The following post was inspired by an article my friend shared with me. As a fellow working mom, she feels the same pulls and thought this would be good blog fodder. And, I think it was. Thanks for the inspiration, Julia!
What’s the rudest question you can ask a mother? According to Tina Fey’s recent article in The New Yorker, it’s “How do you juggle it all?” As a working mom of two young kids, a baby on the way, a blogger and the daughter of an ailing father, I’m someone who gets asked this a lot.
My immediate answer is a flippant, “Not well.” Which usually results in a laugh and no follow up. Because let’s face it, this question comes in two forms. One implies, “Why on earth do you do so much and don’t those choices come at the expense of your kids and marriage?” The other implies, “I think you’re pretty amazing.” So I choose to believe that everyone who says it means that I’m a superhero. I accept the compliment (humbly, of course) and move on before I can discover it was really meant to insult me.
That being said, when I ask myself the question, there’s no doubt of the tone. It’s the day the preschool tells me they have no record Little being signed up for the fall (I swear I did it!). Or the day I show up for Kindergarten registration without three of the required documents because I scanned the paperwork too quickly and thought I needed one thing on the list, not everything on the list to prove that I do, indeed, live where I say I do. (Who knew I could fail Kindergarten before it even starts?!) Or the day I realize I haven’t called my dear friend to wish her sweet baby a Happy Birthday (then again, she’s not really a baby any more, which I’d know if I called more often—miss you, Aimee!).
Those days I can feel people watching me (darn you mean registration lady and your impatient eye roll). Those are the days I feel like my life is in charge of me, instead of the other way around.
Then I take a deep breath. I remember that I have made the choices that have led me to this place. (Mostly) good ones. And I can do it all. Some of it even well. Because I’m not alone.
I have a loving, supportive husband who is constantly looking out for our family and our future.
I have a couple of the most entertaining kids on the planet to shower me with hugs and laughter.
I have a baby girl on the way who will teach me to look at the world in a whole new way.
I have wonderful parents (as well as other family) who really do seem to think I’m that superhero.
I have dependable friends who love my children like their own when I’m being pulled in so many directions I’m about to be ripped in half.
I have a kind-hearted babysitter who ensures my boys are having fun, eating well (I could learn a thing or two from her!) and keeping so busy they barely notice I’m gone.
I have colleagues who encourage me with kindness to not only pursue my copywriting work to help them drive business, but to pursue my outside writing interests.
And I have you, my blog readers, who allow me to write about everything from cracked teeth to bruised egos—and even share your own stories and words of encouragement along the way.
Yep, that sure is a lot to juggle. (I’m pretty lucky, huh?)
Photo from Flickr by Renato Pequito.
“That being said, when I ask myself the question, there’s no doubt of the tone.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’re our own worst critics. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong or why I can’t make it all work out, or why everyone else makes it all look so easy. Well, it’s because I don’t know their life, that’s why. When I look at my son growing and learning new things and most of all, smiling – then I know I’m doing pretty good.
Thank you for a beautiful post today.
No doubt you’re doing your best because you obviously care a great amount. Thanks for your note and words of encouragement!
I had written out this, like, 4 paragraph comment on your post.. but then deleted it because text just wasn’t going to get my point across….
and then I just did it again – I was going to write more but it wasn’t coming our correctly.
anyhow, someday, I’d love to have a conversation about this subject… juggling is a tricky, intricate, delicate art form for all involved. 😉
Thanks for writing about it and getting me thinking :)!
(Also, any way to access the full article without subscribing to the New Yorker?)
Would love to talk more sometime! I know…I started writing this post a bunch of times and didn’t know where it was going to end up. It is oh-so complicated and this definitely simplifies it too much, but I really wanted to focus on the positives of juggling in the end.
I’ll photocopy it and mail it to you. Most of the article is actually focused on whether to have another baby, but Julia and I thought the question at the beginning was the most thought-provoking part.
i REALLY needed to read this today…thank you for posting! i often get this question & i feel the need to say “i know…i just have to learn to say NO more often” – but i love all the things i juggle so it’s hard to think about which ones i wouldn’t do any longer.
anyway–you do a pretty amazing job of juggling everything and i mean that in the sincerest way possible! 🙂
Nancy, you’re one graceful juggler as well. And I can tell you enjoy all the things you’re involved in, so I hope you continue to find a way to make it all happen…and stay happy!
Recently, when I was recapping a particularly hellish week with a couple of friends, outlining all the difficult details that described our lives at the time, one friend shook her head and responded by saying “I don’t know how you live like that.”.
Part of me was like, I don’t know how I do it either, excuse me while I go pat myself on the back for eternity. The other part of me didn’t know whether to curl up into a ball and obsess over the impression we must be giving, or to cry and wonder what she meant exactly, or to look at her and say “Well, your husband went to USC, and flies the flag in front of your house, and I don’t know how YOU live like THAT.”.
I ended up saying nothing, and just pondered it with a couple of (different) trusted friends who assured me that she didn’t mean it like it sounded, she was trying to be empathetic, but that yes, at the moment she said it, it certainly was the elephant in the room.
In the end, I decided that she meant – and that I am – one of the strongest women she knows. And that I do know exactly how I live like this. With gratitude, and the knowledge that I am blessed with more good than bad in my sweet life.
You are too and I have a hunch that on good days, you feel the same way I do. 🙂
LL, I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion. You are strong, hilarious, honest, kind and 100 other wonderful things that I admire. Your gratitude shines through in everything you do. Keep living just. like. that. love, ED
Love this quote/prayer and thought it was fitting for this post. Thanks, Julia, for this inspiration as well!
“May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly
where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that
you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you
be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle
into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise
and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
Ahh. I love that quote too. I need to have it painted on my walls. And my soul. Thanks for the reminder.
Cristie Ritz King says
I remember when I was working in schools-before I had kids-I could sometimes be an eye roller. I never understood how people “forgot” things that seemed so simple to me.
Wouldn’t you know ALL the things I used to marvel that parents could never get right, I have done wrong at least once. We’re often late. I almost NEVER have all the paperwork and I’m constantly turning in permission slips and money for things on the very last day they’re due. My house looks super-organized but it doesn’t seem to matter in the end. I’m still running out the door signing things on people’s backs more often than not!
You know what does matter? My kids have no idea and the teachers/administrators/secretaries will all survive- just like I did when I was them.
It all gets done eventually and everyone is usually happy in the end.
That is the best I can ask for anyway.
The only thing I regret is that I wasn’t more understanding to the poor parents of my students way back when I was young and knew it all.:)
Ah yes, how actually being a mom so quickly changes our perspective. Thanks for helping me see things from the other side. 🙂
anyone can wish elisabeth happy birthday ON her actual birthday. it takes a special friend to extend the party for the whole month! i’m not sure i’ve ever called to wish your darling, sweet boys a happy birthday. so happy birthday trevor and connor – i celebrate you and your parents all year long!!
We celebrate you all year too!
Amy, You are a remarkable and talented young woman. You are sensitive and caring and want to do everything to the highest standard. Years ago when vacationing in Oregon, my friend said something that has stayed with me all of 20+ years. We were talking about children, schedules, etc. and she commented,”We are so lucky. Our lives are so full!” Of course, knowing Harriet, I knew just what she meant. Our days and nights are full of love, families, joy, sadness, friends, fun, work, opportunities (sometimes too many!) and activity and adventure and on and on…… No wonder we forget a paper or a signature or where in the world we put something ( hopefully, not someone!).
Yes, our lives certainly are full of wonderful things. And immunization records are very, very low on that list. Thanks for the reminder and love.