This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives and to remind each other that as women, we’re all in this together. I hope this series will provide you with new ideas, or at least the reassurance that not everybody’s home looks like those pictures on Pinterest

Meet Stephanie– wife and stay-at-home mom to two young children. (You can also check out Stephanie’s blog, Bless Our Little Nest, where she documents daily life with her family.)

Hi Stephanie! Tell us a little about your family:

My husband is in his mid-30s and finishing up an orthopedic residency.  I am in my early-30s and stay at home with our two kids – an almost five-year-old boy and a two-and-a-half-year-old little girl.  In a former pre-kids life I planned events and wore high heels every day.  I even had manicures.

 As a mom, how do you find balance?

As a mom, that is a comical question!   I feel like it’s more about making peace with the imbalance than actually finding a balance.  It took me several years into motherhood to realize that if I wanted to “do it all” I would need to have helpers. Because the people who I thought were “doing it all” actually had lots of people helping them to do it all.  If I am going to find balance, I have to prioritize what needs the most of my time and energy, and then I have to get creative about how I can do the other things.  And pick the things in my life that are “not for now.”

 What steps do you take to maintain your own health?

I recently joined the YMCA!  I felt like I was only kidding myself if I said I got my exercise from chasing my children.  I didn’t.  And I feel very strongly that my children needed to see me intentionally exercise and make my health a priority!  They also need to see me make healthy choices in the kitchen for myself.  I can’t expect my children to make good decisions regarding food and exercise if they don’t see me model those good behaviors.

Are your kids picky eaters? How do you create healthy eating habits for your children?

My son started off as a picky eater.  He was a typical “snackoholic” and “carboholic” toddler… feasting on puffs and goldfish and crackers.   I would rationalize things with the “organic” or “natural” labels… but actually, I just was just avoiding the very difficult task of making my son eat his good growing food.  I would offer good food at each meal, but if he didn’t like the fare he would hold out for something better at the next meal.  Or in his school lunch.  Or with his Grammy on Saturday morning.  

Then one day, I did something bold… I served his leftover dinner for breakfast.  And then for lunch again.  And by this point I had a very hungry little boy.  It was quite the ugly scene, but he knew I meant business!  And from that difficult afternoon when he was three-and-a-half, until now, we have been so much better.  He always tries everything on his plate.  He eats salad!  Loves raw carrots… just the other night we had wild duck and he loved it.  

 How do you promote exercise with your kids?

I make sure that we limit screen time, and I make sure they know that I make fitness and healthy choices a priority for myself.  (But let’s keep it real – as I typed this up my daughter watched PBS.  I have to be honest.)

 What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?

One thing that I know I desperately need to implement is to stop multitasking!  If I have four things going on at one time I most certainly do not finish a task faster.  And I do believe that my work is sloppier!  I have also scaled back on my own commitments.  I would love to be more involved in community volunteer work, or make handmade gifts for my friends, or even volunteer at my kids’ preschool; however, I know that without a helper (either a babysitter or a housekeeper!) I would not be able to take care of my responsibilities.  I think as a mom, you have to learn your limits and respect them.  I am clearly still working on this!  

How has being a mom made you view sleep/rest differently?

So many moms I have talked to, myself included, feel the urge to stay up later to have some selfish time.  Watching a favorite TV. show, browsing Pinterest, catching up on friends’ blogs… but then, I am not well rested the next day!  Also, just to tackle deep cleaning projects often means I am staying up later than everyone else.  If I am inefficient with my time management in the day, I have to make a choice to lose sleep or leave the task incomplete.  Sleep is a luxury once you are a mom!

What mistakes did you make that you wish you could go back and fix?

I touched on this before, but a big mistake of mine was comparing myself to many other moms that I thought had it all together, all by themselves.  Everyone has a different set of circumstances, and to compare myself to anyone else is just plain silly.  I would see other people who looked so fit and refreshed… and I would wonder why on earth I didn’t… little did I know that they had a babysitter come to their house a couple of times a week so that they could go to yoga and run a few errands alone.  They didn’t talk about their sitter… and I just assumed that I just couldn’t get my act together since I didn’t have my act together like they did!  

 What is the hardest part of maintaining balance in your life?

Every couple of weeks there is something to throw the schedule completely off.  A good example is Halloween, another is my husband taking a week of vacation from his job.  When my schedule is out of whack… everything starts to go haywire.  My meal planning, my kids’ rest times/nap times, my own bedtime!  Rolling with the punches and keeping everything running smoothly is by far my biggest challenge, because, even when we are having fun, life goes on and there are loads of laundry to be done.

What does a balanced life for you look like?

A balanced life looks peaceful and calm.  Everything gets checked off the list.  Clearly… I don’t feel like I am there!   However, for me, for right now, a balanced life means I am intentional with my activities and time for my family, we live in a (relatively) clean house, and we eat healthy foods.  To have satisfaction with my level of balance, I have to let go of perfection.

What advice do you have for fellow women?

Be honest with each other.  Be honest with yourself.  So many people want to make everyone think they have it all together, but nobody has it all together all by themselves.  And everyone needs to cut themselves a little slack!