You could survive, but that’s not the same as thriving

You could survive, but that’s not the same as thriving

An old pet peeve of mine is when people say, “I could never do that!” in response to someone saying they’re in the middle of doing that very thing. Personally, I get it most frequently when I say that I homeschool my kids, that my own child had cancer, or when I share that I’m a stay-at-home mom (part of the time) or a working mom (part of the time).

My knee-jerk reaction is always the same: Of course you could. If you ever found yourself in a situation where homeschooling was the only good option for your child, you could do it. If your kid got really sick, you would figure out a way to deal with it. If your family really needed a stay-at-home mom–or a working mom–for a season, I feel confident that you could figure it out. You would survive. (Related: this conversation always reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was full of pithy quotes on this very subject.)

A Woman Is Like a Teabag | Eleanor Roosevelt

She’s a wise one, that Eleanor. 

But I learned something the hard way this summer. There’s a big difference between surviving and thriving.

Because of various oddities of our calendar (and our caregivers’ calendars), I spent a lot more days on stay-at-home mom duty this summer than usual. And I survived: it’s been a good summer. But it doesn’t feel like thriving, and it’s not coming easy for me.

I’ve been trying to think through the reasons for this. A lot of it has to do with being off routine. I thrive on consistency (even though I fight it) and our summer schedule has been erratic due to travel and such. My kids also love routine; I have one child who needs it desperately. We’ve all missed it.

I suspect my struggle to thrive also has a lot to do with my personality. I find it fascinating that Penelope Trunk claims that ESFJs and ISFJs are most suited to staying home with kids. Whether or not she’s right, I am neither.

Bloom Where You're Planted | Mary Engelbreit

Do I think that most people could find a way to bloom where they’re planted, to learn to live a full, even joyous life in tough (or tough-for-them) circumstances? Probably. I hope so.

But will I be a lot more gracious the next time someone says to me, “I could never …”

You betcha.

Share your experiences with surviving vs. thriving in comments. 

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79 comments

  1. Emerald says:

    I kick butt at survival mode, not so much in thrive-al mode. I will find myself on the brink of edging out of survival and not know what to do next now that the dust has settled. Inevitably I start out thinking I need just a day or two to catch my breath and then a week later realize that I’m just rolling around in indolent nothingness rather than taking advantage of the mini-break the Universe has sent my way. Then the wheel turns and my number comes up again for the next situation and I end up kicking myself for not make the most of that mini-break. This is the perfect post for me today, my day one after a summer of survival. What does thriving me to me and how to I make that happen? Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Paula says:

    When my husband passed away five years ago, people said similar things to me quite a bit. I have to admit it was not the most encouraging thing for a new widow with a 11yo and 4yo to hear. But, it’s not like I had a choice. I did it. And for a long time I was just surviving. I think I’m only now on the road to thriving, but it takes a lot of work. It’s definitely an intentional thing for me that I have to strive for. It doesn’t just come easy.

    • Karlyne says:

      You do survive when you have to, don’t you? When there are kids involved and you’re responsible for them, there really is no choice, as you said, Paula. I’m so glad that you put in the work and can see some thriving ahead!

    • Anne says:

      Oh, Paula. I can only imagine what people said to you. No, you didn’t have a choice, and I’m so happy to hear that you feel like you’re actually on the road to thriving now. What a road it must have been these past five years.

  3. Sarah says:

    Is it weird that I feel like I’m only thriving when I’m pushed to my limit and barely surviving?

    That’s weird right.

    I’ve mentioned I’m an ENFJ right 😉

  4. Kara says:

    Your post, especially the intro paragraphs, really resonated with me. Two years ago we moved our family to China because of my husbband’s job. We decided it was a good move for his career and a good thing for our family. Many, many people said “oh I could never do that” or my favorite, “I could never do that to my family” (ouch!) We do love our extended family, but we decided we were called to move overseas. I think most people could do it, whatever “it” might be, if they had to. By the way, we are thriving!

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