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Monday, October 22, 2012

My secret. It's not really that much of a secret.

Okay, so a comment from my friend and fellow blogger Lindsay at aFitFamily.com has prompted me to write a quick (or not) post regarding how I prioritize my time such that I can work out as much as I do.  She's not the only one to ask me the question of how I find the time to exercise for hours a day and still get other things done.

Maybe to some it may seem that spending the amount of time that (I confess to) on exercise, wouldn't leave much time for things such as laundry, cooking and housekeeping.  So, lest you think that my obsession with fitness leaves my family living in squalor, wearing dirty clothes and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, here are some of my thoughts on this topic.

First, a few facts:
  • I have four children, ages 12, 11, 10 and 6.  Monday through Thursday they are all in school from 7:30am until 4:15pm.  My husband works 40-50 hours or more a week.
  • As of right now (and for the past 13 years) I have been a stay-at-home mom and not worked outside of the home...at all.  Some call this a luxury.  We call it a sacrifice.  It's not easy and not always fun.  We live simply, making things work on one meager (cop's) salary by living in a modest (read: old) house we can afford, only having one vehicle, not having the latest electronic devices or expensive clothes, nor spendy monthly cell phone bills, cable or satellite television.  I don't go to the salon to get my hair or nails done - I do it myself.  We don't go on many vacations, our kids' shoes and pants will have holes or be way too small before we buy them more, we only allow each child one paid activity per school year.  Yes, that means our kids don't all get piano lessons, dance lessons, art lessons, or get to play soccer and little league and football and basketball.  They will probably not get to have braces in elementary school and will (gasp) have to wait until later in life to have perfectly straight teeth, like I did when I paid for my own braces at 19 years old.  So they will have have to suffer with their child-like, crooked-toothed smiles while keeping themselves occupied at home on weekends, NOT talking on cell phones that they don't have. :)
Okay, so here's the rest of the story:
  • I do at least one or two loads of laundry every single day.  I usually put a load in right when I get up or after breakfast.  Some days it might not get folded until the evening after dinner when the kids are doing homework, etc, but if I'm doing multiple loads, I just work on it throughout the day.  One of the benefits of not having the money to buy a lot of stuff - there's not a lot of stuff to wash.
  • I follow a daily maintenance type of method when it comes to cleaning the house.  There are those jobs, like cleaning the bathrooms and dusting, that I usually do once a week, but again, this is where having a modest house comes in handy.  It doesn't really take me a lot of time to do those things.  The rest of the time I make a concerted effort to keep up on things.  I find it's a lot easier to keep a clean house if don't ever let it get too "bad".  I vacuum every day, I clean up the kitchen every day.  I make the kids pick up after themselves.  Every day.  They've got it down pretty well, too, I might add.  They know that "mom doesn't like things left on the floor" and Noah (12) is especially great at taking out the trash without being told and helping with keeping the dishes done - which is nice, because we don't have a dishwasher.  Yep, you read that right.  It's 2012 and in our kitchen not only is there no dishwasher, but also no garbage disposal.  And we, a family of 6, survive just fine.
  • I do cook.  I make things from scratch.  I bake, too.  I like to bake things using vegetables from our garden.  I grind my own wheat.  I make juice.  Maybe I don't venture out into a lot of new territory often, when it comes to trying new or exotic recipes, but I fix what I know my family will eat, trying to keep it as healthy as possible.  I'm not perfect at it, but I try.  There is nothing in my workout routine that conflicts with my dinner prep time, which can be anywhere from 3-5pm.  My husband and I have both been eating clean for about 3 months now.  Before that, we ate healthy, but now we're more strict about nixing processed sugar and flour and eating (almost all) whole foods.  With the kids, it's been a little more difficult, but it's a process.  The only pre-packaged foods that I buy and use are typically for the kids' lunches, but it's things like crackers, some kind of healthy granola bar or applesauce.  I also make healthy muffins to put in there sometimes.  I send them to school every day with a lunch that I pack myself, every morning - before I do any exercise. :)
  • I make a choice to not be overly involved with my kids at their school.  We attend their special functions, and I will help at the occasional party or activity, but I don't volunteer for PTO or anything like that.  It's just a personal choice I make.  Dealing with those kinds of things stresses me out and I try to avoid stressing myself out so that I can be a more pleasant mom when my kids are with me at home.
  • Here are some numbers:  I wake up at 6am every day and go to bed around 11pm.  That gives me approximately 17 hours to accomplish whatever needs to be done.  Even if I workout for 3 hours a day, that's less than 18% of my waking hours.  That still leaves me with the other 82%, or 14 hours to do other stuff.  I don't take naps (but for the really rare occasion), I don't watch TV (unless I'm watching something on Netflix, while working out or folding laundry), I don't do book club or girl's night out.  My only real hobby is exercising.  My time at home is my time to be home.  I do have some church obligations, including being a den leader in the cub scouts, which takes a few hours of my time each week, along with a couple of other things, but I have time to keep house.
Now I'm not claiming to have perfected the whole balance thing.  You all know I've complained before that I have issues with sometimes feeling insecure about the choices I make and where my priorities lie.  I guess I have so many things to be grateful for, things that help me keep this level of peace and balance in my life.  Things like good, self-sufficient, capable kids who tend not to make things too hard for me (most of the time), and a supportive and helpful husband who makes my happiness his priority.  Also, the fact that we live two blocks from the elementary school and about a mile from our church, makes going to activities simple and quick.

Call it "my secret", if you will, but I think it's really just about the choices we make.  For each of us that means different things.  Some of you may not agree with all of the choices I make, but it works for our family, at least for now.  I spend some time every week doing some sort of volunteer stuff, whether it involves going out and physically doing something for someone, baking something for a community, church or school activity, or just visiting someone, but I have also learned that in order to maintain peace of mind, it's okay to say 'no' sometimes.  Another of my blog readers also commented recently that we are all in different "seasons" of life and that we should embrace each season because they can change at any time.  This is my time to enjoy and make use of the fact that I have the ability to train every day, several hours a day and still keep my kids and husband happy and our household functioning properly.  It may not be this way for long, I don't know.  All I know is that my family is my priority and the choices I'm currently making with regards to how I spend my time do not detract from that.  If and when they do, I may need to reassess my choices.


  1. I think that it's awesome that you have found something that you love to do. I have had so many people tell me that they don't have time to train for a marathon, like I have nothing better to do. I love to run. I love to have a goal. And I love to push myself. So I make it a priority. Sometimes i even have to start my day at 4:30 am so I can get a workout done before "real" life begins. Enjoy this time of your life.

    1. I can't even count how many times I have people say that same thing to me: "I don't have the time to train for a marathon." In other words, your choice to spend that amount of time training is, in their opinion, a waste or selfish use of time. Those same people often spend countless hours doing other things, like fishing, skiing, watching tv, working at the office too much - whatever it might be, all things that still take time away from home and family in some way. We each choose how we spend our time, that doesn't necessarily make it wasteful.

  2. First of all, I hope you don't think I was being critical in some way when I made that comment. I think sometimes when you list all the working out you do--it sounds like so much, but when you add up the actual minutes spent working out, it's not as much as it sounds. (Did that make sense?) I have certainly had days when I work out for 3 hours--not every day, but I'm not a marathon runner, either! I am legitimately curious as to how different people make it work--since I struggle so much with balance and I have the same number of kids you do.

    To both you and Lisa I have to say that just because someone says, "I don't have time to train for a marathon", they aren't saying that you are selfish for choosing to spend your time training!! I have made the choices now to spend my time doing other things so that I don't have time to train for a marathon--but that doesn't mean I judge people who do! I think it is wonderful!

    I agree that we all get to make our own choices--I have just finalized my decision to start homeschooling (gulp) which will obviously leave me with next to no time to myself, but I have to do what is best for my family at this time. It's a sacrifice I am willing to make. You do what you have to do when you have to do it--seasons of life, right? But hey, this way I won't have nearly as much time volunteering at the school! :)

    I need to be better at doing laundry every day--I need to be better at so much!! Thanks for posting your ideas and thoughts about it all. Sometimes it helps to get the bigger picture.

    p.s. I KNOW you--I never thought you lived in squalor!! Apparently you have mastered the art on getting by on a lot less sleep than I need, though. :( I'll figure it all out someday.

  3. I love this post! Thank you for letting us see inside your life. I have often wondered how you always seem like you have it all together and now I know! You are such a great mom and wife. I guarantee that other stay-at-home moms (and working moms) spend a lot more than 3 hours a day doing mindless things like using the computer or watching TV or socializing. I love that you focus on the fact that you've made choices to make this happen, both the exercising and the staying at home. So many people say, "I wish I could" and of course they COULD...they just don't want to make the financial sacrifice to stay home or the personal sacrifice to work out.

    1. Thanks, Jan. That means a lot, and I completely agree with what you said.


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