Two years ago I was a struggling blogger who wore many hats. Yes, I had a bit of an obsession with collecting vintage hats, but in a figurative sense, I was pulling myself in too many directions with lots of responsibilities and stress. I wanted to be successfully monetize this blog, which meant planning and executing lots of projects and posts here; I was busy enough as a wedding photographer; I burned the midnight oil as a freelance graphic designer; I spent too much time sourcing, photographing, and selling vintage clothes; I started regularly contributing to a website called Babble— and doing it all with a brand new baby and a cancer diagnosis. People would ask me, “How do you do it all?” Or conversely, they would mention how great it must be to be a work-at-home-mom. My social life was plummeting and overall I was dealing with anxiety and the sense that each week was this unconquerable mountain that I would find myself at the top of every Sunday, only to begin climbing from the bottom again on Monday.
My friends looked forward to the weekend as a time to cut loose, while I looked forward to it at it as an extra time to get more work done. I hesitated to make any personal or social commitments, because I might need that time to finish a project or get some extra stuff done at home. But I did ease up on the pressure to blog as frequently here, since I finally had other steady work that provided the income we needed to stay afloat financially and consider sending Phil back to school to get his masters. Yes, I felt less pressure, but that pressure was still there.
My jobs shifted some as I stopped selling vintage, designing and writing for Babble, but started writing for A Beautiful Mess and working at Starbucks. For the first time in our married life, we could afford to go out to eat guilt-free, be generous gift-givers, and make some needed updates to our home. It felt freeing in one way, but in another, I felt like our lives were turning into mostly work and very little play. Something had to give.
One day, as I sat at the computer obsessively editing photos and trying to write interesting, concise, and ultra informative copy for a DIY at A Beautiful Mess, Lucy stood at my feet, reaching her arms up at me, practically begging me to give her attention. I said, “Hold on, honey, mommy has to do some work.” Not even TV would distract her— she kept begging for me to pick her up, so I did, but I felt incredibly frustrated with her, because she was completely ruining my plans for productivity. I looked forward to the next day when she would be at my mom’s house while I could work all day, uninterrupted. And then it hit me— the mom guilt. The kind unique to moms who work at home, and perhaps are so obsessed with their work, that they find very little balance in their family and personal life. I realized I had been looking at my friendships and family life as a sort of obstacle to overcome so I could finish my work, put forth stupendous projects, and stay on schedule. Yes, I felt so happy to have a job I enjoyed, but I was allowing it to take a huge focus of my life, in the process putting the most important things in the back burner.
How did I get there? Why was I doing this to myself? I put so much of myself into my work that it was beginning to encompass all that I am— which I realized when I began discovering how much my emotional healthy was tied to how well my projects turned out or how well they were received. Not to mention if I really kept track of how I spent each hour of my day, most of them would revolve around work-related tasks or sleeping. I think I had the mentality that it would get better— that next month would be easier, that next season I could travel or do some fun things. But every month I would say the same thing. I realized it wouldn’t get any better unless I made a change.
I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to be all of the things I want to be or do all of the things I want to do. There are not enough days in the week, and there are not enough weeks in the month. Everything is a give and take— and I need to decide what I want to give and what I want to take. If I don’t purposefully reorder my life, my life will keep reordering me. If I don’t put work in its place, anything that has a deadline will become the most important thing in my life, and I will wake up one day as an empty nester with nothing to show but an archive of blog posts.
While I don’t believe children should be the center of one’s life, I do think that they are pretty darn important. Children need time, love, affection, and we need it too! I love being with Lucy, and she loves being with me. We enrich each other’s lives immensely when we spend time together. I have this little girl who won’t be little for too much longer, and I think I’ve squandered a lot of my time with her because of the stress I put on myself to get things done, to be a better blogger, to be more physically fit, to make fine meals, to be the best at everything.
What have I learned? I’ve learned that I’m way too hard on myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to rest, because I always had something else on my to-do list that needed done at some point. (And it will always be that way.) I always had a project that could be improved in one way or another— a photo that might need reshot, lighting that wasn’t perfect, writing that could always be edited another time. I want to create the best work that I can and be the best I can be, in part to honor God, to be a reliable asset to any team I’m a part of, and to just feel good about myself. That sense of accomplishment and self-validation. But I can’t fire on all cylinders all of the time and still maintain a healthy life.
This fall I began to feel convicted about how I spent my time, but then one week it hit me hard. Every time I got in my car, I heard radio programs about redeeming the time. My usual podcasts talked about how important it is to enjoy life and not let work too big of a place in your life. Every time I met with a friend, they brought up time management. In one week I was completely barraged with messages about making the most of the time and relationships we’re given. It was a week that confirmed what I had been thinking and the changes I have been slowly making towards refocusing my life and redeeming the time.
I’m still in the midst of figuring out what this means for my life, but I’ve already begun to decline photography gigs, and as you may have noticed, I’ve been spending way less time on this blog. I just can’t justify lifestyle blogging when I’m too busy actually living my life or keeping up with commitments that pay the bills. And let’s be real— sometimes finding time to blog means getting less sleep, ignoring my family, getting behind on work, saying no to meeting up with a friend… or maybe just not watching another episode of Gilmore Girls. And right now, I need all of those other things more than I need to blog. Yes— I need a little Gilmore Girls in my life. Don’t we all?
If you’re also struggling with redeeming the time and prioritizing your life, I’d really like to recommend a book called Free by Mark and Lisa Scandrette. I really cannot recommend it enough! It has been hugely helpful in stepping back to remember the big picture of life. Work more so I can spend more and meanwhile the important things in life suffer? No thanks. Of course, when you lay it out like that, it seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of dreams, plans, and all that comes with this modern life. I hope to find a place that feels more peaceful for me and my family, and I hope you can too!