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Some things I do as a mom are big and splashy like baking and decorating the giant birthday cake with Rapunzel’s tower perched on top. These things are the main event on stage.

But so many things I do are quiet and hidden. They happen behind the scenes, but they need to happen for the show to go on.

I am the planner. And to be fair, I like to plan. I plan the meals. I order the groceries for pick up. No one sees me writing a list at naptime or ordering the food for pick up. My kids see the food in the pantry, but how it got there is hidden.

I make sure the kids have clothes that fit and are for the right season. I organize the closets while they’re playing. I pick out and buy the clothes, making sure we have the next size up in shoes and boots and coats and pajamas and bathing suits and underwear and socks. My kids don’t see any of this. They simply see clothes in their drawers.

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I empty the preschool folders. I make sure there’s something ready for show-and-tell. I sign up to bring the party treats and snacks. I plan the birthday parties. I buy the birthday and Christmas presents. I schedule the doctor appointments. I pack the diaper bag. I pack for trips. And when my young kids want to help pack, I supervise (and then repack when they’re done). I make sure we’ve bought the sunscreen before the vacation and have all the snacks we need for the car.

I don’t really mind being behind the scenes, doing the things no one really notices unless they’re looking.

These tasks are so important to make our life work. Sometimes when life is hectic though, these hidden tasks can add up. They can start to feel suffocating. Sometimes some of these tasks are referred to as the mental load of parenting, and it definitely can feel like the heaviest of loads.

But I am not alone. My husband is an incredible man who works hard for our family and more than contributes his fair share to make our life work. He does hidden things too, like taking out the trash and folding and putting away laundry. He vacuums and cleans bathrooms. He mows and trims. He does the dishes. He goes to pick up the groceries after bedtime.

My husband isn’t that big of a planner so when we divided up chores and responsibilities that we would typically be in charge of during our premarital counseling, we chose tasks based on our strengths and traded off tasks that we absolutely hated. And what we saw at the end of it was there are so many tasks to complete. So much goes into making life work.

Yes, I do a lot. And yes, he does a lot, too.

My husband and I don’t keep score on who does what or who does the most. Sometimes I carry more of the load. Sometimes he does. We help each other, and we try to teach our kids how to responsibly contribute to the family. And when I feel like the mental load is too heavy at any particular time, we talk about it (and then order a pizza and use paper plates that night).

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Life right now can feel hard, and I’m glad I have a partner who is by my side and on my side to help. And I also take comfort in the hope that one day the kids will be tall enough to empty the dishwasher.

Here’s to all the hidden things you and your partner do to make life work for your family. Those hidden things matter, and I see you.

Kim Howard

Kim Howard is a mom to three kids. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies and is a former teacher. Check out her debut picture book, Grace and Box, and learn more about her at Kim Howard Books and www.kimhowardbooks.com.

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