How Do You Do It All??

“How do you find the time to blog and do fun stuff with your kids and garden and cook…. And you have four kids! How do you do it?”

I get asked that question quite a bit.

On the weekend I attended Blogopolis, Nuffnang’s first blogging conference here in Melbourne, and I was asked this question quite a few times. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer it. I mean, I’m not doing anything different from any of the other stay at home mums I know, and I’m probably juggling a lot less than mothers who work outside the home. But you do it all, or as much as you can possibly squeeze in to 24 hours because you can… because you have to.. because its your job. Right?

Driving home from Blogopolis, with only a snoring baby to keep me company, I began to really ponder this question. How do I balance all the things I juggle? Do I do anything different to other parents? What is the answer to that question… how do I do it all?

I Don’t Do it All.

ho do you do it? mess

The easy answer to this question is that I don’t. I don’t do it all.

I’m sure my blog paints a much more organised and less insane picture of my life than the actual reality. I try to keep things fairly down to earth and real here on my blog, but I also try not to dwell on the negatives in life so I don’t blog about them all that much either.

I do blog about days when things go wrong (which happens quite a lot) and if you look closely, in the background of most images on this blog you’ll see piles of unfolded washing, dirty table cloths, un-swept floors and kids with boogers on their faces. Testament to the fact that I can’t ‘do it all’ and usually don’t even try.

Sometimes I get bogged down in the reality of a messy house and no clean clothes and the fact that my middle boy watches more TV than I’d like, but I try not to let those things rule my life. I wish I was more organised, more motivated and more on top of things, but I am who I am. I can procrastinate with the best of them and I am not neat and tidy so I don’t let those failings hold me back or get me down.

I pick and choose from the things that I really need to do and the things that I really want to do and I make priorities. If it’s not a priority it often doesn’t get done, and I’m ok with that.

I Write Lists

I have a notebook that I take everywhere and I write lots of notes and lists.

I write down what we’re having for dinner, what I need to buy at the shops, what I’m going to blog about this week, things I have to do, things I’d like to do, Christmas present ideas, random ideas that float into my head…. I write them all down. Writing them down doesn’t mean they’ll actually get done… I let go of that aspect of To Do lists a long time ago! Writing them down just gets them out of my head. It helps me to wrap my brain around what I’m doing and it helps me to remember, or at least remember that I’ve written down in my note book!

I Take the Easy Way Out

I learnt long ago that it is easy to make things more difficult than they have to be. Simplifying things might seem like cutting corners at times, but really, in the end, does anyone notice whether the birthday cake was perfectly decorated or not? Does anyone care if a favourite dinner is repeated every week or two? Does anyone know whether your child’s hair was perfectly neat when they left for school? I’m voting that they don’t (and don’t anyone tell me different ok!).

So if there is an easy way to do things I take it.

I cook simple but good meals, with basic but wholesome ingredients. I don’t go for fancy or special or different when it comes to every day family food, it’s a waste of time and effort in our house. In the garden I grow things that I know will grow well with little input (and you’d be surprised at how many plants will grow with total neglect) and I don’t garden in winter because I don’t like the cold! I wash all our clothes in together… yes even the whites. I don’t separate colours unless it is something I know will run or something white that is very special. I only iron for weddings and funerals, and then only if I REALLY have to.

I am always looking for systems and ways to do things that makes life easier and blogs are a fabulous place to find them! Planning with Kids, The Organised House Wife, and Small Notebook are some of my favs.

I Don’t Play With My Kids

how do you do it? play scene

Yes, you read that correctly…. I don’t play with my kids, at least, not very often.

Yes I set up fun and interesting activities for my kids to do, I make sure there is a variety of toys to play with and safe spaces in which to play, and I am there when my kids need me, but I don’t plan to spend time actually, personally, involved in their play. Sometimes I join in their play when they are doing something that I am interested in, or if I have a spare moment and it looks like fun, or if one of my children needs me to be present for some reason, but on the whole I don’t play with my children.

I’ve written more about why I don’t play with my kids in this post, but here are some practical things that we do that makes this work for us….

We set up our home so that it facilitates easy, safe and successful independent play.

We offer a variety of toys that are mostly ‘open ended’ and can be used in a variety of different ways and by different aged children.

We rotate toys to keep them fresh, but not so often that the kid’s don’t have time to really explore them.

We set up for easy packing up, but try to let go of adult expectations that any of the kids will actually pack up without help, even the seven year olds!

We set up play scenes following our children’s interests which engage them for periods of time.

The art activities we do are usually quite simple, entirely doable by the children (sometimes younger ones need help but mostly not) and open ended, not requiring much adult interaction at all.

The children play and we do our adult work in the same spaces so we are there when needed (this will be even easier when our renovations are done!)

We let the children be part of our work if they wish.

So there are some of the things that I think help me get through the days, maybe they’ll help you too? But really, no one can do it ALL, and even if they could I doubt they’d be much fun to be around anyway!
How do you ‘do it all’? Got any great tips to share?

You might also like our five fun family games ! bounce-off-banner

Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. Jasmine says

    Hi Kate, I love your blog and I’m really interested in toys and games that your kids have. Do you buy a lot of them? Make them?

    • katef says

      Hi Jasmine, thanks for taking the time to comment!
      We buy and make our kid’s toys. We buy some commercially available toys, some from lovely eco friendly toy shops, and we make some. I’m pretty picky about toys but have learnt to relax a little more now that my girls are older and in love with lots of little bits of fluro coloured plastic! If you’re interested I’ll write a post about some of our toy choices.

      • Jasmine says

        that would be great thanks Kate. I have tried to invest in better quality wooden toys, make some as well. My 5 year old is loving the yukky fluoro stuff too, we’re in the process of updating our dirt kitchen area, I find kids who visit really love our little potion spot

  2. says

    Wow – impressively simple :) Love the lists and letting real life happen. Joy is so much easier to find when things are not ‘perfect’ . Lovely post.

  3. sarah says

    Congratulations to you and for opening my eyes. I am a 2 day-a-week working mum as a teacher and the other days am mum to two toddlers. Your blog has helped me so much and I wish to say thank you.

    I also just love your blog and enjoy reading it very much

    • katef says

      I dread the thought of returning to teaching (preschool) when all my kids are at school… not because I don’t miss it, but I can’t imagine how I’d juggle all the extra stuff that comes with working outside of the home! So good on you for managing both and don’t forget to be proud of yourself every now and then!

  4. says

    Excellent post Kate and a very good point about to-do lists, just the getting them out of your head part is definitely the most important part. Have you blogged about the veges that will grow without much love – if not I would love a post on this please! That’s what we need! Our vege patch has been reduced to a very hardy basil and some chives which won’t die (and we use both regularly) for this very reason. Need more!
    Oh and I love that you don’t separate your clothes to wash. Yay I’m not the only one! (except sometimes).

    • katef says

      With spring just around the corner I’m starting to think about the garden again (I don’t garden in the winter cause I hate the cold! LOL). Our veggie garden is a total mess from a year of neglect but I am determined to get something growing again this year so I’ll blog it for sure! I am far from an expert but let me know if you have any questions you want answered!

  5. says

    It’s certainly an ever changing balancing act I find. As bad as it may be I love to hear that other people’s homes are as messy as mine. I do rough schedules, especially having a newborn in the house. I’m finding that I start the schedule with the time we need to be somewhere and work backwards – not quite sure how/why it takes 5 hours to get to an appointment 5 minutes down the road but that’s where we are at right now..haha. I also have a basic daily schedule – as I can work with those times I’ve arranged the day so that I actually have time to cook dinner, feed the kids, bathe them and get them to bed – otherwise that’s total chaos!

    • katef says

      the working backwards idea is genius…. I am not super into schedules but I find it makes life work so much better if I at least know when I need to feed the kids lunch and when I need start on dinner so that the rest of the day doesn’t go to hell in a hand basket!

    • katef says

      It’s really hard to let go… I have days when it gets the better of me but the older (and wiser?) I get the more I seem to be ok with things not being perfect!

  6. says

    Oh Kate. You made me cry! The guilt inside me subsided for a moment and it was so, so wonderful. I didn’t know I would react so emotionally to reading that you don’t play with your kids much.

    I always wonder if I’m a horrible parent for not playing with my girls all day and instead focusing on other things (the same things you do actually). I also have many strategies in place to enable independant play and Lacey and the twins play very well on their own. Ofcourse, I do play with her but I kick myself that it’s never enough.

    Thank you so much for making me see it in a different way and making me feel like I’m not such a bad mummy after all!

    • katef says

      I think that is the biggest bonus for having twins – they always have someone to play with!
      There are lots of early childhood philosophies that support the idea that adults don’t need to be involved in children’s play all the time and especially the idea that adults should continue their ‘daily work’ along side a child doing theirs (play). Steiner talks a lot about this as does Magda Gerber and the RIE theories, which you might be interested in reading more about.

  7. says

    Yes, yes and yes! The day I decided to let go of perfection was a very, very happy day for me. Sure, life is still busy with little ones, but you can accomplish so much more, so much more quickly when the goal is “good enough”.

    I love this list.

  8. says

    Yes, yes, and yes. I get asked that a lot too, or the people at work wonder how I have energy to grow & preserve some of our food, cook from scratch, or do craft etc.. Well, I am slightly crazy, but I also find energy and motivation for things I am passionate about. Mostly I ignore the housework, and the kids play independently (well, they play with each other, or they do things with me, I guess) but not all the time, and my husband does his role, like he ought to!

    There are also times I realise that ‘doing it all’ is getting exhausting, and we stop ‘doing it all’ for a while!

    • katef says

      You are so right… you can always find time to do the things you are passionate about… the other stuff, like ironing… well I never find time for that! LOL

  9. says

    I need to say
    ?•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨`*•? THANK YOU ?•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨`*•?
    I really needed this post! I was nodding my head so much and really appreciate your open honesty.
    I am not alone, and I don’t need to tr and ‘Do it all!’ xox

  10. says

    I love that you don’t pretend to “do it all”. I think women often put unrealistic pressure to do it all, because they feel that this is what is expected of them! It is unattainable. I am constantly looking for ways to streamline my life, but I know that I can’t do it all, so I don’t try.
    I think it is important to be honest about this too, because it gives others ‘permission’ to not do it all.

    • katef says

      I agree… I often get sucked into comparing myself to this person or that, and blogs make that even easier to do. But I remind myself that no one is perfect, everyone has their failings and it’s ok to aspire to be better, but useless to try and be perfect :)

  11. says

    I think I may be guilty of being one of those that asked you this question! :/ I’m feeling like I am struggling so much with being a parent, let alone a blogger. Thanks for some great insights.

  12. says

    Heehee I got asked that heaps too on Saturday whenever I said I had five kids. I think that it would be a pretty miserable life if someone did manage to do it all anyways. Do what you can, do what’s important and don’t sweat the rest :-)

    • katef says

      Did anyone also you if you had a TV? Or question whether you knew ‘what caused it’? LOL

      • says

        Haha no I didn’t get those on Saturday, but I’ve had those plenty of times before. Saturday was mainly “Wow, you’re busy” and “You have your hands full” type comments.

        I got the “Do you own a tv?” comment so often when I was pregnant with the twins I started saying; “Yes we do, but if you prefer watching tv over sex than maybe you’re doing it wrong!” What can I say, the hormones were making me temperamental lol ;-)

        • says

          I get the ‘tv” question quite a bit too. I also get the – you don’t look like you have five kids. I never quite know what to make of that.

          I don’t do it all either. I don’t garden, I don’t sew, I don’t make my own bread – things lots of other mums might do but I do other things. It is so important not to rate yourself as a mum by comparing what others do.

          PS. My bookshelves have dust on them more often than they don’t!

          • Miranda says

            Thanks Planning Queen for getting me onto this, and Kate for the post. I really needed to read this this week. I am a mum of a 2 and 4 year old; my son is at Kindy (as we call it here in the West) twice a week, I don’t work outside the home, I don’t garden, I have a cleaner (a Christmas gift from my AMAZING hubby!), I don’t really cook unless I have to (I make healthy choices for my kids but my meals are very basic), I don’t iron unless I have to (though I do separate my lights and darks when washing!!), and I don’t blog (despite a journalism background and at some point every day thinking ‘wow, that would be a good topic if I had a blog’!!). So some days I feel like a complete failure as a mum, thinking how can other mums, with 5 or 6 kids, ‘do it all’, when there is so much I don’t do. But these are choices we’ve made to make my life simpler, so I CAN do other things. What your blog reminded me is there IS a lot I DO do. And they’re not necessarily more important, or better; they are simply things that are important to ME, and MY FAMILY. So I am going to stop being so hard on myself, and realise when I see a mum who seems to ‘do it all’, I am going to remind myself that there are probably a few things she doesn’t have time to do, that I do.

  13. says

    It’s so great to hear a real perspective on having/doing it all.

    It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and think that they must be doing/juggling/balancing it all perfectly and so much better that we, ourselves do it. I love hearing that you (and other commenters) don’t separate clothes pre-wash (my boys do have a range of pink clothes…), don’t play with the children, don’t iron, use lists/notepads endlessly and all those other things.

    And I’d love to know what you grow… I have visions of a vertical planter box with easy stuff (total black thumb) but looking for suggestions…

    • katef says

      Ok I guess I need to blog about our garden! I am so far from expert but we’ve started thinking about spring planting so stay tuned for more info!

  14. says

    Kate, I was actually sitting here tonight wondering “How do all the other mums do it?” I’m starting casual temp job working every Friday and 3 hours every second Monday which basically cuts 2 days out of our lives and being crazy busy without working I’m a little bit anxious! And the second question I was wondering tonight was “How much sleep do other mums actually get especially the working and WAHMs?” (now I know ALL mums get interupted sleep but I have read alot of WAHMs working all hours of the night sewing etc)… I just need my sleep and should have gone to bed an hour ago lol.
    Anyway my point is thanks for your blog post its just nice to read about other mums are just plodding along, juggling just like me.
    And I think it would be impossible to play with your children all day long. I will read your other blog post soon!

  15. says

    Great post – thanks! I get asked the question a lot and I think I’d probably answer similarly to you and I have been heard to say all Austin Powers like “it’s all smoke and mirrors, baby”.
    However I do find it interesting that people think I do alot and I’m spending my time wondering how on earth others do it all and feel like I’m accomplishing so little. Perception can often be a little skewif (is that a word?) when we are only seeing a glimpse of people’s lives.

  16. says

    Sometimes I get caught up in “motherly guilt” and feel like I should always be taking part in my children’s play but it is important to sit back and let them initiate their own themes and let their own imagination guide them. It can be great to see what adventures they go on and if they ask you to join in then enjoy!

  17. says

    kate, i think you and i might be kindred spirits. so many things i’ve smiled and nodded about here (and in your about me). so glad that i’ve finally gotten around to reading your blog :) tatum xx

  18. says

    Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. So often I read blogs or articles about how to do it all, how to have it all, and really I am sick of it. It has been a long winding road but I found that I can’t do it all and I don’t have to do it all either. I am sane again (well almost!). Your post is the perfect description of life. And I am so glad that someone has had the courage to say ‘I don’t play with my kids’ . A breath of fresh air. Why haven’t I found your blog soon. I think I love you!

    • katef says

      I probably should have re-thought the title of this post… Hopefully I don’t put people off before they start to read because I think if I found a post titled ‘how to do it all’ I wouldn’t bother reading at all! Oh well.. just goes to show that I can’t do it all, I can’t always pick the best titles for my posts! LOL

  19. says

    I ask this question very often, “how do others do it?”. And I always tell myself, if others can do it, so can I. But when I start to drown with mountains of laundry and loads of housework, finding myself not being able to spend time with them, engaging them in some interesting play, I feel like a failure. Thanks for reminding me that nobody can do it all.

  20. says

    Sherry and I saw you at Nuffnang last week with your beautiful baby boy, and when we say saw you, we both mean just that … We did not hear a single peep from your son! Clearly that is a reflection on your cool, calm, unhurried, low pressure parenting techniques and the realization that you CANNOT, and DO NOT have to do it all … Great post Kate and GOOD FOR YOU!
    Donna :) :)

    • katef says

      Oh no Donna…. that has nothing to do with me, that is all him! Noey was born to be a fourth child… he is cheeky and funny and loving and just goes with the flow. And I just sit there and smile at him! LOL
      Next time you must come over and say hello!!

  21. says

    Thanks for the post and for your honesty. Since becoming a mother I’ve really valued honesty. (Others might think differently, but I don’t believe mothers are honest enough with one another).

    The truth for me is that I WANT to be able to do it all. Where that thought comes from I don’t know. It’s a recipe for disaster though. I’m critical of myself when I can’t do it all……and sometimes I just need a reality check, like this post. Thanks.

    Not playing with my daughter all the time. I want to be able to do that too, but I can’t resist her. I enjoy her company so much. I know this will have ramifications one day but for now it’s just the two of us at home during the day and she’s the only company I’ve got.

    • katef says

      Oh no Jackie… play with your girl! Play with her if that is something that you want to do, something you are passionate about, something you love. I LOVE to paint and draw with my children, and I quite like building lego and I never think twice about joining in because it’s real sharing when we are doing something we enjoy. Your girl is learning so much by you doing what makes you happy, what you need to do to get through your days… and if part of that is playing with her, it can’t be bad!

  22. Jenny H says

    THANK YOU for saying that you Don’t do it all. If you were going to claim you did, I was going to stop reading your blog because I would have thought “she isn’t being honest”.
    I recently stopped reading a blog about a woman who had just given birth to her third child. When I wrote that childbirth is tough, and we should support ALL women when they go through it, and whatever way they go through it. She responded with a bit more of a “childbirth is easy when you do it all natural and at home” blog. I would have been able to keep reading despite her beliefs if she hadn’t commented that we should “thank God” with every contraction… I’m a Christian… but really?? So I think I’m on the rampage to stop reading (and unlike every page) of writers of blogs who act like they are perfect and everything is perfect for them… So thank you for saying you aren’t! You are honest, human, and definitely readable!!

    • katef says

      Ah well you’ll be reading me forever because I am far from perfect!
      Mind you… I did have a pretty easy, though long, fairly pain free natural birth. But don’t un-like me because I’ve also had a scary very pre-term c-section and a quick and damn painful natural birth as well! ;)

      • Jenny H says

        I’ve had two natural painful quick childbirths but I guess I’m passionate about supporting women no matter what they went through and not to persuade others to do it YOUR way – because sometimes things don’t always work out naturally and it helps if women don’t have that expectation that everything will go perfectly because you’ll be hard on yourself when it doesn’t… That’s my soapbox. :)
        Thanks again. LOve your blog and I’ll read forever if you write forever:) LOL

    • emc2wife says

      I think every woman’s experience and personality determines what their boundaries are – what is very easy for me may be difficult for you. This doesn’t mean anyone is being dishonest. We’re just all very different and driven in different ways. I’d have to agree with the blog you mentioned that natural childbirth was much easier for me than hospitalized, medicated birth; it was much calmer and enjoyable (before/after that last stage of labor) than my “hospital” births. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone would appreciate it or even want to do it this way or that your experience would be the same, but it’s important to not discount other people’s experiences and reactions just because they do not line up with yours. An ego-centric view of the world doesn’t provide the understanding and compassion we need to be mothers and friends. Case in point, what you view as her “perfect” may be very imperfect from her perspective, neither of which makes her dishonest for sharing.

  23. Malinda says

    Love the notebook idea.
    I’m recently a mum of 3 under 5 and trying to work out what to let go of. Think I’m going to enjoy reading your blog.
    I also follow, well read, the organised housewife!

  24. says

    Just came across your blog via Planning with Kids. Love your honesty and good advice! I have two girls 1 and 3 and blog about getting outdoors, on and around the water. I’m sometimes asked “how I do it all” and the answer is usually “although I’d like to be I’m not actively houseproud”. Something has to give and my theory is that clutter and mess doesnt matter if you’re not looking at it so better to get out in the fresh air. I alluded to this in my last blog post and even conceded to posting an evidential photo. Thanks for including the bit about not playing with your kids – that was really reassuring. The only game I can really honestly immerse myself in is building sandcastles :)

  25. says

    I come fairly close to “DOING IT ALL” and I can tell you, it is REALLY difficult to maintain! We have 3 children aged 5 and under, no daycare, no nearby family, and my husband works 12 hour + days. My house is spotless, but only because I have taught our children from very early on the importance of cleaning up after themselves. I spend MAYBE 30 minutes combined total sitting each day…the rest I am running around, multitasking, and it keeps me thin but that’s about all I can say is a benefit to that. I’m scheduled like crazy and being a stay at home mom has required more of me than working as an executive in the business world. I’m drained with my kids on every level – emotional, physical, mental (the latter is due to understimulation) – and yet every day I wake up and get to work. This is the toughest job ever but I am doing my best, probably the best anyone could do without help actually, and I realize it is a short term gig – all too soon children grow up and my life will return to more of a norm. For now, insanity is the best word to describe it, a round-the-clock workout! If you don’t have extremely high expectations and standards, there is no reason for you to “do it all” – for those of us cursed with it, remember, it is only a couple of years and you’ll survive!

  26. says

    Kate you are doing everything so well, rotating toy’s is such a great idea to keep them interested. Never compare yourself, to others, do what works for you and your family. Organising, creating routines and knowing when to stop and say no (to those asking too much of you) is key. I love all that you do, your craft ideas are wonderful xx

  27. says

    Thanks for sharing this post …we all need constant reminders and encouragement to give our selves permission to not do it all.
    Thanks for sharing your tips…especially throwing all the washing in together I feel much better about doing that now!

  28. kate says

    THAT was just what I needed to read! Next challenge is to decide what’s important & realistic then somehow learn to not care what anyone else thinks of me with my less-than-perfect house!!!

  29. says

    I know this is an old post, but still, THANK YOU! Especially the not playing with your kids bit! I’m feeling completely, totally and utterly OVER IT at the moment! And the Mummy guilts are adding up. I feel terrible I’m not doing much playing with my girls. But I, like you, am constantly setting up activities and crafts for them to do. Taking them to this park, or that beach, or this park etc etc. I need to realise I AM doing enough. THANK YOU!

    • katepickle says

      You are definitely doing enough! More than enough! I hardly ever take my kids to the park!! LOL

      • says

        I often wonder how often other mums take the kids out. I normally just want to stay at home in the afternoons and sometimes think I do it to much. Those mums whose kids play by them selves don’t feel guilty enjoy. It is hard work when they want constant entertaining. (6yr old boy)

  30. EJ says

    Oh thank you for reposting this on Facebook! It is exactly what I needed today. Today I felt guilty because the house feels messy (and in all honesty, its probably not too bad. Mess makes me feel nervous for some reason). My twins were playing nicely together and I had a moment when I thought ‘I am so glad there is 2 of them so I don’t have to play with them today’ and then felt guilty for thinking that. This post has definitely let me see there is nothing to feel bad about. I do play with them a lot, yesterday we spent the day painting old boxes and different craft projects. I should be proud my girls can entertain themselves. Certainly going to bookmark this post to refer back to on the ‘guilty days’ xx

    • katepickle says

      You know I think there are many drawbacks to having or being a twin, especially in the early days, but always having someone else to play with is the one big bonus of having twins. Don’t feel guilty… just enjoy this wonderful bonus of having two babies at once!