what i don’t do

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Yesterday morning, a conversation with a friend:

HER : I loved your post about “just being”!

ME: aw, thanks .. even though i failed miserably at it? LOL

HER: I often wonder when I read your eloquent posts how on earth you find the time being a working mom and I came up with one of two options… You don’t sleep or you secretly found out how to add hours to your day.

ME : lol

HER : It is refreshing to see that everyone needs to take a breather

*

All right, listen. There’s some stuff we need to get out in the open, you and I. I’ve said it before, but it’s been a while, and some of you, well, many of you, weren’t around to hear it the first time, since ‘you’ consisted of like five people back then and I think it’s safe to say that I knew all five. But now things are different. And it appears that I need to say it again.

The problem is that I’m not entirely sure how to do this without kind of sounding like a dick, but I’m not sure how to not say it without basically being a dick, so I guess the risk reward is pretty even.

Ready?

Here goes.

I don’t cook.

Meaning I don’t ever have to think about what’s for dinner.

Or go to the supermarket.

Unless I want to.

And I don’t do dishes.

I (almost) never do laundry.

And by (almost), I mean I only do laundry when the one pair of jeans I really want to wear in the morning is dirty and I throw them in before bed and then dry them when I wake up. and since that really doesn’t count as ‘doing laundry’, I think it’s safe to just skip the parentheses.

I don’t clean the house (truth be told, sometimes it seems that no one actually does, but that’s not the point here.)

I don’t take out the garbage.

I’ll stop now as I’d guess you’re already imagining the various ways in which you’d like to tear me limb from limb.

Luau is a stay-at-home dad.

That doesn’t mean that he ‘works from home’.

It doesn’t mean that his work schedule allows him to drop off and pick up the kids (though it does).

It means that his work IS being home, taking care of the girls and the house and all that goes along with that.

As many of you know, it’s extremely hard work.

More often than not, it’s thankless and never-ending work.

As hard as I try to take notice of all that he does and express gratitude for it, I know that I really tend to notice when things don’t get done, rather than when they do. (see cleaning – above).

But the point is that there’s a really, really long list of things that you probably assume that I do that I don’t.

And that matters.

And it matters that I tell you that.

Because too many times recently, I’ve had some version of the conversation on the top of the page.

“How do you do it all?” she (yes, it’s always she) asks.

“Often not very well,” I say.

She doesn’t believe me. All she sees is what I do and what she feels like she doesn’t / can’t / has no idea how to find the time to do.

To begin with, we’ve been over the fact that comparison is intrinsically evil, right? Right. So we can start there. But that’s not going to be enough, is it? it never is.

I sat with a friend recently, talking about everything and nothing when she said, “Please, for the love of God tell me that other people’s marriages are hard too.”

Maybe she didn’t actually say “for the love of God,” but I’d like to think that she did. Adds such a nice oomph doesn’t it?

Anyway, it wasn’t so much a request as a desperate plea.

“I just find it so HARD,” she said, “and it just seems like everyone else is just bouncing along and it’s so damned EASY.”

Or something like that. I’m trying hard to remember the words verbatim, but an awful lot has happened since then and my little foam-stuffed brain is full, so let’s just agree that that was what she said.

Anyway, I didn’t laugh. She was too earnest for me to laugh; it would have been cruel. But I can’t help but find it funny, this thing that we do to ourselves and each other – this comparison from the inside out to the outside in. It’s brilliantly self-defeating, really.

I don’t remember where I first heard it or read it or saw it, but somewhere along the way, this is what I learned ..

When we compare ourselves to others, we will always, always lose.

Why? Well, because we know us. We know our messies, our stickies, our uglies, our do-not-opens and for-the-love-of God-don’t-tells. We know it all. And we are comparing that – the whole putrid, overflowing mess of what’s INSIDE our lives to the oh-so-dainty and pristine OUTSIDE of someone else’s.

We are attempting to measure up all that we really are to the carefully constructed facades of those around us. Pure folly that, because … well .. hint, that perfectly folded silk pocket square you see jutting out of the suit pocket folded just so is deftly hiding the nasty snot-filled cotton hanky below. You know, the one that looks just like yours.

One cannot compare outsides to insides.

I explained to my friend that there are continual small adjustments and daily accommodations that you will never see. Hell, I told her, there are grand compromises and heavy sighs and deep disappointments and tears behind closed doors — none of which will be found in the Facebook statuses of any of your 732 ‘friends.’

And the friend from the text conversation? We eventually picked up the phone. I needed her to know too. To hear it.

“I can do what I do because Luau does what he does,” I said. “I can do what I do because of what you assume that I do that I don’t. I need you to know how much I don’t do.”

“Is it awful that I’m really relieved by this?” she asked.

This time i felt free to laugh.

“Nope,” I said. “it’s human. And it reminds me of a post I’ve been meaning to write.”

19 thoughts on “what i don’t do

  1. This is such a worthwhile message! I recently switched to working part-time, so now I devote most of my time to comparing myself to both the stay-at-home moms (look at what great moms they are!) and the working moms (look at how accomplished they are!). I need to not do this.

  2. Having a true “team” is such an important part of parenting — and an even more important part of special needs parenting. Your team’s roles may be a little unconventional, but they work — and I’m so very glad you have that!

  3. This is so important for people to REALLY understand. Just like the autism spectrum is so vast and varied, so is life in general. When we make assumptions that our life is the same as your is the same as hers or his… well, that’s when we get sucked under, isn’t it?

    My mother recently told me that a childless friend of hers (who’s in her 60’s), keeps telling her how jealous she is of me for the fact that I don’t “work” like she does. While that’s true, what she doesn’t see is the endless hours of medical and therapy appointments, the constant battles with school administrations and insurance providers simply to give my child even a smidgeon of the same chances the average child has to live and learn. I, in turn, find myself envious and resentful of her unencumbered lifestyle. Yet, I know it’s surely not as wonderful as it appears.

    So, yes, you are spot-on…we cannot compare what we know of our lives with the mere glimpses and snippets we see of someone else’s life.

  4. I have to constantly remind myself of this. And to stop comparing! But then I had an epiphany! When I was young, I dreamed of being an attorney, married, with child(ren,) and living in a beautiful house. And then I realized I’m there. It’s not perfect. We struggle. I struggle. But it’s good. And one person’s Facebook page about how everything is peachy keen and perfect does not mean it is. Life is hard for everyone but we try to make the most of it, right?

  5. This is wonderful. My therapist told me, “Don’t compare the outside of your friend’s house to the inside of yours. You’ll want to, but don’t.”. When I start to get bogged down by “it all” I try to remember this sage advice.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  6. I have to say, I do love reading your posts. This is one I am going to save and put on my desktop, because it’s something I need to see on a daily basis until I figure out some way of internalizing it. In the meantime, I try to stay away from Facebook. Also, thanks for clarifying how you manage to be so prolific while *doing it all*. I have to admit, it made me feel a tad lazy. I’m glad you and your family have made it work!

  7. and that is why when you find a friend who is willing to share with you that they too have “our messies, our stickies, our uglies, our do-not-opens and for-the-love-of God-don’t-tells” you hang onto them like the treasure that they are πŸ˜‰

  8. I think this sort of comparison is made so much worse by the social media we all get sucked into. Like you said, no one posts the ugly, just the “went to the park today!”; “baked cookies with the kids!”; “got a promotion!” Are found there… We never see each others’ crap, so we start to think there isn’t any. I don’t clean, I don’t cook. My version of doing laundry is to wash and dry and leave them in hampers all over the house. I work, because that’s what I’m good at, and I try my hardest to really know my children, though parenting is the hardest job and no one is ever REALLY good at it. Thanks for the reminder that my inside is MINE, and no one knows what that’s really like except me, and maybe my living husband (he really does try).

  9. I used to have that life – when I was married and I had the same answer. I don’t do it – my (then) husband does it. And still now, I don’t do the cooking either – I just do the dishes and clean & laundry – but even then its a little bit because Mr. Big takes care of the other stuff – the worrying, the bills, the repairs, etc. As long as I take care of the kids and the house looks liveable – then we are good. And another thing, I heard this in some Bieber song (I know *shudder*) “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, its greener where you water it” – and its very true. Our lives are what we make of it and we have to stop comparing ourselves to others or we will never truly understand or appreciate what we have.

  10. Kudos to Luau for making it possible for you to do what you do (and share it with the rest of us).

    Ari, who can do what she does in large part because my DH is currently working from home “part-time” – but that “part-time” is only 10 – 15 hours a week and during the rest of his time he is the primary parent

  11. Some really do it all, including careers, and house, and family, but it’s all individual.
    Love you,
    Dad

    • I may have read your comment wrong, Michael, but I think no one “does it all” and at the same time, everyone does it all. To do career, family, and home, something has to give (child is in care while career happens, home is in disarray while family happens, or there is no exercise, no advocacy, no writing, etc). And yet we all do our own “all”. We all fill our days with as much career, family and home as we can. For those who dont do the laundry (she raises her hand) doesn’t mean we don’t do home.

      I probably sound defensive (I am, a smidge, and for Jess and all other moms who are primary earners), but I just mean everyone is doing their own all and that includes different fractions of career, family, home, self, and “other” (eg advocacy). The pieces for each of us are in different proportions, but they all add up to doing it all.

  12. Thank you, thank you for sharing. Although I find it sad that we as women, no matter working, stay at home, or somewhere in between, have to explain, compare, or justify. We all work it out how it best works for us. Go you!

  13. As the spouse who does the at home thing, the cleaning and caring for the children (and that includes potty-training an autistic boy who DID NOT want to give up his diapers), I hope you give your husband a heartfelt thanks today. We do what we do not for the credit, but its still nice when the working spouse notices everything that gets done while they are gone so they can relax and eat dinner off clean dishes and change into clean clothes, etc. I appreciate that you are dispelling assumptions, and I LOVE what you wrote about making comparisons…its something I’m working hard to stop doing myself.

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