Realizing That as a Mom, I Can’t Do it All

I remember before the wee ones were born.  I worked full time and traveled a lot, but once I got home I’d cook dinner every night, I’d go to the gym or for a walk, the house would get cleaned, and I’d pretty much get everything done that I needed or wanted to.  Once Mister Man was born, I judged my days as good days when I managed to shower and check email in the same day.  Fortunately, things started to run a little smoother as he got older, even after Little Miss was born.

Smoother?  Yes.  Like clockwork?  Absolutely not.

Going to the gym or for a walk went by the wayside for  years.  Then again, I was probably “getting enough exercise” simply chasing after two toddlers.  At each stage, I strove for that mythical balance that everyone believes exists.  I can have it all!  I can do it all!  That’s what the books said, right?  I never achieved it.  I still haven’t achieved it, and every month I get a little bit more O.K. with it.

As time went on and I was making myself – and everyone around me – miserable trying to do it all, I realized that I needed to focus on the things that I truly care about.  For me, nutrition and eating are paramount, so I make sure I have time to cook most meals from scratch or have alternatives available that I’m comfortable with if we’re on the run.  I also realized a few years ago that working full time – or even part time – with my children (especially with Mister Man being on the spectrum) wasn’t working for them or for me.  After digging deep into our budget, we took the leap and I became a stay at home mom with the wee ones.  Big budget vacations?  Gone.  Dinner and drinks out with friends each week?  Vanished into thin air.  Remodeling our kitchen?  Still on hold.

Those are the decisions that I’ve made and where I focus my time and energy now, along with volunteering and keeping the house running.  Even the definition of keeping the house running has changed.  I’ve learned to close my eyes – for the most part, at least – to the messes the wee ones create seemingly in every single room in the house all at the same time.  Instead, I pick and choose my battles and the wee ones are just as responsible for cleaning up their messes as I am.  And I think that’s good for them to learn that responsibility.

When their rooms are filled with craziness and chaos after a massive cleanup, I close the door.  When the homework room become overridden with toys, as long as I can still walk through the room, I give it a couple days until I hear the chorus of “Mom, where’s my”,  which is my signal that it’s time for all of us to clean again.  So no, my house isn’t sparkling and ready for a magazine spread, but we live in it, we laugh in it, and we play in it.

There are things we’d much rather do than put away the laundry or the clean dishes some days.  Some days, it’s all I can do to get to the end of the day, having fed my children, gotten them where they needed to be, and completed all the homework they produced from their backpacks.  It’s the kind of mom I am – some days – and the kind of mom that I’ve learned to like.

I’m less stressed and more fun, and the wee ones notice it.  It’s a lesson I hope I’m imparting to them, too.  I want them to know that they can’t have it all and that they do have to pick and choose what’s important to them.  Like yesterday for example.  It was really important that we go sledding, so I put off dong the laundry. Really — dirty clothes begging to be washed can wait when you have little eager faces wanting to go sledding.

Meet Big Mama — She’s a mom who definitely understands the phrase”I Can’t Do It All”!

Melanie (aka Big Mama) from the Big Mama Blog has written her own memoir of the highs and lows of parenting.

About the book:

“There is really no better indicator you’re a mother than acquiring the ability to catch throw-up in a plastic bag, disinfect your hands, and immediately ask your friend to pass the beef jerky as you put on another Taylor Swift song and act as if nothing has happened.”

This is the type of insight Melanie Shankle offers in this quirky memoir of motherhood.

Written in the familiar, stream-of-consciousness style of her blog, Big Mama, Sparkly Green Earrings is a heartwarming and hilarious look at motherhood from someone who is still trying to figure it all out. Filled with personal stories—from the decision to become a mother to the heartbreak of miscarriage and ultimately, to the joy of raising a baby and living to tell about it—Sparkly Green Earrings will make you feel like you’re sitting across the table from your best friend. A must-read for anyone who’s ever had a child or even thought about it.

Order a copy of Melanie’s book today.


Watch this video to learn more:


What’s your best tip for moms who think that they can do it all?

Michelle may never stop running around Chicagoland, but she always makes time for the important things in her life – her wee ones, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends – and of course, writing. You can see what she’s up to on her blog Honest & Truly! or on Twitter where she tweets as @HonestAndTruly.

Photo credit


  1. says

    Here’s how I define balance in my life: if I’m not stressed and feeling behind, then I am balancing what’s on my plate. I don’t have everything in the world on my plate. Just my priorities.

    My one tip – selective neglect. Focus on your strengths. Get help for the weaknesses, or re-examine whether they are weaknesses. I’m not big on reading to the kids anymore, however, I will take them to the library whenever they ask, and my kids are voracious readers. They see me reading. It works for me.

  2. says

    …with 5 kids, I just let go of trying to do it all. I’m not afraid to ask for, and receive help. Also, I two that are teenagers now, and can help with their younger siblings. it’s teaching them responsibility and a stronger sense of ‘family,’ while the time keeping me form having to do it all. A stress free, balanced Mom raises well-balanced kids—that’s my belief.

  3. says

    I think maybe women today are finally starting to learn that they can’t do it or have it all. Don’t we all wish we could be “superwomen”? but alas…the super people are only for the movies

  4. says

    Great post! I’ve never been compulsive about housework, so that helps. But I did realize that I wasn’t really fully present for my kids at the end of the day, so my tip is that I try to be sure I’m off the computer (for the most part) after they get home from school — from 4 until dinner.

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