When You Can’t Do It All: Mom on Purpose, Day 3

When You CAN'T DO IT ALL // Mom On Purpose // jessconnell.com(Though these “Mom on Purpose” posts are being published over time, they were written days in a row.)

First, I asked myself the main question of essentialism. Two days ago, I got clear on the principles of what’s essential for me right now. And then yesterday I put essentialism into practice.

Today was a tougher day than yesterday, because I hit a common mom difficulty: there was more that I wanted to do than I could get done in the day.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. I read my Bible first. This has been so good to get back in the habit of doing this FIRST. I really love the insights and convictions that come from Scripture. So far, so good.
  2. We had family Bible time and breakfast. Still, going well.
  3. School time and chores went fairly well. But one of the kids needed me to assign the rest of the year’s worth of schoolwork which basically took over my “free time” all morning. (I had pre-assigned schoolwork until about 6-8 weeks past our son’s birth, and had finished all the other kids’ assignment books but hadn’t done this one.)
  4. I got back word from the editor for a Bible study job I’d taken that I’d misunderstood part of what they were asking for. Though he said there was no rush, I knew that later in the week, we’d be going out of town, and so this suddenly took priority, even though I thought I was already done. I needed to get it done ASAP.
  5. Doug had told me he wanted to go over his sermon with me during nap time, at 2, and to be done with lunch, so we started lunch at 12:30, and I was set to help him at 2. Only, you know what I wanted to do… I wanted to knock out my Bible study job first.

This brings me to the next idea you have to deal with if you’re going to embrace essentialism.


TODAY, I had three opportunities that stick out in my mind that presented me with conflicting needs:

  1. My son’s schoolwork needed to be written out, but I’d planned to do read-alouds with all the kids.
  2. My husband wanted to go over his sermon together, and had asked me to do so, but I wanted to be finished with the Bible study job and complete my assignment.
  3. Later in the day, at 5, I wanted to run to the local thrift store (and have a nice bike ride) before it closed at 6pm. But the baby needed to be nursed and I hadn’t made dinner.

So, this is why it’s important that we get clear on our “WHY” first. When conflicting “needs” come up, we need to look back at our priorities… 

  • So #1 was conflict between teaching our children well and reading aloud to them. I ultimately decided to write out his schoolwork so that he could get going on his work. I still read a book or two aloud to the 4-year-old but whole-family read-alouds got pushed back a day. Sometimes things get shuffled around.
  • #2 was a conflict between helping my husband and MY WANTS (something NOT on my priority list), just something I wanted to do that comes AFTER the things that have a higher priority for us in this season. So, I put off the completion of my writing job until after I helped Doug by listening to his sermon and hashing out edits and points for clarification for a couple hours. I WAS still able to finish, but I didn’t get it back to the editor quite as lickety-split as I’d hoped.
  • #3 was a conflict between MY WANTS (something not on my priority list) and being busy here at home. The kids needed dinner, and my baby needed to eat. So the kids took turns snuggling Luke while I made breakfast burritos (yes, breakfast for dinner), and then I sat down to nurse him after dinner was made. I didn’t make it to the thrift store, or get my bike ride in. That’s OK. Sometimes the “want to”s don’t happen.

At the end of the day, even when what we “want” doesn’t happen, or we feel like we’ve let certain things slip, if we’ve lived life according to our principles the best we can, we can be at peace .


Rock-solid confidence in God’s sovereignty makes it possible for us to drop things, or not get everything done, and still be at peace.

My deep-seated belief that God is sovereign over all things enables me to have a day where priorities go awry, or even a day that goes completely haywire, completely contrary to how I’ve planned it, and yet not despair.

When I believe that everything is on my shoulders:

  • to get it right
  • to do it all
  • to pull it together
  • to be the “right” sort of mommy (not a sinner, not a needy person)

then I am operating as if I am God, and the way the day goes is up to me. (We talked about that recently, remember? That’s being a FOOL.)

But when I believe that God is sovereign, and that He only puts on my shoulders the load that I can bear, and only expects from me the things that I am capable of, then I can trust Him:

  • to get it right
  • to do it all
  • to pull it together
  • to be ALL that I need (recognizing that I am a needy sinner)

When I am confident of God’s sovereignty, I am FREE.

Oh yes, I still have to do my part, but I no longer have to do it as if everything is riding on me.

  • I am FREED to have a “good” day without feeling like it’s all because of me.
  • I am FREED to have a “bad” day without feeling like it’s all my fault.
  • I am FREED to have an “ugly” day without feeling like I’ve blown it and am the worst mom or human being ever.

God’s goodness frees me from the need to perform perfectly as a mom.

When I know the truth about:

  • God (that He will do all that needs doing)
  • Jesus Christ (that He has already lived the perfect life)
  • the Holy Spirit (He is at work in my heart to help conform me to the image of Christ)
  • and me (I can never “do it all”)

I can be at peace, even amidst my limitations and inabilities. Instead of doing-doing-doing and going-going-going, I can let the goodness of Jesus flow through me, fueled by the Spirit alive inside me and His Word at work in my heart and mind.

The Gospel is the answer to my inability to “do it all,” and it frees me to be the mom I am– “just as I am” — muddling through one day at a time, learning and growing without the pressure of perfection.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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2 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    So good! I love the “growing without the pressure of perfection”. It’s a struggle when I used to (several kids ago) be able to get down all that I wanted, but as the kids get older and there are more doing school and more little ones that need mom’s attention and food there is always more to do (in my mind) then there is time to do.

  2. shannon bradbury says:

    So good…thanks for allowing us to be human even if our day isn’t perfect and we can’t do it all. He loves us anyway.

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