A mother looking at her laptop while holding a toddler in her lap
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Telling Moms "I Don't Know How You Do It All" Isn't Helping Us, It's Hurting Us

by Dina Leygerman

A long, long time ago, in a life far far away, lived a woman who regularly went to the gym. This woman would pack her gym clothes each morning and rush to the gym after work. This woman "found" time to work out. But now this woman can't "find" the time to take a breath, let alone time for self-care. And after an acquaintance questioned this woman's time management skills, and after the woman unnecessarily explained her schedule, the acquaintance exclaimed, "Wow. I don't know how you do it all." The woman thought, "Yeah, me neither."

I leave my house at 6:00 a.m. every single day. I then commute for an hour, and spend my workday teaching, comforting, mentoring, coddling, angering, encouraging, and improvising a group of emboldened, passionate students. I work every day from 7:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., then commute for an hour back home, just in time for my daughter's school bus to arrive. At 4:15 p.m. I am walking through my front door. At which point I start dinner and, simultaneously, start writing. Around 6:30 p.m., my husband and my son arrive home. We all eat dinner, the kids get baths, and then I spend the rest of the evening catching up on grading high school papers and planning future lessons. I collapse at the end of each day at around 10:30 p.m., without a single ounce of energy to spare. The weekends are spent chauffeuring the children, food shopping, cleaning and laundry, and every other errand that I don't have time for during the work week.

Dina Leygerman

"I don't know how you do it all," says a friend who works part-time.

"I don't know how you do it all," says a coworker without children.

"I don't know how you do it all," says a seemingly endless amount of people, all looking at me and thinking, "Wow, how are you surviving?"

Well, guess what? I don't do it all. I don't do most of anything I want to get accomplish in a 24 hour period. Something is always missing. I am constantly running behind. I'm late to parties and appointments. I forget important dates. I don't always check homework and miss important school announcements. I lose things. I don't have any time for self-care. I haven't been inside a gym in almost a year. I have lost all of the muscle and strength I acquired when I had time for myself. I get winded going up a flight of stairs. My back has been hurting for months and I don't have time to schedule an appointment to a chiropractor. We eat takeout often. I fall behind on grading papers and planning for work. My fridge stays empty for weeks. So, no, I don't do it all.

I don't accomplish all the things I should or want or need to accomplish, and I only have to look around to be reminded of my perceived failures.

More often than not, my house looks like people live there. Like really, really live there. Laundry piles up for weeks, and we all run out of clean underwear before I find time to actually wash clothes. My bed sheets should probably be washed way more often. Paperwork piles up. Mail piles up. Errands pile up. I don't accomplish all the things I should or want or need to accomplish, and I only have to look around to be reminded of my perceived failures.

I'm constantly drowning. Constantly struggling to stay on top. Constantly working for the weekend. Constantly trying to "have it all." I forget to respond to text messages, and I don't return phone calls. I am not "doing it all" at all. Hell, I am hardly making it day by day. I create to-do lists just to forget them on the kitchen counter. I am mostly a mess of a person, and I don't even have the time or energy to hide it.

I take no pride is being this busy. No one should.

When people say "I don't know how you do it all" I honestly want to cry. Because I know how "I do it all." I "do it all" at the expense of me. At the expense of my mental health, at the expense of my physical health, at the expense of my dreams, and at the expense of my social life. I "do it all" despite not having time and/or energy to do it all. I don't do it all, but trying to is taking all there is from me.

I understand people are not being malicious when they make their comments. I totally understand that they have the best of intentions, and their comments are meant to be kind, and complimentary, and an ode to the work they assume I do day in and day out with little acknowledgment. But the "amazement" in their voice and their eyes almost feels like a misrepresentation of me, of motherhood, and of life in general. I take no pride is being this busy. No one should. I wish I could do half of what is required to keep my family functioning.

I wish you would stop asking me how I "do it all," because I wish "doing it all" wasn't a requirement of mothers.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.