Ladies and Gentleman: How DOES she do it?
Here’s something else people say to me, if I haven’t mentioned it yet. They scan the little crowd around me, silently count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . and then exclaim, “Five kids?? How do you do it??”
Most of the time it’s rhetorical and they understand that I don’t really have an answer for them but sometimes they stand there, expectant, waiting for me to give them the magic clue in how to get it all done.
“I don’t know,” I stammer, “I just . . . wake up and start working I guess.”
“OH! Do you work, too?”
“Five kids. Morning, noon and night, sister.”
“Oh, right, of course, of course, ha ha I meant . . . But how do you do it? I mean, how how do you even get a shower?”
Okay, number one, showers are overrated. Daily showers are a huge waste of resources (water, product, clean towels, electricity, time). Frequent bathing isn’t good for your skin or my naturally-curly-behaves-better-a-little-dirty hair. But, for the record, when I do shower I usually do it in the evening and I’m not above doing a quickie armpit shower in the sink.
“How do you even get dressed??” Really? Yes? Okay, well, first of all, I have no shame so I have absolutely gone to the bus stop in pajamas and to preschool pick-up with a towel on my head. Second of all, I am entirely too vain to do that every day. I guess you could say I try to make putting clothes on before leaving the house a priority.
“But look at you, five kids and your house is clean and you are baking bread and granola bars!!” Again, it’s priorities. These are mine: clean countertops to give the illusion of clean. If you come to my house and think it’s really clean and organized and feel bad about your messy kitchen at home, I invite you to open the cabinets and see the disorganized messes inside. You can go upstairs and check the closets and drawers, too. My bed is made but don’t ask me how frequently I wash the sheets. You can rest assured knowing that my husband is disgusted by the state of my car interior. As for the baking, I enjoy it and I like to know what my kids are eating. I also like trying to save grocery money and having less packaging to dispose of. I added one item at a time to my repertoire and now this baking is just part of my regular weekly routine.
“Look at you, out with your friends!! Where are the kids?”
“Home with their father.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I said, ‘I’m going out’ and he said, ‘have fun.’”
I guess Daddy-O is a bit of anomaly, which is sad but apparently true. I didn’t get a family this big on my own and I don’t think I should be expected to do everything to take care of them all the time on my own. Getting breaks from them is imperative to my mental state and also helps me to be a better mother and partner, and fortunately my husband understands that.
Once when I ended up at the hospital overnight unexpectedly, he said that everyone starting freaking out and offering him all kinds of help with cooking and the kids. His response? “Um, this is what she does every day, I think I can handle it.” (Yeah, I know. I won. Thanks Daddy O. But why shouldn’t it be this way for everyone?) Recently I found myself about to offer my neighbor some dinner because I knew his wife was away but then I stopped myself (sorry, J). He’s a grown-up, he’s a father, he knew his wife was going to be away, he probably already had plans made for dinner. Unless I’m offering dinner to them at any given time (not just when Mom is away), I’m only helping to perpetuate the idea that men can’t handle taking care of themselves and their children.
Speaking of neighbors, I do rely on them. Long ago I gave up on having any guilt over asking for help. It does take a village to raise a family but a village can’t help if they don’t know they are needed. Likewise, I try to help other families out whenever I can, grabbing a kid off the bus or covering someone for snack duty. Whenever I’ve helped in a big way (like unexpected childcare or ride home) and the parent begins gushing thanks, I explain to them that I am honestly glad to help. I ask for help from others so when I can give back by helping someone else, I’m glad for that opportunity.
The women who demand my secrets for how I “do it” make me think of the other Moms from G’s kindergarten class. He was a self-taught reader, entering school reading chapter books on his own. At school events the mothers would make a beeline to me, demanding to know my secret. “Are you the Mom of the boy that can read? How did you do it?” They all wanted the magic formula for reading, which I didn’t have because it doesn’t exist. I’d ask them, “Does your kid know how to ride a two-wheeler?” and they’d laugh, “Of course!” I’d say, “Well, he can’t” and I’d watch the little light bulbs go on over their heads.
Maybe I need to apply that logic to the “how do you do it?” question, too. Me, I am good with kids, am great at multi-tasking, I like baking and giving the illusion of cleanliness, I have a lot of energy. There are many careers that I’d be terrible at, like anything involving science or technology or wearing clothes with no stains on them. After all, everyone's got their strengths and weaknesses. Just like some kids can read while others can ride two wheelers, some parents can juggle five kids while others can remember to brush their teeth every single morning.I just happen to fall in that first category.