A couple of months ago, I tried to take a realistic look at my schedule and everything that I was trying to get done in a day. I ended most days feeling like a failure because I had listed out everything that needed to get done and I never seemed to get it done. DH would look at me like I was a dragon with 3 heads when I expressed my feelings of failure, because to him, I was knocking it out of the park. I was getting worn out by the constant feelings of failure and the burden of always feeling in “catch-up” mode. So I gave myself a big kick in the rear and started to think about things from a different perspective.

The first thing that I did was list out everything that ACTUALLY had to get done in a day and how long that each would take realistically considering my family and their needs and personalities. Here is what I came up with:

  • Sleep – 7-8 hours
  • Morning Bible study – 30 min
  • Meals – 2.5 hours
  • Daily hygiene – 1 hour
  • Cooking – 2 hours
  • Morning farm work – 1 hour
  • Afternoon farm work – 1 hour
  • Kids’ bedtime routine – 1 hour
  • Dishes – 30 min
  • 2-3 loads of laundry start to (hopefully) finish – 1 hour
  • Cleaning up the kitchen after meals – 30 min

When I totaled everything up, it came out to about 20 hours out of my day! That gave me 4 hours to do EVERYTHING else. That includes structured school time for the kids, working the horses, tending the garden and orchard, farm projects, cleaning the house, house projects, mowing the always growing 7 acres of grass, etc. I started to think about those hours as my fluid hours. I realized that if I had 4 fluid hours in a day, I could really only plan for about 2-2.5 of them being usable, because inevitably someone would have a meltdown or get hurt or decide to take twice as long doing the morning farm work because we had to stop and study a micro-habitat that exists under a water trough that we were supposed to be scrubbing or kiddos get into a huge fight over who was supposed to brush their teeth first after breakfast which resulted in a 30 min discussion about treating each other with love and respect. You get the picture – life happens. 🙂

As soon as I realized how much I was actually getting packed into that tiny span of time and how much I was getting done out of necessity without thinking about it, I started to feel much less like a failure. I also started making much, much shorter to-do lists. I made loops for everything that needed to fit into those hours: school subjects; fun activities with the kids; barn work; etc. Whatever doesn’t get done today, just get’s moved to tomorrow. I have let go of having a clean house for now. When the kids are older, they can help more. For now, we farm and school and live in our house. It’s never going to be perfectly clean, let alone Pinterest-worthy. I celebrate the days that when I go to bed, the dishwasher is running and the kitchen is clean. But most nights, some dishes are soaking or there may be a stack on the side of the sink. Often, DH and I have some quality time and laughs watching something silly while we fold the day’s laundry that’s stacked on our bed.

I still have days when I feel like a failure, because I haven’t lived up to my expectations. But they are getting fewer and further between. I wrote the phrase “Remember, you only have 4 fluid hours in a day, so only plan for 2-2.5 of them.” in big letters on the rub-away board by my kitchen table. I see it multiple times a day. It is sinking in. My 4 fluid hours realization is freeing me to be in the moment with my family, because I’m not feeling the constant pressure of that to-do list of doom that was always unachievable and setting me up to fail.