“I Don’t Know How You Do It”

Working moms, has anyone ever said to you, of your life with a job and a family, and possibly school or whatever else you do– “I don’t know how you do it?”

Scratch that. It’s not a question. I know you’ve heard that before.

These people mean well. And hey, I’m certainly not complaining. It’s a compliment, really. It means they respect you and the things you have accomplished. But although I’m appreciative of their admiration, I can’t help but think that they don’t exactly understand.

I was chatting with a friend this week and we somehow got talking about traveling, and I was telling him about the trip I took to Belize to do dental work. He leaned back in his chair and looked at me and said, “I don’t get how you’ve done so many things with your life, in spite of the fact that you have a kid.”

It was a compliment, but, well… he doesn’t quite get it, does he?

We don’t do things in spite of the fact that we have children. We do things because we have them.

I finished dental school and travel and write and do all the other things I’ve done (and all of the things I want to do) because I want to be the kind of woman my daughter wants to be when she grows up. I want her to respect me and look up to me and basically just think that I am really, really cool. I want to be her biggest role model. I want her to be proud of me.

And most of all, I want her to have all the opportunities I’ve had, and more.

Being a single mom does make having a career more difficult and complicated, I certainly won’t argue with that.  But Caroline isn’t some impediment that I’m trying to work around– she’s the reason and motivating factor behind everything I do.

When I graduated from dental school (at last), I wrote that Caroline was not an obstacle to my achievement, but my biggest motivation and the reason I never lost sight of my goal. And I think that’s how it is for all of us who choose to take on both a career and motherhood simultaneously. Being a parent, and to a greater degree, a single parent, should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream.

It should be the reason you do.

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  2. by Kathryn

    On January 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    LOVE THIS! I am a single working mom who adopted my son from foster care.
    I hear: “I don’t know how you do it!” ALL the time.
    To begin with, I chose this. It was my choice to adopt as a single woman.
    This past year, I began singing in a choral group again. Once a week, I go and sing for two hours. My son fusses when I leave but I need to do it for my mental health and my enjoyment. Plus, I want him to see that I am a well founded person with hobbies, too.

  3. by Ryan

    On January 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Julia, that was so well said. “But Caroline isn’t some impediment that I’m trying to work around– she’s the reason and motivating factor behind everything I do.”
    As someone who struggles daily with the decision to have or not have children, I appreciated this insight very much.

  4. by Christi

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

    THANK YOU for summing this up! This article was great and what I wish I could say to EVERYONE, because I hear this from EVERYONE! Thanks again!

  5. by Jami Van Brocklin

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:18 am

    If it was not for having my daughter, who is now 10 yrs. old, I may not even be alive. I was in a very abusive marriage to my ex, and once I found out I was pregnant, that changed my life forever! I finally had the strength and the smarts to get out of the marriage, divorce him, and become a strong and successful woman! I started nursing school when I was 4 mos. pregnant with my daughter, and eventhough I had road blocks (such as being a high risk pregnancy with placenta previa and having to be dismissed from nursing school until I had her due to doctor’s orders), I had a lot of support from some of my family members and also my nursing school! The nursing director and all the teachers were so proud of me and they knew how much being a nurse meant to me eventhough I was doing it while being a pregnant and going through a divorce. They allowed me to take an incomplete and gave me time to have my daughter and wait a few months after she was born to return right where I was and finally get through school. I graduated a month before my daughter turned 2 yrs. old and 2 days after I turned 25 yrs. old! I did it ALL because of my daughter and FOR my daughter! Now she’s 10 yrs old, and I’m remarried to a good man and we have a 2-1/2 yrs. son. I’ve had my nursing license since 2004 (LPN) and now I’m back in school working on my RN! My children will always be the reason why I push myself so hard. I hear the same thing from people, “I don’t know how you do it!” I’m married, a mom of 2, in school full time for my RN, work as a LPN part-time, run a Girl Scout troop, do freelance photography and freelance web design on the side, plus I maintain our home, do most of the cooking, do crafts and events with our kids, run all our errands, and on top of that, I’m a wife to a disabled Iraq War vet suffering from PTSD, who is also in the National Guard and preparing for another deployment for a year! It’s tough…but I would not change anything in my life…except for maybe getting a few more hours of sleep! LOL

  6. by Nicole Howard

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:18 am

    This is a great article and just in time for me. I am a working mother of four. Actually in management at my company and I get that saying all the time. Someone said that to me yesterday and I wondered if it was a compliment or a slight. Do they mean I don’t know how you do it so well. I have always searched for an appropriate response. I usually smile and say- By the Grace of God. Thanks for sharing!

  7. by Tabbi

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:49 am

    So true! As a mom of 4,I hear it all the time. now granted I get the pleasure of being a stay at home mom, but I do run a daycare 3 days a week & have my own at home business selling various sewing/embroidery crafts. Prior to this I did work nights for a police dept as a single mom. I was often asked how do I do it, but the answer was & still is easy…for my children.

  8. by Gulia

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:52 am

    i loved this artilce , thank you so much! i am trying to go back to school, and i thought it was sooo difficult now that i am a mom…. after reading it i am sure i will DO it i will go to school.

  9. by Gloria

    On January 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Completely agree! I decided to get my master’s after my daughter was born. It was always something I considered, but she gave me the motivation to better myself and me the kind of mom she deserved. I dedicated my thesis to her.