And the truth is that it has taken me a lot of trial and error to find the right balance.. and it is still a work-in-progress. As the kids grow up and their needs change, so does the way I deal with balancing home improvement, craft projects, my blog and my family. But over the five+ years I've written this blog, I have learned a lot of tricks for finding where the balance lies, what works and what doesn't (at least for me) and by now I'm acutely aware of the pitfalls to watch out for.
If you have children at home and just can't figure out how to get any crafting, decorating or DIY projects done I want to share some advice with you. Since you don't need to put off DIY projects until your kids are "older." You may not be as efficient as someone without little ones under foot, but you still *CAN* accomplish a lot, with these strategies.
5 Do's and Don'ts for Balancing Family and DIY'ing
This is a sponsored conversation of written by me on behalf of Levana.
The thoughts, opinions and text are all mine.
My Top 5 DO's:
1. DO set boundaries:
Consider your DIY project a ‘job' and set a work schedule. It is so easy to get distracted by things around the house, but you need to remind yourself that laundry or the dishes can wait. If you are determined to paint your bathroom, don't get distracted by a pair of shoes that need to be put away on your way to the garage. Picking up those shoes, and making a extra trip to the closet will most likely lead to another chore.. and another and another.. The shoes will be there when the paint is drying.
Focus on what you are doing. Set a time frame and say "From 1-4 I am painting my bathroom." Don't take a break to check Facebook, stop to grab a coffee or stick a load of dishes in the dishwasher. If you are setting aside 3 hours for a project, take that time to DO THE PROJECT.
Your kids will find ways to entertain themselves (even if they aren't always pretty.. like emptying 500 tissues from the box one-by-one) but they won't be irreconcilably damaged because you asked them to find something to do on their own for three hours. If they aren't used to being on their own it will take a little getting used to at first. Step away and work at a project in small increments, until you can leave them alone for longer periods of time. If they are used to constantly being entertained they are going to have to learn to live without you. Trust me.. they CAN do it.
2. DO keep an eye on them:
Of course, setting boundaries and expecting kids to entertain themselves doesn't mean that you completely ignore them and let them wreck havoc. You still need to keep watch of them. Your kids health and safety should NEVER come at the expense of something you are working on. To make this easier I use a Levana video monitor to keep track of not only my 18 month old, but also my 5 and 9 year olds.
Being able to look up and immediately see what they are doing, takes a load off my mind and makes it easier to focus on whatever project I'm working on. Without a monitor I would have to constantly go check on them or worry about what may be happening somewhere I cannot see. Knowing your kids are fine, makes it a lot easy to tell them to "go back and play while Mommy finishes painting!"A regular sound or video monitor would do an okay job, but I am lucky to have found the Levana Stella video monitoring system instead. It is much more than a baby monitor. It is like Reality TV featuring your children. But I think my favorite feature is that the screen itself can be WIRELESS. Because when I am working on a project I am frequently running back and forth to the garage or the back yard or the driveway.. and I want to be able to keep them in my sights at all times.
Sure, it is possible to monitor your kids, even without a system like this, but this makes it SO MUCH EASIER!
3. Involve the kids and reward them for being team players:
Some projects are easy and safe enough to involve your kids in. Nothing makes your kids feel more special then asking them to be involved in a project with you. I personally love teaching my girls how to work with their hands, and the sense of empowerment it gives them. Often when I am working on crafts or holiday decor I let my kids put in their two cents. Children are remarkably creative, and I have been surprised at what great ideas my kids have come up with.
On the flip side, if you kids are NOT interested in a project, don't force them. The goal is to make them feel good about themselves.. not drag them kicking and screaming into the garage to paint a birdhouse. That will suck not only for them.. but also for you.If a DIY project is not suitable for kids you can still reward them for how they ARE contributing. Make sure to point out how much you appreciate the fact they played nicely, and reward them when they do. Your kids will be much more apt to let you have 2 hours to yourself, if they know they are going to get 2 hours of your undivided attention afterwards. If your kids can see a payoff for letting you get your work done, they are more likely to to want to do it again. There is a fine line between bribery and earned rewards. I don't mind pushing that boundary.
4. DO deliver what you promise.. but be realistic:This is an addendum to #3. When you set boundaries and promise rewards you have to follow though on what you are actually promising. If you tell your kids you need an hour to work on something, don't spend three hours working on it. When you say "I need 20 minutes to paint this" your kids are hearing "I'll be able to focus on you in 20 minutes." They are expecting you to ‘clock out' of DIY duty and back into mommy mode.
If you want your family to respect the boundaries of "work time" you need to respect the time you have dedicated to them. When you promise to take the kids to the park after you finish fixing the toilet, don't backtrack and tell them that you're too tired and you'll have to skip it. Every time you break a promise, they will be that much less willing to cooperate with you next time.
There have been many times when I've regretted telling my kids at the start of a project "when mommy is done we'll go get ice cream" since by the time I'm finished I'm dirty, tired and just want to sit down or take a shower. But I still suck it up and take them to the ice cream shop, sawdust covered hair and all. I gave them my word and they delivered on their end of the deal. Boundaries only work if both sides agree to live with them.
Don't say "I'm going to paint the bathroom from 10-2" when you know that the kids eat lunch at 11:30. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure and resentment. If you have small children, do projects that require the most attention during nap times or when you have help (my older kids are great with the baby so I do a lot of work when they are there to help watch him). Don't start working on a drywall project with hot mud that needs to be applied in less than 30 minutes, right before nap time. Since when the baby starts melting down, you are going to have step away from the project, and now you have a big mess on your hands.
I try to do projects that require my undivided attention when my husband is home (nights and weekends) or while the baby is sleeping. When I'm alone with the baby, I focus on small projects that can be completed quickly, or I work on the computer. Since those are typically not time-critical. And an outing to the home improvement store can actually be an adventure when you're 5 and 2!
If you find yourself over promising, then make sure in the future you are setting realistic expectations (of yourself and your kids.) Make sure whenever you set aside time for a project, you take into account the prep, cleanup, and the possibility of it taking longer than you think it should. Your family doesn't really care that you had trouble getting your mitered corners to line up so it is taking longer than you predicted. They only see that you said you would be done an hour ago, and now you're aren't spending time with them like you promised. Once you lose the trust of your kids, it is hard to earn it back.
5. Take time to get away from it all
One of the biggest side effects you get from all this DIY-family balancing act is burnout. It can me mentally and physically draining to always try to keep all those balls in the air. And so I think it is essential that you set aside time that is just for you. Take time to take care of yourself and do something you love. If a project is frustrating and overwhelming, step back, treat yourself to some "me" time and reset.
I personally set aside every Sunday morning, and I head to Starbucks, get a coffee and a spend a few hours in peace and quiet. It really does set up my outlook for the whole week. Things always look brighter after some coffee and a little time to yourself.
So now that I have set you on the road for a successful balance between DIYing and your family, what are some of the traps you want to avoid that will derail all your hard work.
My Top 5 Don'ts
1. DON'T be a perfectionist:
Seriously people. Life is just too short to worry about every.single.detail. Especially on projects where I let my kids help, there are always going to be tiny flaws in things, and that is okay. I'd still rather get something done with a slight imperfection, than not get it done at all.
I have ‘eyeballed' hanging photos more times that you could count because I didn't have the time (or desire) to run out the garage and find a tape measure and level. And you know what? It the big scheme of things, eyeballing is usually good enough. I didn't measure a single thing for my gallery walls and I live with any slight imperfections. If it bugs you, you can always fix it down the line, but in reality.. you will probably end up letting it go and living with it. Since the fact you have installed a gallery wall at all, outweighs the cons of a slightly crooked frame.
2. DON'T Feel guilty:
This is a big one. When I'm in the middle of a project typically the dishes don't get done, the laundry piles up and my house can get to be a disaster. I choose to let things slide for the sake of my DIY projects, but I have stopped feeling bad about it. Eventually the dishes get washed, and the laundry put away. Maybe it isn't as quick as it would have been if I wasn't DIYing and blogging, but I don't really care. I am one of those people who never makes their bed, it isn't a priority to me.
Something always has to give. That that something is, is ultimately up to you. YOU decide what to push off until another day, but whatever it is don't feel guilty about it.
Maybe your kitchen remodel means that your kids watch a movie one afternoon instead of going to the library. Or maybe it means that you take a few hours out of every weeknight to install crown molding in your living room, so you have to buy cupcakes for the school bake sale instead of making them from scratch. Don't feel guilty about it, or let someone else make you feel guilty. That other mom at the PTA fundraiser who looking down her nose at your pre-packaged cupcakes, will be the same person oohing and ahhing at your crown molding and asking you "How do you do it?!?" Mark my words.
3. DON'T forget what your priorities really are:
This may seem contradictory to the rest of this list, but it is all about moderation. Sometimes you need to know when enough is enough. I do believe that taking time for yourself to do things you love, and modeling empowering behavior for your kids is important. But you need to listen closely to your family and know when to take a break from DIY. It is easy to get wrapped up in a project (especially long drawn up renovations where you just want to get it done) but always try to remember WHY you are doing it. You are making your home a better place for your family. Pay close attention to the mood of your family. If they are telling you they need more time for you.. LISTEN.
Your kids will only be little for so long, so take time to enjoy them. Spend some time playing Chutes and Ladders and hanging out at the playground. Since one day they won't be underfoot, and then you can DIY your heart out, but you'll miss them. That doesn't mean your world needs to revolve around them 24/7, but they also need to know they are THE most important thing in your life. No matter what. Be careful to never lose sight of that.
4. DON'T be afraid to ask for help:
I don't currently have a house cleaner or nanny or any paid help, but that doesn't mean I don't get help in other ways. My husband is really supportive of my projects and is great about not saying anything when dinner is frozen pizza or I tell him to pick up take out yet again. He doesn't roll his eyes when I tell him he'll have to dig his blue shirt out from the bottom of the clean laundry basket.
If you feel like you are overwhelmed, ask for help. If that means getting someone to help clean your house, of bringing in a mother's helper or just asking your husband to put the kids to bed one night so you can get a jump start on something you want to do.. ask for it. Nobody (not even me) is Superwoman.
Don't assume your spouse knows what you want. I think many husbands don't encourage their wives to get into DIY because they figure it will mean more work for them. You have to TELL THEM that it is important to you, and that YOU want to do it. You aren't dropping a "Honey Do" list in their laps, you are just asking them to support you while you tackle projects you want to do.
5. DON'T compare yourself to anyone else:
Comparison is the thief of joy. The DIY world is a small one. It always feels like nothing is new. One night you are working on a project you love, and the next day you see in on Pinterest done bigger and better. That can take all the wind out of your sails. You finally put up the Chevron curtains you always loved and then log into Facebook to read Better Homes and Gardens has told you that chevron is "the one design mistake everyone is making."
Don't sweat it. You shouldn't be working on DIY projects just to keep up with the Joneses. You should be doing it because you love doing it. It brings you joy and makes you happy. There is something satisfying about working on a project with your own two hands. Standing back and saying "I made that!" Even if it means you are doing it differently than everyone else.
There is nothing wrong with marching to the beat of a different drum.
So now that I've given you my list of the top Do's and Don'ts of DIY-Family balance, I want to give you a chance to try them out in practice.