I get asked this question a lot. I think no matter what your circumstances people are always curious how others live their lives. I know that I look at other families everyday and wonder how they do it.
I’m pretty sure I get the ‘how do you do it’ question a lot because I have three kids. Apparently I also get bonus points because they’re all boys. It would seem that once you pass the 2 child mark you open yourself up to a lot of speculation: Why have more kids than arms? Why have a baby when your other kids are done with diapers and sleeping through the night? Was the third a ‘whoops’? Are you nuts?
The questions come fast and furious once people realize I have three kids and that I went back to work when my youngest was one month old.
I thought it was time to share the answer to the age-old ‘how do you do it?’ question.
Are you ready for it…
I just do.
Sort of like the balanced stone sculptures. It doesn’t look possible for the rocks to stay upright let alone defy gravity and not topple over. But they do.
What I’ve realized is that we’re all balancing stones: some may look heavier, sharper; some people look like they have more in the air; others look like they’re just got one boulder. But stone sculptures, no matter how tall or complicated or how small and seemingly simple, still require balance and care. Sort of like life.
Two years ago I started building my photography business piece by piece. I am a hard worker (read: Type A) who dedicates myself 110% to whatever I do and even I have never worked so hard in my entire life. I have had the support of an amazing community of family and friends, other small business owners, and have made wonderful connections. I’ve also worked my proverbial ass off.
Because of all that hard work most days I want to throw my arms in the air, giant smile on my face, and celebrate everything that’s happened.
Other days I’m a bear. Thundering, grouchy, and mean, with an overwhelming desire to crawl into a cave and stay there, alone, for months. Nothing like the adorable little bear in the photo. He’s all sweetness and light: my bear self is dark and snarly.
My life looks a lot like these stone sculptures. Beautiful. Precarious. Strong. Impossible. Amazing. And ultimately with the ability to squash limbs and other body parts should the whole thing come tumbling down.
I was relieved when my husband told me that some of the artists used industrial adhesive to ensure that the sculptures last longer because there’s a lot of industrial adhesive holding my life together right now.
In other words: appearances can be deceiving.
I have a five month old and a four year old and a six year old. The 6 year old is at school for 7 hours a day and the 4 year old is gone for three hours. The four month old is always here. I also have a part-time nanny who comes two mornings a week to help out with the kids so I can schedule sessions and edit. Sometimes the littlest naps for two hours in the afternoons, which (some weeks) buys me another 10 hours of work time. The sometimes seems to be veering more and more towards occasional these days.
I have a beautiful family home that is neat and organized. It stays neat and organized because when I’m stressed out I tidy and I’m stressed out a lot of the time. It stays clean because we have a cleaner that comes once a week.
I have a husband who also works long hours but is able to work from home. He’s also a rock star parent who has the kids on his own on the weekends while I’m at shoots. He handles piano lessons and errands and general entertainment of the small people and also brings the littlest to me because someone has no interest in taking a bottle. That’s some ferociously strong adhesive right there.
I have parents who live around the corner and have been known to get kids off the bus, step in as emergency child care when a last minute shoot comes up, and (as my husband affectionately calls) engage in ‘random acts of food’.
Despite all the wicked awesome adhesive sometimes stones fall. Things get a little wet and messy. Sort of like the monkey’s pants when he’s anywhere near water.
But we manage to stay upright. Look relatively happy and find our way along this lovely path we’re creating for our family of five.
Did you want more answers? Hoping for some secrets? I suppose there are a few things that do make a difference in stopping the stone sculpture that is my life from toppling over.
It helps that my hobby and creative outlet is also my job. My creative energies are poured into my work, which means I’m not resentful of the fact that I don’t have time for other hobbies right now.
I used to run and swim and exercise. I miss it and I hate that it had to be sacrificed. Fall is the equivalent of Boxing week shopping for photographers; when I get through October then I’ll be able to sneak more time for myself. My husband snickers when I tell him this. But at least he does so quietly.
I don’t sleep a lot and right now I’m surviving on what sleep I get. One day I’ll have teenagers and I’ll make up for lost time in the sleep department.
My kids are friends with a lot of my friends kids, which means most of my social life plays out during day time play dates.
If I’m not editing or nursing the baby duck I’m not sitting down. There’s not a lot of reflective or ‘me’ time because if I’m not mothering or working or cooking I’m sleeping. I don’t watch TV. I read before bed every night and that’s it. I don’t have time to knit right now or have coffee with friends (unless there are small people in tow). I’m going flat out and dragging the damn stones behind me.
I’m no different than you are: we may not have the same number of kids; our careers and families might be vastly different. We may not have the same resources or support system. Our stone sculptures probably look nothing alike but we’re the ones who keep them from toppling over (somehow) and that’s all that matters.