How I Do It: Ease Into More Responsibility

When my twins were babies, I loved dressing them in matching outfits. I’d stick bows in their hair and make cute ponytails that stood straight up on the tops of their heads. When I’d take them out in the double stroller, people would always stop to admire them.

I could never figure out why people asked, “Are they girls or boys?” I wanted to say, “Why in the world would I dress them in pink and put bows in their hair if they’re boys?” But of course, I was always polite.

Yes, there were admirers I wanted to escort over to the Pearle Vision Store. But then, on the flip side, there were plenty who saw the enormity of my situation—especially because I also had my two-year old son tagging along. They would say, “You’ve got your hands full, don’t you?”

And, when I look back to those days of managing twin babies and an active two year old, I get dizzy thinking about how much work it was! At one point, with three children under two years of age, changing diapers was a full time job.

Somehow through all the craziness, I survived. I even went on to have two more children. And now, whenever I go anywhere with my whole gang, invariably someone will say, “How do you handle five children?”

When they find out that not only do I have five kids, but that I homeschool AND am a full time writer, their incredulous tone rises in pitch as they stammer, “What? How can you possibly do all of that?”

So, how does one manage multiple responsibilities? (Without going crazy?)

It’s not easy. I’m the first to admit it. I won’t pretend my life is bliss.

But managing multiple responsibilities is NOT an impossibility. One of the lessons I’ve learned about juggling a lot of different demands is this: We have to ease our way in to more.

Here’s what I mean:

1. Start at the beginning.

I didn’t start with five kids all at once. I began with one. Over the first couple of years, I became comfortable learning how to be a mom to one child. When I became confident and efficient with him, only then did I think about adding another. I’d learned the ropes and was ready for more responsibility.

And I didn’t start with a big house full of possessions. When I was first married, we lived in an tiny apartment with mismatched used furniture. Eventually we accumulated more stuff and moved to a very small starter home. Only when we were more established did we think about buying a larger home that could accommodate our growing family.

My point is that in whatever we’re doing, we need to start at the beginning. It’s easy to look at those who have more, do more, or are further along than we are, and to think we need to be like them. In those situations, we need to remember that once upon a time, they too had to start at the beginning.

2. Move forward in small increments.

The first year I was married, I could hardly boil water without burning it. And yet, for my first Thanksgiving I attempted a huge dinner for my brother and a friend. Guess how it turned out?

You’re right. It was a disaster! I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In the end, I had to saw half-frozen meat off the carcass and cook the slabs in the microwave. We ended up having a few scarce pieces of rubbery turkey with our lukewarm and gravy-less mashed potatoes.

Now after twenty years of marriage, thankfully, I can whip a large Thanksgiving meal together with no problem. But it’s taken years and years of growing in cooking skills to get to the point of being able to do that.

We can’t skip over all of the valuable steps that come in the learning process. We have to take each baby step in progression. And we shouldn’t expect to handle the work of a seasoned veteran if we’re not one.

3. Let the new responsibilities challenge us to grow.

Over the years, I’ve had to adjust with each new responsibility. I’ve had to make sacrifices, stop certain hobbies, or let go of activities to make room in my life for the additions.

There are times when we add more responsibility to our lives that we’ll have to let go of something else. We can’t keep adding and adding without taking other things away—or else we’ll get to the point where we’ve crammed too much in and are ready to break.

However, if we gradually add more, we can stretch ourselves a little bit with each new responsibility. Our hearts, minds, and bodies will slowly grow stronger and better able to cope with the weight and pressures of what we’re adding.

Summary: There you have it! Ease your way into more—one of my secrets for how I manage multiple responsibilities. Of course, there are many other “tricks” I’ve learned over the years. But I’ll save those for another day!

How about you? Have you ever thought of the concept of easing your way in to more? Or have you tried to tackle too much too soon?

And the winner of Trivia Question #1 is Lynn L. Hall!  She wins a signed copy of The Doctor's Lady! Congratulations! And thank you to everyone who entered the drawing! Come back next week for another chance to win!


  1. Great post! I'd also add that even when you're at the beginning, and you might be frustrated at your beginning - someone else is watching your beginning with much admiration. I remember knowing you in the days of the tiny apartment and the early cooking - and being so inspired and wanting to someday have those things myself!

  2. I absolutely love the image of your twins on the grass :-)
    A full time writer AND a home-schooler to five? Golly gosh. Please may I purchase a very small bottle of your leftover energy?!
    Jane Gray

  3. Love this, Jody. Loved reading about your baby girls. I can picture you walking down the street.

    This advice - about easing into responsibility - is so true. I think about Krista Phillips and all the IMMENSE challenges she has had with her precious Annabelle over this past year. I can't, for the life of me, figure out how she handles it. But she even said in one of her posts, that it's happened in steps. Slowly. Until it gets to be a new kind of normal. (I'm still amazed by her though....)

  4. I realised this just recently. I want to do loads of things because I see other successful writers doing all this stuff, but I'm simply not at the point in my career where I can afford to take so much time away from my writing to devote to other things which aren't my writing. So I've cut back on a couple of things and may cut back on a couple more. Hopefully the end result will be a saner me :)

  5. Wow, five kids and homeschooling too? That's amazing. My mind stil reels at the thought of just having one.

    As always, you give great advice. Our first Christmas after we bought our own house, we had a "Christmas Dinner for Friends" and I cooked for twelve people. I love cooking and have been doing it for years, so I did manage to produce a decent meal, except for the fact that the turkey and stuffing had to be served after I'd served up the ham and vegetables because they weren't quite done...

  6. These are all wonderful tips. I don't have even a third of what you've got on your plate. I admire everything you do very much! You're an inspiration to all writers. :)

  7. Jody,
    You would appreciate the fact that my sister and I are identical twins. Twins run in our family. My husband and father are also twins, but I didn't not have any.
    Easing into more responsibility is the perfect way to describe it. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Take a breath and start one task at a time. Moving forward step by step gets you to the finish line just like everyone else.

  8. I like your take on this. I'm a mom of little ones, with another on the way, and sometimes I feel incredibly frustrated by how little focus I am actually able to give to writing. I think back on the pre-kid days when I had Fridays off, and I could spent virtually all day planted in front of the computer, and I long for that kind of concentrated time again. Instead, I type this comment while having a discussion about what chapter book to read next with my oldest.

    I try to keep it all in perspective: do what I can now, and expand it as the kids get to the point where they can bathe and dress themselves and they start going to school. Homeschooling is NOT in my future, I have to admit. :)

  9. This is so true, Jody. It so easy to try and jump into a situation way too fast and pretend you're much further along than you are. This always catches up to the person trying. I speak from experience.

  10. Excellent point here, lady. When I think back to the meals I made when we were first married--laughable compared to what I can cook now.

    And one kid and three kids...big difference.

    (I always thought it would be fun to have twins.)
    ~ Wendy

  11. Thanks for such great advice. I need to remember to cut something out every time I add something in. Why is that so difficult?

  12. GREAT advice! Although I think the twins made you take a giant step:-) I agree though, you kinda roll with it as you go. And knowing your strengths and weaknesses helps too, as well as knowing when to ask for HELP (something I am HORRIBLE at!)

  13. My favorite point you make is that while we can gradually add more into the mix of our lives, we do come to a point where we have no room for something new without pulling back on something old. Sort of like cleaning out your closet twice a year. You bring a good reminder to evaluate the elements of our busyness and make sure we focus on activities that bring and sustain joy in our lives.

  14. This is really great advice, and something to think on. I don't have half as much on my plate as yourself and many others who have commented (I have no children or partner so only myself to organise) but I always find everything so interesting and want to do everything but it does sometimes get too much and things have had to drop over the years, but then I find I miss those hobbies I once had! Not sure I've quite found the right balance in life yet! Think I might try your method of baby steps :)

  15. Hey everyone! Thanks for chiming in today! Am really enjoying all of your thoughts!

    I think the principle of easing our way into things can apply to anything in life. Our culture sends us the message that we need to have everything our way, right away! But usually when we do that we only overwhelm ourselves financially, emotionally, etc.

  16. You truly are unbelievable Jody. When God made you he created a new mold, then broke it right after!

    I like the ease in plan. Definitely doable!

  17. Jody, I love this idea. We ease into our lives and grow as we do - just as we ease into our writing and getting that first book done, then another and another.

    We get better at it. We feel more at "ease" in our skin as we "ease" into the lives we create for ourselves - personal or career.

    When I am having an anxious day about all the writing projects I want to hurry up and finish but cant because of my other family duties - I will stop and look back at what I HAVE accomplished so far over the years as I eased into my life. Thanks for this great post!

  18. I am a twin ... and my mom had five kids. When I became a mom, I called her one day and said, "I'm sorry for all those times you were trying to catch a quick nap on the couch in the afternoon and we kids kept running through the house and slamming the door and waking you up." Now I finally understood how badly she needed that nap.
    I am guilty of trying to tackle too much too soon--not because anyone told me I had to, but because I force myself to do it.
    My magic trick? I adopted this mantra (found on a T-shirt in Wal-Mart): When at first you don't succeed: Lower the bar.
    Yep. Works for me.
    I'm not endorsing laziness or being a quitter. But I am all-about being realistic and realizing life can be satisfying and good without being perfect.

  19. Great advice, Jody. There have been times when I've wanted to skip over the text book and head straight for the "greatness" part. And you probably know how that ended!

  20. You are so relatable, Jody and I love reading your posts.

    I have three kiddos and swore that I would never falter on keeping up with their scrapbooks, etc. Can you guess what happened? #3 hit and hobbies flew out the window. As far as writing goes, I write at night so my sleep has also been thrown out the window as well. It's a give and take I guess.

    Thanks again for a great post!

    P.S. People always asked if my daughter was a boy when she was decked out in pink. I never got that but I was also polite even though I was cringing on the inside.

  21. Great tips.

    I've learned to just take it one day at a time - Do what you can do and leave the rest to God.

    God will not give you more than you can handle.

  22. I've always wondered how you manage! This makes a lot of sense and is something I can definitely apply to my life. Thank you for sharing with us. :)

  23. I'm still in awe of your management capabilities, Jody. As a homemaker, I love my life the way it is. I guess I will expand my family when the time comes. Until then, I will thoroughly enjoy my career, my hubby, and my free time. :)

  24. In New Zealand I was surrounded by large families and they have quite a system going. The eldest are always super helpful too. Baby steps to extra responsibility is really good advice. I had a 6 month old, a two yr old, my 3 yr old and my five yr old this morning and what crazy fun we had yikes! I know I'm getting more free time in September when my eldest goes to school every day, and hopefully I can crack on with lots of writing each day rather than just some writing each day.
    You're a trooper Jody, your family sounds lovely.

  25. I love this, and can totally relate. This is one of those areas where I'm grateful for my age. I've learned so much, and wouldn't trade that wisdom in for anything, even less wrinkles :D

  26. This, my dear, is why you are a superstar!

  27. Love your post, Jody. You have many talents. I always appreciate your honest, sensible suggestions and wisdom. Thanks!

  28. Your posts are always so encouraging, Jody. Love this.

  29. All or nothing thinking is one of the major killers of happiness, productivity and success. I think this topic is in the zeitgeist, cuz I am blogging on something similar today, LOL.

    I think we need to ease into things and part of that is learning to have a healthy relationship with failure. When you burned the turkey, you didn't throw up your hands and vow to never cook again. You stopped, assessed, saw the problem, then made a new (and easier) plan.

    Thanks for your amazing blogs. And, I am so blonde. I have had my head in this book proposal due to my agent and didn't realize your second book was already out! Off to download.


  30. This is so encouraging. Thanks for offering such great advice for a busy wife/mom/writer's everyday life!

  31. Coffee? Soon?

    My oldest of 5 starts 5th grade on Monday. (Hugs)

  32. Oh boy! I remember those days! I too have identical twin girls and those comments on boy or girl, when dressed completely in pink .... oh! LOL So many stories.

    I get the 'how do you do it all' too, though I don't homeschool ... but I work full time. So work, 3 kids, husband, writing AND I have a photography business that I run. Yes, it's crazy.

    But time management is the key ... and putting the important stuff as a priority at the time that it needs to be the priority.

    Great, great post!

  33. Great post!

    I also wanted to remind you about the “Wonderland Giveaway” Blogfest you signed up to be a part. I know you are giving books away anyhow, but wanted to remind you there may be some extra traffic and you should check out what some of the other authors are giving away. We all love free goodies ;-) I look forward to your post!

  34. Last month I cared for my special needs niece while my sister was away on a work-related weekend and her husband was working. Although I've cared for my niece quite often and she spent many nights over the years at my house, I hadn't been responsible for her for more than 24 hours at a time. By the time my sister returned home, I truly appreciated all she does in a day and sacrifices for her family. For her, that's just how life is.

    I'm learning to say no and not rush into volunteering. I work all day in my home and write in the evenings, so my time for everything else is limited. I have to be careful how I fill my hours. Sometimes that's a challenge.

  35. You have so much energy! I love the picture of your twins. It would make a great cover for a book. :)

  36. You're an inspiration to me, Ms. Hedlund. I've got 4.5 month old twin girls (plus my 5y/o boy), and am feeling totally overwhelmed still. I'm just getting back into the writing swing, and hearing that you 'can' do it helps enormously these days.

    I'll try to keep your words about taking small steps in mind. It's a problem I've always had (two speeds, fast and stop, that's me!), but you're absolutely right about building up to something over time.

  37. I love this, Jody. I'm absolutely a take-on-too-much-at-once kind of girl. It works really well for me (insert sarcasm).

  38. Number 3 resonates with me most. It's difficult for me to let go of anything; in that way, I've become a pack rat of habits.
    I'm not a mother nor will I ever be one (wrong gender) but I wanted to let you know that I found your post encouraging.

  39. Thanks, Angel! Glad you found the post encouraging!

  40. Jody, great advice about easing into it. I am just starting out with my writing, and have been praying for the Lord to "order my days" as the kids go back to school! I do have to add my go-to motto: "Done is better than perfect. " :)

  41. Hi Elizabeth,

    Love your motto--done is better than perfect! Was just writing up some thoughts on perfectionism for something else and that really sums it up!

  42. I love how you've put it - because as you ease yourself into more responsibility - you gain more capacity. xx

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