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how to (not) do it all with two kids…

Oh Joy Family

Oh Joy Family

Throughout the course of my 4 short years as a parent, I have shared a few posts here and there with you about the struggles of being a working parent, feeling guiltyjuggling it all, and how I attempt to keep it all going. "How do you handle the work/life balance?" or "How do you do it all?" is probably the number one question that I get asked when I speak at conferences or when I get to chat with Oh Joy readers in real life. After the birth of both of my kids, I experienced a very long string of guilt as I eased my new baby into my life and eased myself back into work and attempted to figure out how all those pieces would come together. The short answer to those questions is that I don't "do it all", and it's taken me until recently to really be okay with that…

Oh Joy Family

I cried a lot in the first year of having both kids. With Ruby, I had a more gradual transition as I worked from home and by myself at that time. With no office rent to worry about, no employees to have to pay and manage, I was able to work part-time for about a year and work around her schedule and my part-time childcare. But with Coco, I was much busier with work by the time she came around three years later. I didn't have the luxury of being able to ease back into work…I really just didn't get much of a break at all. I worried that people would judge me at my lack of maternity leave or that I wouldn't get to bond with Coco the way I did with Ruby. But you know what…it all worked out somehow. Coco isn't any less happy of a child. She has parents and a sister who adore her, and she has a mom who does her best to run a business while being there for her family.

Oh Joy in the studio

I rearranged my priorities. My husband reminded me how I don't have to do everything and how he is there as my partner, too. As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to take on everything.

In my dream world, these are the things that I want to be able do…

– I want to be at every one of my kid's events and play dates and see every milestone they experience.

– I want to keep my work at work and have time to decompress in the evenings without bringing work home.

– I want to remember all my friends birthdays and send them a card or gift in advance.

– I want to be able to design, write, craft, and style everything you see on this blog, in stores, and on social media.

– I want to one of those women who whips up a homemade meal every night and have my kids can say their mom is the best cook ever.

– I want to have a ton of date nights with my husband and reconnect as a couple and not just as parents who are just trying to keep our kids safe and happy.

Oh Joy Family

But the reality of it is that…

– I go to as many of my kid's events and play dates as I can and do my best to rearrange my work schedule around it. And when I can't make it, yes, I feel sad but I also remind myself that is just one things of the thousands events and moments I will be at in their lifetime.

– I end up working most evenings after my kids go to bed. Because I choose to leave work at 3:45pm to pick up Ruby from school, I usually don't get all my work done by the end of my "work day" and I end up on my computer from 7-10pm most evenings after the kids are in bed. It doesn't give me a lot of free time for myself during the week, but it allows me to spend a good chunk of time with my kids before they go to bed.

– I usually don't forget birthdays (thanks Facebook) but I have been really bad at sending cards or gifts to friends that live far away. I set reminders on my phone for my really close friends and I make sure I let them know with a phone call or a text. It's not ideal but I do my best connect with them on their special day however I can to remind them that I care.

– I wish I could design every pattern, take every photo, or style every shot for Oh Joy that you see, but I can't. I would not be able to do half the things that I do without help and without my team. Learning to ask for help and trusting others changed my life as a working mom.

-I rarely make dinner totally from scratch anymore. By the time I get home from work, I have one hour before it's time to eat dinner. Rather then rushing into the kitchen and not hanging with my kids, I'd rather make something semi-homemade if that will allow me to spend less time cooking and more time playing, laughing, and enjoying time with my family. My kids will not come home from college asking for my famous pot roast because I don't make a famous pot roast. But they will remember the cool crafts we did together and the fun things they got to learn from all the entrepreneurial women in their lives.

-One of my goals for this year is to do a better job connecting with my husband. Last year was crazy with work for both of us and we didn't go on as many date nights. Or, I often dive right into work right after the kids go to bed which doesn't give us anytime to catch up or just chat. I have gotten better about it but still need to give my marriage more of a priority. 

So what I am saying is to please know that you should not do it all…because you can't, and no one can. You should do the things that are most important to you. Place priority on the things and the people that you love most. And let everything else come second. At the end of the day, I think back on what happened and if I can say that my family loves me, that I am happy at my job, and that I did my best to make a difference in the world in the way that I know how, then I can feel like I had a good day.

P.S. I am working on a blog post about my typical day to break down how a day really goes for me with both work/life and a bit more detail about how I've changed my work schedule to accommodate my kids' schedule…more on that soon!

{Photos by Casey Brodley & Bob Cho}


  1. very honest and very forward, really enjoyed this post. in the end, not everyone can do everything and that’s not just true for women who work. even for those that don’t, they will find there are not always enough hours in the day . its’ about trade-offs and I find that people think if they just find the right formula, everything else will click. But the truth is, it won’t click until you find the right formula for you and your family. That’s an individual thing. It’s personal to the mom, to the personalities and needs of the kids, and to your partner. And your last point about making time for a marriage is a big one, it’s easy to take partnership for granted. Congrats on being in a good place!

  2. It is lovely to read your honesty! We all try to do our best for our kids – we may not always do things as perfectly as we would like to but we will always be perfect in their eyes!!

  3. Thanks for the awesome post. As you know i just had a baby and since I run my own social org, I have not had the luxury to take a maternity leave. That means no break for me. My org is 3 years old and i just can’t afford to take off or hire help. Having said that I have prioritized what’s most imp work wise and what needs to keep going and I focus only on select things for now so that i have more time with my baby. It’s hard to juggle it all. I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to sprint at full speed when it comes to work. If i miss a few things this year because of the baby it’s ok, I will have many years to make up for it. I must enjoy these first few months with her because they are so precious and will never come back. I don’t want to look back and regret missing on milestones with her. It’s all about prioritizing and being satisfied with your decisions. Thanks for the reminder Joy!

  4. I loved this post Joy. I feel that what you wrote is the absolute truth. We cannot can do everything, and we do our best. I’m sure your refreshing honesty about this will be very helpful for moms that struggle with guilt, and pressure to juggle work and family.
    Thanks for a lovely post!

  5. I absolutely love what you shared, Joy! I feel so much the same after having two little girls myself. I even wrote a post about it on Thursday, but the message is the same…you can’t do it all at once so you should honor the season of life you are in.

  6. Hey there. Thank you for being so real Joy. About guilt, you know we all feel it at one point or another. I decided to cut a bit on work while my kids are really little and I’m waiting for them to go to school (at 3, I live in Paris). I work from home, kind of of part-time, and I feel guilty not to be more of a bread winner. And even though this organization was best for our family, and I’m very happy I made this choice, I sometimes worry I’m doing enough : I would love to work full time and take care of all the logistics all the same. But you’re right, I have to accept to not be able to do it all, I guess it’s he price of happiness !

  7. I love this Joy!! These type of posts are my favorite from bloggers but I know the hardest to write. This is when you feel like a “girlfriend” to me, sharing about how life really is and that its ok not to be perfect!! Looking forward to the day in the life of a working mom!!

  8. Thank you for being so real, and sharing how you make the hard decisions. I’m working full-time right now in college administration, and at night trying to fit in as much blog writing and painting as possible. Sometimes it feels impossible or exhausting, but I remind myself it’s just for now, and I just reevaluate every day as needed. Honestly, keeping lists on Trello helps. 😉 We’ve also set aside Tuesday and Thursday evenings as days that I don’t cook dinner, and instead get a work-out in, or take on a big household task. I cook and eat with the kids the rest of the week (also, we’re big brunch people) so I think it balances out. I don’t think they will remember the evenings I was on the treadmill while they had mac & cheese… I think they will remember the evenings we spent together.

  9. I so appreciate your honesty so much. I do agree that we cannot do it all and we drive ourselves crazy when we attempt it. Our babies need happy mommies, not stressed out ones. Just yesterday I realize I didn’t send my mother-in-law a bday card and I felt so bad, but I realize I just can’t juggle it all. My #1 priority is cooking fresh food for my family and working full time so that we can survive living in LA, which means I really can’t finish the baby book or craft. Like you said, we choose and we find peace when we do so. We mommies are amazing no matter what because we give our whole hearts to our babies.

  10. Sorry, but “I got real with my husband about what I could do (and not do) and where and when I needed help”? It sounds like you consider kids are your responsability. Does your husband say what he can do (and not to) and when he needs help regarding to house chores and kids? I do not mean to be rude, I only get frustrated when I see this kind of speech because while it’s great you say out loud there is no need to do everything and do it perfectly, your post implies your partner is not considered as an equal part on this matter. Sorry if something came out wrong, English is not my first language.

  11. Hi Rita,
    Sorry that wasn’t meant to come across like that! I have re-phrased it to be more accurate 😉
    My husband is a great partner and is the one who helped me realize it’s okay to not do everything.

  12. it’s refreshing to hear someone as successful as you admit that things get tough. it’s always a wake up call to see that people we look up to also have days that are frazzling and crazy.

  13. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this post. Just this morning as I was making the bed I felt a deep, deep desire to cook more wanting my daughter to think of her mother as a fabulous cook. It is so easy to let that guilt creep in a take over. I appreciate your honesty.
    Also, while perusing the aisles of Target this morning I saw a beautiful Oh Joy display. There wasn’t much left, which means you’re doing something right.
    Smiles and high fives to you!

  14. You had me on the verge of tears after reading your list of all the things you would do in a perfect world. That is exactly how I feel and it feels almost paralyzing at times when I want to do it all. Thank you for your blunt honesty.

  15. exactly – please keep preaching this. I think it’s important for women to see in this glossy world of blog posts and Instagram that make people seem more super-human then they really are. I’d also love your tips on the semi-prepared meals. Litterally, if I could afford a cook, I’d get one because my husband and I would SO much rather play bubbles in the back yard with our 3.5 and 1 year old then to try to keep them away from the hot stove while we mostly ignore them making dinner.

  16. Thank you Jessica!
    Today, I was late for my daughter’s school recital and was on the verge of tears thinking about how I had JUST talked about this very thing today ;/

  17. The fact that every decision is a trade-off is both the saddest and most empowering thing I’ve learned this past decade. You can never do it all, so make sure you pick the best things to do!

  18. Food isn’t the only way to show love! You may not be able to cook for everybody as much as you’d like to but it’s the quality time that’s important. And this is coming from an absolute food lover 🙂

  19. Loved this. You’re pretty damn amazing Joy! I’ve come to try to be more accepting of what I can and can’t do…a daily, hourly balancing act! You continue to inspire me and countless others. Xo

  20. Thank you for this! I recently had my second and its so much harder (and better) than I had imagined it would be. I feel like I am always letting someone, or something (work, usually) down. I keep hearing that it gets better after the first year, especially seeing your children playing together, I hope so! Thank you for the honest and open post!

  21. Joy- I’ve made the same decision about homemade, from-scratch dinners. (I’ve even made fish stick-fish tacos which were surprising good.) Kids are tired after school! I realized that the kids would have to watch an hour of tv for me to make a from-scratch meal. An hour of TV is not terrible but I didn’t rearrange my life for them to watch TV…it was to spend time with them! I have six year old twins now. Sometimes we’ll do a meal on the weekend that they can help with like making pizza from frozen dough. They can also do chopping. There’s plastic kid knives that really cut. I plan to devote myself to cooking when they’re teenagers and want nothing to do with me. There’s plenty of time for your famous pot roast!

  22. Thank you for this post! I also live in Los Angeles as a (product) designer with two boys who are 3 (almost 4) and 1. With these similarities I feel I can connect to many of your posts, and this one reaffirmed those thoughts. We’re doing our best! 😉

  23. I just went through this exact day myself today. I’m starting my own creative business and my 1 year old son is only with a sitter 3 days a week. Feeling a bit overwhelmed today because there’s just not enough time to do it all. I’m having a hard time finding time to create and build upon the business. On top of that I need to keep up with social media, blog, update website & research. Thank you for keeping it real and sharing your way of balancing family and career. I’m also working on strengthening my relationship with my husband. I miss what we us to have.

  24. I love this, i’ve been following your perfectly cute, adorable and happy life and I work to make my life that same way but the truth is it’s work to make it look that way and takes a lot of effort and behind the scenes stuff. I love seeing your everyday life in all it’s cuteness. And of course i just went through a pinned a million awesome ideas you shared online and came across this post. Once again, it looks cute and adorable but reading it makes me feel connected with you on a deeper level. I really loved reading this like it was you reflecting on your own life and letting mamas learn from it instead of it being “hey moms you don’t have to do it all! you’re awesome” Instead, it’s all about your inner reflections on your own actions and life and a little diary that is intimate for YOURSELF that mamas can connect to. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! And of course your life is still perfect cute and adorable because there are imperfections in there!

  25. Hi Joy! I would love to know the meals you cook for your kids. I have the same issue you have. I get home and it’s an hour before we start getting ready for bed. I make scrambled eggs and things like that but I need new go to dinner recipes. Help!

  26. You are awesome, Joy, thank you for sharing this! I just had my first kiddo 11 months ago and have been trying to navigate this work from home and keep up with clients and be a full time mama and good friend and wife all at the same time thing, and it’s crazy making. Thanks for being so down to earth and continuing to share personal stuff here. It is reassuring to hear from you, someone so successful who appears, from the outside, to have it all “in balance”, that you are in fact human too and doing your best and figuring it out still. I appreciate your honesty and am inspired. Accepting help may be the first place to start- gulp. Why is that so hard? Thank you! 🙂


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