I am exhausted. Perpetually, flat out exhausted.
When I look around at all the people I know with multiple children, health issues, financial hardship, demanding jobs, single parenthood, or other challenges, I am always plagued by this one question: How do they do it?
Because I am a mess.
There, I said it. I am a mess.
I have just two kids, both healthy. My husband is involved, supportive, and faithful. I am able to work part-time. We are not dealing with chronic illnesses or special needs. We have the support of loving family and a wonderful church community.
And yet, I am a mess. A tired, grumpy, scatter-brained, impatient, ungracious, disorganized, frazzled mess.
So, how do they do it? I wonder this often, generalizing “they” to some ambiguous entity of picture-perfect family life.
The irony of it all: I know people wonder the same about me. Despite the glaring truth that only I (and Smartypants) know: I am most definitely a mess. What a funny phenomenon that we always look a lot more pulled together than we actually are. At least some of us. I guess everybody else must be a superhero, but I am not in that club.
I’ve been trying to block this question out of my head. It is a useless question actually. Every family is different, with unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses and communication styles. The needs of each family is different, changing alongside the shifting phases of life. There are subtle nuances to the values and culture of each family that are often unspoken but deeply ingrained. Simply put, you just can’t compare.
When I married Smartypants, I had grand dreams of what marriage and future parenthood would be like. In some ways, I’ve been blown away by the love I feel and receive. It continues to exceed my initial understanding of what it is to love and be loved. Yet, on the other hand, it looks nothing like I had imagined in my simplistic perspective back then. The days are swallowed up by work demands, interrupted sleep, unexpected chaos and change of plans, compromise and decision-making, repetitive routine and chores, the inconvenience of being patient, and the challenge of forgiveness. Sacrifices are made for the sake of greater goals, and sometimes valleys must be crossed before the view becomes clear again.
And yet, I am happy. Not as I defined it many years ago, but I am happy indeed. That is a funny phenomenon too. Despite being such a mess, I am truly happy. Because there is value in the hard work of giving and receiving love. Because love is a gloriously messy endeavor. Because the mess that I am reminds me to trust in Jesus’ finished work rather than my own.
How do they do it? How do I do it?
Does it even matter?
No, not really.