A friend and I were talking about how comments between moms (or women in general, if we are being honest) can sometimes sound like a backhanded compliment (read: a slap in the face).
One of the most frequent ones: “I don’t know how you have time for _________ (fill in the blank).”
Gauging somebody’s intentions with that statement can be hard. Often times it is said with genuine interest or admiration (the preferred way). But sometimes it can be said out of jealousy or spite or just a constant battle to claim who has the busiest schedule like it’s some sort of honor or calls for commiseration.
“How do you have time for getting pedicures when I don’t have time to brush my hair?”
“How do you have time to be there for every soccer game when I have to work sixty hours a week to be able to afford their activities?”
“How do you have time to make all four of your kids look like they’re walking out of a JCrew ad (is that still cool?) every day, while my only child still has toothpaste on her face and is wearing one of my T-shirts that we had to turn into a dress for her because I haven’t been able to do laundry in much too long?”
On the flip side, why is it such a sensitive comment in the first place? Why do our shoulders immediately rise to our ears as our defenses shoot up when we hear “I don’t know how you do it”?
Many times it’s because we feel like we are barely making it. It’s like we are thrown into surviving an IronMan competition, yet someone wants to reference our hard work like it is as easy as taking a light jog around the block. Outside you may be biting your tongue with a shrug and saying, “I don’t know,” as you debate what their intentions are; but inside is screaming, “I’m not doing it all… I’m completely broken inside. I sacrificed. I yelled when they didn’t deserve it. I’m doubting my self-worth. My spouse isn’t getting any attention. The kids are always fighting. I’m scared if I stop moving, I’ll realize that I can’t keep doing it all.”
This is the thing, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a 24/7 nanny literally stitched to your hip like conjoined twins to give you two extra arms to get yourself dressed while simultaneously getting your kids ready; with an extra set of legs that can chase one toddler who is threatening to poop all over the house while the other set of legs runs to the child who fell lightly on their hands yet is screaming like they severed their arms; with one mind to remember every parent-teacher meeting, doctor appointment, snack, practice time, theme day, field trip, or note you have to sign off on and the other mind to remember to put a bra on, to eat, and where your car keys are; with one heart to emotionally take the load of emotions that go along with having kids and tending to them while the other heart takes the load of your personal emotions and the thoughts that you tend to; then I’m going to go ahead and assume that in order to get a pedicure, make it to every single soccer game, or succeed in making your kids look like models every day, that something else is being sacrificed. You sacrificed something to make the other things happen, to make it appear to others that you are doing it “all”.
That’s what the mind of a mother is continually doing: weighing what can stay and what can go and hoping with everything inside that you’re making the right calls.
None of the women in my life are joined to the hip with a 24/7 nanny. So although that pedicure they’re getting seems terrific and tempts to spark some jealousy in me, I know they’ve sacrificed something else to get a little bit of self-care in and there’s probably going to be a sad moment when they question if that’s something they shouldn’t have done for themselves. (You should have done it, mama. ALWAYS take time for self-care.) Even though they are cheering their kids on at every single soccer game, I know they’ve sacrificed leaving work early and are having to make up for it by working through the night or missing a promotion or dealing with the wrath of their boss the next day. Even though their kids look perfect, I know they sacrificed sleep to ensure there are enough hours to do it all before the bus arrives or their sanity in knowing every single kid will be a struggle to dress and get out the door on time or even financially to help their kids feel good about going to school every day, especially in today’s social-pressure environment.
We are all taking on a lot. And we don’t know all the sacrifices that go into what each mom succeeds in doing each day.
Like I said earlier, many times the “I don’t know how you do it…” comment is said with genuine intentions. I’ve said it multiple times indeed in awe that a mom can squeeze in all that they do. I know what my limitations are, so anything that falls outside of that, I will forever be in awe of with other mothers, especially as I am early in my parenting journey. If you are a mom with more than 2 kids, I don’t know how you do it. If you’re a mom working out of the house and still managing to be present for any part of your kid’s life, I don’t know how you do it. If you’re a mom that is driving all over the town, state and/or country, just to keep up with your kids’ activities and traveling sports, I don’t know how you do it.
I’m the mom that’s probably staring you down at Target if your kid is acting up or if you’re juggling more than one. It’s not because I’m judging you, it’s because I’m learning from you. How in the world are you managing it? And I ask that out of the most respect possible. Sometimes I feel so limited in my capabilities, so I’m watching other moms as they balance and blend and merge all aspects of their lives, desperate to pick up any tricks or hints, but also in full admiration that you’re even attempting to do any of it at all. How much easier would it be just to roll up in a ball and ignore it all? To say no to the kids, to not provide them with growth opportunities, to not participate in any bit of their life. But mama, you WANT to be involved. Do you know how big that is entirely on its own?
No one has the power to understand a mom like another mom has the power to do. So, as one of the only types of people who recognize the jumble of mess that you may be feeling emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually from being a mom, my job isn’t to judge your choices. It’s to encourage you, be inspired by you, and support you in any and all ways that I can.