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So, how do you do it?

Categories: Hacking Life, Making Time, The Juggle


“I Don’t Know How She Does It,” the movie based on the best-selling book about working moms and the juggle they face, hits theaters tomorrow. And while I identify with the character and disagree with the ending (of the book, at least), I don’t really feel like seeing the movie. I’m kind of tired of the whole premise: Woman determined to “have it all” faces burn-out or failure until she chooses one part of her life over the other.

People routinely ask me how I do it. “How do you work full-time with so many kids?” “How do you get back to work once the kids are in bed?” “How do you keep it all together?” I have a few answers:

1. You do what you have to do. I’m the breadwinner for our family. Not working full-time is not an option for me (or so my mortgage company tells me).

2. It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t know you can’t do it. I’ve always worked a lot, even back in college when, instead of partying, I worked two jobs while carrying a larger-than-full-time course load.

3. Sometimes, I don’t really do it. I have an amazing support network of other working moms, and a hands-on husband who juggles as much as I do. Also: I let the housework slide. As I type this, there is a mountain of (clean) laundry in my bedroom that is large enough for my 4-year-old to climb. I throw a load into the washer every day, but I rarely get around to sorting, folding, and putting away more than once a week. My floors could use a vacuuming, though most of the rooms in my house have been fake-cleaned. I’m on deadline, though, and so the unpaid housework has to wait.

4. I have my ways. “Have-done” lists. Energy boosters. Cutting myself slack.

So. How do you do it?

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5 comments so far...

  • ha! i am in the same situation… fake cleaning - is there any other way? one day i will have a cleaning crew. but first that requires de-cluttering. there is always another step that prevents the solution lol.

    i dont do it all either. my husband is fantastic and does a lot of the kid juggling (drop off/pick up from school, doctor visits, field trips, etc.) and i am also doing a load of laundry almost every night! hey - stuff out of the dryer in the morning is warm and toasty in the cold weather! extra points! and sometime, it just takes me longer to do my side job items.

    somethings just aren’t going to happen. sometimes i just add bourbon to my hot chocolate at night ;)

    kate  |  September 16th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

  • In child development literature, it says kids start to know the difference between reality and fantasy around age 4. However, there are some fantasies that we don’t give up until we are a lot older. Like, when we become established working moms.

    I was talking to my friend yesterday about cooking. “Still can’t believe some people cook every day.” No offense to those of you who do, but I really think “home cooking from scratch” is overrated. There was a time when I thought I’d do that on top of everything else each day. But that fantasy was easily extinguished, in my case. Instead, I do quick prep or pay others to do it for me, opting instead for taking my kids “places” and then homeschooling in the evenings. And I don’t feel one bit bad about it. My kids are very healthy - and they know what good food tastes like - so I’ve nothing to feel guilty about.

    So that’s kind of how I do it. I pick the things that are most important to me, and minimize the rest. There are plenty of shortcuts that can be taken without attracting a visit from CPS. We just have to accept that our choices are the best for our family, even if they are different from the choices other moms make for theirs - and very different from “the fantasy.”

    SKL  |  September 16th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

  • “I pick the things that are most important to me, and minimize the rest.”

    SKL, I think that’s the key, right there. The hardest part for many people (me included) is separating what *is* important to you from what you think *ought to be* important to you.

    Kate: I am adding bourbon to my hot chocolate tonight. Excellent idea!

    Lylah  |  September 16th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  • My stock answer to the question of “how do you work full time with 4 kids?” has always been, only slightly tongue in cheek, “lower your standards!” That said, I love SLK’s response of picking few things that are important, and letting the rest go.

    For me, that actually is cooking real food every night from scratch, but the majority of that prep work gets done on Sunday. The grocery and meal planning routine around here happens with military precision. On the other hand, I ONLY do laundry once a week, and will purchase extra sock and uniforms to make that happen. And making beds? Happens only if my mother is coming to visit!

    Sarah  |  September 19th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  • Being there for homework is vital as my child will slack otherwise.

    Cleaning - if I ever get back to making money again this is something that will be delegated.

    Having some time to just “be” is important to destress.

    Laundry @ night, cooking only on weekends, these are the gotta get throughs but if I ever start making real money again, housework is the immediate delegation!

    Mich  |  September 20th, 2011 at 4:32 pm