My New Response to "I Don't Know How You Do It"
This was a tough week at our house. It was full of soccer try outs, school assignments, work deadlines, business travel, extracurricular activities and various meetings.
As I was waiting in the 85 degree sunlight with a granola bar and a juice box for my 8-year-old to finish her soccer try outs so I could then shuttle her to her other soccer practice while also trying to help one of my daughter complete her homework, a sweet woman said to me: “I don’t know how you do it. You don’t have any back up for when your husband is out-of-town, and you work and you have three kids the same age and you volunteer at school. And you just MOVED. I think I would have stopped at one if my husband travelled.”
“I don’t know how YOU do it,” I countered. “You have a big full-time job and you take care of your mom and you have three kids. I don’t know how you do it.”
“Can you imagine how she does it?” my friend said pointing over to another soccer mom. “She has SIX kids.” We both stopped cold for a moment while we pondered what it would be like to have six children.
We ended our game by comparing stories of moms we knew that seemingly kept it together after a divorce, while caring for sick children and ailing parents, or dealing with deployed spouses. “I don’t know how they do it,” we sighed.
But yet we do. It. We “do” motherhood one way or the other. Easily or trudging through. But we “do” it.
I think we have all heard this phrase a thousand times. And we all have different answers.
I often offer a deflective response: “How do I do it? Oh, I can’t complain. If this is my worst problem, than I’m pretty lucky.”
Now this is usually preceded with my complaints on how often I hit the train trying to race back and forth across town to pick up my children from their activities, but I try to end with a positive.
I have heard varying responses to the statement I don’t know how you do it ranging from “What choice do I have” to “I just have to get it done.”
And as I heard all of these wonderful moms talking about how we were all doing it, I decided I didn’t want to anymore. I didn’t want to “do” motherhood.
I am thankful that we are getting to a point in feminism where we seem to be respecting how hard it is to be a mom, regardless of what the definition of motherhood is for you. We spend most of our time talking about how difficult it is and find comfort in the fact that we are not alone.
But I have to wonder if at times we are only finding a common bond in our misery. Is the camaraderie only in the fact that we are all just getting through day by day instead of finding ways to make it a little more enjoyable? Are we just muddling through?
Don’t get me wrong. There are parts of being a mom that will always just suck. Packing lunches: sucks. Scheduling activities: sucks. Laundry: really, really sucks. And I can’t even address how much it sucks trying to keep up with cleaning after children of any age.
But watching my kids do stuff they love: amazing. Rocking out to Journey in the minivan with my girls: awesome. And those moments when I get one of them all to myself and she just snuggles up and tells me about her day: well, that is epic.
And that’s the way I feel about writing, and how my husband feels about running. It’s the way some of my friends feel about crafting or sailing or home renovating. We never talk about just “doing” something we love. Instead we talk about how it makes us feel.
And that is why I want to re-think how I talk about do-ing motherhood.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share that Dr. Maya Angelou’s death helped to spur this new-found view on my daily grind. I was re-reading her quotes yesterday when I found this gem:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
As always, she was right.
I can’t change all the mundane things that go along with being a mom, but I can certainly change how I think about them. So I have a feeling next week I may get a few of those “I don’t know how you do it” exclamations as I dash from place to place, and I have carefully crafted my response.