It Takes A Village, And Lots of Vino

Last year I ran into a friend at the library and as she held a baby on her hip and her two young children swarmed around her she commented, “I don’t know how you do it.” She marveled that I could manage working outside the home, blogging, parenting, and marriage.

You know what? I don’t really do it. I don’t have it together. If you could see my house right now I guarantee it’s a disaster zone. There are always dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and dirty dogs. But I’m a great juggler, most of the time. I had my girls’ school lunches packed Monday before I went to bed but I forgot my own lunch for work the next day.

And guess what? Here’s the big secret that I think so many parents, especially moms, are afraid to admit. I don’t know how the heck YOU do it. Or you. Or you. Or YOU. I don’t know how people with more than two kids do it. I don’t know how single parents do it. I don’t know how parents whose kids play multiple sports do it. I don’t know how my daughter’s teacher with three kids, one of whom competitively ice skates, gets up before 5 on school days and then teaches other people’s children all day does it. I don’t know how my best friend with three boys all in different schools does it.

As crazy as my life may seem on the surface, there is a method to my madness. My younger daughter is currently enrolled in zero extracurricular activities. That’s right! Zero! Stop the insanity! And no, she’s not bored. She’s interested in taking gymnastics, but I just want to make it through the month of August in one piece before I enroll her. And Miss C, my oldest, starts her 9th season of soccer this weekend. We may check out one more school activity for her, but that’s it.

I say no a lot. I pick and choose what I want to toss into the crazy mix.

How do any of us juggle work, a family business, marriage, aging parents, kids, soccer practice, PTO sign-up guilt, gymnastics, piano lessons, basketball, baseball, karate lessons, and still manage to eat, bathe, and leave the house fully clothed on a daily basis?

I’ll tell you how we do it. We have support systems. I have help from grandparents who will babysit at a moment’s notice. I have a supportive husband who worked Saturdays all summer so that I could work in my office on Thursdays while he took the day off to stay with the girls. We have help from neighbors with car pooling.

Behind every seemingly well-running family unit on the surface there are people behind the scenes helping them keep afloat.

And maybe, just maybe, an emergency bottle of wine or two.

19 comments

  1. Kaye says:

    You are so right – it does take a village. Be very thankful for those grandparents. You are very wise to limit activities. We limited our kids to one thing a year – they complained then, but by high school they understood and now say they will continue that rule when they have kids.

    Glad to see you made it through the first week of school. I actually miss those days – but not those 8:00 p.m. announcements that start with “Mom, I forgot but I need ______ for school tomorrow.”

    Hang in there and enjoy Friday!
    .-= Kaye´s last blog ..Nice to be rescued =-.

  2. Mary @ The Writer's Block says:

    YES. I have also decided that we all have different thresholds. It’s taken me a long while to accept that I have certain limitations that pertain to my personality, my skills, my husband’s needs, my kid’s needs, etc. So, I can look at someone who has a full-time job and rises before 5 and has 6 kids, all of whom are in competitive sports, and I can say, “Wow. How does she do it? I must be doing something wrong [need to be doing something different] as a mom.” But you know what? THOSE aspects of parenting are not suited to my gifts and would take me away from meeting particular needs of my family. I MUST respect my limitations.

    In a few weeks, I do begin a 20-hour/wk part-time job. I will still be able to do before and after-school routines with the kids; only working while they are in school. I do hope and pray it is a rather seamless transition for us. We’ll see.

    Oh, and I’ll just be a few doors down from you, Jamie. We MUST do lunch, girlfriend! 😉
    .-= Mary @ The Writer’s Block´s last blog ..I Belong =-.

  3. Jamie says:

    EG we had a blanket tent up in our den all last weekend but I HAD to take it down Sunday night. My OCD gets the best of me. It’s crazy at my house but I can only handle a tent on the weekend. 😉

    Mary, definitely on lunch. I agree. We all have different thresholds. I also have a flex schedule and “just” work 30 hours a week. I honestly could not work 40 hours a week 8 to 5 in an office ever again but that’s just me.

    Kaye, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of limiting activities. Miss C is really interested in Girl Scouts…I like the idea!

    Michelle, thanks for the comment love!
    .-= Jamie´s last blog ..It Takes A Village- And Lots of Vino =-.

  4. Mari says:

    I tend to beat myself up for not balancing things as well as I think I should. Last winter, one of my grad school professors talked about juggling it all, and she said, “Now I consider it a successful day when *I* choose which ball to drop.” That has helped me survive many a challenging period.

    What’s funny is that on the same day that I end up overwhelmed and in tears, other moms will say, “I don’t know how you do it all.” I think many women overestimate how well others are balancing it all, while we’re so caught up in trying to manage our own schedules that we don’t recognize how much we accomplish on a daily basis.

    We don’t have much in terms of family help, but when I started grad school, I hired a sitter. This spring, I caved in hired someone to help clean twice a month. My 20 hours/week as a grad student researcher basically cover the cost of the sitter and the cleaner (and the university remits my fees), but they are my entourage…And I survived year one because they gave me just enough room to breathe.
    .-= Mari´s last blog .. =-.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Yes! I love this. And I especially love when other working moms admit that there house is a mess. My house is almost never “company ready.” I’m sure you know what I mean. It is probably my greatest stressor, but if it were clean then something else would have to give and then that would be my biggest stressor. I’ve just had to learn that I really can’t do it all. I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m hoping the days of the “super moms” are behind us and that we can all start to support one another more. Even when we are mediocre. 🙂
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Fit B4 40- A daily challenge =-.

  6. amy2boys says:

    Awesome post J. So true too! I do feel like P and I have zero help, unless we’re paying and the sitter/nanny person actually shows up. Which she did not last night and I had to cancel plans and I actually nearly cried. But my in-laws are not an option, even living 15 minutes away. A few times (ever) MIL has offered to do something with them, but we can’t really call when we need help.

    We do get blocks of time when my parents have them when they are in town, so that is nice. But if you have grandparents here willing to help you, that is really awesome.

  7. Blonde Mom says:

    My inlaws and mom both live about 45 minutes to an hour from us but they are always willing to help out. My dad is about 15 minutes away and likes to help, although he is 77 so I don’t want to wear him out. 😉

  8. Balisha says:

    What an honest post. Moms today have so much guilt…I would think that a post like this would help them see that in some ways you are all the same. The day will come when you will look back and say, “Hey…I didn’t do such a bad job.” If you show kids perfection all the time…they will come to expect it. Just keep doing what you are doing….they appreciate you, but sometimes don’t show it.
    Balisha
    .-= Balisha´s last blog ..Spring Dreamin =-.

  9. amie says:

    Oh thank heavens for the village! My parents live across town about 10 min away. My hub is self employed and works about 70 hours per week. I work with him about 20- 30 hrs per week. I have lots of flexabiltity in scheduling but the stuff still needs to get done sooner or later.So back to my parents, my retired Dad cuts our grass, landscapes our lawn, takes our cars for maintenance, and planted and maintained a huge vegetable garden at our house this year. He even has volunteered to cut the grass at our son’s baseball & football fields for past 2 yrs. My mom has watched the kids two afternoons per week all summer.In spite of a variety of health issues, she insists on folding all our laundry & tidying up the house while she is here with kids. She is great help with running to store to pick up all the last minute items the kids spring on us- ie science projects, required reading books, mouthguards, church pants, etc. My inlaws live about 20 minutes away and are happy to babysit when they can but they are busy with their work and still have 4 kids at home. We also have an awesome college aged babysitter who lives 2 miles away and drives. Sometimes she helps in a pinch when all 4 of us have to be in 4 different places. Fortunately my kids gt to a REALLy small closeknit Catholic school( 230 kids prek-8).Their classmates often participate in same extracurriculars so we can team up on carpooling and sharing rides. And STILL it is hectic & still we never get everything done. But the four of us sit down every night as a family for dinner , even if it isnt til 7:30 and even if dinner is only dominos pizza or sandwiches. Thank goodness I have a job that allows me to wear flipfops & jeans to work every day- I don’t know how I would pull off the pressure of having to look proessional at this point. Thank goodness I have the flexibility to drive the kids to school everyday & pick them up in the afternoon. Thank goodness I am able to volunteer at their school and have the privilege of knowing all their friends & classmates. And is spite of my messsy clothes, messy house, slapped together dinner, my kids are wonderful, happy little people and thats all the counts. Mission accomplished.

  10. DrDrama says:

    I am a wife, mom, pediatrician, blogger, etc. and I have a people ask me the same question all the time and I say the same thing. I don’t mind a messy house and I think a glass of Merlot occasionally helps even out the wrinkles. I have friends who have four kids at home or are single moms and I can’t even begin to imagine how they do it. I agree it takes a lot of juggling, being able to say, “no” a lot and sometimes less sleep than you would like. Well written post.

  11. Debra says:

    Hi. Brian at Rocket XL told me about your blog today and said it was smart & funny. He was right. I love this post. You do need some kind of strategy and reliable support. My secret weapon is my 14-year-old son who this summer learned to do the laundry!

  12. Deb - Mom of 3 Girls says:

    You are so right, Jamie! I look back now at when I was working full-time and it’s hard enough to keep up right now when I’m home all day. I don’t know how I’ll manage when I find another job, but I know it’ll happen somehow. My house is almost never ‘company-ready’, but that’s ok too. I have no idea how you do it all, or how other families manage – I guess we all just make it work however we can!

    You are so lucky to have such a strong support network – I wish we did. I’m going nuts trying to find someone (anyone) who can watch my girls while I’m gone next week. It looks like I may be seeing you in CA? Are you going to the Honda event? 🙂
    .-= Deb – Mom of 3 Girls´s last blog ..Friendships and four-year-olds =-.

  13. Leighann of Multi-Minding Mom says:

    My husband is on his four day annual fishing trip. I told my mom that single parenting was making me tired. She said I should try being a single mom of three. She got me there.

    We wouldn’t be able to raise our kids the way we are without the help of my parents. And I went down to 3/4 time.

    My daughter does 2 classes over the fall/winter/spring and my son is starting his first. Plus I’m on the board of directors of the preschool. We’re always going some where or doing something. I really enjoy the nights when there is nothing on the agenda!

    Passing you a glass of Orvieto!
    .-= Leighann of Multi-Minding Mom´s last blog ..Have You Entered =-.

  14. Ruth Hill says:

    I agree with limiting extracurricular activities. Children that are involved in “everything” seem way too busy. I will not have that kind of crazy life. My daughter used to do karate, and she now does swimming. I’m sure she’d love to do both, but we made her choose.

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