“I’m flexible, and I know you’re busy, Kristin,” a friend wrote in an e-mail as we tried to schedule a lunch date. “I’m not sure how you do it all.”
This, as I sat at my kitchen table with my laptop, while my pukey daughter watched 1982’s Annie (of course) and drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa in the next room. In that moment, in fact, I did feel like a bit of a superhero: impressively productive for work, while attentive and loving for my little patient. My son’s comforter was even clean and hanging to dry outdoors on the unseasonably warm January day. It was effortless.
But I quickly replied to my sweet friend: “Well, here’s my secret: I DON’T do it all! In fact, I do a lot of things half way and some things not at all.”
Tonight, another friend posted something similar. “I can’t craft worth a damn, but I can clean like a boss. I wear sweats and look homeless, but I cook dinner (almost) every night.”
See? This by-all-appearances-superwoman is also doing some things halfway — and other things not at all. It works.
I imagine there are a lot of moms — and women in general — who give off superwoman vibes, appearing to balancing work, kids, family, friends and — of course — clever and endearing social media posts about any of these things. To my insecurities, these are the ladies who prepare nutritious and tasty meals on a weeknight, have clean clothes folded in dresser drawers, organize chores with magnetic charts, arrange Sunday Funday activities every week, send thoughtful cards and gifts and save all kinds of money on their grocery bill.
But hearing that someone else thinks I’m doing it all stopped me in my tracks. It’s time for some honesty.
Yes, I work full time and love preparing a nice dinner several times a week. I wrote a book last year and still squeezed in a few family trips to the lake. But in exchange, there were things that didn’t happen. Christmas cards didn’t go out, and who had time to arrange a 2014 family photo? My kids don’t have clean bedsheets nearly as often as they should, and our carpets? Forget it, with a big dog and two kids. We rarely do date nights and never weekend getaways because it would mean getting a sitter and making reservations and who has the energy for that? My plan for family dinners is always subject to rushed schedules and a frozen pizza. My weekly grocery bill is, if anything, broken up over 300 trips to the store and rarely a model of savings. And sometimes we forget about preschool “share days” and the third grader’s homework.
All of this is okay. In fact, it’s so okay that I was accused of doing it all. (Take that, insecurity!)
Yes, there are those brief and beautiful moments when I really do find myself doing it all. Working remotely from home, with my sick baby getting all the mama time she needs and my work deadlines getting all the attention they need. I’m easily and especially grateful in those moments because they are so uncommon. But the trick is not making those moments the goal because, ultimately, they’re are mostly out of our control. It’s just good luck, like looking in just the right spot at just the right moment to see a shooting star.
Let’s redefine this notion of doing it all. Let’s agree that it means living, loving, working, growing, pausing. And laughing. It means doing some things well, some things not as well, and some things not at all. And the things in that first category may be different, depending on the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that this makes a day messy and imperfect — and often the last thing you’d want to post on social media. But I also know that there’s an entire night full of stars out there to enjoy. Don’t let the goal of a shooting star steal the joy of a whole beautiful sky.