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  • Writer's pictureEmily Echols

How do you do it?

A few days ago Big Brother was playing in the alley with the little girl who lives behind us. I was chasing Little Brother and talking to the little girl’s parents. My husband left for training a few days ago. I said, “We’ve lived here for ten months and he’s been gone for three of them.” Then my neighbor asked, “How do you do it?”

I was so confused. She’s in the Army. Her husband used to be in the Army. What do you mean how do I do it? Don’t you do it, too? Isn’t this your life as well? What a weird question.

Once I got over the strangeness of it, I decided she really was waiting for an answer. My first thought was to say something flippant, “Coffee and Jesus” or “Wine- lots of wine,” but I don’t drink coffee or wine and she seemed to actually be asking. So then I tried to think of a serious answer. “Lots of support,” or “Great friends,” or something that seemed like the right answer but neither of those are true. I’m just now starting to make good friends here. I don’t have that kind of support system, not yet anyway.

Time passed while I tried to think of an answer. She eventually stopped looking at me that way, a mixture of concern and awe, and I went to chase after Little Brother before he ran into the road.

Often I feel like I’m not very good at talking to people. I feel that way a lot around these neighbors. Our kids like to play together and they’re super nice folks but I just don’t know what to say to people I don’t already know really well. I spent way too long trying to read her to figure out what kind of response she was looking for. What was she actually asking? What did she expect me to say? Was there a right answer? I don’t think most people do that. Most people just open their mouths and words come out, words that haven’t been agonized over.

Often when I’m in a situation like that, if you give me a couple days and a pen and a yellow legal pad, I can come up with the perfect response. But even now, a few days later, I still don’t have an answer to her question.

I don’t know. I just do it.

We’re very scheduled. Every day we have a plan. We can’t stay at home all day. We have to go somewhere in the morning every single day to prevent insanity. In the afternoon we need to go to the park or do a craft or take extra long baths or bake cookies or something. If we don’t have a plan, the day never ends.

Some days, OK almost every day, I hide in the kitchen at 4:00pm. It's the hardest time of the day. By then, I'm ready for the relief parent to swoop in and help me. But the relief parent isn't coming. So I hide in the kitchen and mindlessly scroll through Facebook for about ten minutes and pretend I can’t hear whatever is going on in the living room. I just zone out. I look at friends’ vacation photos, pictures of their kids, read funny status updates, take silly mental_floss quizzes. Then I return to my children, resembling a human being again.

During nap time I write. I try to fix the nonsense that is the Baker’s sequel. I pick writing prompts from Pinterest, set a timer, and write until I hear the beep. Sometimes I keep going even after the beep. I write short stories. I write blog entries that I never ever publish because they never feel right or done because sharing is hard when you’re four and you have a little brother and it’s still hard when you’re thirty-three.

I try to get outside with the kids as much as possible. Saturday morning we went for a hike in the rain with Hike It Baby. Last week, every afternoon it wasn’t raining we walked to the park.

Once or twice a day I stand in the pantry and eat one or two dark chocolate-covered almonds. I stand there, chewing my almonds and breathing, in the dark.

Are any of these actual coping strategies? Maybe getting outside a lot is. The other ones not so much. This is why no one has ever asked me to write this article for Ladies Home Journal. But that’s all I have.

Is that my answer? I still don’t know. How do you do it?

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