“I don’t know how you do it all!”
Within the past week, I’ve had this phrase thrown in my direction by four different friends in four different contexts. One friend said it in regard to my complicated weekend schedule that involved multiple sporting events for my children mixed in with household projects and real estate appointments. Another said it in jest, as a response to a post on Facebook where I intimated that I needed to partake in an adult beverage before tackling the mountain of laundry cascading over my couch. Yet another said it in a private conversation when I shared my desire to write a book amongst other projects that I have piled on my plate. And, lastly, one friend said it as a compliment but, in doing so, minimized her importance as a mother because she assumed that she should be able to accomplish the same tasks considering she “only has one kid and stays at home all day.”
So, I’m here to tell you my secret. It’s time to pull back the curtain to reveal just how
I don’t do it all. Not even close. Behind each weekly article is a tired Mom lying in bed with an open laptop and a handful of thin mints. For every event that we manage to make it to on time are three others that we are fashionably late for. (And by fashionably, I mean the kind where we show up 15 minutes past the tardy bell because our morning included me demanding the kids to “get your butts in the car and I don’t care if you can’t find your coat because I told you ten minutes ago to look for it but you were too busy watching Stampy Cat on YouTube to listen to me so now you will just have to run really fast at recess to stay warm.”) For every educational moment filled with love and understanding are two maddening moments filled with frustration and despair. And every parenting win is balanced out by an equally emotional (and sometimes epic) fail.
Nobody does it all. And if they claim to have it all under control, they are lying (to you and to themselves). Mr. Storm, my high school social studies teacher, taught me that economics is all about trade-offs and opportunity costs. I think the same theory could be applied to life in general. For every choice that we make, there is one that we didn’t. Every time I take my kids to hockey practice, I choose to replace a family dinner spent around our kitchen table with a microwaved corndog from the concession stand. Every time I stay up late to write a blog I decrease the likelihood that I will drag myself out of bed early the next morning to spend some quality time with my treadmill. Every time I choose to snuggle my baby in the rocking chair, I decide to postpone the removal of the thin layer of dust decorating the flat surfaces of my living room for another day.
I’ll just give you a brief synopsis of the past week to illustrate my point. Anybody looking in from the outside would’ve considered the week a smashing success: I wrote an article for one of my jobs and four offers for another; I took my two girls shopping at the mall and my oldest girl enjoyed a lovely evening at her school’s Daddy/Daughter dance; I attended the Winterfest basketball game at my local high school; I successfully managed to get two kids to five practices and three games with the third kid in tow; I enjoyed an evening out painting and chatting with girlfriends; I put all of the freshly washed clothes away in their respective spots in closets and dressers; and I kept up to date with the latest information on the presidential race.
Now, behind-the-scenes, the reality of last week dispels any notion that I “do it all.” That article was written on a laptop sitting on my kitchen counter in between stirring the hamburger meat and feeding goldfish to a clingy toddler hanging from my leg. That trip to the mall occurred far later into the night than any respectable mother should have her kids out and ended with a rushed trip through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru on the way home for a nutritious dinner of French fries and ketchup. To get through most of the basketball game, I had to bribe my aforementioned clingy toddler with a bag of M&Ms and a sucker, which turned out to be a terrible idea later that night when the sugar in her system convinced her that she shouldn’t be forced to go to bed. On the way home from one of the five hockey practices, my middle child dumped an entire bottle of blue Gatorade on the floor of my used-to-be-new van and then looked at me for direction while the sticky liquid created a wading pool on the carpet. And that night out with the girls? That involved some fancy maneuvering of our schedules, babies left at home crying for their Mamas, and Daddies responsible for cleaning up the dinner plates. And let’s not forget the brand new shoes that were purchased during our trip to the mall. On Monday I berated my husband for scooping one of them up with a pile of clothes and sending it through the washing machine, causing our toddler to go out in public dressed as Shoeless Joe Jackson. On Wednesday, I did the same damn thing. (Don’t be silly, of course I didn’t tell him.)
So, whether you have four kids or fur babies, a full-time career or a stay-at-home gig, it is impossible to “do it all.” I’m coming up on my 35th year of life in a couple of months and the most important lesson I’ve learned on this journey so far is that we can only do what we can do, and the rest will just have to wait. We are all so strikingly similar in our desire to do more and be more. But sometimes I wonder if, in our quest for perfection and our tendency to compare, we fail to notice the commonality of the human experience. We are all juggling schedules and prioritizing time, kissing our babies and leaving for work, ordering take-out and skipping the gym. We are all doing enough if we are doing what we can. You won’t find SuperMom or FantasticFather in our house. They’ve been replaced by MoodyMama and DrowsyDaddy. Besides, their uniforms are a little too snug since the third kid and their capes were recommissioned for use as burp cloths years ago.