On Finding Balance: Who, What, Where, Why, and How by Elena Sonnino


This is the third entry in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,”  a series of guest posts about the working mom/stay-at-home dilemma.  It’s written by Elena Soninno, the founder of Ciao Mom and Just.Be.Enough.  Italian by birth, a mom, a teacher, a wife, a runner & triathlete, and a cancer survivor, Elena strives to carry the extra weight of empowerment and self-confidence through her writing.  She started Just.Be.Enough. last year in the hope of  inspiring women, parents, and children to believe in themselves.  

I met Elena at BlogHer in 2011 and I remember feeling like I had met someone who would make a mark on mankind, and she is getting started.  As a matter of fact, she is heading to Haiti this week to participate in a Bloggers4Haiti trip with the Heart of Haiti trade program.  

Elena SonninoSchedules, appointments, commitments, reminders. For me. For my daughter. For my husband, and sometimes for my ex husband. Finding balance as a full time working mom (or any other type of mom) means keeping track of a lot of moving pieces.

Finding balance means keeping track of the who, the what, the where, the why, and the how…every single day.

Waking up before 6:00 I find myself wondering. Is my daughter sleeping in her room down the hall?  Or is she at her dad’s house? Who is driving her to school?  Do I have a meeting that I have forgotten about? Sometimes I even have to stop for a minute to think, is it a school day or a weekend morning?

My balance, or attempts at balance, is enabled by technology.  Yes, I check my email when I wake up, with my iphone in my hand before my eyes have fully acclimated to the morning light.  But also? I open my calendar.  I need the visual reminder. Every single day.  If not I risk forgetting.

The technology that of course, has also added to my list of things to think about. The technology that eventually led to my virtual life. The life of Ciao Mom and eventually Just.Be.Enough. The technology that I think about missing during the day when I am teaching and try to catch up on during my thirty minutes of lunch at my desk between lessons.

My working day ends with a jarring transition as I sit ready in the parking lot right behind our departing buses, so that I can get home with a minute to spare before my daughter’s bus pulls up along side the road. Unless of course I have a meeting, in which case planning sessions, telephone calls, and email reminders are put in place so other arrangements can be made. The questions start to fill my mind again. What time is piano? What did we plan on making for dinner? What posts do I have to write for the next day and which emails do I need respond to before momentum is lost on whatever the topic might be?

There are days that I picture myself on a spinning piece of playground equipment. Getting off and going forward in whatever direction I landed.

The trick (and the challenge) is to be fully committed and present in whichever part of my day I find myself. The truth is that I am not always good at this.  If I am at school, I wear my teacher hat. If I am sitting next to my daughter as she does her homework, I wear my mommy hat. The hat that sometimes infiltrates my being present is my blogging hat. My blogging hat is like a chameleon, being blended in or squeezed in here or there, although I have been trying to find dedicated time just for those hats.

Sometimes I even have to leave a hat on the shelf for a while.

Sometimes there is just no time in my who, what, where, why, or how.

My problem is that I thrive on challenge. I stand taller when there are obstacles to overcome, or new hats to make work (hopefully with success).  So my “what” list might be a bit longer than it should. There mere fact that I am here, writing this post, is the result of adding to my “what” list the day that I started blogging. Conferences and an increased social media presence, and even freelance work adds to the list.  The how of making all those pieces moving forward is testament to taken on more than I can chew while working full time.

But it works….because I remember that it is ok to be enough. It is ok to remember that on some days I might forget. On some days I might not be able to get to everything.

It has to be ok.  Prioritizing….every day, sometimes throughout the day. Being enough, whatever hat I am wearing, and trying to keep track of the who, what, where, why, and how.  Because if nothing else, I have to be at that bus stop each day.

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  1. Yes, one hat at a time.

    Balancing hats, yes: too many, they topple off.

    And being the best me we can be.

    This lady is amazing.

    REALLY amazing.

  2. Thanks, Elena! My children are all grown and gone but there are still many hats to wear thoroughout my day. It feels good to know that others “place some hats upon a shelf” every now and again. Thanks for the great post!

  3. I know exactly what you mean about the calendar. I feel panicked without it almost!

    Just being enough is a great mantra I need to adopt.

    • Panic is a good way to describe it!

      And thank you, it is a feeling that I am working hard to strive for. There is always an ocassional blip on the radar, but the notion that our imperfections make us who we are, like the work of Brene Brown–the Gift of our Imperfections—is such an empowering lens to use.

  4. I loved the hats analogy and having to put a hat on the shelf for a while. I have lots of hats on my shelf. And that’s just fine. Well done, Elena.

    • Thank you so much. Visualizing putting the hat on my shelf worked well with my daughter to, to help her see that I was focusing on her, as well as when I needed to focus on work. We do a lot of pretending around here 🙂

  5. I love the reminder that it’s okay to be enough. Being exceptional in all ways isn’t sustainable, and it leads (quickly!) to burn-out or resentment. Enough is plenty. (And now I feel like a thesaurus!) Thank you.

    • I agree 100% and think that all moms should wear that as their motto on a tee shirt: Enough is plenty. Sometimes I feel like a failure as a mother but my kids love me unconditionally and I honestly am doing the best I can. No one gives you a guide book and tells you how to balance it all!

    • Enough is absolutely plenty. It is a feeling that took me a long time to realize, but I have embraced it with gusto.

  6. Well said, Elena.

    Finding balance is so hard for me. Particularly as a freelancer/self-employed person, many times I my schedule and availability isn’t up to me, but rather my clients.

    Your advice on “being fully present and committed” is right on the mark. I just need to figure out how to do it.

    • Christina, I agree. I’m also freelance and it is a juggle. I often tell my husband that it’s far easier to go into an office where you know you have a 9-5 schedule. But I also have a lot of flexibility, and with that comes a price. Many times I have tight deadlines and I work into the wee hours, and end up not functioning my best for the kids the next day. It’s something I have to work on.

    • Thanks Christina. You make a great point about a freelance or self employed schedule. Too often, we perceive that schedule to be more flexible, but it too has it’s own challenges and limitations as far as availability. The hardest thing for me is that I am not a late night owl, so I know that there are days that albeit my best attempts to be fully present, I struggle to set things aside.

  7. Thank you Holly for providing this space to share! I was honored to be included in the series. And for the record–everytime I read about something new that you are doing, I find myself in awe. You are the queen of “I don’t know how she does it!”

    • I really don’t know you do it. I love your concept of being committed to each moment in time, and I’m going to take a mental note so that I try to be more in the moment with my children. There’s always so much on my mind that I do tend to be distracted at home and that just shouldn’t happen.


  1. […] to the land of my good friend, The Culture Mom, to take part in her series, “I Don’t Know How She Does It.”  I was honored when Holly asked me to contribute to the series, among amazing women who I respect […]

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