So for the past two and a half years I have heard friends, family, and perfect strangers use the phrase “how do you do it?” in some form or another. When I first heard the phrase I was taken a back a bit; I had won the baby lottery – I was blessed with twins the natural old-fashioned way and even though I went into labor at 25 weeks – through the care of great nurses and doctors I was able to carry them to 32 weeks. So when I heard that phrase in response to my now larger family, I just thought it was odd. Why? Mostly because I have friends and family that have real hardships on their plates and I don’t view anything in my life as a hardship.
By the time I had heard it for a year, I started responding with, “I don’t” which got some pretty strange reactions. Granted it doesn’t seem to make sense, but what I really meant is I don’t do anything different from you – we are all in a similar boat and carry the weight of our lives doing the best we can to stay afloat. So I don’t consider what I do every day a struggle that requires that question – I am not saying it isn’t hard – IT IS HARD – but it is a life full of blessings.
So, I know you are still wondering, “how do you do it?” So here it goes:
1. I freak out: Yep. I freak out. Some mornings my sweet husband will find me on the floor in our closet crying because mostly I can’t figure out what to wear and that is the one task that just tips me over the edge. But also because I am tired and overwhelmed. He usually asks if I am going to be okay and I answer, “No I am not going to make it. I CANNOT do this! Who thought I could do this?” Then after about a good 10 minute “freak out” I pull myself together, find some comfortable outfit and go wake up kids, make lunches, and bustle out the door to start our daily lives. Then repeat this at least once every couple of months.
2. I make mistakes: Making mistakes is a talent for me and I think most parents find that making mistakes happens way more than we would like, but I figure these are good teaching moments. Children are more likely to emulate our actions than our words – yes that is what a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development, Master’s Degree in Education, and almost 9 years of parenting have taught me. I have no more profound wisdom to offer.
3. I take deep breaths and say thank you: Gratitude is big for me. I am constantly saying prayers of thanks to God. I say thank you for the good and the bad. I am so grateful that I was given such a blessed life – everything that is in my life is a gift and a lesson and so I say thank you constantly. Sometimes it is out loud for all to hear, but mostly it is in my head. Still gratitude is a constant in my days – deep breath, think of the positive, give thanks, easier to take the next step forward. I am no more deserving than the next and yet I have more than I ever imagined possible, so gratitude is a must for me. I also try to say thank you to those who support me or my kids as often as possible.
4. I laugh: Not enough, but I am trying to do this more. My grandpa had a sign that hung on his wall that said, “A day with laughter, is a day well lived.” After he passed away, my mom brought it to me. It now hangs in my kitchen and is a solid reminder that laughter is the best antidote to any problem, worry, or bout of depression that I may come up against. So I try to find the humor in things. Luckily, my husband is hilarious. He is one of those infuriating people who once they upset you; they make you laugh within 10 seconds and you can’t believe you are laughing because you were so mad. Recently he did an impression of Justin Timberlake that I can’t stop laughing about. If you ever get a chance check this out… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfSqOg3Tv0c/.
5. I soak it up when I can: Each day I make an effort to catch good happy things happening and soak it up. Like the other day, one of the boys snagged his sister’s heart-shaped sunglasses on the way to pick her up from school. At first she was not too happy that he had her sunglasses and so she took them away. But he quickly started crying and without being asked she handed them back gave him a hug and said it was okay if he wore them for a while. That was like a giant miracle. Or the moments when my sweet 6-year-old girl cleans up all the toys without being asked; or my sweet oldest son hugs his sister just because. I try to soak up those moments; and hang on to them when the wheels fall off and there is hitting, screaming and tattling galore. Those good, sweet, proud parenting moments when you feel like all your hard work has paid off – I try to focus on those.
6. I am a mother: With my children; I am not their friend; I am their mother. I stole this little secret of success from my mom. I am not entitled in any way to love from any my children, I am not entitled to any relationship with my children. My children were a gift and it is my job to nurture, care, and guide them into being productive members of society. If I want them to come visit me after they go away to college I have to be the kind of person that they would want to visit. In other words, we earn our children’s love and affection – the time, effort, care and compassion we put into raising our children we do that for them and hopefully that will benefit us with a lifelong relationship with our children. So the first time my two oldest children ever said, “I don’t like you” in response to me not giving into their demands; I replied, “thank you, that means I am doing my job well.” I figure if they are upset because they didn’t get the lollipop they threw a fit about or they are on time out for being disrespectful then I did something right, I am teaching them a valuable lesson.
7. I lose my cool: I am human, I lose my cool and send everyone to their rooms sometimes while raising my voice. It happens. My Irish Temper can get the best of me.
8. I ask for help: This is extremely difficult for me. From many years of not asking for help because I believe in handling things myself – this is a new area of the world for me, but I have asked for help and so far it has led to new friendships and less chaotic days; so asking for help is something I am trying to do.
That is it – that is how I do it. Simple mostly, breathe in determination; exhale hope and take it one day at a time.