Mom-101 wrote a great post (she does that a lot) about the myth of “doing it all,” which is what people like to say to women (mostly) as a sort of compliment, as in “how do you do it all?” It’s a compliment that I sometimes think translates to “jeezuz you look harried/exhausted and why are you so freaking compulsive and maybe you should just relax and probably you’re not really that much fun to be around.” One of the comments on the Mom-101 piece pointed out that there isn’t really a gracious way to respond to that question. Either you say “well yes in fact I am superwoman and it’s hard for me to be in the room with you mere mortals” or you duck your head and mutter that in fact it’s all done with smoke and mirrors and no one should get too close or the illusion will be destroyed.

But reading the Mom-101 post and the many comments started me thinking about that list…the list of the undone. The list that when you don’t get all the stuff crossed off, you flip to a new page but you carry over the stuff that didn’t get done from the day (week, month) before.

The list of the undone.  Yes, that’s right: it’s the list that won’t die. It’s the bags of clothes, intended for the Salvation Army, piled so high in the closet there isn’t any room for my shoes. It’s the skirt that’s been at the dry cleaners for three months; the beautiful linen napkins someone gave us that we’ve used once and now they’re dirty and have been in the laundry basket for…a year. It’s the class project–a beautiful tapestry of kids’ drawings made by a parent in Caleb’s kindergarten class–that we bought at last year’s school auction..and that’s still leaning against the bedroom wall because it can’t get hung up without these special hanger-thingys and of course we don’t have them, so I’m waiting for the hardware store to magically discover that I need those specific whatchamacallits and deliver them. It’s been a year and I think any day now the hardware store guy is going to show up.  And there’s just basic stuff–the orthodontist consult I need to schedule for Liam; the physical I need for myself; the wild mop of curls that has blossomed on Liam’s head and that needs to be trimmed lest someone mistake him for some kind of urban poodle.

The list of the undone haunts me–and everyone I know has her own list that won’t die, that seems to breed under cover of darkness.  Sometimes I think it’s just that I’m a working mom and that’s why the list flutters around me in the dead of night when I’m supposed to be asleep–but the moms I know who are “just” at home have their own sharp-toothed lists, too. I don’t know that anyone who is “doing it all” is, in fact, doing all of it, at all. (Notice that I’m not even mentioning, not even for a moment suggesting, that the Gwyneth Paltrowvian mom-chums at Goop have figured out how to have it all. Notice that I’m not even suggesting that “doing it all” is helped immeasurably by having a rather large staff that includes trainers, cooks, housekeepers, and a nanny or two).

Are we doomed to be haunted by the undone? Is the only form of exorcism here actually to get all that crap done?

What’s on your list of the undone?