finding balance {ashley's story}...

my friend, ashley, is sharing her finding balance story today.
ashley blogs at under the sycamore and can be found on instagram at @underthesycamore.
ashley also teaches online photography courses {and her upcoming session has a few spots left!}
ashley and i crossed paths via instagram and a vintage pull-down school map...long story.
we met a little over a year ago.
i instantly realized how true-to-her-blog the "real Ashley" is.
ashley's quiet voice, both vocal and online, encourages and inspires me and thousands of others.


Over a year ago I found myself at a Craft Weekend surrounded by piles of fabric and finally getting to talk with Erin in person. My family was just entering a new phase of life due to a job change for my husband. I was on the verge of becoming the primary income earner and there were all kinds of fears and excitement as I considered the future. Erin encouraged me, challenged me, and laughed with me. Fast forward many months. I'm still teaching photography courses online. Still homeschooling five kids. And still facing all kinds of fears and excitement as I consider the future.

Earlier this summer, Erin emailed me to ask if I would consider writing a guest post on balance.

I think it took me nearly two months to respond to her email.

How is that for balance and getting it all done?

I finally responded and began my email to her with these words, "Girl...I am not balancing it all. I don't feel qualified at all to write a post about balance. For me balance means letting lots of things slide - like email. Even important emails. I can't do it all...thus the ridiculous amount of time it takes me to get back to people on anything...unless you are one of my kids asking me to play."

I also said something about how I let people down, but I choose WHO I let down.

For some reason, she still invited me to write this post and expand a little on those few brief words in my email. So here is my post about how "I do it all", which is really a post about how I choose not to do it all. I don't want to do it all. I can't do it all. I'm pretty confident no one can. For me, it isn't about doing it all. It is about letting my actions and time truly reflect WHO is most important to me. It is about choosing to let down some people, so I can choose not to let down others.

I think we all hear encouragement to know our priorities and to keep our priorities in order. The encouragement is great, but it can be tricky to figure out HOW to practically do that in day to day life that is full of demands. I will be the first to say I don't get it right all the time. I am very much a work in progress. As soon as I get in a groove, our daily routines change and I have to find a new groove again. Erin asked me to share some practical examples of how not doing it all plays out in my day to day life.

Just for some background on me - I'm a first-born. Straight A student all my life, other than that one B+ I got in college that I am still bitter about. I like things to be organized and clean. I really don't like doing something unless I can do it perfectly. My dad taught me if I don't arrive somewhere at least 5 minutes early, I'm already late.

Now I have five kids. I homeschool. I have a small business. I can no longer do things orderly, on time, or in a remotely perfect way. I can't do it all. So, I've had to choose what I can do and learn to be okay with the things I can't. I've become the queen of celebrating imperfection and sometimes I am late (sorry dad). This is a hard lesson for me, but oh so critical too.

I'm choosing to jump on the trampoline with my kids instead of networking or trying to build my business.

I opt to let down that person I don't know well that asked me to be a part of something, so I don't let down the little girl who wants me to paint her nails.

I'm learning to be okay with posting not-perfect photos on my blog because it means I spent more time actually playing with the kids than spending that time trying to get the perfect shot.

I say "no" to really wonderful weekend conferences/retreats because I don't want to miss that flag football game.

For me, it is a matter of WHO I am going to let down, not IF I will let someone down. I'm not prompt at responding to email or texts because I am choosing to be prompt at responding to something else...or rather someone else. I'd rather disappoint a stranger that only knows me online than my little boy longing for time with me. Sidenote: I am terrible at texting and email because of this. My friends know this. They are so patient!

I want my kids to hear "yes" more than they hear "not now" or "maybe later". I want them not just to hear me say they are my favorite people, I want them to FEEL that they are my favorite people. As a small business owner/blogger, there are thousands of things I could be doing better, things I could be giving more attention to, things I could be more concerned about if I want my business to grow. There are days I think that is what I want....and then I look over at my kids. More than I want a successful business or blog, I want a successful family.

So, I am okay with letting things slide in my business. I'm okay with not doing everything the experts say I should do as a blogger, photographer, small business owner. Any blog or business success has come not because of me, but in spite of me. In so many ways, I do it all 'wrong', but it is what is right for me and my family. When I lay in bed at night I try to ask myself, "how did I truly connect with those I love today?" If I can end a day knowing I really connected with my husband and each of my kids - that they FELT how loved and important to me they are - then it was a successful day. If I go to bed knowing my inbox is empty and every business 'to-do' was checked off but all my kids heard was "not now" or "maybe later"...then I go to bed thankful the day is over, but with resolve to make the next day better.

I don't do it all. I don't try to balance life. I choose to do a few things and I choose not to do a whole lot more. I choose to say, "No." to a whole lot of people that don't live under my roof, so that I can say "Yes!" a whole lot to those that do.

{the other posts in this series can be found here.}


  1. This post is exactly why I follow Ashley's blog! She is the perfectly unbalanced example of a balanced life as mama/teacher/wife!

  2. i love this. saying no to some things so we can say yes to the best things. soooo true. thanks for sharing, Ashley. and Erin ;)

  3. It takes some resolve to see putting your kids first and others second as something other than selfishness. Because they're a part of you. And others see them as an extension of you. I'm still in a stage where many of my friends are childless. I lost a very good friend who didn't understand this conflict, she felt like I was being selfish by not taking on what she felt I should take on. I ran myself ragged trying to do it all, and that's my only regret from my child's first year. It created resentment on both sides despite my meeting all the goals this friend demanded of me. My child is a person in my life and I have to advocate for her right to be number one - I choose my company more carefully now and have a rich network of friends who support that!

  4. Seriously. This is BEST. LOVE it. I think I need to come back and read this at the beginning of each day. I want my kids to feel connected, not all of my Social Media peeps. SO well said. Keep on doing it "all wrong".

  5. I love her words. So helpful to me right j ow where I am. Feeling blessed to read this

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