The secret to parenting begins with not having all the answers.
There’s this thing that always happens when people find out I have five kids. First, they repeat the number in shock to make sure they heard it right. Then they shake their heads and say, “How do you do it all?!”
Usually I laugh it off or explain that my parents and sister help out a ton and that all five are in school or child care five days a week. What I don’t often do is tell the truth: I don’t do it all. I can’t. In fact, most of the time I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.
The thing about parenthood is that it’s one thing to manage the work of it — bathing, doctor’s appointments, homework, laundry, sports, birthday parties, etc. — but it’s a completely different thing to navigate the emotional complexities of your children’s lives. Just when I thought I’d gotten the hang of being patient with toddlers (on my fifth time around!), my oldest became a verified teenager seemingly overnight.
Sure, my days of endless feeding and sleepless night are over, and I’ve reached the stage where I used to think, “it will be easier then.” But the truth is, it’s not easier. Everything is different now, harder and more complex. And I’m starting to realize that this is what parenting is — not surviving the storm until things calm down and get easier, but learning to live in the storm. And, as this article at Motherly points out, the secret of parenting is finding a way to embrace the uncertainty and keep going:
Mamas, it never gets easier. We never get the hang of it. At every turn, there are new challenges. Learning how to be a mom to toddlers. Learning how to be a mom to tweens. Learning how to let go of that 6-foot-tall boy and say “see you in a few months …”
But do you know what I’ve realized? We don’t have to be sad about this. We just need to embrace it. We need to stop waiting for our “aha!” moments of motherhood, and just have confidence in our abilities to simply do our best, every day. Maybe having “the hang of it” means taking steps forward — sometimes timidly, sometimes with force, but we keep going, continuing to learn as we go.
I don’t always know what the best thing is for my kids. In fact, I often don’t know what the best thing is, and a lot of times I even when I do know what it is, it’s unattainable. I don’t “do it all” because I can’t — no one can, really.
But what I do is get up every day and do the best I can for my kids. I find a few minutes every day to connect, one-on-one, with each of them. I help with homework and listen to their stories until I have to go to work, and then I go.
When my kids have problems in school or with friends, I try and give them the tools they need to solve those problems. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes their problems can’t be solved … and you know what? That’s okay. Because that’s how life goes.
In the end, I think that’s what it really means to “have the hang” of parenting. It doesn’t mean you make the best Pinterest-worthy parties or have an impeccable system of organization (although it can!). It doesn’t mean you know how to field every issue that comes up or that your kids have straight-A’s and always tuck their shirts in (although it can!). What it really means is that you get up every day and try to be the best parent you can be for your kids. And if you feel like you’re failing, you still keep trying.
So the next time someone asks me how I do it all, I’m just going to be honest and say, “I don’t do it all! I just do my best.”
My best is all I can give my kids. It might not look like someone else’s best, but it’s enough.