This morning, as I was crawling along the wood floors, spraying and wiping the poop I didn’t know Marty had stepped in during her morning walk, trying not to gag from the smell and yelling, “Guys, I’m not asking again, brush your TEETH!” I was reminded of a conversation I had a few days ago.
“I don’t know how you do it all. Two jobs, the commute, two kids, two dogs, and you still make time for everything!”
I started laughing thinking about what that person would say if she saw me now, sliding along the entire first floor of my house in a dress, blowing my frizzy hair out of my face, and spraying Mrs. Meyer’s mint cleanser every few inches in an attempt to clean all of the crap my dog was (still) gleefully stamping all over the house.
It’s not the first time someone has said it to me. I get a fair amount of “I don’t know how you keep it all together,” and “How do you find the time to do all these special weekends and themed nights with your kids?!” I also get the occasional “You’re such an incredible mom- they’re so lucky they have you as an example of a strong, confident woman.” That one really makes me roll on the floor.
So here’s how I keep it all together.
Here’s the ugly truth.
Most mornings, I blink back tears at least once and curse myself for not doing lunch prep the night before as one dog runs into the water cooler again, the other dog craps on my floor, and two kids refuse to put their shoes on or throw their pajamas in the hamper.
Most nights, I curse myself for not having time to fold the laundry, read one more chapter of Harry Potter to Vince, or sing one more song to Grace as I drag my feet up the stairs and into bed.
At some point during most of our “surprise weekends” or “themed nights” I’m stressing myself trying to find the “next adventure” and wondering if they’ll ever remember any of it anyway.
I see a chiropractor for the chronic back pain caused by the commute, and a therapist for the anxiety and depression that nag me almost daily.
I drink a glass of wine, stand in the kitchen eating crunchy peanut butter out of the jar, or listen to metal bands to calm my nerves.
As much as I try to celebrate my mom body, I often frown when I look in the mirror because all I can see is a floppy mess; I absently stick my fingers into my stretch marks or gently tug at the kangaroo pouch that I have to tuck into my jeans every morning; and when my husband wraps me in his arms at night and whispers in my ear that my body has never looked so beautiful, I’m firmly convinced he’s full of shit.
When my children have pushed every button and trampled on every last nerve and I reach the end of my rope and raise my voice, I immediately feel guilty and slightly nervous that my neighbors are going to call child services and report that a raving lunatic is living next door. Although so far they just keep inviting me over to have a beer on their porch, so I think they can see right through my kids’ angelic facades and are trying to rescue me.
When I see pictures of my friends’ beautiful vacations, clean, neat homes, and brightly smiling children I wonder how they keep it all together, admire their amazing lives, and bite my lip as I wonder if I’m quietly known as the “failure” of the group. I also wonder if they’ll share the magic of how they get their kids to brush their hair, wash their faces and wear both shirts AND pants. I’m really in awe of that.
So that’s the ugly truth. I don’t do it all. I certainly do not keep it all together. I barely have time to breathe. And most days, I am far less than incredible and hope that my children don’t turn out anything at all like their twitchy, nervous, self-doubting mother.
But here’s the not-so-ugly part of it; I never quit. When life hands me a morning of poop-streaked hardwood floors, I get on my hands and knees, scrub them, wash my hands, and move along. When I’m so exhausted from reading and singing that all I have left to give are cuddles, I cuddle the hell outta those kids. When the anxiety of not doing enough or being enough plagues me, I remember that when I walk through the door every night their eyes light up and they trip over themselves to wrap themselves up in my arms and tell me all about their days. I remember that when my husband is doubting himself, the first person he turns to is me.
I might be a mess, but damnit if I’m not a loyal, dedicated one.
I sometimes wonder what I did to deserve any of the incredible miracles that exist around me- a husband who greets me each night with a kiss on the forehead and dinner on the table; two adorable, albeit always somehow very muddy and/or chocolate-covered children who are growing into sweet, compassionate, hilarious little human beings; two dogs who fill the house with love, goofy antics and the faint smell of wet fur (and sometimes poop); friends who stick by me through my best and worst moments…all of them, even the dogs, know that I’m usually not “all together” and yet, they continue to love me so fiercely that they keep me going even on my messiest days.
So why am I sharing all of this? Why am I letting you into the “one flick of a tile away from toppling all the dominoes” situation in my brain? Because I’m fairly certain this is all of us. We’re all a mess. None of us are “together.” None of us “do it all.” We just fumble through each day, determined and driven by all the blessings around us that keep recharging our batteries.
And that’s okay.
Kids are tough. Jobs are tough. Pets are tough, and smelly. Marriage is tough. Who could handle all of that alone? Text your friends; tell them when you’re having a day and let them recharge you. Recharge them when you know they need it. Leave the laundry for tomorrow, eat the peanut butter out of the jar, and find someone to cuddle. Cry if you have to. Hide in the bathroom and play Snoopy Pop- if you can’t do anything else productive at least you can say you freed a few Woodstocks from colored bubbles.
Just don’t quit.
And when someone marvels at how you do it all, just smile. Because some days you may not think you’re that incredible, but let me tell you something.