Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Some variant of this question appears weekly in my life whenever I venture out into public with the kids. My standard response is, “Some days I don't."
But all humor comes with a grain of truth. There have been times when the very edges of every day were brimming with the possibility of failure. I’d get to the end of the day and the list of what I didn’t do or get to or finish was so long I’d ache. Maybe if I worked harder, worked smarter, worked better and the systems and the plans and the lists would start in earnest and things would improve. I’d try for a day or so, and then reality would crash back down like the high waves against the shore, eroding my resolve and all those fine proposals for improved success.
“How do you do it?” someone would ask, and then add, “God doesn’t hand off anything He doesn’t know you can handle.” and I’d chafe internally big time because I could easily rattle off six or seven times from the past three weeks when I knew I wasn’t handling it as well as God would want, that’s for certain.
Moreover, there were moments when I wanted to not handle it. I didn’t want to do laundry every day. I didn’t want to do and do and do and do. There were days when I so wanted to just chuck the homework out the window of the car as we drove back home because getting home would mean having to stand over people and nag them to read, to do their math, to color the right things and memorize their tables. There were days when I didn’t want to do the bedtime routine even though I knew it made things easier. Bath, teeth, story, prayers, bed. I just wanted to go teeth, and then bed! Maybe even just bed!
But God gives me all of these people with their disparate needs so that I would recognize others are always paramount. God gave me these people because absent their presence, I would not submit. Sometimes I would find grace to do this and other times not. The necessary-ness of the actions themselves, like rote prayer, would prevent me from spending every day wallowing in my own world disconnected from all other souls, lost in the words and the mind and the self.
The cacophony of their silliness, of their instant wants, of their “HiMomCanItellyouaboutmyday?” that results in a run through of their school schedules from 7:55 to 2:45 every day only to be followed by the breathless, “What’s for snack?” is a form of sublimation. That they want to tell me every day is music to my ears; though sometimes, I concede, I cannot hear it above the jostling for seats and immediate list of things needed from the store, desired dinners and planned activities for the next eight waking hours.
I still fantasize about a day ending before 10:30 p.m. with respect to all under the age of 18, and it may one day happen. However, those over 18 will think, now’s the time to visit with Mom, and I still won’t get to sleep.
“How do you do it?”
Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, things get hard and I rail at God, “I can’t do this. It’s too much. I feel like I’m supposed to deal with the leftover 12 baskets of loaves and fishes and the enormity of the task is too great. I can’t do it.” To which God responds with something of a smile, “You're right, Sherry.” and I’m left to recognize that all Christ asks of me is a willing free heart for others. Our Lord doesn’t need the socks or the dishes or the mopped floors or the finished homework. He needs his sheep that I’ve been given to manage to know him, to love him and to want to serve him.
How do we do it?
Smile and plunge into it. Keep going. Hold on to that great peace that Christ gives, and share it with the children. Pray whenever worry strikes.
But sometimes the question resonates in areas of my psyche I didn’t expect. “How do you do it?” On those days, when I mean, “Some days, I don't.” the grace of those days is that I’m reminded of the deeper reality — that I never did any of this without God, and that without God, I can’t do this at all.