In the parenting world, I’ve heard that phrase a lot. Sometimes it’s aimed at me. “I don’t know how you do it with three kids.” “I don’t know how you keep them all calm.” “I don’t know how you aren’t tired all the time.”
(The answers by the way are, “I do it just like you do it with two – only with one more.” “They’re calm now. Come to my house in 2 hours.” and “I’m sorry, have we met?”)
The fact is though, there’s always someone with more on their plate than you (or me). There’s the family with twins, triplets, 5 kids, 10 kids. There’s the family who has to monitor everything their child eats because of a life-threatening allergy. There’s the working mom who still does the lion’s share at home. There’s the family with a child who’s had multiple surgeries for a heart defect. There’s a family with a child who was born with a debilitating birth defect. There’s a family who’s lost a child. There’s a divorced mom who has to do everything on her own and deal with an ex. There’s a widowed dad who is left to take care of his beautiful children who remind him every day of his beautiful wife who’s no longer here.
The point is, there’s always someone who has it harder. We’re always amazed by people who have a lot on their plate and seem to make it look easy. Or even when it’s hard, but they’re somehow still standing.
And, like most of us out there, they do it one day at a time. They stumble. They cry. They’re exhausted sometimes. Sometimes they get mad and feel sorry for themselves. Sometimes they don’t think life is fair. Sometimes they are thankful that things aren’t worse. They hopefully have help (you could always offer your services to those who might need your help the most), but most likely they just do it like we all do it. That’s life. It’s what they deal with.
Perhaps, then, when you see someone in this situation and you are on the verge of saying, “I don’t know how you do it,” maybe you should rethink the statement. Because I’m fairly certain that is a question that can’t truthfully be answered. The recipient of the question may say, “Oh, you know… one day at a time.” or “I don’t know any other way.” or “What else can I do?” I’m sure what they’re really thinking much of the time is, “I don’t know how I do it either. Half the time I’m a zombie and half the time I get through it the best I can without falling apart.”
Maybe the next time you see that person who inspires you, you can say just that. “You inspire me.” “I admire the way you deal with everything.” “I always feel mired in my own life, but seeing you really inspires me and reminds me that life could be harder.” I don’t know. Perhaps the last one is more than needs to be said. Perhaps not. What matters is that the person you’re complimenting knows it’s a compliment, and not a backhanded commentary of how their life is worse than yours or that they’ve made different choices than you, or that they’re really just struggling to breathe every day.
Which, in a way, I suppose we all are.