The question I get most, as a full-time working mom of three Munchkins under the age of seven is: “How you do it?”
People will shake their head and not quite make eye contact, glancing from the wall to my chin to their shoes, chuckling softly as they say, “I just don’t know how you do it…”
And you know what? Most days, I simply don’t.
Most days we don’t do laundry.
Most days the dishes get loaded but someone [okay, me] forgets to start the washer before dashing out the door.
Most days I just reheat yesterday evening’s coffee, rather than working up the energy to make a new pot.
Most days the beds go unmade. All of them.
Most days the bathroom limps along with yesterday’s bath towels still on the rack.
Most days toys & couch cushions stay strewn across the living room floor.
Most days I keep my fingers crossed that all three kids brushed their teeth like they said they did after breakfast.
But you know what?
I haven’t lost any of them yet.
I haven’t broken any of them.
I haven’t forgotten to feed any of them [unlike my poor, poor houseplants].
Most days they smile.
Most days we laugh.
Most days we match when we walk out the door [okay. well. not The Monkey...]
Most days I cook dinner [reheating counts as cooking, right?]
I must put off some kind of crazy, with-it vibe; Moving so fast I look like I’m standing still. People must not see the oatmeal hand print on my left hip from the last hug I got this morning…they must not be able to tell I overslept this morning and didn’t bother to wash my hair, and that’s why it’s up in a bun, wrapped in a scarf… They must not have seen my kid laying on the floor in Target’s cereal aisle last night because I wouldn’t buy the $5.00 box of Reese’s cereal because you are allergic to peanuts, bright one! They must not have seen me pretend to leave my son in the library three nights ago because he wasn’t listening or following me and this was the only way I knew to shame him into getting the hell out of there. They must not have seen me bodily drag three screaming children from Meijer’s last week, abandoning a cart full of groceries in the middle of the store with an apologetic glance at the nearest employee as I motion vaguely to it and let them know that there are milk & eggs that need to be put back in it.
This pleases me immensely. You have no idea. I used to feel awkward about ‘the question’. How do you answer something like that? I don’t do it all… far from it. And then I realized, after a time, that this question is a lovely little compliment, and now I treat it as such, smiling serenely and uttering something banal like ‘oh, you know, just one day at a time, just like everyone else.’
Life, as it is, is a series of trade-offs.
And if I can, even for a moment, even if just to people who don’t know me that well, appear to have my shit together, then I’m doing all right. I’m getting good grades.But I do not do it all… far from it. Most days are spent in a haze of Chutes and Ladders or swing-pushing or slogging through work to run and pick up the kids by 5:30. I feel like my time just dissolves away from me most days and I don’t have anything to show for it. Nothing to hold up and say “Look! I am accomplished!” I have not advanced in my career [it's okay. I chuckled too]. I have not, in 15 years, finished my book [but I've read hundreds]. I have not won awards, or become famous or actively written anything, really, beside this blog for years.
But I choose, either actively or by passive-list making [which is very soothing thankyouvermuch], what is important to me. And often? My floors aren’t. My counters aren’t. The two big piles of laundry aren’t. I’ve chosen The Munchkins. And I think it’s probably this one area of decisiveness in my life that I’m proud of. They’re more important than a clean house. They’re the one thing I can hold up and say “Look! I am accomplished!” about. They’re the one thing that I’ve advanced every day. So I suppose that’s something now isn’t it? It’s all about perspective.