“Well, please tell me, Chris and Cassandra: how do you do it all?”
My wife, Cassandra, our five children, and I were at a barbecue with some friends. One friend, whom we hadn’t seen in a while, came to us both perplexed and enthused. She mentioned wanting to read our novels and—being the mother of numerous children herself—she shared the experience of parenting a brood.
Our children are currently twelve, nine, six, four, and nineteen months. When people learn how many children we have, their ages, and the fact that we’ve written a trilogy of dystopian novels, they scratch their heads. To be honest, I do too. This post is not an exercise in bragging but rather an exploration of what we’ve done to make all of this work (sort of), including all our failures over the years leading up to the publication of the final installment of The Shadows of Freedom series.
Get Used to Saying, “No”
In order to rear five children, pursue a full-time career (in my case), take care of the home, children, and family (in Cassandra’s case), write novels, and pursue other hobbies, we needed to get used to saying, “No.” In other words, we needed to narrow our sights upon what mattered most to us, pursuing those things and saying goodbye to other, sometimes just as worthy, endeavors.
Early in our marriage, I used to spend lots of time on Facebook, a fair amount of time on Twitter, and even more time on YouTube and surfing the Internet. Today I use Facebook for literally two minutes every other week (I have it scheduled!) to make sure nothing important happened. It never does. I closed down my Twitter account in early 2022 after not using it for years. And I treat YouTube like walking through a dark alley in a rough neighborhood: I typically avoid it, but —when I need to—I go in, do what I need to do as quickly as possible, and get out.
The same can be said of any other time-sucking uses of social media and the Internet in general. I don’t always succeed in these efforts to battle digital time-killers, but I at least aim at this and consciously begin again if needed. I even track the answer to this question every night and review my notes every few weeks to monitor progress: did I waste time today, especially using my phone or the Internet?
Putting Baseball in Its Place
Besides this, one must know one’s limits. I therefore prioritize pursuits I might be interested in doing, recognizing some as sine qua nons, others as occasional, and still others as once-in-a-blue-moon hobbies. I like baseball (if you couldn’t tell from my other post this month). I was invited this past spring to join my neighborhood’s slow-pitch softball team. I had played slow-pitch softball a few seasons for my companies’ teams. It sounded like fun and an excellent way to get exercise (well, maybe not that last part, but at least that’s what I told myself). Yet, after thinking about it for a day, I declined.
What’s more, I may check the baseball scores for a few minutes each day, but I rarely, if ever, actually watch an entire game. I don’t even take the time to watch highlights. I restrain my fandom to staying vaguely aware of what’s going on each week. I’d love to do more, but I know there are only so many hours in a day.
When looking at my life, I see those people and activities I should say, “yes” to: whom I should prioritize. The relationships or bonds I’ve formed with others take precedence over all else. If I’ve committed myself to nourishing my bond with my wife, my children, other family/friends … with God, fidelity to that commitment stands out as the top priority. Things which will draw me closer to those who matter most to me are like the large rocks one may place in a box, before filling it with pebbles and sand.
But besides the obvious things—God, my family and friends, my career, my household responsibilities, and so on—I have added my wife’s and my writing projects to the mix. I may have little time for the petty things that come along—I don’t have many “disposable minutes”—but I do find the time to do what matters most to me.
And that’s how I “do it all:” I don’t. Instead, I strive to do all that I should. And God multiplies our time when we strive to do His work and not ours.