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 parent—or a working parent—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.)
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.
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 …”
Share your experiences with surviving vs. thriving in comments.
P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.