know what we will have to dinner the next days.Two-weekmenu is enough for us.

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56 redmenace August 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I sincerely agree with all of this. I would also add the suggestion of taking a break if possible. I took the month of June off. Maeve was already 6 months old and I realized I was exhausted. I wasn’t functioning well. I tried to do too much and was missing out as a result. After June, I felt much better. I work better now at the times when I can steal away during naptime and I know Maeve’s signals. We are happy. We are in tune. xoxoxo

PS. Where should I stay with her in Paris? Any thoughts. We are headed there Thanksgiving week. Aack. Euro travel with baby scares me!

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57 Melissa August 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

So many gems! My favorite is #1. I have three little ones under 6 and a husband who works full time, so pretty much all of the housework is my responsibility. And I truly despise housework! So a few years ago, I hired a terrific lady to come to our house for two hours once a week and clean. We pay her $25 a week and it is money well spent; our house is always nice and clean and I get a lot of satisfaction out of NOT cleaning it!

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58 Erin August 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

They are all really great tips, and I think that number one is in exactly the right place. More and more I recognize that I cannot do all that I want to do, even if it looks like so many women (I read a lot of blogs, in particular) bake their family’s bread, fill their homes with handmade goodness, their walls with skillful art, keep a sparkling house, raise radiant, intelligent children, be an A+ wife, and helm a successful blog, which also is an income source. I just shake my head; there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it. I actually like to take breaks from reading blogs, because that idea (even if it is a mirage) can be discouraging.

I am content with my life, and know that all the things I want to do–the careers traded in for motherhood, the projects traded in for getting dinner ready–are available at other seasons in my life, if not times in a day.

That is the the biggest key for me: I can’t do it all, but eventually, over time (even if that is until my deathbed), I will be able to do many things that I love. I do these three things now in my typical days: Be a mother, be a spouse, and be our household’s CEO. Everything else is a bonus.

Thanks for this topic–I deeply appreciate your sharing with us the fact that you aren’t, in fact, doing it all. It’s encouraging to hear. You do put up a good illusion, though! :)

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59 Lynne August 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Erin, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments! I often feel discouraged after reading blogs (as much as I love doing so), because I know I will never be able to emulate the creativity (with homemaking, crafting, parenting) that is so often featured. I do realize that many of the features are all “glossed and polished up” (would we still want to read it if it wasn’t so? Something to think about…). Still, as a full-time, working outside of the home, single mother of two, I barely have enough energy to get dinner on the table. Most of the time I feel as if I have no work/life balance at all! Therefore, I really do appreciate the topic that Gabrielle presented, as it is a reminder of the things that can be done to lesson the load. I still think that Gabrielle and her beautiful children probably look wonderfully put-together and coordinated most of time (how do you do it with six…I only have two!), but thanks for the reminder that doing it all is more myth than mystery.

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60 No Ordinary Momma August 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I blogged about this very topic several weeks ago. Here is one of my tips:

Step away from the baby. I realize it sounds crazy to take time away from your baby after you’ve been at work all day, but this is one of those counter-intuitive things. While it’s important to spend time with your child, it’s equally important to maintain your own sense of identity so you can be the best possible you for your kids. You know how some humans begin to resemble their dogs?!? The same thing could happen with you and your baby if you don’t get a life outside of your kids…you’ll end up drooling with stains all over your clothing. A little “me” time is completely appropriate and can work wonders for your sanity. Get a massage once a month, have a neighbor over for a glass of wine once a week after the baby is asleep, take a photography class and use your new skills to capture your amazingly well-balanced family!

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61 Robin August 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Working from home saves over an hour a day from my old down town schedule. In addition, it allows for nursing baby, occasional naps, weeding breaks (vs coffee) and healthy meals with the family.
It was scary to start my own business but I could not see any other way to live the life that I wanted to live.
I am a sleep deprived mom that has no heart for crying babies so I don’t have it all figured out but… I try and live my days with no regrets and dance and sing with my darling girls in full view of the neighbors on a regular basis. I can’t help but love this life.

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62 jennie August 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I’ve just started back to work (I teach), so this sort of thing is on my mind. This may relate more to the guilt of being a working mom, but here is my two cents worth: there are advantages and disadvantages to EVERYTHING so be content with what you’re doing when you’re doing it.

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63 Anna August 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I love this. I would also say “Know your limits and the limits of those you love” — I’m a young mother with a very high need baby. If I had a more mellow child who was a better sleeper it would change the amount of time and effort I can dedicate to the work portion of my life. Learning to accept my child’s limitations in addition to my own has been a learning process. Sometimes that’s hard to accept as a parent — that the child you’ve been given doesn’t fit the mold of what you expected. But accepting that and revising your plans to adapt to the needs of everyone is an ongoing process.

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64 Martha August 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I love this. I adore your simple/simplify outlook. Thanks.

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65 Ashlea Walter August 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Great post – am happily digesting it. Thank you!

I also love to remind myself:

Just say no. #WorkLifeBalance
I say no to about half of the social invitations we receive and this helps us to achieve more balance in our lives. At first I felt a tad bit bad doing this, but not anymore! This can also be applied to requests for help at church, school, our neighborhood association and work commitments. Remember: it’s your time. Choose wisely and it’s OK to say no.

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66 Barbara August 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I love #4. It’s so true. Whenever i try doing a bunch of things at once, I end up doing nothing at all.

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67 Hannah Stevenson @ MiniMe Paper Dolls August 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Oh that last picture of June made my heart burst. :)
I’m thankful in many ways for being blessed with four children in three years. I learned very fast that I cannot do it all. I also learned that my husband is capable of amazing things (I think he’s learned that too). This parenting partnership we have had to form has spilled over into other areas of our lives…like the paper doll business. So point number two is my favorite…ask for help and trust that others are capable of giving it! I’d add to that, make sure you marry a wonderful man! :)

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68 The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful August 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hello dear — I’ve just started social media-ing in order to grow my blog and one of my questions is this…how do you not get sucked into the vortex that is the wormhole that is the labyrinth that is the internet? There is so much multi-tasking required of trying to promote my work online that I end my days confused and hungover from all the different avenues available. I would love to know how you sort this out?

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69 Michelle August 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Couldn’t agree more, so wise Gabby!

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70 Randi August 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

#4 is the reminder that I needed today. I’ve been so stressed out all day long, trying to do my work, watch my kids, and get a bunch of chores done. Usually I focus on one thing at a time, but today I’ve been all over the place, and consequently feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Time to take a deep breath, and then focus on the one thing that most needs doing . Thanks for the perfectly-timed reminder!

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71 chapman August 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

great project, thanks for sharing, i would add : dont forget anyone, dont forget yourself as it is a frequent mistake i make too often by blogging too much…

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72 justaub August 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Thank you Gabby and thank you everyone. I really needed my fellow work/life balancers to share some words of wisdom today. Women are fabulous creatures.

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73 Sarah August 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Lots of good advice already…here’s mine.
Find something that is yours and yours alone.
I think it’s critical that a mom has something in her life that has nothing to do with her kids or husband. For me, it’s a few things: writing, making jewelry, going to a book group. It’s something to look forward to when you are having a bad day (or week!).

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74 Stephanie @ henry happened August 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

When I was struggling to decide whether to leave the workforce & worrying about giving up my career, my mom reminded me:

You can have it all, just not all at once.

Right now I choose my family. And it felt really great to make a choice – an intentional one – and be happy with it.

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75 Lisa August 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I love what Stephanie said above. It’s almost exactly as my personal motto:

You can have it all… just not all at the same time.

It helps me remember that there’s a time and a season for everything and I need to be present and focus on what’s most important right now. Right now, my focus is 5 kids (ages 9 to 2.5 year-old twins) with one in extensive therapy. I let a lot slide as I focus on their current needs and remember that someday, they won’t need me like they do now, I’ll miss it terribly, and I’ll have time for those books I’ve wanted to read and more marathons. :)

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76 bettijo @ PagingSupermom.com August 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm

so glad you re-posted the link to your family photo shoot (I think I missed them in June while I was away at family reunion)… they turned out SO lovely!

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77 Christina August 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Thanks for this post. These are all nice reminders. I have had a tough time balancing time with my children and husband vs. housework and friends. And that last pic of you and Baby June is a treasure. The way she is clinging to you and it seems like relief is in her eyes as she has her Momma.

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78 Diana August 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Like the rest of the crew, I love this post! Thank you for being so incredibly real yet again! Stunning pics too! :)

I wonder why we are so fixated on being perfect? What is wrong with unclean floors, sandwiches for dinner and messy hair…? What is wrong with not being perfect? Is it society’s fault or our own for putting so much pressure on ourselves? I guess with age comes some wisdom (?) but I do think that women in general are WAY too hard on each other and ourselves, it is time to let the guilt go and just GO with it (love the idea with doing ONE thing at a time)! You know what they say, that when you are gone from this earth, who cares really about so many of the things that worry us!

Thanks for your wonderful blog and for sharing so openly again and again!

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79 emily August 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Baby cries, mother comes, it builds trust in the little one. Crying it out saddens me. To each his own but that way never felt right to me. xox.

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80 Shannon August 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm

This series is a brilliant idea. I so enjoy learning how others balance their priorities, even when our daily lives are wildly different. Especially when our lives are wildly different! So inspirational. Thanks.

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81 Lisa Pilger August 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughts. They always make me smile, nod in agreement, or ponder a whole set of new thoughts – spurred on by your comments. I embrace each of your thoughts and ideas in this post. As a full-time working Mom with two young boys and a crazy life of managerial work responsibilities, business travel and kid school and activities, true balance often seems like an unattainable goal. I work hard to be really present wherever I am (at work, with my family, during precious time for myself) and make sure my priorities are squarely in order. I would have to add Lose the Guilt to your list. As women, we are way too hard on ourselves. We can say No. We do need some downtime to recharge our batteries. We might not be the A #1 PTA Mom or the 100% focused career-driven woman every day, but we are covering a myriad of responsibilities and experiences with love, kindness, determination and grace and that is what life is all about. Make sure your inner self is nurtured and cared for and all you give to everyone else and everything else will be reflective of the best person you can be.

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82 Kathleen August 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I think one of the best things I’ve learned about balance is to stop comparing myself to others. Just because it seems like my friends manage to do in one day what I can get done in a week, doesn’t mean it’s true, nor does it mean that I have to also.

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83 Sasha August 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for saying this, Gabrielle. It is so important for someone who so many people admire to say, “I don’t do it all and thats okay.” The more we say it, the more we’ll believe it.

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84 Jody Nebesnik August 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Another beautiful and spot-on post Gabrielle. It does seem to always be a struggle in my life as a mom to balance it all. And the last photo of baby June made me tear up. My daughter is 8 months now and I know that face well. But all is OK when holding onto mama.

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85 kelly August 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

Couldn’t agree more with #3. Sleep truly does make or break your day. We too have relied on the Weissbluth method and it has saved us – our relationship with our daughter is better, as well as my husband’s and mine relationship (!), now that we’re all getting sleep!

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86 Sundeep @ Designwali August 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

in the midst of trying to do it all …i often feel like i’m not doing enough. great series.

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87 ~j. August 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I love this and hope it is ongoing for a long time. We all have so much good to share with one another.

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88 Heather August 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm

J’adore the photos of Baby June. Is it wrong that I love the last one, with the big tear on her precious cheek? You are so lucky to have those great photos of you and Baby June together (alone).
I love this post, too. You are so real and refreshing. And I applaud the last bit about manners. Thank you!

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89 Nicole O August 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I used to quip that I could do two things at a time really well, but not three. Now after working at home for close to 5 years, with kids running around my office, I’ve realized that I only WANT to do one thing at a time, and focus, and do it well, but it’s almost a luxury… It’s definitely a goal of mine.

Work life balance is a hugely important topic for our health, and for our (mothers’) successful role in the workforce. Thank you for discussing it.

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90 Tan August 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I love your take on multi-tasking, I feel exactly the same way. This post was very helpful today. Thank you.

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91 Caasi August 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm

I think that this is a fantastic idea! Sometimes one little phrase can put everything into perspective. Thanks for sharing!

Ps… I just caught your episode on hgtv! So cool!

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92 All Unwound August 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Interesting definitions of life and work. I really never thought of PTA meetings and volunteering at school as work. But of course it is!

Thanks for sharing your insights.

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93 Sarah K August 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

“Twenty minutes of uninterrupted, concentrated work is far better than an hour of trying to do 5 things at once.”

Just read this while trying for the past hour to get something done with three kids at home. Now I’m going to walk away from the computer and try again when it’s quieter. Thanks for the sensible advice!

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94 Lisa Sabey August 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I love the topic and the honesty. Work/Home balance starts with thoughts that are even-keeled. One tip that I feel has been important in my life is to never compare myself, my children, my home, my work or my cars to others. Comparison begets either pride or discontent, neither of which help with genuine kindness or relationships. Learning to halt comparing thoughts is complicated and I’m still working on it. I love how unique each of your children is–and you seem to find a kind way to accentuate their own qualities without comparison. When I eliminate comparisons, I can let go of “doing it all.” Too often “doing it all” is based on how we compare ourselves to what we see others as being and doing. It is forever allusive.

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95 Cortnie August 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Thanks for the advice tips!

P.S. Love Healthy Sleep Habits…..

xo
Cortnie

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96 Michele August 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Love Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child – best parenting book ever!! Kids Need more sleep than most are getting. Mine are all great sleepers.

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97 Kris August 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm

These are all great!
I’d like to add two things: Let go of perfection, however that might look for you. Aim for good, good enough, or just whatever feels right.
Also, as cliche as it sounds, time does fly. One minute, he’s a baby on your hip, the next, he’s starting middle school (I know, I had that realization today!!) No job, no housework, will ever take the place of time with your kids. Savor every moment, even if you don’t think it’s unique or special. Believe me, your kids will!

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98 Giovanna August 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hi, just found your blog and LOVE it.
Although I didn’t have a choice about giving up work, I still found it a struggle to get it all done at home. I learned to say ‘NO’ when hubby would call with a list of people he wanted me to call and things he wanted me to do. It took a while, but say ‘NO’ to hubby’s List. Taking care of kids full-time is time-consuming.

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99 Suz August 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I really liked these. So basic. So universal. I am glad to know you need 8+ hours of sleep. So do I!
Will you write something about how to say no to people? I get asked to help with things all the time because I am a stay-at-home mom and people assume I have the spare time. My husband says I need to learn the art of “making up excuses”. Because often my real excuses sound weak to non-homemaker types, “That’s my son’s nap time.” or “I have to go grocery shopping.” or “I have to do laundry.” I’m afraid they won’t understand that literally *we have no food in the house and if I don’t go grocery shopping no one will eat* or *no one has anything to wear in this house because I haven’t done laundry for a week* or *my son will be a monster if he doesn’t get a decent nap in his crib and not the car seat*. I just don’t know how to say no without seeming shallow. And sometimes the real excuse is that I just don’t want to because I am tired.

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100 Vicki August 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Wow – #5 really resonates. Manners, Kindness, playing well with others – all so important in every single aspect of life. But sometimes so hard – sometimes I just want to snark. But I see when I snark, even privately, it doesn’t make the situation better and it doesn’t “get it out of my system.” So I try to be nice even behind people’s backs.

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101 Beatrice August 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Great post. #4 is my favorite. I was feeling totally overwhelmed and felt like I wasn’t getting anything accomplished, but after my boys were out, I felt like I had done so much. I also think that there are stages in your life when the focus is on different things. Also, I agree that no one can ever have it all, not without help and not all at once.

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102 Polina August 25, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Love this post. The only thing i do not subsribe to is crying it out since i practice attachment parenting, but i certainly respect that different things work for different families.

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103 UpsideUp Laurie August 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Omg that picture of June crying is the sweetest thing I have EVER seen.

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104 Melisa/Shiny Brite August 26, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I love this post, Gabrielle — the idea, the tips, the thoughtful comments from other readers! I’m working on the balance thing, but it’s very much a work in progress. One thing I do try to remember:
Give yourself a little break 1 or 2x a week — order dinner in, go out, skip a chore, hire a sitter for an hour or two. It helps!
Can’t wait to read more!

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105 Anneliese August 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Thank you thank you for this series! I love it! I will love reading more of it! I can’t get enough of other wise women’s perspectives on this topic. I try to “choose the better part” but it is difficult. I agree that it pays off to focus and tackle something, and hopefully finish, rather than doing a few things at once though I am often guilty of that. I find I am happiest when I am simply being with my kids but the chores do pile up! And I have this nagging need to create/make when I can steal the time. Life is beautiful and it is such a joy to design it so that it works for our families.

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106 Tember August 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I found this through a “blog of a blog” that I was following and was quite shocked into doing a thorough self-assessment as you very concisely identified some big issues many of us have. Thank you so much! I hope you don’t mind, I added a link to this posting and added an excerpt to my blog (full credit to you, of course). If that is a problem please just email me and I will unpublish it. :) I look forward to reading all the comments and hearing what suggestions others have!

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107 Dariela (@darielacruz) August 28, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I LOVE this idea! My favorites so far are the first 2. I believe 100% that we cannot do it all and that it’s ok to ask for help. I have problems trying to get enough sleep but when I do get enough my day flows much better. And multitasking is something I am trying to not do at the moment but can’t escape from it. My mind keeps wondering off to want to do so many other things and it’s hard for me to concentrate in just one.
It is very helpful that you start this kind of conversation, I think this is the subject that we all are dealing with at the moment. That balance! Thanks!!

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108 Petit Elefant August 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Ah Gabby, that sweet little photo of a heartbroken June might just be my favorite. Her little tears!

Hope you’re well.

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109 Cynthia August 31, 2011 at 1:25 am

Absolutely love your blog and this particular entry. I have 2 businesses and 2 little ones and a huge extended family. I often find myself completely overwhelmed and learned many of the lessons you’ve detailed in your list just this year as I’ve been pushed close to the limit with so much on my plate. Perfect advice and I will be sure to re-read as a reminder when I just want to throw my hands up! Thank you for putting this together.

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