I don't have to do it all (and neither do you)

One of the things I have loved about my thirties is the increasing clarity I have gained each year about what I love and don't love. The re-discovering of myself and my new dreams post baby and early childhood years. (We are in the second half of our child raising years and the third stage of our family life in general.)

I have loved, LOVED, finding new expressions of myself outside my first calling as mom and homemaker. And perhaps the best gift I've gained in my thirties - truly accepting and embracing that I don't have to do it all.

I never was one of those women who wanted it all terms of the white picket fence and a thriving career while raising children. I've never wanted a career, I still don't. And the white picket fence did not deliver all it promised. (Read: it wasn't worth the debt and the burden that carries).

But that's not the "all" I'm referring to. The homemaking community, especially the "green & natural" homemaking community, carries a lot of "all" baggage. Grow your own food, cook your own food (no cans allowed), knit your own clothes, make your own soap, and don't forget to blog about it.

This was my "all" for a time. But not truly, truly. I've never had any delusions about making our own clothes. I leave that to Damien.

But at times, I definitely carried the personal expectation that I could be homemaker extraordinaire.

If I just tried hard enough.

Trying hard to do a bunch of things that don't bring me joy and aren't in line with our family vision and values, isn't all that much fun. I don't think I was ever off track in any significant way. All I know is I find homemaking (and homeschooling, and parenting, etc) most joyful  when I let go of thinking I have to do it all. And do it all really well.

Take crafting and home decor for example. I used to sew a lot. It was one of my creative outlets when my children were small. We still own the decorative pillows I sewed all those years ago in New Jersey.

We don't own the fleece vest I made for Damien early in our marriage. He never wore it. I can't imagine why we'd keep it! I learned from that experience to stick to rectangles and squares.

When I scaled back my sewing (this happened around the time I started writing more, you can only do so much), I wanted to pick up something to do with my hands. I like making things with my hands. So I tried knitting.

I'm still knitting, very slowly and sometimes I don't knit for months at a time, but I'm still at it, because I enjoy it. This is not my family's source of clothing (oh man, we'd freeze!)

I place no expectations on myself for how long projects should take. Good thing too. I've completed only one project and am currently working on my second big project.

What I've come to realize is that just because I love wearing knits, and I love hand-knits even more, does not mean I'm the one who has to knit them!

I love the knits I've gathered over the last few months. It took me awhile to find it, but we have an amazing little second hand store in our community. The clothes I've found there ($5 to fill a grocery bag) have all been winners.

I'm not the only one who shops for our family there. My friend will buy things for us if she sees clothes that she thinks will fit the girls and I. My most favorite knits this fall - a sweater and two colorful turtleneck vests have come from there.

My other favorite knits are the handknit socks I bought myself for my birthday, the green sweater knit by my Auntie, given to my mom and then handed down to me, and a couple favorite toques.

When I put them all together I see I am attracted to bright colors. Another thing I am more comfortable with in my mid to late thirties. I never was a "classic" dresser, why start now? I like the vibrant, earthy look.

It might appear to just be about knitting but it's a lot more than that. It's about knowing and loving (and discovering) myself as my kids grow up and I do to. It's about saying, "these are the things I want to do with my time and resources and these others things, they don't matter so much". And that's ok.

Where have you found freedom to experiment, create, grow, and to do the things you love?
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  • Heather

    Heather on Dec. 28, 2012, 10:25 a.m.

    These are wonderful thoughts! There are so.many.activities that I want to do, but I am starting to realize that these early days of being a mama are definitely not going to allow it. My kids are 4 and 2 right now, and I am just now seeing that I can have one (just one) thing extra in my day besides the typical cooking/cleaning/reading to my babes/cooking/cleaning that I attempt every day. Letting go is definitely not easy for me!


  • denise

    denise on Dec. 28, 2012, 2:04 p.m.

    I am sewing a quilt right now - I have been working on it for 6 months!! It doesn't bother me either. One stitch at a time... I have a lot of things I love to do!!


  • Brooke

    Brooke on Dec. 28, 2012, 2:31 p.m.

    I appreciate this post. I too have discovered that it is okay if I don't do it all. Also that it doesn't have to be perfect, and it is also okay if someone else does it better. It allows for much more contentment in the everyday when you realize your best at whatever you are doing is enough. That it is okay to work toward a new goal, and that you haven't failed if the outcome is different than what you expect. I am enjoying this journey of just being me.


  • Heather Caliri

    Heather Caliri on Dec. 28, 2012, 2:52 p.m.

    I've learned I don't love big groups as a way of connecting with people. I have learned, at least for now with very young kids, that sewing does not meet any heart needs--but cooking does. I've learned to let the laundry go until I'm done with my writing tasks for the day. I've learned to be very, very intentional about how I spend my time.


  • Kim Cosar

    Kim Cosar on Dec. 28, 2012, 2:56 p.m.

    Yes! I love all that I have discovered about myself in the past few years as well. I also love that in the second half of raising kids there is a rediscovery of time. Time to explore things on my own, and just get to be me. And that is pretty darn great.


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Dec. 28, 2012, 3:50 p.m.

    It's taken me just the last couple years to realize I cannot do it all, nor am I meant to do it all. God gave us all different talents, abilities, interests, and strengths/weaknesses. My list of hobbies is long, like knitting, gardening, reading, cycling, hiking/backpacking, whole foods cooking, and I've dabbled in sewing and learning guitar. But what I've realized is I can't do them all at once! LOL! Seems so common sense now, but at one time I thought I had to pursue all those things while raising the kids, being a wife, and working full-time as a teacher.

    As I approach 40, and the kids reach that "second half" stage you refer to, and Jeff starts his business, I get so excited as to what else I will learn about myself, our marriage, life, etc. For now, I am switching between reading & kitting in the early morning hours, can't do both, so for a few days I read a book, after it's done, I'll knit on a project for a few days. I think the freedom truly is in accepting that I cannot do it all, and I'm so okay with that.


  • Kate

    Kate on Dec. 28, 2012, 5:10 p.m.

    Your realizations in this post are ones I want to pass on to my daughter as she grows up. Thank you for sharing your reflections.


  • Mystie

    Mystie on Dec. 28, 2012, 5:20 p.m.

    I just turned thirty this year and had my fifth baby. My oldest is 9. Having grown up and graduated homeschooled myself, I am so grateful to know from experience and from advice of older moms that I don't need to feel the pressure and guilt of the "all" of homeschooling. Crafts are fun, but we don't need them to reinforce history or phonics. No tests, just writing. No uber-coordinated unit studies, just lots of reading.

    I feel so badly for the mothers new to homeschooling who feel they have to provide so much themselves, including workbooks and projects for every subject, covering them all everyday. It is so easy to get anxious and paralyzed. I am so thankful for my mother's example of semi-unschooling, though I didn't appreciate it or recommend it until I started homeschooling a couple years myself. :)


  • Kyndale

    Kyndale on Dec. 28, 2012, 6:26 p.m.

    I'm an idealist for sure but I have also let go a bit as I've gotten older. Really, I like to spend my time doing things I enjoy. Not the things I think I should be doing. I lOVE to cook for my family. I love the challenge of a knit, I LOVE the challenge of being a homeschooling mother. I love gardening and taking care of my chickens. There's lots more. I appreciate you writing about this! xoxoxo


  • Lety

    Lety on Dec. 29, 2012, 7:38 a.m.

    Hola Renee! You know you're one of my favorite blogs! Sorry I go fast through it and don't leave a comment most of the time. But these days your posts have been really encouraging! And just want to make sure you know it. I'm also wishing you a great 2013. Keep writing!


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Dec. 29, 2012, 9:59 a.m.

    i'm totally with you, Renee, though I was never under any illusion or pretense that I had to do it all, even if I like the idea. in most cases, we're simply very lucky to be able to choose this lifestyle (as opposed to being forced to by lack of options), and the extent to which we choose to "do it all", is very personal.


  • Amy w

    Amy w on Dec. 29, 2012, 5:19 p.m.

    Such a well-said piece. I constantly find myself trying to live up to what I think a mom, a wife, a daughter, a woman should be. Learning to let those expectations go. I have begun writing on a blog, simply for the enjoyment it brings to me. I have given up on sewing baby pants, I can't get them right. And I too knit, bt only scarves, for the ease of them! You look so warm & beautiful in your pictures, you must know peace. Happy new year.


  • LisaZ

    LisaZ on Dec. 31, 2012, 1:05 a.m.

    I have discovered this same truth, and work to let go of the pressure of trying to do/be/have it all. It IS work! We've heard so much from women over 40 who say they no longer feel the pressure to be or do it all, or they don't care as much about what other people think. I think this can be true for all of us, but it doesn't happen magically. It takes work to let go, accept who you are, and be at peace! That seems a bit of an oxymoron (work at peace, etc), but I've found it to be the case.

    These days, I'm enjoying being very gentle with myself. I love gentle, flowing yoga better than hot or faster-paced yoga, so I take only the yoga classes that feel good. I love good healthy food but I don't feel guilty if I splurge on a cinnamon roll while out with friends, mainly because I know that most of the time I eat really well. I like to knit but just small projects that are quick and simple. I don't really like sewing and I can admit that now, but still once in a while I will make something if it's the best, cheapest, easiest way to obtain something I want (like a skirt or apron). I've found that simple is best for me, and that's a freeing thing to know.

    I echo the comment that your posts have been particularly encouraging lately!


  • Jenny Depa-Karl

    Jenny Depa-Karl on Jan. 6, 2013, 11:10 a.m.

    Hello! As I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I often remind myself that I can't do it all. It's been difficult to sort-through and let go of some things (did I mention I'm also a recovering perfectionist?). But, life is sweet with all it's imperfections AND it's best to enjoy it each and every day! I hope to become a better mom, daughter, friend, neighbor... in 2013! Best wishes to you!!


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