why we need to stop asking, “how do you do it all?”

No more.


No more asking of the mom racing through the store chasing two toddlers and holding a baby on her hip while coupons fall from her once organized coupon collector (I’ve never done coupons, as an fyi. It could be called anything, really, I’m just making that term up. I think I just pay extra or full price and consider the time spent my coupon) how she does it all.

No more asking of the mom that works (like me) or travels or works and travels or works and commutes or works part time how she does it all when you see her Facebook status updates (and remember those updates are just a teeny glimpse of life).

No more asking of the mom that stays at home and juggles three kids and the laundry and the never ending cries of mo-ooo-oooo-oooo–ooom all day how she does it all when you come to her house and it’s crazy clean (because you might not have realized she just finished it and now she might think it always needs to be clean.)

How do you do it all?

The same way you’ve always done it.

One day, one moment, one week, one second after another.


There really is no choice in motherhood. There is not the luxury of waking up in the morning and deciding that today we’re not doing it all. There is the waking up, the pulling up the boot straps, the putting a smile on our face, the remembering to be grateful (or grumpy at times), and the being a mom. Not a perfect mom. Just a mom.

Sometimes I think that the how do you do it all? isn’t much of a compliment or a question.

Sometimes I have found myself defending myself in motherhood.

Oh I don’t do it all I’ll mumble while wondering if I’m doing too much or am not intentional or on and on. I just do what I have to do.

In fact, I’m not even sure that I understand the question of how do you do it all?

Sometimes when people ask me how I do it all I feel discouraged not encouraged. I start to wonder if I’m crazy. I start to think that there is too much on my plate. I start to look at my life with a lens ofΒ what in the world am I doing?Β In fact, I have no idea how to even answer that question. In fact, again, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think I just stare with that blank look of what?

It’s not a bad question. It’s just not a needed question.


We don’t do it all.

You mess up. I mess up. We forget the laundry in the washing machine. We yell at our kids when we told ourselves we’d only and ever listen. We are late. We get discouraged. We have super mom feeling days. We have days where we cry. We race around doing the same thing over and over. We function on no sleep.

It’s not everything.

There’s no finished to-do list in motherhood. Ever.

Do you know what there is?


There is the beauty of moms everywhere in this world loving on their kids and giving of themselves for them. Β Holding them when we want to sleep. Fighting for them when it feels like no one else is. Mothering them when the decisions are brutally hard and they are mad at you.

There is you.

Loving, giving, teaching, failing, and trying again.

You know what would be better question? Or statement?

Tell the mom how much she makes a difference in the lives of her kids. Tell her you appreciate how hard she works for them. Tell her that you noticed how awesome she was when she dealt with the screaming three year old who wanted the cheap $3.49 toy across from the cereal. Tell her that she looks like she’s happy. Yes, happy.

We don’t say that often enough, I think.

Life is not perfect. Nor will it ever be perfect. Nor will there be a day where you actually do it all because as you know by the end of the day there will be a new thing on your list of never ending busy things to do. But maybe, just maybe, you did exactly what needed to be done. Those non quantifiable things. Like the extra scoop of ice cream or the note tucked in the lunch box.

You won’t ever do it all.

Ever. Ever. Ever.

But you will be amazing.


Wait. You are amazing.

You change lives with all that you do. Even if it just feels like nothing. Even if it feels like you’re constantly trying to keep your head above water. Which, in case you are wondering, is about 98% of motherhood. The other 2% are the times where you sink, you have great friends who pull you out, and you carry on. Or have a good cry in the bathroom.

So before you ask how do you do it all to the mom at preschool who seems to have it together or the mom in the grocery store who actually coupons or to the mom at work who never has spit up on her shirt or the mom with multiples or well, anyone, step back and think about the question. When you ask the question are you questioning you? Are you wondering if you don’t have it all together? Are you comparing your life to the life of the mom you meet? Are you encouraging her with those words and that question?

Motherhood isn’t about perfection, doing it all, and achieving a gold star at the end.

It is a journey without the secret of doing it all, but is rather about being.

Being imperfectly perfectly beautiful in the most messy popsicle dripping spit up on the shirt yelling kids standing on the dock for one brief moment telling you everything will be okay kind of way.


And that? That is really doing it all.

And that? That is enough.

Carry on brave mother.

Who does enough.

Not it all, but absolutely perfectly enough.


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45 Responses to “why we need to stop asking, “how do you do it all?””

  1. July 7, 2014

    Candt Reply

    I got tears in my eyes reading this. It is so true! There are a lot of days I feel, am I doing enough. And you know what? Yes, yes I am doing enough-enough for the kids I love so very much.
    Thank you for these posts! They put life into perspective.

  2. July 7, 2014

    Katelynn Reply

    Beautifully said. Thank you. Every mom should read this. May I share a link of this on my blog?

  3. July 7, 2014

    Leslie Reply

    These words found their way to my eyes and my heart today. Just in time. Thank you.

  4. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing awareness regarding such an idiotic question. I have often wondered what people really want to hear when they have asked it. We are brave in motherhood. We are making hard choices every day. But that’s why it’s a vocation — not a job.

  5. July 7, 2014

    Leah Reply

    This made me tear up! I said it to a dear friend over the weekend when I couldn’t get my 1 son down for nap while camping, she has 3 boys, I said I don’t know how you do it, she shrugged. She just does. Live in the moment & be what you need to be & do what you need to do to be happy, the rest will wait. I compare myself to others too often & let my want for perfection cloud my judgement & get frustrated too easily. Needed this today, thank you!

    • July 7, 2014

      Melissa Reply

      You said it all when you said you compare yourself to others too often. I know I am guilty of that and am sure many others are too. I think that is why we have so many people “hating” each other for no reason and the whole basis of the mommy wars. We are too busy comparing ourselves to each other and wondering why our lives aren’t so perfect too. We are only seeing a glimpse of that other mom and have no idea what hey are feeling at that moment. Who knows if they are comparing themselves to you too! Just remember that!

  6. July 7, 2014

    Hylarie LeRette Reply

    This is so perfectly written! I get asked this question almost daily. I have four boys: 8, 4 and 17 month old twins. You’re so right in saying we just do it. It all has to be done. It’s a never ending job! Thank you for sharing this! <3

  7. July 7, 2014

    Melissa Reply

    I generally only get this question after I have mentioned what all goes on in my week or plans that we have. I always smile and say “oh I don’t!” Then again, I have a small circle of friends who know me very well and what I don’t get done so I guess they don’t have to ask πŸ˜‰

    • Yes! i’ve said that as well — “i simply don’t” — and then I just tell them i do what I have to do.

      Carry on brave mother. πŸ™‚

  8. July 8, 2014

    Tina Reply

    I remember being a single, working, student, Mother of one and being asked this question. I was dumb-founded as I never felt like an adequate mother (much less a good mother). My only response was, “I don’t have time to think about How I do it, I JUST DO it.” Now, many years later & a married mother of 3 biological kiddos & one “foster” I still just keep plugging away. I hope that in the end it will be (at least) “enough”. A few months ago I over heard someone ask my 14 y/o daughter, “Do you think you have a good Mom?” She replied, “I have a GREAT Mom.” I was not only shocked at the response but shocked at my response to it. And now, in this moment of reflection, I cry. Happy tears.

    Thank you for always being honest and lifting so many of us up.

    • Tina,

      Thank you for your comment and taking time to bless me with your words. Your story brought tears to my eyes this morning. Beautiful.


  9. July 8, 2014

    Ruth Ann Anthony Reply

    Thank you for words that are encouraging to the soul!

  10. July 8, 2014

    Jennifer Reply

    I am not a mother yet, BUT I am a two year old teacher at a daycare. I also did have my nephew with me and my husband at one time. There have been a lot of days where I feel like I have done everything wrong, like when I almost sent the nephew to school in P.J’s and it wasn’t P.J. day and days where I feel like a hero. Bottom line just do what you gotta do and keep your chin up.

  11. July 8, 2014

    Stacey Reply

    I love this so much! As a mom to 7, I get this question a lot. I’m not some kind of super woman. I do what I need to do and sometimes I do it wrong! It really ISN’T a needed question!

  12. July 8, 2014

    jodi Reply

    When I was 23 I had four boys, 6, 5, 2-1/2 & 1. I took them all to the pediatrician’s one day for a checkup. “Well,” he said, “you’re doing something right. They are all fine.” It was the first time, the FIRST TIME, someone told me I was doing right by my kids! It brings tears to my eyes even today and now I am 72. Never give up on telling moms they are doing well, every chance you get. My boys are grew to become fine men. They have had their issues, like all of us, but they are fine men. I must have done something right.

    • What an awesome pediatrician. That is so so cool.

      I love the power of telling each other what we’re doing right. powerful.


  13. July 8, 2014

    Jen Reply

    I’m so glad I found this post today, thank you for putting this into words for others to read. It made me cry. I get asked this question several times a week, and it always makes me feel like I’m hiding the truth when I just smile and shrug it off. Because I know I’m not “doing it all” in the light others see. I know my kids need me more. Between kids, running a business, recovering from cancer, if I stop I will crumble. So I keep going. Not doing any of it perfectly – except for unconditionally bring me to tears just thinking about it loving my kids so much.

    • Wow. Jen. You are awesome. Thank you for sharing how you keep going. Those are the types of stories that are powerful. There is no perfect. There is only real.

      With joy


  14. July 8, 2014

    Lynne Reply

    Hmmmm . . . . one tear – had to wipe tears three times while reading . . . . love, love this post! Have been a stay at home mom for most of son’s life – recently bought business and feeling guilty that I may loose the little valuable time I have with him before college . . . hmmmm . . . problem is in my mind . . . not his, others, or the universe:-)

    • Bless you Lynne. Thank you for your kind words. No feeling of guilt. Just be awesome.


  15. July 9, 2014

    Lauren Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have four kids, ages 6 and under, with my 3-year old battling cancer for three years now and special needs because of it. I get asked this question often, and it always makes me so uncomfortable. Perhaps people mean it as a compliment, but it only serves to drag up my insecurities and guilt because I know that I do NOT “do it all.” So all over again, in hearing the question and having to answer, I replay my failures and second-guess our family’s decisions for a hundred different things. “Are we doing the right thing for said daughter with cancer? I could always be cooking more healthy meals… Are we doing enough with the children’s education?” ad infinitum. So I love this post and your constant message: We don’t “do it all,” but we do “enough” and we ARE enough. (PS: I LOVE your blog. I’m always so encouraged!)

    • Thank you, Lauren. I appreciate your candid and honesty. And yes, yes, yes…we are enough. In fact. You are enough.

  16. July 10, 2014

    Vedette Reply

    So well said! As a mom of 4 that are now ages 12-17… I have gotten this question for years! I never know what to say. My kids are at 4 different schools, I work as a realtor and my husband travels frequently. I typically dress nicely for the day (mainly because I love clothes) but apparently it gives the false sense of having it “all together”. Especially moms with just one child seem to be particularly puzzled as to “how I do it all”. I always say .. “Well, it’s all what you’re used to I guess.”
    As a side note… I usually respond with “well, you should see my laundry room” or “don’t be too impressed… None of my beds are made.” Lol!
    Let’s face it…. We’re all in the same boat… Just trying to make it through the day!! Xoxo

    • Oh! I love the “we’re all in the same boat…just trying to make it through the day.” What a wonderful and gracious reply.


  17. July 10, 2014

    Angela Reply

    Thanks for the reminders of 98% time barely keeping one’s head above the water and 2% drowning, that being tired, no, nearly exhausted, all the time is normal! I only have one child so far and want many but at the end of the day, and again at 3am and again at 5:30am doubt if I could do it. I “know” motherhood is never easy but always at the end of the day wonder why I can never make the “perfect” days happen…Well I could go on, but I will just say keep up the good work, the rest of us Mamas need it!

  18. […] Why we need to stop asking, “how do you do it all?” ~ @ Finding Joy […]

  19. Thank you for naming that when people ask this question, I think in a back-handed attempt at encouragement and affirmation, it’s actually DIScouraging. I wrote a book last year, in the midst of mothering two little boys and expecting a third and working part-time. And people around me said this constantly – “I don’t know how you do it all!” Of course I didn’t, as you state so beautifully here. But what frustrated me even more is that this kind of statement seemed to belittle the own good work they were doing in their lives, as if I was living to a greater nth degree in some way. We each live moment to moment; we can only do the next thing; we are all given gifts to share with others. It’s when we keep our eyes on our own work, on the sliver we’re called to do, that we can keep going and build each other up. Which is exactly what you are doing for so many of us with your own words. Thank you!

  20. September 9, 2014

    Susan : ) Reply

    What a release of tears rolling down my face as I read this ….. especially after a long night of my son being ill. I can totally to relate to your expression of Momness! πŸ™‚

    I love following you blog! It always uplifts me!

  21. March 20, 2015

    Amy Reply

    Beautiful. Articles to end the mommy wars are a dime a dozen, but this one comes from the heart, and not a place of defensiveness like many do. Thank you for taking the time to be an encouragement to all of motherhood. I hate being asked how I do it all, too. I don’t do it all. No one does. We all have our skill sets and strengths and just because I excel in one area does not mean I excel at everything.

  22. well said. I have no idea why people ask this or what it is supposed to mean. There are so many other things you could say to that person.

  23. March 24, 2015

    Tina Reply

    What a lovely and well written piece of mother’s world. I love being a mother so much that I recently gave up my full time studies because I just could not manage being a mum and a stressful full time student. So being a mum was much more important for me. I now have a part time job, less money, but loving every minute with my son. I just cannot find words to describe how good it feels to wake up every morning with my son next to me.

  24. March 28, 2015

    Kathy Thompson Reply

    I was asked this many times in my younger years! No-one saw the ironing basket or weeds in the garden. And now as a 65-yr-old grandma. I ask myself the same question “How did I do it all?”

  25. April 3, 2015

    Victoria Beaulieu Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. I am crying — it spoke to the heart of me. Really needed to read this today. So beautiful.

  26. Just read your post about “How do we do it all?” And so agree… So could have written this these last few weeks..
    “Being imperfectly perfectly beautiful in the most messy popsicle dripping spit-up on the shirt yelling kids standing on the dock for one brief moment telling you everything will be OK kind of way.”
    Yes to this!!!

    So passionate about helping moms of young kids to learn from my hard earned gained wisdom and have more about this in a course I am writing just for moms…on how to ASK FOR HELP (getting us over the old feminist idea that we can do and be it all!) http://hollichristinemccormick.com/frumpy-to-fabulous-radiant-mama-in-21-days/

    One of the clearings we will be doing in our webinars (my 1st ever) will be clearing our blocks to asking for help and thinking we have to do it all ourselves! Upcoming webinar dates:
    June 17th & 24th at 12pm PST!

    sign up for the newsletter to be informed! http://www.hollichristinemccormick.com

    How do I womb-storm and collaborate with you Rachel???

  27. July 6, 2015

    Natalie Marx Reply

    Oh my goodness, yes. I so needed to read this today. Despite the fact that hundreds of times I’ve told myself, “I don’t do it all. I can’t do it all. I’m not supposed to do it all.” Even then, sometimes I still EXPECT myself to do it all. Good, good read, and like I said exactly what I needed to hear today. After a weekend of go-go-go from sun up to sundown, exhausted, frustrated for yelling at the kids for not listening/cleaning up, pregnancy hormones raging, and having to be at work at 6:30 this morning, I was basically ‘done’ before today even started – “I’m such a bad mom.” Thanks for reminding me that I’m a normal mom, and probably a good one, too.

  28. November 13, 2015

    Janet Reply

    I don’t understand why people are reading so much negativity into a question. Why do people ask? Out of respect and awe and admiration, usually, or because they feel inadequate since they aren’t the picture of accomplishment you appear to be to them and may hope you have a tip that would help them. Whenever people ask me something like that, I choose not to interpret it as a negative judgment, and seriously, it probably isn’t. I may say I don’t always or it’s not easy. It’s not just moms who get asked this question, by the way. Maybe it’s a question you don’t need but maybe it isn’t about you. It could be your togetherness is making THEM feel inadequate. At least someone is noticing your accomplishments and taking the time to recognize you or expressing concern that you have a lot on your plate. Not everyone gets recognition. Take the validation when you can get it and accept it with grace, or take it as an offense and be unhappy…it’s your choice.

  29. April 7, 2016

    Rachel Reply

    I hear this all the time from my parents… But in a way that does make me feel good because they mean it. They don’t know how I am able to do as much as I am. Between work, college, school, karate, a chronically ill child and another needing therapy, I don’t know how I do it all. But I do. I do because I have to. Because I know that it will get better. God always is there when I remember to turn to Him and seek Him and especially to trust Him. When I do, things like this happen. I come across your blog in my feed on FB and I have the time to stop and read it and low and behold, it’s what I need to hear. (It happens a lot with your blogs too BTW.)

    I try not to think about what I’m NOT doing and just remember that what I am doing is enough. Even though there is plenty of other stuff I should be doing, I’m doing the things that are important and that IS enough.

    As always, thank you!

  30. February 1, 2017

    Tamara Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to read these words today.

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