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How do busy moms do it all? Three answers

Categories: Making Time, The Juggle, Working? Living?


In the past week, I’ve had three people ask me, “How do you do it all?” And each person got a different answer

The first answer: It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t know you can’t do it. That’s pretty much my mantra. It got me through college, when I worked two jobs while carrying a larger-than-full-time course load, and it gets me through life as a working mom with a larger-than-full-time life load.

The person who got this answer — a colleague with two young kids — was surprised by the number of hours I work each week (about 60) when coupled with the number of kids we currently have at home (five). So the other part of this answer is this: It’s also amazing what you can do if you feel you have to, whether it’s working two jobs to support your family or carting four kids to karate class because you don’t have a sitter and it doesn’t seem right to inflict your squawking bundle of 20-month-old joy upon anyone else, including his 14-year-old sister.  You just get it done.

The second answer: I don’t do it alone. My husband was a dad when I met him, so I’ve never known him as anything other than a hands-on parent. During the times when he’s buried under a pile of work I know I can get by because, when I’m the one who’s swamped, he’ll be there.

The person who got this answer had just suggested that I get a cleaning lady to help with the housework, and I told her that, most of the time, I have some sort of help. We might not have a housekeeper, nanny, errand-runner, personal chef, or what have you — my husband and I wear those hats — but we do have a really good daycare and preschool that our younger kids love, an incredible in-town summer camp that our older kids adore, and my super-cool youngest brother who lives in-state and makes an incredible baby sitter, in a pinch.

The third answer: Honestly? Sometimes, I don’t do it all. At least, not well. Yesterday, our oldest kids confessed to their Dad that they’ve been rationing out the food in their lunchboxes while at camp because I hadn’t been sending a snack with them. I had no idea they were doing that. I feel incompetent — how could I have let this happen? And idiotic — why haven’t I been checking their lunch boxes when they got home? And just plain awful — did they think they couldn’t tell me directly because I’m too busy? I’ll be beating myself up about this for a long time.

The person who got this answer is a dear friend who is by-and-large a single mom homeschooling her two kids. The says she thinks I’m superwoman. But I’m not. The laundry piles up, the kitchen floor could use a thorough washing, and our dog is shedding so much so quickly that I’m pretty sure I could knit another pet out of the hair everywhere, if I knew how to knit properly. I’ve had to miss two really important meetings in the past two weeks and feel disorganized and behind because of that. And last-minute projects are piling up at the office.

So, how does this working mom do it all? I don’t know. It depends on the day. Sometimes, I don’t do it all, at all.

Working moms, please share: What helps you when you feel like you have to do it all?

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10 comments so far...

  • I breath deep and remember that tomorrow is another day :-)

    Sometimes you just have to trust that doing the important stuff is enough, especially since we all have the same 24hrs. And by important, I mean the people related stuff. Always put people (happy, well cared for spouse and children) over things (spotless kitchen floor).

    Wabi Sabi Me  |  July 10th, 2008 at 11:49 pm

  • Wabi Sabi Me: Thank you for the reminder! I think it’s going to be quite a while until my kitchen floor is really spotless…

    Lylah  |  July 11th, 2008 at 11:04 am

  • Sometimes, I don’t do it all, at all.

    Ditto that. However, I am seriously considering paying for a house cleaning service twice a month. It would dramatically reduce my stress level. And having just gotten a promotion and a (small) raise, I can now afford it.

    Robyn  |  July 11th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  • I would vouch for outsourcing a part of my daily chores. It really is a great stress buster and virtual assistant services are so cheap nowadays.

    Ishani Mitra  |  July 11th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  • HI Lylah, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple weeks now and just wanted to introduce myself. I love your posts even though I’m not a mom, they’re totally inspiring.

    Lilian  |  July 11th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

  • oh how i love you all! i have laundry piles and dust bunnies (oh how i loath them) and today i decided to be THRILLED that i was able to clean off the kitchen counters and get the sink cleared out and everythign whipped down with (of course) Method wipes! aahhh now i will just leave the light off when i go into my bedroom because it’s a bit of a disaster and i want to pretent it is all cleared off dressers and clothes neatly put away!

    ok thanks for the vent and validation :)

    kate  |  July 11th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  • Robyn: Congrats on the promotion! If you can afford it, I hope you do decide to get the house cleaning help!

    Ishani Mitra: The more I think about it, the more I think I need to find a way to factor at least a little help in that department into my budget.

    Lilian: Your comment made my night — thank you so much for reading (and for introducing yourself!)

    Kate: I totally hear you! I think my dust bunnies have evolved into dust rhinos. They’re like tumbleweeds. And the light is off in my bedroom/laundry folding area too…

    Lylah  |  July 11th, 2008 at 8:25 pm

  • That’s so true. I find myself giving a different answers too when I am asked the same thing.
    I think as working moms, we just do what we got to do, without questioning, the how and the why. We sleep less, watch tv less, and after having children only then we realize how much free time we used to have before.

    Vera Babayeva  |  July 12th, 2008 at 10:06 am

  • I’ve decided it’s worth it to me for some convenience things - I use Clorox wipes instead of spray and paper towels most of the time. Yes, it’s a small thing, but if it saves me a step or two and helps keep me on top of things, it’s worth it to me.

    I don’t usually do the whole FlyLady thing, but I appreciate the idea of doing things 5 or 15 minutes at the time. Just setting a timer and doing what I can in that time - no looking at the clock allowed. When it’s over, it’s just over and that’s 5 or 15 minutes of stuff done that wouldn’t have been otherwise.

    And don’t forget, we all have our “live-ability” factor. I might be able to live with spots on the mirror but that might drive you nuts. You might be okay crunching around on a week’s worth of stuff on the floor, but I may feel the need to vacuum every day. It’s totally up to you.

    Kelly O  |  July 13th, 2008 at 7:41 am

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