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  • Dr. Roseanne Lesack

Doing the Best with What You’ve Got

The morning started off rough. I slept through my alarm and my daughter was in a particularly bad mood, causing us to leave our house late. Picking up the other riders in our neighborhood carpool was like molasses; one couldn’t buckle, one refused to leave the house, and no one was excited to fill up every available seat in my minivan. And of course, there was horrific traffic.

Morning carpool was generally unpleasant as the chauffeur of seven children spanning grades kindergarten through 8. Each morning, there was usually someone complaining about something: the radio wasn’t on the right station, someone was being super annoying in the third row of seats, how come I didn’t stop by the drugstore like one of the other dads who always stopped by the drugstore to buy the carpool ice cream before school (who does that!?)?

This particular fall morning, the loudest of the bunch was the third-grade boy. He was on the verge of a panic attack because we were going to be late to school. I tried over and over to reassure him that I was going as fast as I could while ensuring everyone’s safety. But clearly that didn’t work. The rest of the carpool kept getting on his case, as they were more than happy to show up late to school. But to no avail. He continued to complain and grew even more agitated as the time on the clock approached the ringing of the first bell.

Finally, the elder stateswoman of the car (the 8th grader), turned around and snapped, “You know, Roseanne is doing the best with what she’s got!” I felt vindicated. I replied, “Thank you, I am doing the best with what I’ve got!”

But after a few moments of consideration, I realized that if this was indeed a compliment, it was a backhanded one at best. It did however, perfectly reflect that current state of my life. I was doing the best that I could given the circumstances of the moment.

It has been a few years since that memorable carpool morning and I often find myself referencing that saying. In fact, it has become my go-to mantra during times of stress. Sometimes I say it to my children, when I can’t take them to an after-school event because I have a work conflict. Or sometimes I say it to myself when I don’t get everything done at work because I have a school meeting. At times, I even mumble it to my husband, as I try to navigate being a working adult, a mother, and, oh yeah, a spouse. When wearing so many different hats throughout my day-mother, wife, psychologist, daughter-I can only do so much in a single 24-hour period.

Doing the best with what I’ve got helps alleviate my guilt for not getting enough done in my day. Of course, there is always more that I could have checked off of my to-do list, but at what expense? Usually, it’s at the expense of my sanity. So I just keep trying with the hope that my efforts will be at least good enough.

As we pulled up to school 10 minutes late on that fall morning, everyone jumped out of the car. My third-grade friend rushed out as fast as possible and closed the minivan door. I wished each of them a wonderful day through the open window and pulled away. The next morning, I did everything possible to keep everyone moving to ensure a successful on-time arrival. I texted the other moms that I would be a few minutes early the next morning, I got up early, and helped my daughter get ready as fast as possible. I was incredibly proud of myself and our carpool team for making it on time. As the third grader was leaving the minivan, I said to him, “I’m glad that we were able to get to school on time today.” He turned around and shrugged, “Whatever, it wasn’t that big of a deal that we were late yesterday.” As I drove away, a little bit deflated, I repeated to myself, “I’m just doing the best with what I’ve got.”

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