Taking a Step Back

Sep 18, 2015

At least for me, motherhood has been a slowly expanding juggling act. After my oldest was born, I quit working full time and found myself with loads of time on my hands. Aaron was a fairly easy baby, and so I had these long stretches of nap time where I cleaned my (already clean) house, read, made dinner, watched our local morning show, or took a nap myself.  I didn't even have the internet to waste time on since Mike was in school at the time and took our laptop with him every day.

For an introvert like me, this was not a bad life. Many days, I just held Aaron for all of his naps because I couldn't get enough of him, and it wasn't like I had anything pressing to do. Sometimes I dream about those days. I didn't appreciate them enough.

As the months, and then the years, went by, I added a ball here and there to the ones I was already juggling. I began teaching piano lessons; I had another baby (and then another and another); my children acquired their own activities: soccer, gymnastics, piano, school; my house didn't stay clean; the laundry pile exploded; and I started this blog.

These have all been good things, and I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to fill my life with so many of the things I love.

But lately, it feels like I can't stay on top of it all--like maybe, just maybe, I'm trying to juggle one or two too many balls. I've tried lots of things to manage everything (schedules and routines and multi-tasking and delegating). I've tried cutting back (I whittled down by piano studio to twelve students; I didn't commit to as much volunteering this year at the school). I've tried to use the hours at the edges of the day productively (I shifted my blog writing to the early morning; I spent the evenings putting the house back in order).

And yet, with all of that, I still find myself feeling frayed and frazzled for most of the day. I'm tense with my kids. I'm frustrated with my house. I'm disappointed with myself.

For a long time, I've wondered if I should give up my blog because it takes up a lot of my time (and, I'll admit, sometimes adds to the tension I feel when I'm being interrupted for the dozenth time while writing a post). But it's also something that brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction outside of motherhood, and I think that's important.

I thought about just taking a break, but the word "break" scared me. I'd seen what happened on other blogs: "Just taking a short break while I find myself!". . . and then they never posted again.

But a few weeks ago , I was taking some much needed time to read my scriptures and ponder my situation. The word "break" again flitted across my brain, and this time, it didn't scare me. In fact, for the first time, I was excited by the prospect. \

I remembered an experience one of my friends had shared about her husband's business. He was working overtime, putting every possible minute into helping his business take off . . . but it wasn't working. He was frustrated. His family missed him. Finally, they just decided that, regardless of the consequences, they all needed a break. They pack up their camper and went into the mountains for a week. And while he was away from work, he could suddenly look at it very objectively from a distance, and he knew what was missing. He went home rejuvenated and with a new plan (and it worked).

I wondered if the same thing might happen with my blog. If I stopped thinking and worrying about it 24/7, if I simply put my focus on something else for a few weeks, maybe I'd be able to see things more clearly and figure out a solution. I decided it was worth a chance anyway. But definitely not without a plan.

I learned from Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before that stopping a habit can be disastrous. I know marathoners who immediately sign up for the next race as soon as they're done with one just so that they don't get into the habit of sleeping in. One of the stories Gretchen tells is about a yoga instructor who wouldn't let his clients "stop for the summer." Instead, he just cancelled the appointments during those months, but they still had their next appointment scheduled on the calendar, so it didn't feel like a big ordeal to start up again in the fall.

As I've been thinking about my break, I've planned it out very purposefully and strategically. It will be three weeks long (which I hope is long enough for me to make a clean break of it but not so long that I feel like I've completely abandoned ship). Gretchen Rubin said, "When faced with an unavoidable stopping point . . .  it helps to commit to a specific day to jump back into the habit." So I've done just that with my break. It will run from September 21st to October 11th (going over conference weekend, which is always a contemplative, reflective time for me).

This will be a break not only from the blog but the internet in general. That means no Instagram, no Facebook, no checking other people's blogs. I know. It's going to be tough. I am giving myself permission to check my email during that time just because I feel like that's necessary in order to be a responsible adult, so you can still get a hold of me that way.

All this might be coming as a shock to you, like it's something I've done on a whim, but it's been in the planning stages for weeks, and I have to say, I'm kind of excited for it. There have been some things I've shoved to the back of my life that I hope to give a little more attention to during the next few weeks: an online photography class I bought months ago, some non-blog writing, a little organizing. I also plan to keep track of how I'm spending my time and note my observations in my journal.

When I told Mike about my plan, he totally surprised me by saying, "I'll guest post for you during that time!" You have to understand, during the last three-and-a-half years, Mike has taken only a passing interest in my blog, so for him to actually volunteer to write on it? That's huge. You're in for a treat, that's all I can say.

So that's what Mike will be doing during the break. And I actually have something for you (yes you, dear readers) to do during the break as well. For a long time, I've had some questions bouncing around in my brain: How do people find my blog? What makes them stay (or better than that, come back)? What makes them leave? etc. I finally just decided it was time for Sunlit Pages' first ever reader survey.

I know. Everyone has a survey they want filled out. But this one will literally take you five minutes (or less) and will be so helpful to me in taking the pulse of this blog. And obviously, a response from one hundred of you will be vastly more informative than from just ten of you, so please, even if you haven't ever commented on this blog, please take a couple minutes to do this for me. Thank you so, so much. (It's embedded at the bottom of the post.)

Regardless of what happens during the next three weeks, it's a pretty sure bet that I won't just fade away into the internet abyss. You can expect me back on October 12th because it's written on the schedule, and I am nothing if not a strict adherer to schedules. See you in a few weeks!

(Also, let me know in the comments or by email if you have trouble taking the survey. Since this is my first one, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to get it to you.)


  1. I'm impressed that you have really thought and planned this out. I feel extremely overwhelmed at the end of the day too, which I mostly blame on half day kindergarten. I can't seem to get to much of anything in that short time period and the afternoon gets swallowed up

    1. Oh yes, half day kindergarten! We're dealing with that right now too. I love it and hate it. I'm not ready for Max to be gone all day, but it feels like our entire day is composed of drop-offs and pick-ups!

  2. Enjoy your break, Amy. I think that everyone who blogs goes through periods where they at least think about stopping. It can be a big time commitment, often with little to show for it. I was actually just thinking myself this morning that I need to figure out some balls that I can drop, and aspects of my blog always come up during such evaluations...

    What I love about your blog is your focus on raising your kids as readers (books you're reading with them, home library, etc.) and the fact that your blog is very personal (not just focused on books, as some of the blogs I read are).

    I'm confident that you'll be back, and I look forward to seeing what Mike has to say in the meantime.

    1. Oh Jen, thanks for your sweet comment. I've tried very hard to make my blog be the type of blog that I would like to read myself. Even though reading is a huge part of our daily lives, I feel like book reviews would be kind of meaningless if I didn't share little bits about our family along with them. I'm so glad that objective has come through as you've read my posts. And thank you for being a regular reader of my blog. I have the highest respect for you and am grateful for your virtual friendship.

  3. My heart almost dropped as I read through the first part of this post, thinking "No, No, No! How do I stay in touch with Amy without her blog!?!" I would miss you and your writing so much if you decide to quit permanently. But knowing you have a set time to come back makes me feel so much better. Also, must admit I'm super excited to see what Mike writes in the meantime. Will he be responding to comments?

    I hope you are able to find a measure of calm and control again during your break, and are able to find a way to make your schedule work while still fitting in the things that bring you joy. I know how tricky it is to juggle and manage time between passions and kids (and I imagine it only gets harder the more kids you add). Good luck, and looking forward to your return.

    1. I would do the same thing if I ever suspected you were going to stop writing on your blog. I think this break will actually help me want to continue with my blog. I'm doing it to guard against burn-out. ;-)

  4. I totally get it! :) Like someone else said, Enjoy your break! I think you're right--it's when you take a step back that you start to see more clearly. (I'll miss you!) :) Happy resting!

  5. I look forward to your blog every week! I admire your voraciousness in reading and enjoy your book reviews and family tid bits. Your writing resonates with me...I find it so personal and warm. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself!

    1. Jan, thank you so much. That is so sweet of you. I'll be back soon, and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy Mike's posts!

    2. By the sounds of it, I'm sure they'll be entertaining!


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