Work Life Balance

I Promise I’m Not The ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ Mom

By  | 

I almost dropped dead from shock the other week at the gym. A friend of a friend came up to me, asked if the kids are enjoying school, if my job is working out for me, if she’ll be seeing me at that party next week (the one we tired working moms schlep to because proceeds go to charity). Yes, yes and yes, I told her. “Wow,” she said. “And now here you are at the gym. I don’t know how you do it!”

I had to laugh. Had this woman seen me a mere 15 minutes earlier, surely she would have had me committed or, at the very least, staged an intervention. She would have found me at home, struggling to get out the door, screaming at my kids, tears streaming down my face as I searched frantically for my yoga mat. She would have heard me cry to hubby: “I am not superhuman! I just don’t get how I’m supposed to get out the door and to Bikram when the kids clearly want me and I still have two more posts to write today before midnight and we have zero food in our fridge?!”

In an attempt to be nice, he’d tell me that that’s life, that I have to prioritize, to which I’d lose my shit on him and say: “So, tell me, then, what’s my priority at this exact moment: the kids, work or my health-slash-sanity?” Then we’d bicker and I’d run out the door and get to Bikram all shaky and teary-eyed and more stressed than when I first contemplated going. Class would begin and the instructor would throw out terms like, “Set your intention,” and “Clear your monkey mind,” and I’d think, “Yeah, thanks, honey. Clearly you’re not a mom!” (Soooo anti-yoga of me, I know.)

Ah, good times.

My point is that 99 percent of the time I am the polar opposite of the “I Don’t Know How She Does It” mom – despite what yoga mom thought. I have it really good: healthy kids, an involved husband, a stable job, help with childcare, friends. Life is actually fantastic. And, yet, I can’t seem to get it together. My mind is constantly racing in 100 different directions and I’m always feeling guilty, as if I should be somewhere else. This is the plight of the working mom.

It’s no wonder Hollywood execs have made a film on this exact subject. The much-anticipated I Don’t Know How She Does It  finally hits theaters tomorrow and I can just imagine the hordes of working moms who’ll skip out of work early to get in line. It stars Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays a businesswoman who loves her job but who struggles to balance the demands of work with her children, husband and, well, her sanity. (Oh, don’t we know it!)

Look, the movie will probably suck. Or it could be awesome. No matter. The title alone is enough to attract every female on the planet and to get the whole “work-life balance” discussion going once more, which is a good thing. Because, as well all know, appearances can be deceiving. The mom in heels at school drop-off – you know, the high-powered attorney with the perfect blow-out and Shellac manicure who you secretly want to be – is probably struggling. Ditto the Lululemon-clad mom who’s off to the gym before picking up child number two who’s in half-day kindergarten.

In other words, the “I Don’t Know How She Does It” mom doesn’t even exist. And if you think she does, you’re either blind or stuck in high school (you know, when you truly thought the popular girl had no problems).

This all reminds me of a little photo shoot that took place the other week at my house. I was quoted in a back-to-school advice piece in The Globe and Mail, and so a photographer came by to snap a shot of the kids and me to run along with the story. The photo, which you can see here, shows us all looking relaxed and joyful.

Let me just say that 10 minutes prior to the the photographer arriving, my kids were in the bathtub having total meltdowns. That was the one day my two-year-old decided not to nap, and so he was an emotional, overtired mess. My five-year-old got a nose bleed, which turned the bath water bright red (traumatizing!). They refused to let me brush their hair, refused to put on “nice” clothes (vs. Cars pajamas), refused to do anything other than scream and cry and trash my house. I bribed them with ice cream, licorice, gum. “Please just smile for the camera, guys, and you can have anything you want, including extra TV time!”

I now have a perfectly polished photo to show for it, that will no doubt have at least a handful of Globe and Mail readers thinking, “I don’t know how she does it.” If only they knew…