If there’s one phrase that’s been grating on me lately, it’s “I don’t know how you do it”.
I’ve both used this phrase when addressing other frazzled mummies, and often had it directed at myself – generally in relation to juggling a business, clients, staff, two young and very energetic girls, husband, school and nursery run, all whilst trying to maintain some sort of normality.
My issue with the “I don’t know how you do it” comment is that it’s totally meant as a compliment, and I get that. But it puts the subject on a pedestal of “wow, you are a truly awe-inspiring human being to handle all that stuff”.
And I don’t see myself particularly as an awe-inspiring human being, just a frazzled mess with far too much on her plate. I think it’s more valid to ask: “How do you make it work?”
My best friend Lerryn made the (sensible) decision to not work and be a full time mum to her son. I ‘ve said to her “I don’t know how you do it”, because for me, working is a huge part of my identity, and as much as I love being with my girls, I crave adult conversation and work banter. But she makes it work.
My friend Sarah, who has a nine-month-old daughter, said to me “I don’t know how you do it with two”. The irony is, Sarah is president of our professional body, has her own consultancy, is a non exec director, and in any one week could be in four different locations around the country. But she makes it work.
I first met my friend Pam in the bar after a conference. I collared her with a pained, wine-fuelled look of desperation and asked her “how do you grow a PR agency with little people?” She admitted it gets harder when they start school, what with all the school-related admin (school trips, booking school dinners, reading, homework, letters about nits). Like me, she runs an agency with her husband, which is a challenge on its own. But she makes it work.
The point is – as parents who work or don’t work – we all have our own different factors and circumstances that add to the juggle. How we choose to respond to those factors is up to us, but giving up is not an option.
So here’s to all the parents out there – you are all doing an awesome job with the resources you have. We can only do our best.