Joanna Gaines on Why She Won't Separate Work and Family: It Makes Me 'a Better Mom'

"I've found that something miraculous happens when I make space for both: Each is made better by the other," says the mother of five

Joanna Gaines will be the first to admit that being a working mom is a challenge — no matter how easy she makes it look.

The 41-year old mother of five recently opened up about balancing work and family in a personal essay she penned for the Fall 2019 issue of her and husband Chip’s magazine, Magnolia Journal. (Magnolia Journal is published by Meredith, PEOPLE’s parent company.)

“There are a handful of questions I get asked on a consistent basis,” she writes in the story, titled “Wholly Unbalanced.” “Most center on our work. Some our marriage and our family. And equally common is the question of how we manage to balance it all at the same time.”

In addition to the quarterly publication, the Gaineses run a lifestyle empire that includes a home building company, real estate agency, product lines, their Waco shopping destination, and a forthcoming TV network — all of which have kept them busy post-Fixer Upper. Add that on to the demands of raising their five kids — Drake, 14, Ella Rose, 12, Duke, 10, Emmie Kay, 9 and Crew, 1 — and Joanna admits: “For me, balance does not exist.”

Joanna Gaines/Instagram

Though she used to think it was essential to compartmentalize work and family responsibilities, Joanna says that forcing this separation caused her to feel extreme guilt when she would put her focus on one instead of the other. “My world felt fragile,” she says. “I started to see how little grace would exist for me if I continued to live my life in between those neatly packaged squares.”

Magnolia Journal

“I decided that balance is way too meticulous a science to get just right in my daily life, and that it wasn’t something I was very interested in for myself,” she continues. “In its place, I sought wholeness for my family and for my work.”

Now, instead of working hard to separate the two, Joanna says she has been working hard to integrate her kids into her work life — and space.

“In our current season of life, which has both Chip and me putting in a lot of hours at the office, wholeness looks like having our kids right there with us,” she says. “In and around where we work, I’ve carved out intentional spaces for them to spend their afternoons after school.”

Joanna Gaines/Instagram

Joanna recently revealed in a behind-the-scenes blog post that the Magnolia headquarters had gotten a makeover, and photos show an adorable booster seat for Crew attached at the head of their conference table — just one example of her intentional mixing.

“There have been other times in our working lives when it wasn’t possible, but even then, I always had something from our kids — a handwritten note or a piece of their artwork — hung up in my office as a steady reminder of the parts of myself that existed beyond those walls,” she says.

Chip Gaines/Instagram

WATCH THIS: Joanna Gaines on Juggling 5 Kids and Her Magnolia Empire: Crew ‘Gave Me an Extra Kick in My Step’

“I’ve found that something miraculous happens when I make space for both: Each is made better by the other,” she continues. “My work is undoubtedly more inspired when my kids can be a part of it, and I’m a better mom when my passion for creativity plays a role in how I parent.”

To read more of Joanna’s essay, check out the Fall 2019 issue of Magnolia Journal.

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