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Breaking Out of Survival Mode

Air Date 08/27/2014

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Popular blogger Crystal Paine offers some simple strategies for wives and mothers to beat burnout, evaluate priorities, set goals and restore a passion for life.

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Episode Transcript


John: So, I wonder what stresses you out?


Woman #1: What stresses me out as a mom is when my kids start fighting with each other.

Woman #2: Coming home at the end of a long work day and walking in the door and the family room is a mess or lunch dishes are still in the sink.

Woman #3: There's just not enough time in the day to get everything done that I need to get done.

End of Teaser:

John: Hm … well, maybe you can relate to some of those heartfelt expressions of stress and what causes it. If so, stay with us on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. We'll have some very practical trusted advice for you, so you can kind of let go of some of those stress inducers. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.

Jim: John, I know Jean would be able to relate to some of those comments. And you know what? In today's culture, it goes all different directions. There are a lot of men now that are staying home with the kids. And mom's out being the breadwinner. So, we recognize that here at Focus on the Family, so we want to speak today about those stressors that are occurring in your household--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: -- regardless of who's out making the money. Maybe it's a two-income family. Maybe mom is at home. Maybe dad's at home. We just never know. And we want to talk about those things today to give you some helpful advice on how to manage that stress in a much better way.

John: And we have a very popular blogger and speaker back with us here, Crystal Paine. Her blog is Money Saving Mom. It has over 4 million hits a month.

Jim: Wow!

John: And she's written a book called Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: Nine Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More (I'd like that) and Restore Your Passion for Life.

Jim: Ah.

Jim: And we're glad to have her back.


Jim: Crystal, we are. Welcome to "Focus on the Family."

Crystal: Thanks so much for having me.

Jim: I would think just with what John said there, with 4 million people tapping you every month on your blog, you're striking a nerve with them. And stepping back for a minute assessing it, what do you think that you're expressing from your own experience, from what you've learned, what is making it so popular? What are you saying that people are saying, "We need to communicate with her?

Crystal: Well, you know, I really feel like I could've never imagined having this many people following me. I'm just kind of a shy introverted person. But it's what God's called me to and I'm excited to use the platform that He's given me. But really, I feel like what is the nerve that it's hitting is, that people want to live intentionally. They want to live intentionally with their finances, with their time, with their lives. And they just don't know how. Maybe they haven't had good mentors. They haven't had good models. And so, they want to have some really practical simple ways that they can change their life over time.

And so, I just really try to take these big picture concepts and these things that people say, you know, I want to stress less. I want to save money. And let's break it down into tiny little bite-sized pieces that you can go out and you can do something today.

Jim: And is that the energy or the impetus for your book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode? Was it that kind of feedback that you're getting? Or was it born out of your own experience, that you said, okay; I used to be a survivor; now I want to be a "thriver?"

Crystal: You know, it was really both things. When I started in 2007, I pictured that it was just gonna be this little side blog that I was gonna have in addition to this mommy blog that I had that was doing pretty well. Well, within three months, we had 14 to 16,000 page views a day. Within a year, we were making a full-time income off of it.

And then I had three children. My husband was trying to start his own law firm. And I was trying to keep this blog afloat all by myself. And it was overwhelming. And at the same time, I was getting all this feedback from my readers saying, "We want to cut our grocery bill. We want to save money, but we're just over here trying to survive."

And so, it was really a process of me hearing that heart cry from people and me feeling that heart cry myself, of feeling like I've taken on so much and too much. And I got to a place where I was just exhausted and spent and worn out and finally came to my husband one day and I said, "I can't do this anymore. I have way too much on my plate. I'm trying to take care of these three children. I'm trying to run this blog that's just mushrooming. And I'm trying to be your wife. And yet, I keep saying yes to all these things and I've got myself in this huge pickle because I don't know how I'm just gonna survive the next six weeks."

And I really expected that my husband was gonna say to me, "Oh, honey, you're doin' a great job. Just keep it up." But he looked at me and he said, "You know, you're bringing most of this on yourself."

Jim: Well, and (Laughter) how did that strike you?

Crystal: I …

Jim: What was the next thing that was said? (Laughter)

Crystal: At first, I was really angry with him, because I thought, how dare you say something like that?

Jim: I'm working so hard.

Crystal: I'm working so hard. I'm trying to you know, help you get your law firm started and keep everything afloat. But then I realized as I stepped back and examined it over the next 24 hours, you know, he was right. I was saying yes to all of these things. They were good things, you know, helping this person and volunteering for this and helping start this and saying yes to all these things. But in the process, I was ruining my health. I was neglecting my marriage and I was neglecting my family and my home.

And the reason that I'd started my blogs was so I could be a stay-at-home mom and here, yet it was like my blog was the thing that was tanking all of these things. And so, just really going back and we had to start with things. Okay, what are our priorities? And first, we just had to say no to anything that wasn't absolutely essential And I went dark on social media. I stepped down from these different commitments. I just started saying no to any opportunity that came my way, because I just couldn't even breathe.

Jim: Right.

Crystal: And so, I had to say no in order to really even figure out what are my priorities?

Jim: Well, when you look at that then, especially for moms that are overwhelmed, I mean, Jean works hard—I can see it—at home. I mean, she has a degree in biochemistry and she worked in labs at universities and all that. And then we had our children. And she's a capable person, but it's an amazing thing when you really peel back, kind of that CEO hat of the household and all the things that you gotta keep spinning and the trains you gotta keep running and especially with kids on the scene and oh, my goodness. And you gotta get 'em here, there and somehow get the shopping done and all the stuff you have to do. I have deep respect for the role.

But you're speaking to women that are right where you were, that are saying, "I'm overwhelmed. I'm not finding the ability to say no." How would you encourage them? How do they get started saying no and not offending their friends?

Crystal: Yes and it's really, really hard. That first no is so hard, because I realized that I felt so obligated to all these people. I felt like I had to say yes, because if I didn't say yes, I mean, what was gonna happen? The world was gonna fall apart, you know. I mean it's …

John: They wouldn't like you anymore.

Crystal: They wouldn't like me and this thing that I felt like was so important, it wasn't gonna happen. But when I started saying no, at first it was really hard for me, because I realized that I wanted to be this superwoman. I wanted to look capable and like I could do it all. But I had to get honest and say, you know, I can't do all of this.

And so, to be honest and vulnerable and authentic with my friends and people who respected me was really hard. But it was really good, because when I first started saying those no's, I realized, you know, the world isn't gonna come to an end and other people are gonna step in and take some of these things. And honestly, I realized it gave other people the opportunity to do some things that they would love to do that I had almost been selfishly feeling like, I had to do these things because I was the only one that was capable. I know it's so ridiculous.

Jim: No, it's from the heart. I feel it and in many ways, I relate to it. Let me ask you this question, which may be a bit personal, but I see it for Jean and myself, as well, 'cause she feels people's pain. She wants to be present in their lives to help them. And she will say yes to a lot of demand upon her. That early in our relationship created quite a bit of stress, because I was like, well, hey; you know, what about the family? What about us?

And we had to kinda work through that and what I found was, outward facing, it was very compassionate, but toward the family, maybe not as much with Jean. And that really we had to work through that. Did you find that with Jesse when you talk about putting your marriage kind of in the backseat? Is that what you're saying? 'Cause that's what we experienced, too. And we had to work that through and I frankly, you know, I built a lot of resentment about that. You can say yes to that girlfriend? But you can't say yes to us going out Friday night? What's goin' on? We're busy. We need these Friday nights. It's that kinda thing.

Crystal: Yes and I think I was so busy that I didn't even realize how bad it had gotten. Because I just kept, you know, just kept saying yes and you kinda get on this hamster wheel and when I finally said, okay, I'm done. I'm going to start saying no, even though it's really hard for me, I realized we didn't even hardly have much of like a marriage relationship. We were just going through the motions of, you know, can you pick up milk at the store and check out this thing that Kathryn did? That's our daughter. And just going through the motions, but we weren't really living and thriving in our marriage, because I didn't have time and space to be intentional, 'cause I was available for everyone else, but not my husband.

Jim: Well, and I think it's fair. I think a lot of women … again, I'm not trying to be pejorative, but I think a lot of women innately have that nurturing instinct, not everyone. It may be that 80-20 rule. But it is something so natural for most women to be a nurturer. You want to be there for your friend. You want to put an arm around that girlfriend, who's struggling in her marriage. And it can be destructive to their own marriages, their own families if they over offer that wonderful nurturing approach. So, I think that's one great thing.

When you look at the stress in a household though, in addition to that kind of outward look, that a wonderful mom, woman will have, what are those stress-related things that are happening within the home that you noticed were happening, that needed correction? What do they look like? Tick off a list for me.

Crystal: Well, I think for me, it was figuring out the areas that really caused stress. And so, that was the laundry for me. (Laughter) And it was a silly thing, but for some reason, I'm really good at getting the clothes washed and dried and I'm horrible at getting them put away.

So, I would wash the clothes. I'd dry the clothes and I'd put 'em in a pile in our room. And pretty soon it'd be this huge pile that we'd have in our room. And every single time I walked into my room, that pile was pointing me in the finger saying, "You're a failure; you're a failure." And it would just bring me down.

And I was telling my husband, I said the laundry is overwhelming to me. And he said, "Well, why don't we hire somebody to do the laundry?" And I said, "Hire somebody to do the laundry?! I'm money-saving mom. We don't hire people to do our laundry." (Laughter) He said, "No, no, no. Think about it like this. There's this girl at church that we know and I bet she could come for a few hours a week. We could pay her and it would be a blessing to her and it would be a huge blessing to you."

And so, finally when he kind of, again and again said, "I think we should do this," I was finally like, "Okay, okay." It was the best thing we ever did, because that laundry pile was not in my room anymore. And I realized when the laundry pile wasn't in my room, my life looked like roses and rainbows. That laundry pile was the straw that was breaking the camel's back.

But then also, we got to have this wonderful girl in our home for a few hours every week. She was such a blessing to our kids and we were able to pay her and it provided some income for her. And you know what? The money that we invested in that, what we got from that was priceless.

Jim: I have had this exact conversation (Laughter) with Jean, but I wasn't smart enough to come up with the comeback that Jesse, your husband came up with, was [that] there'd be someone at church.

John: Who will be blessed--

Jim: Okay.

John: --by it.

Jim: This conversation continues in the Daly household. (Laughter) Because poor Jean, she has exactly that same emotion, Crystal, that you have expressed. [It] tends to be the sock pile that points back at her with two boys, three boys and (Laughter) her. But she has expressed that and I have said those exact words. Why not get someone to come and once a week, just come in and help do laundry? And she sees that as a failure--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --emotionally. And you know, for me as her husband, I'm going, oh, my goodness. It says nothing about you. It just means we have a lot of laundry, have a lot of dirty boys (Laughter) here in the room that are getting' their clothes all dirty. But how does a husband stand alongside and support his wife and even come up with creative solutions? If they get batted down, what's our next step?

Crystal: Well, I think that, you know, realizing that you're not a failure if you don't do everything for your home. And that was really hard for me as that Type A person, a feeling like I had to do everything, because I wasn't a good mom if I didn't do every single thing in my home.

And for me, it was simplifying some of the things. You know, just saying, we're gonna stick with really simple meals. I don't need to be this gourmet chef. I'm not a gourmet chef. And so, stop trying and just keep it really simple. My husband was happy with that.

But then saying, what can we not only delete from our lives, what can we simplify, but what can we delegate? And so, some of that was having my kids … teaching them to do chores and help with some of this stuff. But then it was also making that budget space, you know, to say, okay, we feel like this is worth putting a line in our budget for, because this is gonna bless our marriage. This is gonna make me a better wife and mom.

And so, being intentional about that in our budget and it really wasn't much money at all. And most families, even if you're struggling, you could probably come up with, you know, 10 or $20 every other week that you could put toward something like that, that might be a huge blessing.

Figure out what those triggers are for you. Maybe it's not the laundry. Maybe it's something else. For me, I also realized that I needed to get out of the house once a week by myself. And that was really hard for me, 'cause I thought, oh, a good mom, she's with her kids all the time.

Jim: Hm.

Crystal: Going out by myself, that's selfish. You know, I should never go out by myself. But my husband, he just kept saying, "Why don't you go out and just have coffee? Just go out to the coffee shop just for an hour or two. You can plan the week, just to have quiet. You know, or just go out and go grocery shopping by yourself."

And at first, I just really resisted, 'cause I felt guilt over it. But as he kept telling me to do it, I finally did and I realized, you know, that one or two hours of just quiet by myself, it gave me fuel for a whole 'nother week.

Jim: Oh.

Crystal: And I was so much better as a wife and mom when I had that little bit of quiet in my life, because it replenished me.

Jim: Right and it's interesting when you look at temperaments; they play into this. So, you described yourself earlier as an introverted person. That person needs that kind of separation time. My wife, Jean is very similar and if we don't recognize that, you can blow right by the signals, the warning signs. And that adds stress to your life.

You said something I want to highlight, because I found it really profound. When we look at those stresses in our lives, and I think it's true particularly for women, but I can be wrong. Write us and let me know if I'm wrong, this idea that we measure our value based on the laundry or how clean the house is.

And what you're saying is so right, in that probably what your spouse and your kids want more than anything is you. It's true with fathers. It's true with mothers. What kids want is time with you. And when we put the guilt on ourselves that we're not getting the chores done in a certain way, rather than being able to spend time together, we're really emphasizing the wrong thing, aren't we?

Crystal: Yes and I think so much of the time, as women especially, if you're a Type A personality, you put your worth in your to-do list. And what is checked off your list, you feel like that's where your fulfillment comes from. And I realized that my kids don't care about my to-do list. (Laughter) My husband doesn't care about my to-do list. He wants my presence. There's no value that can be put on my presence with them and being completely there, not distracted; all there. And so, figuring out how can we simplify our lives so that I can be more of a present mom?

Jim: So, when you talk about prioritization, that's what you're talking about. What's at the top of your list? And spending time with your husband and kids is at the top of your list, but you had to learn it.

Crystal: Yes and one other thing, so after I said no and just really cut out all the clutter and the distractions and the things in my life that were not necessities, which was a lot, then I created what I call a "Best Stuff" list. And these are the, just few things in my life that I say, this is what is gonna matter in 25 years from now. This is what I am saying intentionally, writing down. These are my few priorities and every opportunity that comes, I hold it up against that list every single one.

And so, it's like my relationship with the Lord and I actually didn't just say "My relationship with the Lord." I wrote out, "This is what a vibrant relationship with the Lord looks like." And that I want to spend quality time in God's Word every single day. That is a priority; I'm gonna do that, make that a priority every single day when I get up.

And my relationship with my husband and here's how it looks. It means that I'm gonna spend time, that we're gonna make date nights a priority, that we're gonna make time where we're just together, just being together a priority. That's really hard for me, 'cause I like to do. I'm a doer, not a "be-er."

Jim: Right, if you're--

Crystal: And so …

Jim: --not checking off the list, it's a waste of time.

Crystal: Right and so, then my relationship with my kids and so, creating that Best Stuff list and saying, this is what I want to route my life around and if an opportunity comes and it's not in line with that Best Stuff list, I'm going to say no.

But then also having my husband and some of my friends be my accountability partners for that Best Stuff list. For me, that's been really helpful, to say these are the few things and you hold me accountable, that I'm sticking with these things. So, if I say yes to something and I haven't run it by you and it's not in line with those things, you call me out on it. And they do and it's been so helpful to me, because to know that I have that accountability, because what's gonna matter at the end of my life? I want to route my life around the things that are really gonna matter.

Jim: Give me an example of where your stuff was kinda rubbed up against the other priorities? Where your husband perhaps or a girlfriend said, "I don't think you should do it?" How did that work practically?

Crystal: Well, just not too long ago I got an opportunity to go and speak at this conference that I really wanted to go to. And I pulled up my calendar and I was showing my husband on Google calendar and I said, "Okay, look. We're gonna be on vacation, you know, this week, but then there is a few days and then, you know, that I can go and speak. And if I just go for that one day, in and out, like I can do this."

And he looks at me and he goes, "No. We have our family vacation that week. You're gonna be stressed about thinking about planning for that speaking engagement. And even though it's a few days, I know you and I know that, that's gonna be a stress to you. And so, I wanted to kinda say, "Well, no," you know. But I realized, no, he's speaking the truth. And I know that if I try to manipulate him into saying yes, I'm gonna pay for it, because I will be super stressed that week and he's right. And so, having that accountability, he really helps me to make sure that I don't overcommit, because he knows that, that's my tendency.

Jim: Let's turn to the audience. We have a gallery with I think mostly women. And if you have a question in this regard, I'll just have you step to the mike; give us your name and where you're from.

Chris: Hi, Crystal. I'm Chris. I'm from Colorado Springs. I have always had stuff in my house. I'm trying to "declutter" and be a minimalist. How is the best way to approach that? Also I just feel overwhelmed. I'm stressed out. I don't know where to start. I did start our master bedroom. I surprised my husband. I took the day off and cleaned our master bedroom from top to bottom, corner to corner on his birthday.

John: Hm.

Chris: It was the best birthday gift I could ever give my husband. I blessed him and he thanked me over and over, so I would like to know what's the best approach to "declutter" my home? I'm just overwhelmed and stressed out.

Jim: Oh, man, what a good question.

Crystal: Well, I think it sounds to me like it's very important to your husband that you have a home that's not filled with clutter. And so, to realize that, that is a priority, needs to be a priority in your relationship, so that it brings more oneness in your marriage, because he knows that you love him enough that you're gonna set aside what your natural tendencies are and you're going to work hard at "decluttering".

But I think you also need to realize that not everyone is born a minimalist and that is completely okay. We all are different and so, some people thrive when there's more stuff and that's okay. So, figure out what works for your family, your marriage and then stick with that and be okay with that, even if it's completely different than another family.

But just start. I would just say, you know, break it down into bite-sized pieces. So, take one room every week and say, I'm gonna invest 30 minutes every day and set a time on your calendar that you're going to do that every single day. Make it a habit that you're constantly working on "decluttering". Set a time that you're … you know, you've said this is a date on my calendar, a time on my calendar, just like it would be if I was gonna go get together with a girlfriend or something like that. Make it a priority.

And then just stick with it. And if you can, find someone to be your accountability partner. Maybe that's a girlfriend. Maybe it's your husband. Maybe it's online. I found for me, posting on my blog about different things, you know, like going through my house and "decluttering" is huge accountability. So, if you have a Facebook page or something like that, that you could post it, to have that accountability to help you to stick with it and to make it a habit.

Jim: Let me ask you this related to the question, because I think it applies here. She chose a day, all day, his birthday, took off work to do it. That seems like that feeling to get started, I have to conquer a big mountain. And I can relate to that, because doing a half hour a week, maybe just gets a little corner cleaned up and I don't feel like I achieved much.

But you're saying, just start with simple steps. You don't have to do the whole enchilada. Just try to work on it bit by bit. So, take a month, a half hour a week and then work on that and then hopefully, but the end of the month or maybe it's two months, you've got that room taken care of. Is that the concept?

Crystal: Yes and it could be every day. It could be a half hour--

Jim: Right.

Crystal: --every day or you know, three or five times every week. But I think it's just the same concept of people who say, I'm gonna cut my grocery bill by 50 percent tomorrow. And so, for four weeks, they go out and they spend all this time and clip all these coupons and get all these deals and then they burn out. And so, if you, you know, clean out your house from top to bottom in three days and then you have this cleaned house, but you haven't made it a habit, I think it'll be harder for you to keep up with that habit, versus if you consistently are making it something that it's part of your regular routine.

Jim: Good.

Monica: Hi, Crystal, my name's Monica and I'm from Colorado Springs and I just think it's so exciting to meet you and to see that it's not just Money Saving Mom, but that you're a real mom and a lot of the issues that you're talking to are heart issues that are truly on the heart of women.

I was reading your blog last night and I was looking at how your parents were good at frugal mindset. And so, it's just interesting to me and I would love to hear some advice if I come from a family that didn't have that kind of background, where do you start? I mean, I have some friends, even here who are really good at "couponing" and I'm amazed when they tell me how much they spend on groceries versus me and what are some tips that you can give to someone who's just starting out?

Jim: (Chuckling) All right. She likes you (Laughter)

Crystal: Oh, you guys are so nice. First starting out, you know, I really always go back to, that I am so blessed to have had parents who paved the way. I always think of them as trailblazers, that they were cutting down all these trees and brush to make the way so much easier for me. And so, for you, if you didn't have that, it's gonna be harder and that is totally okay.

And you can't compare yourself to other people, who are better at you [sic] or had a lot more experience, had a lot more help, had great mentors. Compare yourself only to yourself. It's so easy for us to look at other people, you know, and compare our weaknesses to their strengths and feel like we don't measure up.

And so, I just really encourage you, start with something very small. If you want to cut your grocery budgets, the best place to start is to have a budget in the first place. Because you can spend all this time and go around chasing all these deals and end up spending more money trying to "save money." And so, I encourage you, start with a budget, because then you'll know how much you're actually spending and how much you're actually saving. Start there.

Once you feel like, I've got a good handle on sticking with my grocery budget and make sure that you make it realistic and something that's doable, then you can say, okay, I'm gonna try to shave off one to three percent every single month off of my grocery budget. And you might feel like, well, one to three percent, that's not much at all. That's not gonna make any impact. But here's the thing. Over time, that one to three percent that you shave off and you keep shaving down every single month, 10 months, that could be 10 to 30 percent. Thirty months, you know, I mean, it starts to really add up.

And so, then till you get to a place where you feel like, I've cut my grocery bill by 30 or 40 percent and I didn't even feel it, because I was doing it so slowly and those things were becoming such a habit. So, just pick one thing to focus on every single month and stick with that, instead of trying to 56 different things and getting overwhelmed.

Jim: Crystal Paine, author of the book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode and popular blogger, it's been great to have you here at Focus.

Crystal: Thanks so much for having me on.


John: Well, I think our guest has really given us a lot of hope and encouragement, hasn't she? And if you need some further help in this area of finding balance with your time and your family, you'll want a copy of her book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. It's a transformative book. It really will walk you through the steps that you need to take to prioritize all of those competing demands and you'll learn ways to say now and set realistic expectations and goals and take control of your finances. Get a copy of that and also the listener's CD or a download, which will allow you to listen again or share it with a friend.

You know, our conversation today has really highlighted our desire here at Focus on the Family to come alongside you in those day-to-day problems that you're facing and give you some biblical insights, some trusted advice and some hope. And I'll invite you to join us in this effort in reaching millions of people around the world. We only have a month to go before our new budget year starts. It's pretty critical that we hear from you today with a donation of any amount. And when you get in touch and contribute to our needs here, as our way of saying thank you, we'll send along a copy of Crystal's book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. So, please make your donation today. Get in touch with us here when you call 800-A-FAMILY: 800-232-6459 or online at You can also mail a check if you'd like. Our mailing address here, Focus on the Family, 8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening in today. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow for a powerful presentation from Frank Peretti. He is one engaging speaker and he'll be talking about your worldview, how you see things in this world, as we once again, offer trusted insight to help your family thrive.

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Crystal Paine

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Crystal Paine is an author, a public speaker and the founder of, a highly popular blog and website dedicated to helping people save money. Her books include 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode and Money-Making Mom. Crystal and her husband, Jesse, have three children and reside in Nashville.