How do you manage it all? Trying to stay on top of things.

Running a business as well as a household of seven is not a simple task. I’m constantly trying to stay on top of things and at the same time failing miserably. I’m behind on my email, my house is a mess, my baby needs a bath (and so do I), I have to write a post for our blog, the laundry needs folding, I have missed another friend’s birthday…

Trying to be more organised, I keep uncountable To Do lists that I consequently lose in bags or pockets. But I feel good writing them! Do you know that feeling, sitting down with a clean sheet of paper and starting a list, feeling so on top of things? That feeling, that as if when you’ve written down something on a To Do list, you’re actually already sort of done with the task? Haha, I wish!

Of course the fact that I have an eight-month-old baby who keeps me super busy doesn’t help. (But he’s cute!) I know it is only a matter of months before he will go to daycare and I will have a bit more time in the day to get things done. But even though I know things will be better soon enough, and I should (and I do!) count my blessings (I have a warm house and a healthy, lovely family), I still can feel frustrated. I know I am not alone here — parenthood can be a struggle, and it can be lonely up here. (Thanks for letting me ramble and complain! It helps to let off steam!)

In my constant effort to get a grip on my endless To Do lists, I started a bullet journal a few years ago. I try to gather all my loose notes and lists in there and then I regularly sit down to update the information in the journal. But this only works for my own personal tasks! Sometimes a list of To Dos needs to be tackled by more people, and this is why I have started to use an online project management tool for household as well as business tasks.

We started using Trello with the Babyccino team a while ago (there are other, similar programs out there too, but we liked the fact that Trello is quite visual to work with). I had trouble to get a grip on it in the beginning, but now I absolutely love the idea of it. It is basically a shared To Do list to which you can attach links, files and photos and assign tasks to people with schedules and deadlines. It can tremendously declutter your email inbox if used correctly!

Once I got the hang of the app, I have started to use it to manage household tasks as well. To give an example: we get sent class lists every year with all of the contact information of all the parents in the children’s classes. I used to print these lists out, only to lose them in a drawer somewhere. I then tried hanging them on the kitchen door, but I experienced that you mostly need them when you’re on the road, picking up your child from a playdate somewhere and needing the address. (And then you have to try to find that one class list of that one child in your email, which is an absolute undoable task.) So —  I have spent some time uploading ALL the class lists of the past 9 years in Trello, in lists organised per child. And it is great. I never have to search for a class list again. And what’s even better: I have shared these lists with Tamar, so when I ask him to pick up a child at a friend’s house on his way home from work, he knows where to find the address without having to bother me. It’s brilliant!

Other To Do lists that I keep in Trello (and share with Tamar) are the house To Do list, the vacation To Do list and the campervan To Do list. So handy! I also use Trello for holiday wish-lists. Whenever I hear a child mention something they want or need, or when I think of something myself, I make a note in the system (attaching links or photos if applicable). Sometimes I see something fun in a magazine, when I’m at the hairdresser for example, and I quickly snap a photo and add it to the Trello list. Super handy around this time of year, when Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are shopping for presents!

lollipop planner

Tamar and I share an online calendar as well, on which I have indicated all of the children’s sport and music classes and the school vacations. Every party, dinner, class meeting etc I immediately put in the agenda with the correct details, location, and with notes (gift ideas) if applicable. I also like to keep a paper calendar (like the year planner from Lollipop — see photo above in the house of my friend Julie).

Besides the practicalities of managing everything (and I would LOVE to hear it, if you have more tips and tricks to share!), the most importantly thing I have learned is to simply accept that it is ok to run behind on certain things. That no matter how hard I work, it is simply impossible to stay on top of everything. That there is simply no end to the tasks — there will always be laundry to fold, a birthday to plan, a holiday to prepare, a dinner to cook, a post to write, toys to tidy up, a house to decorate… And there is always so much work to do on top of all of that. It never stops, so it is ok to take a break and let things be. Ready or not.

I also have decided that people must understand it, when I forget a friend’s birthday, if I am late with responding to an email, that my baby is not clean (nor am I), or that I’m late with posting a blog post (like today). And if they do not wish to understand, then they are a negative influence. And negative influences should gently but surely be extruded from my life. They only stress me out, which is not healthy for me or my family! Basta!

As always, we should remember to keep calm and carry on 🙌🏼. And that behind the clouds, the sun is shining ☀️. And that tomorrow is another day 💫!

xxx Esther (and baby Bram, who I kept bouncing on my lap while writing this)




Comments (19)

November 15, 2018

Lovely post! You all have always such great tips. I am using Trello at work as well. I can also recommend Slack for your babyccino team to give you moore the feeling of being a team even though you all live in different places. It even reduces the mails in your mailbox and you can organise yourself on different topics. 🙂

November 15, 2018

Lovely post, as always so inspiring and good tips. 🙂 Using Trello at work myself. I can even recommend Slack to reduce emails and keep better track on topics that you are discussing in the team and it gives you more of a team feeling even though you work from different places and countries. 🙂

Esther in Amsterdam
November 15, 2018

I have downloaded Slack a while ago, but I haven’t yet figure out how to use it. I should give it another try! Thank you! x

Annie from Brimful
November 15, 2018

Trello sounds like something worth checking into, even though I’m still very much a paper calendar type of person! I like what you said about extruding negative energies – and I would add that there is nothing wrong with saying no to events/parties/outings that will leave the family sapped instead of inspired. For my own family, we really try to keep the weekends quiet and for just the six of us. That means saying no to many things that might be fun, but preserves the sacred time our family can just be together without school and work obligations. ❤️

Esther in Amsterdam
November 15, 2018

Hi Annie! I so agree on this. We love that sacred weekend time for the seven of us as well! And we also have been going less to certain things we first thought we were obliged to go to. xxxx

November 15, 2018

Great post! These are things that challenge every Mother and are difficult to talk about and formulate! One post that one day I would also love to see on Babyccino is how you go about deciding what and when to outsource. I think this is something that a lot of us grapple with–we want to do it all but there is only so much time in the day. Childcare, house help, or other things we do to streamline. So often women in media hide these realities but the rest of us (all the non “influencers”) would find it so inspiring and empowering to have these conversations brought out in the open. It would help us know the other’s realities and not just think “why can’t I get my house as perfect as theirs.” Also, often work such as child care help or house cleaning is outsourced to other women so it’s doubly troubling that these behind the scene women aren’t acknowledged. For instance, I thought it was so cool when you shared about the midwife or nurse (?) that helped right after Bram was born.

I hope you all will consider it one day. If only there was more time in the day! Ps enjoy that cute baby.

Esther in Amsterdam
November 22, 2018

Hi Anna, thanks for leaving a comment. I agree, it can be interesting to know how other people do it. I guess a certain amount of help is always welcome! But it all depends on your own personal situation, I think. Everyone has different expectations and standards!
As for me, we do have some help. We have a lovely cleaning lady, Harriet, who comes twice a week on Tuesday and Friday to help clean, change beds, and to help with the ironing. I currently have no help with childcare whatsoever, and I also do not have help from family. Tamar works more than full-time and is often at work one or two days a week in the evening (he works for a SF based company and thus has to make calls and meeting in the evening…). He also travels for work every now and then. Which leaves me to deal with all of it by myself! Quite busy, to get all of the children to school with their lunchboxes, to get them to playdates, sports and music classes. Yes, it is full on!
In a few months time, I will find a spot for Bram at the creche, so he can play with other babies and I can actually get some work done during the day. It is now a huge struggle!
Hope that helps :).

November 15, 2018

@Esther I would be more than happy to give you some input. Have been introducing Slack at my workplace and have helped to get it up and running. 🙂

Esther in Amsterdam
November 22, 2018

I would love that!! 🙂

Lisa lou
November 16, 2018

I find your post very inspiring with new apps …. I must try it – I like paper still but on the move would be handier to have everything online Ans shared …. I must just try Trello .

Also good topic – I am constantly wondering how do these women do it – beautiful house , great party ideas , seem so calm and great mammas ( while looking stylish ) – I suppose everyone is juggling and chasing their tail to some extent !

November 17, 2018

I just had my first baby and am tearing up reading this. It can feel so lonely, but reading this (and the entire Babyccino site) makes me realize I am not alone. And I know I only have one, not five – ha! It made me laugh when you wrote about writing down the task feels the same as completing it. So funny and true. Love your words, Esther – thanks for taking the time (with bouncing baby or not) to share them with us.

Esther in Amsterdam
November 19, 2018

And thank you for taking the time to write a reply, Annie! Do not think that caring for a first baby is less challenging than a fifth. Motherhood is new to you, and it is a very big change. It is overwhelming. The love, the responsibility, the tiredness, the frustration, the sweetness, the passing of time… I can go on. You are not alone!! xxx

November 20, 2018

This is very off topic, but a question I’ve been wanting to ask Esther: does your pediatrician track your children’s weight against the World Health Organization chart? And if so, do they care much about which percentile they fall in? I ask because in the US this is a big deal. My daughter has been in the 1percentile and occasionally drops off the chart. She enjoys eating and has a very nutritious diet and is meeting all her physical and mental development milestones so I’m not worried but my pediatrician has labeled her with “failure to thrive.” We’ve spent months meeting with specialists, only to be told “nothings wrong” but to feed her more fats (she gets plenty). I’m curious if we’d be having the same experience in another country…your children seem well nourished and also very slim… is this ever an issue for you?

Esther in Amsterdam
December 5, 2018

Hi Jo, I’m sorry for my slow response. For some strange reason, your comment had landed in our spam folder.
So — weight. Yes, in The Netherlands, children are measured and weighed by a health care official during the first years of their lives. They are compared to the Dutch average for weight/length (Dutch children are taller than average), and this way they keep an eye on the growth of a child. As you can imagine, my children usually are taller than the Dutch average, but weigh less. They are on the skinny side. But still within the ‘safe zone’.
When I lived in the UK, and Sara was a baby, she was a bit underweight, as I was told, and I was recommended to add formula to her diet (I was breastfeeding exclusively at the time). I never did — I trusted my milk supply and just figured she was naturally skinny. Now she’s thirteen, and eats enormous amounts of (healthy) food, and is still as tall as skinny as she was as a baby. As are my other children. They eat well, and healthy, but they are skinny.
So aside from that moment with baby Sara, it has never been an issue and I’ve never been worried.
I hope that helps…?
xxx Esther

November 21, 2018

I am so agree with everything Anna said on outsourcing.

Esther in Amsterdam
November 22, 2018

I would love that!! 🤗

November 26, 2018

Esther, thank you for responding to my comment! You’re right it is so dependent on the situation but it is reassuring somehow to know that others reach out for help! I sometimes feel ashamed for not somehow ‘doing it all’! Thanks again for the window in. Enjoy these busy, beautiful days.

November 28, 2018

I really appreciated reading this post and your honest, thoughtful take on a very busy full life. I always think it’s so important to acknowledge that life is both messy and beautiful. Especially when you’re in the public eye like yourself! I love this about your personal Instagram posts – that you show both those sides of your life. To Do lists are never-ending so it’s important for all of us to find some room to ignore them a bit and enjoy ourselves anyway. And to find it within ourselves to lower those expectations! Even though that can be so hard! During times in my life when I find myself stretched to the limit, scaling back and letting go a bit is even more important – because over time I have realised it won’t always be like this! Actually that’s my mantra for the hardest times – ‘it won’t always be like this’. So I guess we all need space to cope and space to be able to try to enjoy it rather than wishing it away. As I get older I find that doing less of everything I think I have to do gives me more of everything I want to do…Crikey that makes me sound like I have it ‘sorted’ but I don’t, I juggle and struggle just like you. But it’s so good to have a dialogue about it!

Esther in Amsterdam
November 28, 2018

Hi Charlie, Thanks for leaving a comment and for your sweet and encouraging feedback. I love your mantra and your wisdom. Thanks for sharing! xxx

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