What Moms Really Mean When We Say 'I’m Fine'

by Mary Katherine
Yagi Studi / Getty Images

One of my favorite memes on the internet is of a dog, drinking a cup of tea with a fancy little hat on his head. He is just sitting at the kitchen table wearing a dumb grin, and the room around him is in flames.

“This is fine,” he says.

And it’s freaking hilarious to me. I seriously relate to that dog on such a spiritual level. As a perpetually exhausted mother with two small children, I often feel like my life is a series of small fires, requiring my emergent attention. I wake up to the sound of crying children, I lie down to the sound of crying children, and everything in between closely resembles herding cats.

I’m not complaining. This is the life I chose. I always wanted to be a mother, and now I am one. I am grateful for this life, and I love my children with every fiber of my being. But like most mothers I know, I am also perpetually exhausted, emotionally stressed, and mentally worn down to a nub. Parenthood is such a strange dichotomy. My cup is overflowing, but I’m also at the end of my rope. This is my reality, and I’m good with it.

But it also means I’m not sure how to respond when people ask how I’m doing. I mean, what exactly do they want know? The whole truth? Pleasant details only? How much are they ready to hear?

How am I doing?

Well, I’m a mother. I’ve had an average of four hours of sleep for the last three years, and I can’t remember the last time I washed my hair. My largest pair of blue jeans wouldn’t button this morning, and the baby’s diaper just blew out in her car seat.

How am I doing?

I tried scraping that poop out of her car seat with a Starbucks napkin, and the napkin tore. I would’ve used a wet wipe, but the last one was used cleaning a huge dried booger off my purse. Poop and boogers, all over my life.

How am I doing?

My husband and I are two ships passing in the night. We are Tag Team Parents, high-fiving each other in the hallway as we divide and conquer these little humans. At the end of the night, we crash into our beds, exhausted. Too exhausted to talk. Way too exhausted to be intimate. And even if we weren’t that tired, I was covered in boogers and poop all day. How am I supposed to feel sexy after that?

How am I doing?

Having a family of four ain’t cheap. I wake up each morning acutely aware that little humans rely on me for literally everything in their lives. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe, wipe their butts, and pay for their college. College. Just speaking that word out loud makes my palms sweaty.

But how am I doing? Do you really want to know?

I’m fine.

It’s just that “fine” has a new meaning now.

Ask any mom what we mean when we say “I’m fine,” and we will tell you.

“Fine” means that we are living the life we have always dreamed of, but it’s costly. We know what an incredible privilege it is, being the steward of these little souls, but at times it feels so heavy. “Fine” means that sometimes we don’t recognize the woman in the mirror because every single thing about her has changed. But this is what we wanted. This is the life we chose.

“Fine” means that being a mom is hard as hell, and from the outside looking in, it probably looks as though our lives are up in proverbial flames. I mean, they kinda are.

But despite what motherhood costs us, despite how hard it is, we are grateful.

“Fine” means we totally relate to that little dog, surrounded by flames, grinning ear to ear in his silly little hat.

Because this exhausting, chaotic life is everything we ever wanted.

This is exactly where we want to be, and we are fine.

This is fine.