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Note from Lisa: Today’s post on finding balance in your to-do list is from Diane Stark. I love what she has to share with you, as it really goes along with my belief that working together as a family to grow the business is a wonderful thing!
Motherhood is all about balance. Well, balance and guilt. We look for ways to achieve balance, and then we feel guilty when we can’t get there.
Add in a work-from-home business, and that elusive balance seems even less attainable.
I’ve been a work-from-home mom for the last 11 years. I have five children and I’m a freelance writer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt guilty for prioritizing a deadline for a magazine article over playing a game of Candyland with my kids. Or the converse, stayed up all night writing because I played the game of Candyland when I should have been working.
Neither route led me to the balance I sought.
As a work-from-home mom, I wake up every day with a To Do List full of tasks for my business, chores to keep my house somewhat presentable, and things to do to keep my children healthy and happy. It’s a lot to cram into one day and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed before I even start.
A few years ago, I felt like I was failing – at everything. My business wasn’t where I knew it could be, my house was a disaster, and I wasn’t enjoying my kids as much as I should have been. My To Do List was insanely long and it felt like my enemy, rather than a tool to keep me organized.
A Light Bulb Goes On
One morning, my daughter was reading my To Do List over breakfast. “Hey, Mom?” She said. “Clipping coupons is on your list. If you show me which ones you need, I can cut them out for you.”
It was a fabulous idea. And then it got even better.
“Would it be okay if the little kids practice cutting out the coupons you aren’t planning to use?” She asked.
Um, yes, it was more than okay. It was utterly wonderful. For two hours, I wrote a magazine article while my daughter clipped my coupons and her younger siblings practiced their fine motor skills with the extra papers. I met my deadline, my coupons got clipped, and my kids had fun while practicing a necessary skill.
It was a triple win. And immediately, I knew I needed more of it in my life.
How To Do a To Do List
The next morning, I wrote my To Do List and then made one for each of my children. After breakfast, we had “Work Time,” where everyone worked on their own To Do List. Then we made lunch together. After we ate, the younger kids had a rest time – which was more work time for me! – and then we played a game or read a book together. Then we had another “Work Time,” followed by dinner.
A typical To Do List for my younger kids consists of a small, age-appropriate chore or two, playing a math game or reading a book for a set amount of time, drawing, building something with Legos, practicing writing their name or other age-appropriate skill, playing outside for a set amount of time, and playing a board game or cards with a sibling.
A typical list for my older children consists of a few chores, reading for a set amount of time, playing with or helping a younger sibling, supervising the younger kids outside, playing an educational computer game, studying for school, and doing something creative, like writing a story or drawing.
After a few months of hand-writing a list for each person each morning, the light bulb went on in my head. I typed up multiple variations of the lists, put them in plastic sleeves, and then had each child choose one each morning. All I had to do was tell each one their specific chore(s) for the day. Their lists include check off boxes, which my kids love. They use dry erase markers to check off the tasks as they do them, and at the end of the day, they take turns wiping them clean so they are ready to go the next day.
All of our To Do Lists are written in words, but for a young child, you could make a list that shows their tasks in pictures. Or just have the older kids help the younger ones read their lists.
Finding Balance (At Least a Bit!)
Having a To Do List for each child enabled me to make more progress on my own To Do List without feeling so guilty. My kids stopped asking me when I could quit working and play with them because they were busy doing their own work. It helped them be more responsible and to learn to entertain themselves. It has also really cut down on the “Mom, I’m bored” complaints that we all love so much!
I’d love to tell you that our family-wide To Do Lists have helped me achieve the perfect balance between parenting and working from home, but perfection is a myth.
However, I will tell you that I’m writing more, my house is cleaner, and my kids are happier.
Another triple win.
I’ll take it.
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Diane Stark is a wife, mom of five, and freelance writer. Her work has been published in Guideposts, Focus on the Family, Woman's World, and more than 40 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Diane writes about the important things in life: her family and her faith.