“I don’t know how she does it.”
I hear this. People say this about me. Like, I’m standing RIGHT THERE and people will say it to someone else. It’s a cliché thing to say—I mean, come on, Sarah Jessica Parker starred in a movie called, yes, “I Don’t Know How She Does It”—but, okay. I get the sentiment. I own a business, travel weekly, write things, raise children, own a home, own a dog, have friends, etc. etc. … how do I do it all?
Hahahaha. I don’t. Please. No one does.
Here are but a few of the things I don’t do:
Cook. Once I revealed this to a friend-of-a-friend, who didn’t know me well enough not to act aghast. “But … but you have kids. What do you do?” Here’s what we do: dinner out, order in, eggs, tacos, and “snacking dinners” (i.e. “pick something from each of the five food groups and that is dinner”).
Yep. That’s about it. In my defense, I keep the fridge stocked with fruit, carrots, yogurt, cheese sticks, and broccoli because (weirdly) that’s the only vegetable they’ll eat without a fight. Cupboards contain granola bars, almonds, and low-sugar cereal. I make their lunches. They only get one “sweet treat” a day. They know what protein is and where to get it. And we do bake on weekends. Sometimes. But mostly, I listen to them argue in the backseat about where we should go out to eat while I drive around aimlessly and dream of a personal chef.
Clean my house. I have paid someone to clean my house every other week for 13 years. It’s not cheap, but it is the bedrock of my sanity. Don’t get me wrong—we pick up, we wipe things down, we sweep if we track in mud. My kids make their beds. Sometimes I make my bed. But we do not clean our own house.
What this means is that I have to be resourceful about finding chores for my kids to do—I’d feel like a hypocrite making them scrub the bathtub if I’m not willing to do it. They load and unload the dishwasher, fold laundry, pick up their rooms, set the table, pull weeds (well, okay, they don’t really do that unless I threaten them). But we work it out. And if I do experience flashes of guilt, it’s only because I’m thinking about Jodi Foster, whose family has done their own chores since time eternal, because—as she put it—“that is your real life. Why would you pay someone else to live your life?” I read that somewhere. It plagues me.
Attend local industry events. This one kills me. I mean, it KILLS ME. I was super involved with our local interactive marketing association (MIMA, one of the largest in the country) for six solid years before stepping down from the board. I’ve been to maybe half a dozen events since, simply because I’m always either out of town or with my kids. I hate not being able to participate in our professional community—but I simply can’t prioritize it. It’s actually embarrassing because I’m constantly encouraging people to start and attend local content strategy meetups. It totally sucks. But there it is.
Host parties. Don’t get me wrong. I love hosting parties. Just because I haven’t done it for like five years doesn’t mean I don’t love it. But it’s so much easier to let other people do it. Not that any of my friends do, because they’re as busy with work and family as I am. What I’m trying to say is, if you have one, please invite me to your party, and someday when I have one again I’ll invite you, too.
Date. My friends who don’t have kids regularly complain about how they’re treated by people who do have kids. It’s unintentional, of course, but most parents can’t imagine not having kids. So they send of signals like, “You childless people, you are selfish and deficient” (politely). Or they say things like, “Oh, you’ll come around at some point!”
I thought I understood, but lately I can actually empathize. Here’s the deal: when I tell people I’m not dating, they say, “Oh, you’re so amazing, I’m sure some great guy will come along soon.” Then when I clarify that I’m not dating at all, there’s always an awkward pause before they say, “Oh, well, you’re so amazing. I’m sure some great guy will come along.” As though it’s inconceivable that I don’t want to date anyone. Which I don’t. I am not lonely. I am not longing for romance or companionship. I am busy with work and fulfilled in my personal life. Dating is not a priority. And there it is.
Feel guilty about the things I’m not doing. Do I feel sad about some of this stuff? Sure. Sometimes. Do I feel guilty or regretful? No. That’s a waste of time and energy. This is where I am right now in life—it doesn’t mean I’ll never eat more vegetables, or date, or garden or do yoga or go to the orchestra or walk my dog every day or volunteer. Instead, I work hard to feel proud of what I am doing.
So, today, spend some time thinking about the good stuff you’re doing, too, okay? Caring for friends. Spending time with family. Taking an extra 5 minutes in the shower to just stare off into space. Making change, however small, for the better. Stop feeling guilty for everything you aren’t. Celebrate who and what you are.
[Coda: several years ago, I had a much bigger complex about this stuff. I said to my therapist-at-the-time, “You know what I think I should do is meditate.” She replied, and I quote, “Oh GOD no. You’d be TERRIBLE at that. Pick something else to feel guilty about.” So instead I committed to binge-watching TV. Do I feel guilty? Hell no. I win.]