Finding Balance with Emily Thomas

Last year, I wrote a post about how I schedule my work week and how I get it all done as a stay at home mom of a toddler and business owner of a growing, thriving business. The response was overwhelming, and I quickly realized how many of you needed guidance for creating your own schedule and finding balance between work and life. I realized that we all want a glimpse of how others are making it work so we can better structure our own lives. 

Because of this, I was inspired to start this series featuring other busy women and business owners sharing how they manage their schedules and work towards work/life balance. My hope in everything I do is that we can make our lives less busy and more intentional so that we find more room for joy. I hope that this series will inspire you in your own life and help you find just the right combination of work and play so you can make it happen too.

photo by Katelyn James

photo by Katelyn James

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business or work.

Hi, friends! My name is Emily Thomas. I like to describe myself as a born Northerner but a bred Southerner, because I grew up in New England but have lived in the South since I graduated from college. I am the Creative Director at Southern Weddings Magazine, which includes an annual heirloom print publication, a daily blog, and a bustling shop. I have also written a personal blog for 8 years, Em for Marvelous, where I share about my family's adventures, our house and the projects I dream up for it, financial freedom, my goals, and tougher topics like homesickness, how to slow down time, and deciding to have children. My husband and I are high school sweethearts (we just celebrated our 12th dativersary and our 4th wedding anniversary!) and our sweet baby girl is one. I'm a follower of Jesus. I'm also an excellent gift wrapper, skilled at loading the dishwasher, and I have a mean croquet game :)

Take us through your typical day and your main daily responsibilities.

I wake up at 7:15 and hustle to get ready before my baby girl wakes up at 7:30. Once she’s up, I feed her, then finish getting ready while my husband changes her and gets her dressed. After breakfast and playtime, I drop her off at school at 8:45, then am back at my house to open my computer and start my day at 9. (I work from home three days a week and am in the office two days!) Throughout the day, I review submissions; send lots of emails; prep blog posts; collaborate on marketing projects; and write for our social accounts, for upcoming blog features, and (depending on the time of year) for magazine features. Some days I’m traveling for a shoot or to speak at a workshop, and some days I’m working on a longer form project, like the Southern Weddings Planner, but those days are more rare!

At 4pm I shut down my computer and drive the five minutes to my girl’s school to pick her up – hooray! My next few hours are focused exclusively on her, and my husband once he gets home around 5:30 – playing on the floor, going for walks, hanging out on the porch, etc. June is in bed at 7:30, and then my husband and I will make and eat dinner. From 8:30 to 10:30, I work on blog posts for Em for Marvelous, work on orders from my Etsy shop, catch up on personal email, read, work on a project, do a household task, or watch TV, almost always alongside my husband. At 11 I try to shut things down so I can get ready for bed (I'm a night showerer!) before turning off the lights at 11:30.

What do you wish you had more time for?

Writing on my personal blog. When I'm not working, my priority is my family, and I'm totally at peace with that. But I constantly have a backlog of posts I'd love to write on Em for Marvelous, and I love sharing and conversing with my readers, so EFM is my number one priority in any spare time I have!

What is one thing you always make time for?

One thing we prioritize as a family is an evening walk. It's an important part of the glue that holds my husband and I together, because there's nothing like strolling around our neighborhood, no phones allowed, to facilitate great conversation! Plus, everything seems better after a few extra steps and some fresh air!

How do you manage your schedule?

I have a husband who is an equal partner in raising and caring for our daughter. Though he works at a traditional company that is not particularly flexible, he doesn't work super-long hours, meaning he is able to do a big chunk of taking care of the house, cooking, etc. He could probably earn more money working somewhere else, but we've decided that having him present is worth more than a higher paycheck right now. I think it's important to be very realistic about the trade-offs life presents us with, and to choose wisely from the options available!

On a more practical note, I am a pen and paper calendar gal. I keep a two-page spread calendar in a binder (you can see more here) so I can see the entire month at a glance. I do use an iCal to keep track of work meetings, which is shared across our entire office. I also have a Word doc on the desktop of my laptop that serves as my running to do list - everything that pops into my head gets typed in immediately, so that it's not forgotten and it's not cluttering my brain!

How do you find the balance between work and home?

It sounds simple, but when I'm at work, I'm at work, and when I'm at home, I'm at home. Lately I've been setting a timer during the day -- 55 minutes of work, then 5 minutes of checking my personal email, reading a friend's blog, stretching my legs, etc. -- which helps ensure big chunks of productivity. That's important, because if I'm productive at work, I can be all-in at home. I never check my work email after hours, and I sign out of my public Instagram account until the next morning. I am so, so grateful that I love my job, that I find it meaningful and think it's important, because it would be extremely difficult to be away from my daughter otherwise.

Tell us one thing that you have learned about managing a busy life.

Since having a baby, there’s a conversation people love to have with me, and it goes something like this: "Wow, isn’t time flying by? How is she so big? Where has the time gone?! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that she was born? Soon she’ll be one!" Even if you haven’t recently had a baby, I'm sure you've had this conversation, and know that the socially-acceptable response is: "Yes! I know! Time IS flying by! It seems like the last few months have gone by in the blink of an eye! Can you believe it’s already October?"

A few years ago, I declared a moratorium on this kind of talk, and I’ve stuck to it ever since. I purposefully try not to let the passing of time be a topic of conversation, especially in reference to its speed. I just refuse to let BUSY be the way I see my life. I recently wrote a three-post series about this topic and the tactics I use to slow down time, if you'd like to see: part one, part two, part three.

Photo by Graham Terhune

Photo by Graham Terhune

What is one piece of advice you would give readers about managing their own schedule?

ESPECIALLY when it comes to spending time with my girl, I refuse to multitask. From 4:15 to 8 every day, I am just with her. I drink her in. Sometimes we cook, sometimes we fold laundry, sometimes I just sit on the floor and watch her explore. I don’t look at her through a screen to share our moments on Snapchat or a Story. We smile at each other and make each other laugh. We read books and stack blocks. We hinge and unhinge the guitar case a million times.

Since my sole job is to be present, it is easy to succeed and to feel accomplished. I am her mama, and in that role I feel like exactly enough. I have everything I need to give her exactly what she needs. I don’t feel guilty, distracted, or frenzied.

Does that mean I take fewer pictures? Does that mean I miss out on opportunities to “grow my following”? Does that mean I have to stay up later some nights to finish Etsy orders? Does that mean I read fewer books? Does that mean it takes weeks for me to get back to some emails?


Is it worth it?


Be where you are. You will feel better, and the people you are with will feel better. That's my best advice :)

Follow along with Emily