Moms get a bad rap sometimes. When we show up late or forget that thing we were supposed to do or accidentally put the TV remote in the fridge, people assume we’re flighty or irresponsible. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are just trying to balance the competing needs of our homes, jobs, spouses, churches, kids, the Boy Scouts, our in-laws, friends, and oh yeah, ourselves. Who can remember where the TV remote goes when your brain is consumed with how to simultaneously be at two children’s band concerts at once? All this juggling can mean our brains feel like swiss cheese and things are constantly falling through the holes. Why is this, you ask?
First of all, there’s the longterm sleep deprivation. I know, I know—my kids sleep through the night, why should I be sleep deprived? Well, they sleep through the night, except when they don’t. Somebody has a bad cough, somebody gets a fever, one of them has a nightmare, somebody’s “feet are too hot.” The reasons are endless, but they all mean that even if a child is capable of sleeping through the night, that may not mean the parent is. And even when I sleep, I sleep like I imagine firefighters do—with one ear always waiting for the alarm. I wear pajamas that might be able to double as outerwear if I had to run someone to the ER in the middle of the night for reasons I cannot fathom during daylight hours, but always seem to become apparent around 2 a.m. I may stay up way too late trying to cram in “adult time” or read a book or take a shower. I may wait until the last child has been asleep for thirty minutes before even considering going to bed because I don’t want to be immediately woken up by a child who was just wondering why whales are so big. And then there’s the disrupted sleep of waking up at 3, remembering you didn’t sign the permission slip or imagining the letter you’re going to write to that mom whose child has been mean to yours, or overanalyzing that thing your friend said to you that made you think she didn’t approve of your parenting choice. Moms don’t sleep well. This means that our brains can be a little slow to process that complicated information you just gave us and a little quick to forget to do that thing we said we’d do.
And then there’s the mass amounts of information we’re expected to remember that are related to our children. How many ounces of formula did that one get in a day? How long is she supposed to be rear-facing in that carseat? Is it library day and where did I put those books? I think there’s a friend birthday party this weekend, but where did I put that invitation and what would this boy want? I have to know every child’s shirt size, pants size, and shoe size in case I see something on sale for the next season. I am the keeper of allergy information, jelly preferences, and responsible for remembering who had the last turn and whose turn it is next for any number of activities.
Let’s not even talk about the information my brain is now responsible for that’s totally uninteresting to me, but necessary for interacting with my kids. I can name most of the Thomas the Tank Engine trains, dozens of Pokemon characters, list off Barbie’s sidekicks, and I know who holds the Rubik’s cube world record for 3×3. I can sing the “Phineas and Ferb” theme song, every song from “Frozen” and can quote The Lego Movie. At length. I know a Daniel Tiger song for just about every problem a toddler can have (“If you have to go potty, STOP, and go right away.”) I know who was their best friend last week, who was a jerk and who is their on-again, off-again frienemie. I know who their crushes are and I’m expected to stay updated on that information (even if they don’t tell me when it changes) or else I’m met with, “Ew. No, Mom. Gross.”
And many of us are subsisting on diets of leftover sandwich crusts and a handful of out-of-season jellybeans. We chase this down with coffee in quantities that put us on a first name basis with the local barista or have us developing our own nicknames for our coffeemakers because we feel like somedays Carl is the only one who truly knows how to meet our needs. . . I mean THE COFFEE MAKER. . . (Carl? Who would call their coffeemaker Carl? Just kidding, Carl. I love you. Never leave me.) We get our exercise from chasing our toddlers around the house on our hands and knees (because we’re being tigers. Obviously.) and “self-care” is what we call our five minute potty-break alone.
Moms aren’t dumb. We aren’t flighty or intentionally spacey. We’ve just got brains that are dealing with a thousand different things at once and sometimes when we go to retrieve our child’s social security number for that doctor’s office form, all we can think of is our home address from when we were five. Sometimes we show up at the grocery store without our list. Or the reusable bags. Or our wallet. And it’s all because we spent the whole drive over mentally problem solving that relational issue our daughter is struggling with. Our brains aren’t a hamster wheel with no hamster, they’re a hamster wheel with ten hamsters all going different directions. We also have moments of brilliance and genius that come out both at home, at work, and in our friendships and volunteer involvement because we are in constant problem solving mode. We are the ones you want to call in a crisis because we’re dependable, we can balance all the competing demands of life and we will put our full attention on your issues when you need us. We’ve got tons of strengths, but we may need a little grace when we accidentally show up to church with our shirt on backwards.