Every busy parent knows that life is a continuous juggling act in the midst of a three-ring-circus.  Trust me, I have three little boys, each of whom manages to demand, perform, and behave in excess of a Barnum and Bailey show!

Every day you pack enough sandwiches and cook sufficient food to feed small third-world-country.  When you take time off from the office, two people are hired to replace you.  You do homework, go to soccer practice, and participate in class trips to the zoo.  You call your mother and mother-in-law regularly and stay in contact with the kids’ teachers and carpool drivers. 

You are the tooth fairy, nurse, waitress, chef, secretary, housekeeper, chauffer, therapist, personal shopper, guidance counselor, coach, and entertainer all wrapped into one extraordinarily busy person. 

How do you juggle the wide variety of tasks that must be accomplished?  What is the secret to staying sane while keeping all the balls up in the air?

The answer is to simply shoot your image of superwoman, and realize that she is nothing but a fantasy.  Nobody, that’s right, nobody can have it all.  If you want to enroll your children in a lot of activities, you will not cook healthy gourmet dinners each evening.  If you want to treat yourself to a well-deserved good book and bar of chocolate each evening, you will not have all the laundry sorted by the end of each day.

Most of the balls we are constantly attempting to juggle are made of rubber.  There is no harm done in a rubber ball bouncing on occasion.  However, one ball is made of glass- the family ball.  The housekeeping and shopping can be put on hold.  The myriad of chores on your list will patiently wait for you to attend to them.  However, the people within your family need you now.  Your children will never be the exact same age they are today ever again.  You will never have another opportunity to enhance your relationship with those closest to you for this present day.

So, go ahead, and let some balls bounce.  We all have scattered rubber balls bouncing within our busy lives.  Relax; you can scoop them up later.  Now is the time to focus on your glass ball, the people in your home who need you most.  Don’t let the glass ball down, because it can shatter.  Keep on juggling… you can do it!

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  1. This was a much needed e-mail today. I appreciate the e-mails you & MomsRising send. I keep thinking there should be some education for people before they have kids to prepare them before they do. Something like this would help.

  2. WOW! This could not be more perfect for today as I juggle scouting, soccer, football, piano, percussion, being head roommom and attempting to spend quality time with my kids as I am involved in all of these things. How easily I forget that the kids need time with me not just as a chaufer, cook, maid, and events coordinator but as MOM! Let the laundry sit for just one more day…it’s not going anywhere…don’t I wish!

  3. Hi, Brooke –
    Even though I have a bachelor’s degree, I have often felt way under-educated when it comes to motherhood. The more I talk to other moms (like yourself) the more I realize that *many* of us feel this way.
    The complexity of the issue lies in the fact that SO many people view motherhood as simple: ya cook, ya clean, ya make sure the kids don’t drown…
    Little do people who aren’t whole-heartedly involved in mothering understand that what we do is actually so much more.
    A mother is more than the sum of her parts. And while our society is busy outsourcing every job imaginable — including motherhood — they wonder why teen pregnancy and teen suicide rates or soaring and educational levels are slumping.
    I have created for my community the Successful Mothering Convention. It is a great day of support, motivation, inspiration, laughter and education for mothers of all ages and stages, from all backgrounds, of all socio-economic levels.
    If you’re interested in helping this convention expand to your area (we are an all-volunteer, non-profit) – contact me through my website!
    I’d also like to thank Ellen for her wonderfully thoughtful blog. I have invited her to speak at my convention — she gracefully declined, and I hold no ill will against her. I still direct people to her site!!!

  4. Oops – my website didn’t show up — it’s:
    (I hope this is okay – it’s not intended to be a commercial! If my comments need to be removed or edited I won’t take it personally).

  5. Kiran Beharie says:

    This is wife…. a SUPERWOMAN….. she has 25 kids…… she is a teacher and a mom….. OH!!! and a wonderful wife…..

  6. Hi,
    I can’t believe how quickly my three kids have grown! They say time flies as you get older so I must be OLD! (Mine are college, high school and junior high. It just seems like yesterday that I was at home with them before returning to my teaching career!) Anyway, my pastor’s son just committed suicide and I know that this boy’s mom would give anything just to be with him for another day…TO BE WITH HIM..not to do his wash, cook him a meal or drive him to a game but to BE WITH HIM!! Time is fleeting!! I think of this as I teach. Grades will pass, school subjects are not as important as training them in the Lord and listening to them, praying with them, etc…thank God I can do this at our Christian school… God is good, all the time.
    Motherhood can be exhausting! (Sometimes I fall into bed earlier than my kids anymore!) but I would not trade being a MOM for anything!!! Jane

  7. This reminded me of a great story I was sent the link for.
    If you have time – go and have a look – very short.

  8. Jane’s comments (#6) reminded me of Karen Kingsbury’s book Let Me Hold You Longer. It is powerful. I teach first grade and have sent the book home with almost half of my students already. They have all commented all how it helps them refocus on the really important things. It has had a lasting effect on me.

    I am a juggler. It is hard to let any balls bounce. I am working on a masters degree in education and have a hard time finding a balance occasionally. One day I was worried that I had done as well on an assignment because I was doing something with my son. My colleague said you may have gotten a B on the assignment, but an A in being a mother. That put it all in perspective! Daphne

  9. I have always felt inadequate as a housekeeper. My house is always in a constant state of chaos and when we have company over it’s like a 2 day marathon to get the house dusted, swept, counters unclutterd, etc. I have 5 children, and my son’s friend lives with us, too. I work full time and my “days off” ( weekend ) is spent running errands and trying to play catch-up from the week, along with church and the occasional baby shower or birthday party. But we still manage to eat dinner at the table ( sometimes @ 7 ), have movie nights and my kids are usually home or home on time. My kids are becoming more involved with the upkeep of the house and there are balls that get dropped quite often, but I have learned that the kids would rather spend time with their dad and I than have a spotless house.

  10. It’s all a matter of balance. Yes, it’s important to spend quality time with your kids, without question. But it’s also important to teach them responsibility. There is work to be done that makes everyone’s life better.

    If they know they either have to wait for you to finish, or pitch in before they get a ride somewhere, You’d be suprised how motivated they can become. (This tip also works for employees who are anxious to get off work)

    You can spend quality time going to the grocery store. You can talk in the car. They can help plan the menus and learn about making healthy food choices and living within a budget.

    I think too many people take this train of thought as permission to let things slide. It’s not good for our families, and we’re not teaching kids the things they need to know to make it in this world. They need to learn to buckle down and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. That means – so do you.

    Alicia – you’re doing a great job! You just need to learn a little more organization. A few simple daily habits will solve your problems.

    The house doesn’t have to be a museum – just picked up and a healthy clean.

    Meals don’t have to be gourmet – but they should be balanced and healthy – and I’m sorry – they need to be homemade.

    I could go on and on – but I’ll shut up now. I’m sure my views won’t be all that popular. Sorry about that. We’re parents. We have a lot of responsibilities. And as Jane points out – it’s over very quickly.

    My almost 16 year old daughter will be driving soon. I can’t believe it…

    And she appreciates being able to bring her friends into a clean house, and she prefers healthy food. So don’t think for a moment that they don’t notice, or don’t care.

    OK, I’m really ging to shut up now 🙂


  11. My thirteen year old is finally returning tomorrow from a ten day outdoor education trip with his entire 8th grade. I am so glad I have at least five more years till he heads off for college because I missed the heck out him! Family truly is a glass ball.
    Thank you Ellen.

  12. Carole,

    Your comments made me think. You’re right. As much as I want to “let things slide,” they still need to actually get done. Sure, I can read a book to my kids first, but after that book, we can work together to take care of some laundry — and then read some more! Kids do need to learn that real life is full of responsibilities and we can’t just ignore those responsibilities even though we have something better (and more fun) to do.

  13. Ah finally you hit the nail on the head “the glass ball” I have been juggling for nearly 9 yrs, is busy as ever with two boys, nearly 9 yrs and 2 yrs ! ( I also care for my Dad who has had 2 strokes, and we lost Our dear Mum 2 yrs ago on the 19th September) its Mad, but I have to remember “time out” to do simple things like reading at bedtime,as he is older and can read so well. My elder son sat there in awe earlier tonight, grinning as I read him some Harry Potter…simple to us ? Thrilling to them, stuff future memories are made of..(I still remember now even though I’m 39 yrs, My Mum reading to me and my 3 older Brothers at bedtime,all those years ago) such a simple thing, but so terribly important eh ? Thank you for this great site! I awalys read your emails and nod wholeheartedly …Pip. Wheelwright UK x

  14. Alicia, I totally understand where you are coming from. I have felt the same way……and i think you are right–the kids would rather have time with you than to live in a spotless house. I want my kids to be responsible, and they do help out around the house, but those of us who work full time may have to make a choice between vacuumming every 2 weeks instead of every week because they want to make memories with their kids. Today (Sunday), I had 821 things to do around the house–as usual, right?–and I thought–you know what? It is a beautiful fall day outside. I am taking my kids for a hike. We took 2 of their friends as well and we all had a great time, and you know what? My house didn’t get cleaned today. But, I know that that hike is part of a connection that I am strenthening with my kids every time we do something together. My house is clean ENOUGH–that is key. It’s not perfect and I don’t care if it isn’t. I grew up in a very disorganized and messy house, and I was ashamed to have friends over, so kids do notice and care, but again, let’s keep things in balance–I am not a perfect mom, or housekeeper or cook–but I am good enough. I am not seetling for medocrity, I am settling for sanity and the opportunity to have joy in my life.

  15. how does one do it all???? ASK FOR HELP!!!!

    I use to not be able to ask for help until a friend and I were talking and we both realized that we were FRIED. Then and there we have started trying to coordinate our schedules so that we each have some child free time each week. She has 4 kids and I have 3 plus two exchange students. Life is very busy and enriching, but I am the first to admit, m house is cluttered- we sure do have fun, though!!

  16. oooh god!!!, thank you so much for this article.
    it was/is much needed support in my life as the daily demands have build up to an insomnia level
    i love the analogy of the family glass ball. i am going to write this on my bulletin board for a daily reminder.

    god bless

  17. You have the greatest timing with this article. As a mom of twin 5yr old boys I sometimes think I’m going to lose it. They are so full of life and lets just say most of the time I am not. I work full time and then pick them up from school to continue working. I just find I dont get much time to myself. I do tend to go crazy with keeping everything in order house, appt’s, activities, social engagements etc. I don’t know how to stop and put that time into being with the boys for play time and fun. My husband tends to work excessively at times so alot falls on me and then when he is home we cant even talk.
    I can go on and on but any suggestions?

  18. You said it all Carole! I’m a mother of an 8 & 12 year old and they keep me busy with Dance, Scouts, Football, Basketball, Baseball, Cheerleading,not to mention monitoring school work, and everything else that a mother needs to do at home. I also work 40+ hours outside of the home, and my husband is ususally working 12 to 14 hours a day. So, I juggle alot into a 24 hour period! My grandmother reminds me that there will come a day that I will miss running those kids everywhere and I will be searching for things to occupy my time, (hard to imagine now) but I know she is right. My household is ran just a bit differently though. Both of my children want to be very active and I support that. But I have also made it very clear that the busier they are, the busier they make me. So, in turn I asked each of them to undertake one chore for the week to help me out. This will help to have a clean home to come home to! If they do more than that one chore, I will reward them for their efforts, but the one chore that is assigned is the swap for all the extra curricular activities that the both do. They both understand and really do well with this. Juggling can be very tough but,WE ARE A FAMILY AND WE WORK AND PLAY AS A FAMILY!

  19. Jenny, hang in there. At least they can play (or fight 🙂 with each other. At this age they’re still thrilled with going to the park. Just wait til the “I’m bored” starts!

    You need to just step back for a minute and take a deep breath. Take a few.

    The kids go to bed at 8? 9? I always puttered and cleaned up until 10, watched the news and maybe a little Leno before going to bed. Of course, I didn’t have a husband to deal with. I made sure to get up early enough to give myself time to calmly get everything together.

    Most of your day is not yours. Sometimes I was able to get an errand done at lunch time. Homework was done while I made dinner. After dinner was spent hanging out until bed, or running. We had girl scouts, youth group, school concerts and plays – but we always made it through.

    Because I cleaned up everynight, there wasn’t that much housework left to do on weekends.

    I guess it’s really just a matter of being organized.

    Try to cut out errands by ordering online. If you have a grocery service like PeaPod near you, check into it. Peapod is really cheap considering the time and headaches they save you.

    Are there parents in the neighborhood that you can do a kid swap with? Take turns giving each other a break.

    The kids always ended up at my house. I almost always had extra kids at dinner. But they all played together which freed me up to do things I needed to do. Worked out fine. And I always knew where they were and what they were doing.

    So hopefully some of these suggestions help!

  20. Good article….but once again, sadly gender specific. I am a stay-at-home Dad. I work 30 hours a week at a church. I cook, do laundry, clean house, and still find time to wrestle with my 3 year old twins, go hiking with them, play and picnic at parks, and walk down streams with our collective pants rolled up.
    I liked the article, I really did. I liked the analogy of the juggling balls. I just find it sad that when men who are the primary caretakers look for support and encouragement, we have to wad through all the gender specific language as if we don’t exist.

  21. Good article….but once again, sadly gender specific. I am a stay-at-home Dad. I work 30 hours a week at a church. I cook, do laundry, clean house, and still find time to wrestle with my 3 year old twins, go hiking with them, play and picnic at parks, and walk down streams with our collective pants rolled up.
    I liked the article, I really did. I liked the analogy of the juggling balls. I just find it sad that when men who are the primary caretakers look for support and encouragement, we have to wade through all the gender specific language as if we don’t exist.

  22. Yeah Don! I’ve also waded through all the good advise of Mom’s but did not hear anyone mention Dad’s/husbands helping to keep all the balls in the air. There does need to be more support groups for men or less gender specific groups as my husband also finds the same thing. My husband and I are a team in our family. We each pitch in so we can spend time with our 2 little ones. The key is for the family to be a team and to help each other keep the balls juggling in the air.

  23. Hi Don – You are right. It’s an issue that came up with my ezine. I was suprised to find out how many male readers I had. Most of my writing at the site is not gender specific – except maybe for make-up tips 😉

    Tammy, I think you are in the minority, and very fortunate. We all wish!

  24. Hey Don- why don’t you start a network for single dads? You can set up a free one at ning.com.

  25. Thanks Carole. I hear you.
    It is so important to put some of the ‘house’ stuff aside because my little guys are almost 6 and I feel like I’ve wished time away.
    They do tend to fight these days and not use their words to express themselves but we are working on that.
    They do go to bed by 8 at the latest and me too, thats my time to catch my breath but I fuss around the kitchen etc. I now have my own homework of trying to step back and enjoy my little angels. Thanks again.