I get asked that question, or a version of it, at least twice a day - always by a well-meaning friend or acquaintance. And I always answer with as much of a smile as I can muster and some version of "Things are going OK." But really, most days I don't mean it.
What I really want to say is this:
Things are not going well. I'm barely holding myself together.
I knew having four kids was going to be hard, but I was not at all prepared for just how hard it is. It is constant, constant work. There is always someone needing something, and it's usually not the baby, who is pretty laid back. Campbell is in constant motion and in constant danger of falling off of or under something. Lily is coping with the shift in the family's dynamics by turning up the waterworks. I want to scream each time she starts crying over something like a shoelace that's not tied correctly. Ella has reacted by suddenly throwing tantrums that could peel paint and by arguing with us over EVERYTHING - from whether she can have another chocolate-covered strawberry to spending an extra night at her cousins' house.
I am so busy keeping the house and kids and B going that I don't have time for anything extra like running or showering, let alone using the gift certificates for a pedicure and massage that I got for Christmas from my darling husband, who really is tremendously helpful.
I also don't have time for projects at the house - like cleaning out closets - that have been nagging at me. I cringe each time I have to go in Campbell's room because it needs to be repainted before we put Elizabeth in there, but I know it's not really going to happen.
I am so far behind in my paying work that I don't know how I'm going to get caught up. And I'd give up the work, but we have mountains of hospital bills coming in from Elizabeth's delivery and NICU stay, and that's after insurance.
I cry at least once a day from exhaustion or frustration or both. I know things will get better eventually. I'm just not sure if I can hold on until then.
But people really don't want to hear that sort of thing when making polite conversation in the pick-up line after school or at a social brunch. So I grit my teeth and smile. But one of these days, some poor nice person is going to get more of an answer than he or she bargained for.