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How Do I Do it All? Easy, I Don’t

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

By Jennifer E. Rizzo

Not a week goes by without someone asking me, “How do you do it all?”

The question used to make me a little uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like I “did it all.” I felt more like a failure.

For years, I had neglected things like household chores so I could do what I loved. I’m an ultra-marathon runner, and I love to read. I’m an avid crafter and am always making something. I knew I needed to do these things to feel whole, but I was constantly left feeling guilty because of the things left undone.

I used to think that to be a successful woman and a good mom and wife, I needed everything – a career, a spotless house, happy kids who never eat processed sugar or dyed foods, a blissful and harmonious marriage, and a rocking figure along with the perfect wardrobe.

Then, a few years ago I had a little bit of a breakdown. I was trying too hard to do all the things and when I couldn’t, I would beat myself up mercilessly. I knew I wanted to be happy, but I just didn’t know how.

After that, I made a lot of changes. I worked hard with my therapist, and after a lot of trial and error reorganizing my life, I finally realized that I knew the secret to “doing it all,” all along.

Now, when people ask me how I do so much, I have an answer: How do I do it all? Easy. I don’t.

I prioritize the things that I need to do to make sure my family thrives. These are the things that make us happy. And all that extra stuff? If it doesn’t add to our quality of life, I ignore it.

What I call “the extra stuff” are things that social media and intrusive family members used to make me think I had to do. But now I realize that to me, they are unimportant, and I’ve also realized they’re not important to others. There are a lot of things I consciously choose not to do​​—like ever. By neglecting those things, I’m able to do the other things I care about.

For example, I really don’t care if my kids’ school clothes are wrinkled, so I don’t iron them. I am terrible at keeping my drawers and other storage spaces organized, and you know what? I don’t give a shit how my linen closet looks. I’m able to function rather well like this and my kids seem fine, too—even with messy drawers and unironed shirts.

Don’t get me wrong: if you really like cleaning and it gives you joy, then you go right ahead and clean. My neighbor loves cleaning. It makes her happy. For her, cleaning is a meditative act, like running is to me. My mother-in-law might care about them, and it might drive her crazy that I seem to always have messy kitchen drawers, but my family is doing just fine with a little bit of clutter.

Obviously, there are things I have to do every day that don’t give me joy, like laundry so my kids don’t stink or picking up my dog’s poop during a walk. These are things all functioning humans must do. But then there are all the extra things, like regularly cleaning the coffee maker. Who does that? I’m sure someone does and maybe it makes that person really happy—I’d just rather run fifty miles. So now I do.

The moral of the story is this: if you want to do more things that make you happy, do less of what doesn’t. Don’t do something just because you think someone else expects you to. Don’t let other people pressure you into doing things you care nothing about, and that don’t add value to your life or the lives of your children and partner. Choose to do something that makes you and your family happy instead.

That’s the secret to doing it all.


Jennifer E. Rizzo writes about parenting, running, and history. She is an avid ultramarathon runner, crafter, and mom to two humans and one dog.