“I Don’t Know How You Do It”
by Kristi S. Gold
I was having a conversation with a group of friends about some of the things we hear that “annoy” us or somehow get under our skin. You know those well-meaning phrases we so often utter to our friends or acquaintances to let them know we have their backs in solidarity?
One phrase we hear all too often is, “You’re so patient.” Yeah? You think so? The reality is we’re no more patient than the next guy, unless the next guy is in full on road rage mode. We repeat things because we have to. We teach and re-teach because we have to; Ultimately, this is the only way our lives will have any peace. I’m pretty sure none of us are saints, and I’m pretty sure our kids have all heard loud voices. Heck, my kids can distinguish the types of loud voices. This may or may not have been a conversation about a teachers’ aide at my oldest son’s school.
Big Brudder: “She yelled at me mama.”
Me: “What do you mean she yelled at you?”
BB: “She yelled yelled. I could tell that she didn’t like me the way she yelled at me. You know when you and Mrs. XXX yell, I can tell you still love me.”
The second phrase, we decided, was the one we heard most often. “I don’t know how you do it.”
Our consensus was: “We do it because we have to; Duh.”
That’s not very nice of us. We’re a snarky bunch in private; don’t judge. But that got me thinking. Should that make me feel so frustrated or annoyed? Should either of those statements? What is the intent behind those statements?
This is a small list of people I would like to say, “I don’t know How you do it!” to; rest assured there are a million other people I don’t know how they do it, but here we go:
First, let’s talk about single parents. Honestly, I have no clue how you wake up, get your kids fed, ready for day care or school, picked up from school, home, fed, bathed, make a living, have a life of your own, pay a mortgage, manage doctors appointments, sports, birthday parties all on your own. Wow! You’re doing great!
Second, working moms. See above. Add in the stressor of another person to take care of, albeit an adult. I have a husband, and I work part-time two days a week. Some months, I can’t even manage to make those two days a week. Hats off to y’all!
Third, grown children taking care of their aging parents. This one gets me. My auntie lives with my grandmother and helps her around the house and takes her to and from doctors’ appointments. My grandmother is fairly independents still, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Before my grandfather passed away, he had Alzheimer’s. The amount of stress in that home was astounding. I often thought to myself, “I don’t know how they do it.”
ANYONE who teaches junior high girls without committing murder deserves a congressional medal of honor. I WAS a junior high girl once. I couldn’t even stand myself. I don’t know how they do it.
Doctors and nurses who make critical decisions every day, I don’t know how you do it! There are days that deciding what to fix for dinner brings me to my knees. I applaud you, and I’m more than happy to make your next boat payment when I need you.
My son has Aspergers, which is a form of high functioning autism. I don’t know how you moms and dads with kiddos on the severe end of the spectrum do it (or you moms, dads and caregivers to medically fragile children). I don’t know how you maintain normalcy with the constant worry and fear of the future. I don’t know how you keep up your relationships, your sense of humor, and your generosity toward others in the same situation. I don’t know how you do it. You inspire me.
Finally, I don’t know how the parents who are facing the terminal illness of their child do it. Honestly, I don’t. It’s because they have to, I know. But I am in awe of their courage (I know they are terrified too) to put one foot in front of the other every day, their determination (I know some days it’s more fragility than resolve.), and their ability to love and live.
So see, the next time someone says, “ I don’t know how you do it.” Hear my translation. “I see you. You are plugging along being perfectly imperfect, resilient, and magnificent; I have your back, my friend. You are doing an amazing job, and I respect you. You are rocking your situation, whatever it may be, and I am honoring you by telling you how strong and remarkable you are.”