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  1. Christine Bacas Tutor says:

    This is the best post I’ve read all year!

  2. MissHannah says:

    My boyfriend is a single father. Trust me, he gets told “I don’t know how you did it.” all the time.

    1. MissHannah says:

      Especially in his situation, it is heartbreaking. And he always pauses and says, I just did. I don’t know how.

      1. Hannah, thank you for sharing your perspective. It can feel so lonely to be on the receiving end of that statement. I’m sad that it happens to dads too.

  3. I guess I’m weird. I love hearing ” I don’t know how you do it.” It makes me feel like a super-hero. Like I’m so supremely awesome that someone else can’t even fathom how I do it let alone actually do it themselves. I always take it as a compliment, is it supposed to be bad?

    1. Meradith, thank you for sharing your perspective. You’re not weird! I have a close friend who feels the same way you do. It’s certainly a healthy attitude to take it as a compliment and go about your day, compared to getting your feelings hurt and firing off a blog post about it, ha!

      I have a theory: If you have any underlying guilt or shame or embarrassment or regret about your parenting or life choices, someone saying “I don’t know how you do it”, usually accompanied with a head shake, plays off that underlying emotion. For example, as a divorced mom, I would hear this phrase quite a bit. I was still dealing with some guilt and feelings of failure for being a now-single mom and putting a child through the unfortunate situation of shared custody – so hearing that phrase played right into those emotions for me. I felt like my differences were being highlighted, like I was alone, like the other person couldn’t put themselves in my shoes.

      I’ve heard from single moms, parents with blended families, and parents
      of multiples that they have a similar reaction as I do to that
      statement. But I also know many people like you – and one of my best friends – take this as a compliment. And I know many people who say it mean it as a compliment. My goal was just to share how the phrase might come across to some people.

      I’m really glad you took the time to share your feelings about this. Thank you!

  4. I get that a lot because I have some chronic illnesses that requirement to wear a needle in my body all the time (two actually). “I don’t know how you do it.” “I could never do that.” “I don’t know how you stay so strong.” I just take a clue from Jurassic Park and say… “Life finds a way.” So, certainly stop saying this phrase but if someone says it to you, there’s my come back to share. :)

  5. My daughter’s father moved across the country for the duration of my turbulent pregnancy. To be fair, the pregnancy was unplanned and residing in Florida had been a dream of his that he’d been working toward for over a year.
    As a young, single, terrified, lonely mother-to-be, I was told DAILY:
    “I don’t know HOW you do it!”
    Putting such energy in to staying strong and positive, that line was like a dagger through my heart (albeit, hormones may have played a role). It was only when I heard those words that I pitied myself. My gut reaction: “I DIDN’T REALIZE I HAD A CHOICE!”

  6. I use this saying all of the time… not with any hidden meanings but out of amazement of how some mothers really can do what I can’t imagine being able to. I’m a mother of one, know my limitations in regard to patience & will – so for me when I see multiple kids all thriving, involved & happy – I will forever say “I don’t know how you do it” because… quite honestly – I don’t!

  7. Hmmm. I’m always flattered but respond with humility “Just doing what we all do. *smile*”

  8. I hate hearing it because honestly it means I am surviving. Most people say it because I am juggling my 3 older kids while taking care of my sick youngest child with a husband who is in the military and rarely home. I do it because I have to. I do it because four beautiful children depend on me. But it is the phrase I hate the most.

  9. I’m not sure how ‘You are awesome’ is better. It’s still a judgement upon a parent. All of the above stuff (oh if only they knew how I bribed my kid or forgot to do the laundry…) still would apply. .It’s a great example of how what you think of something someone says just as much about where you are at as where they are at. A gulf exists not because they alone put it there (or put it there at all) but also because you are contributing to it.

  10. I also take offense to it because it really is a slight. Its that persons way of saying “My life is so much better than yours” or “sucks to be you” or “better you than me” or “I would hate to do what you’re doing”. – A good comeback would be saying the same thing back “No..i don’t see how YOU do it”. – Turn it right back on them

    1. Since hearing that people get offended, I have stopped saying this phrase. However, I used to say it to people and I never meant it as a slight. Honestly I said it when I was super impressed that people could handle 3, 4, or more kids and do it with such grace when I felt like I was falling apart with my two. I never thought “sucks to be you”. Anyone I said that to, my thought was always “wish I could be more like you”. I don’t know what to say now that won’t offend so I don’t say anything but I always meant it as a compliment in the past.

      1. Miss Becca says:

        Sarah, I’m right there with you! There are so many mommas that I’m totally impressed by. Even the ones who may not look like they ‘have it all together’ every moment of the day. Motherhood/parenthood is so much more than the Pinterest perfect moments. Motherhood, beautiful as it is, doesn’t always look pretty and it definitely isn’t easy. It’s messy (physically, emotionally, mentally).

        Every time I said ‘I don’t know how you do it’ is because I was watching and trying to figure out some day how I’d be able to handle moments like that if I was blessed to have kids. I sincerely meant it as a compliment then and I still do now that I’m a momma myself.

  11. I feel like a loser when someone says to me I don’t know how you do it. It means I have a life and they are def not envious of it

  12. It makes me feel like a loser with a loser life when someone says this to me.

  13. Miss Becca says:

    Like some of the other commenters, I have never been offended by this comment. I always have felt it is a compliment and have take it as such. I’ve never felt someone meant it as a judgement. Maybe I haven’t lived enough yet?

    After reading the article, I may choose not to say it so as not to offend others or create awkwardness…but sadly it makes me feel like I should never say anything unless I have 20-30 minutes of a heart to heart with another momma so I can define/explain exactly what I mean so it’s not taken as an insult, jab, judgement, or huge chasm creator. However, for mommas that kind of time is rare.

    So many things that are said seem to be taken as judgements or things that make someone ‘feel’ small — even ‘you’re awesome” or “share with me how do you handle ______?” What if they don’t ‘feel’ they’re doing a good job when you say “you’re doing a good job, momma” or “you’re awesome”? What if they don’t know how to respond to that?

    My prayer is for all the mommas who are working so hard to be good mommas yet feeling like they are missing the mark each day (like 99% of mommas do!), that they can come to see the successes along with the ‘failures’. For those whose plate is overfilled with responsibilities, that they may be granted permission in their hearts to offer themselves grace for not being perfect. And that all mommas can offer that same grace to others who don’t always say the perfect words to them.

    I’ll add, although I might not be offended by the phrase in your article, there are other things I have been offended by. As I’m writing my response, I realize I need to take my own words to heart and offer that grace to specific people in my life too. If I do this, I think I’ll have more interior freedom and peace.

  14. I have 9 children and those words as well as many others have passed from the lips of others. When they are trying to peg me as a super mom, I tell them that they deal with the same stuff I do.