A Lutheran lady whose blog I like to read recently shared her thoughts on the frequent reaction of others to her life: "I don't know how you do it." (She is a stay-at-home mom, married to a pastor, with four young children and another on the way.) Her response? Read on:
"I don't know how I do it either. I don't have a playbook or blueprints; not even, if you can believe it, a Vision Statement. It's just my life, and I live it. . . . Speaking of my life like it's some epic task cheapens the currency. I apologize to victims of famine, fire, flood, fascism, fistula, and every other truly terrible thing in the world whose suffering is diminished by the selfishness of our culture. But I know how they do it. They do it one agonizing minute at a time, God have mercy.
"How would you do it if you had to take in your sister's kids or your husband's parents? How would you do it if a tornado flattened your house? How would you do it if you or a loved one became ill or disabled? How would you do something that you KNOW you can't handle? You would just do it. It would be hard and you would be sad and you would do it. Living under circumstances beyond their control is what people do."
I read this post some days ago (you can read it in its entirety here) but have found myself thinking of it repeatedly ever since, as I contend with my own feelings of inadequacy and hear similar sentiments from some of my friends. I, too, am often told by others, "I don't know how you do it" because I homeschool my children while working several part-time jobs and caring for my mother. So often, though, I don't know how the people who speak those words to me do what they do. How do moms who work full-time jobs outside the home get the kids up in the morning, get them to school, go to their jobs, and come home and still keep up with the housework and the cooking and the homework coaching and the chauffeuring? How does the single mother in our adult church choir do it? How does the teacher in our day school who is fighting cancer do it? How do all the people who have lost jobs in recent months do it? How do parents with seriously ill children do it? How do those who are battling their own illnesses and depression and loneliness do it?
I could go on, but you get the picture. It's a broken world. Each of us has our place in it--the thing that we have been called to do--and none of us has it easy. But it's so tempting to fall into the comparison trap--to look at the lives of others and imagine ourselves in their place--thus, the "I don't know how you do it" reaction. We can't imagine ourselves having to do the things we see that other person doing. Yet if we were given those shoes to fill, we would put them on and walk. We would have no choice.
It's also easy sometimes to look at others and instead of thinking "I don't know how they do it" find ourselves thinking "What's their problem? They have it so much easier than I do." Maybe the person in question has a supportive, loving family or apparent financial security or talents we admire or the ability to be a stay-at-home mom (or conversely, to work outside the home) or an intact marriage or better health than we do or "model" children who do not challenge them at every turn. It may appear that they have a much easier row to hoe than we do. And yet we never see the whole picture of other peoples' lives. We truly can't know "how they do it" because we don't know the extent of what they are facing. Unless we know them very, very well, we only see the surface, and even then, we can't possibly know it all.
Each of us is a unique individual with our own place in the time-space continuum, living the life to which God has called us, the life that He will enable us to live by His grace. May we ever be thankful for that life and the blessings and trials that it brings, trusting in our Lord to sustain us through them all as we "ora et labora"--pray and work our way through each of our days, one grace-filled day at a time.
"In what You give us, Lord, to do,
Together or alone,
In old routines or ventures new,
May we not cease to look to You,
The cross You hung upon--
All You endeavored done."
LSB 853, "How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord" (Stanza 4)