Choosing your path
A couple of days ago, I made a successful batch of lavender-honey-oatmeal soap.
And it turned out great.
I’m not writing this to boast; instead I’m telling you this because I’m actually pretty amazed.
I make soap. I’m a soap-maker. I’m also a mother, kindergarten teacher, assistant cross-country coach, beekeeper, gardener, writer and, somehow, I’ve also become a go-to person in our community for advice on raising chickens.
People ask me all the time, “How do you do all this all with four kids?”
I know sometimes people may think I have it all together — all of the time — or that my days flow seamlessly as I craft my utopian life with happy children in tow, effortlessly producing homegrown meals, making soap and knitting my children underwear.
Some may feel judged or inadequate, just as I sometimes do, looking at other people’s Instagram and Facebook feeds — oh so many sugar-coated snapshots of our lives.
However, I want to remind you of a little secret: No one is perfect. No one.
There may be the illusion that perfection is a reachable goal, with social media propagating the highlight reels of our friends, families and total strangers. But we all have our ups and downs.
And yet, at the same time, I’m happy and proud to admit that my life is rich and full.
I like to think I live a life grounded in simplicity, balanced with purpose and joy.
How do I do it? Here are my tips:
The truth is I just really want to do all this stuff. Whether it’s tending to bees or chickens, making soap, writing, getting outdoors with my kids or volunteering two days a week with the cross-country team.
Whatever I have a strong desire to do, I take action to make it happen. I work to make mindful choices about how I use my time so that I have time for these enrichment activities.
Making time often involves some compromise. For example, when I’m volunteering with my daughter’s cross-country team, my three boys are in after-school care for a couple of hours. I could beat myself up about spending time with her and not them, but instead I focus on the example I’m setting by being active and strong.
Don’t focus on mistakes
I’ve baked many bricks of bread and failed at lots of recipes.
Many of my many well-thought-out lessons and activities — both at home and at school — have absolutely flopped.
I’ve received several hard rejections with my writing. And as a parent, I admit I lose my patience and yell and cry.
But I work through these struggles, and I don’t give up. I also work hard to learn from my mistakes. If there’s something I really want to do, I work hard to stick with it.
I’ve found that, more often than not, from every failed attempt, there’s something of value to take away. In the world of education, we call this a growth mindset. I hope to model resilience for my children and for my students with my efforts to persevere.
We’ve been very lucky and blessed as a family. But my husband and I have also worked our tails off in the process. We strive to set goals and make mindful choices about how we spend our money. For example, we save money by not having cable TV, and we rarely go out to eat, which frees up money for other things like family vacations and recreational equipment. We also both have small side jobs that complement our careers and offset expenses for our family.
Do what brings you joy
If you really know me, you know I have no super powers. This lifestyle and all of these extra-curriculars are healthy creative outlets for me. There are many unfortunate examples of adults who navigate life’s inevitable stressors by taking part in unhealthy behaviors.
I choose to make soap.
Most everything I do helps me stay balanced and connected — and also brings me joy.
My husband and I work to incorporate elements of simplicity into the life of our family. But we also buy and eat store-bought cookies and Kraft macaroni and cheese.
And I do not knit my children underwear.
One thing I know for sure is that I love to learn. The more I learn, the more I want to know, and the more I know, the more I to want to learn.
And that’s how I got to the place I am right now in my life — a soap-maker, mama, beekeeper, pumpkin-grower, chicken-tender, kindergarten teacher with high hopes of inspiring others to live their best lives.
I welcome you to tag along on this journey.
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at kidsandeggs.com.