How Do You Do it?

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.

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15 thoughts on “How Do You Do it?

  1. You asked the exact question I ask myself EVERY DAY. I was hoping you asked the question because you recently discovered the answer, but alas, you did not. But…you make a very good point: I am beyond happy (as much as I may complain and whine about things)…I am happy. Who knew?

  2. I wrote where my heart was today to and it seems most of us mommies expect too much of ourselves. I think we all can really benefit from sharing and getting it all out on our blogs. I know it makes me feel more “normal”.

  3. I think the answer is this: Just keep on keeping on. Breathe in, breathe out. Laugh. Sleep. Cry. Eat. Breathe in, breathe out.

    As a military mom, I moved cross-country by myself, from Virginia to California, with a 2 year old, and 4 months pregnant. We drove through snow (and the hubs locked on the 4WD). I got a speeding ticket in Illinois. My 2 year old threw up all over his car seat (chocolate donut) somewhere in the midwest. It was so cold I nearly froze to death in a parking lot trying to wash the seat off with a hose at a truck stop. The transmission had trouble in Utah, and I had to rig it to start the car and drive to a garage.

    Every one tells me “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t do it.”

    My answer? Yes, you could. If you have to, you can do anything.

    You may feel like a mess, but make no mistake: you’re a strong, competent, compassionate mess who can pull it together when necessary. And that’s all that anyone can ask.

    • Absolutely… that’s such a good reminder, that there is so much more our hearts and minds are capable of, even though the process itself can be painful or discouraging at times. One of the things we’ve been considering is adoption, and with that comes the discussion of whether or not we’d be open to a special needs child since we’d want to go through the county rather than a private adoption. Obviously nobody wishes for a child with special needs, but I’ve observed in my career how much the love and dedication of a parent can continue to grow in the midst of those challenges. It is so inspiring and encouraging. It really reminds me that this is a lifelong journey, not simply about raising a child and doing things “well” or “right”, but exploring who we are and pushing the limits so that we’re continually growing and learning.
      You’re so right, we just keep on doing what we can, and that in itself is a beautiful thing, mess or no mess. Thanks for your insight Heidi!

  4. You have two toddlers. It’s normal to feel that way 🙂
    We do it one day at a time.

    I struggle to make space for the important things, not living according to the tyrany of the urgent.

    • The tyranny of the urgent is powerful. It takes constant reassessment on a daily basis for me NOT to get swept up by all the random things in life that just “feel” urgent. And I am very easily distracted too. I think you put it so well with the phrase “make space”. My natural tendency is to try to fit in more or fill up time. Space is not a bad thing… good things happen when we have extra space in our lives!

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