Aside from “You’re braver than I am,” the phrase I hear a lot is “I don’t know how you do it.” I think this is meant to be a compliment, so I usually take it that way. If it’s not a compliment, I’d like to stay in denial about what that comment may truly mean.
The philosophy behind “I don’t know how you do it,” can probably be traced to the notion that some women have it all, or are doing it all, etc. This is the Loch Ness Monster of compliments. The myth is intriguing, sure, but photos of women having it all are doctored fakes. Nowhere are these fake pictures more prevalent than on Pinterest, but that’s a blog entry for another day.
No one does it all. When you’re juggling kids, work, and an emotionally unstable dog, something has to give. For me, it was the house. I’ve never been a stellar housekeeper, but I have now unabashedly given up. I will keep the floor clean enough that it won’t give the kids cooties to crawl on it. I will do enough laundry that everyone has at least one clean outfit. I will keep the dishes clean enough so that no mold will grow on them while they wait for the dishwasher. After that, all bets are off. To anyone who has not been inside my home, it seems like I’m balancing everything in a nuanced dance of organization. My nears and dears, however, know that there’s a 1/4 inch layer of dust on my TV and that I often eat cereal for dinner because I’m too exhausted to make anything else.
If you want to look at someone who really did do an unfathomable amount of juggling, I offer my grandmother as an example. She had seven kids in 10 years, and had to boil glass bottles before feeding any of those babies. She also had cloth diapers and no washing machine. Compared to that, I have it pretty easy. I also have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a steady income — those three things make me a lot luckier than most mothers on the planet.
I’ll continue to take “I don’t know how you do it” as a compliment. From now on, I will respond with the sly grin of a woman who has an impressive album of Loch Ness Monster pics.