At times I have been asked this very questions around five times a day! So, it got me thinking, what is this "coping" all about anyway?
Let's be honest we don't have a lot of choice in the matter. As a triplet mum, people are always asking me and parents just like me "gosh, how do you cope?!"
Just in case you were wondering, the Oxford dictionary definition of cope is "(Of a person) deal effectively with something difficult". Hmmmm.
My response? I really don't know what to say, what are they expecting me to say? Because the thing is, you just do. Coping just sort of happens. I get stopped in the street, the supermarket, in fact, everywhere. No matter what your circumstances, it's likely that you do too.
"How do you cope as a stay at home mum?"
"How do you cope working full time and having the kids?"
"How do you cope on your own with children?"
The list is endless.
Forgive me for being cynical, but I missed the part where you could choose what kind of family you are going to have. I mean, it's not as if there is a form to fill in at the doctors to request an easy life and straightforward transition into parenthood. "I'll have two easy to parent children please, approximately three years apart. Oh, also, no surprises, I want to be ready for everything."
You can't get up on Monday morning and think right I'm not going to be a parent this week I'll have a week off. At least, if this is possible, nobody told me.
Sometimes I find myself actually down playing what I do all day. I'm really not sure what people are hoping for when they do ask? Do they expect me to breakdown in the middle of the supermarket crying and shouting "I JUST CANT GO ON!".
It is likely that is just genuine curiosity, it's even possible that is a hidden compliment.
So I started thinking. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether I have been lying to everyone for the past four years, perhaps the reality is that I don't cope all the time. I'm very good at looking like I'm coping, delve a little closer and the inside of my brain is often just going "aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!".
Perhaps, that is the reality. We just cope in public. Because if you can find me a parent who has never shouted, or cried, or flopped on the bed at the end of the day thinking "I just can't carry on with this", then I will run round my village in my underwear. Coping isn't a 24 hour occupation. You can cope when they are awake and then do some reparative work to your soul when the kids are in bed.
So having established that as it turns out, it's unlikely that any of us cope all the time, it did get me thinking about how my crazy tribe have far more good times than bad. I have family, joy and yes, sometimes a bit of pain. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
So, as a parent be kind to your peers. In 10 or 20 years when your children are older and you see a new mum with toddlers or babies, loaded with shopping, don't ask how she copes, say something encouraging. Say you know how hard it is to have a young family. Tell her she's doing a great job. If the kids have odd shoes on and half their dinner over their face, tell her that she's doing a brilliant job.
This blog was first published at www.vestabirthandparenting.co.uk