Before the world ended, I was having a conversation with two moms at a nice restaurant. It was March 7th, to be precise. There was only one week left of school. But we didn’t know that. The hoarding hadn’t begun yet. And here was our conversation.

“I know how many rolls of toilet paper I have in my house right now,” I said. Nice flex, nowadays.

My friend, a mom of two boys nodded and added, “I know how many pairs of clean socks my kids have.”

The third, a mom of a 3-year-old and a baby said, “I do all the grocery shopping.”

We all nodded. 

We were discussing the mental load of motherhood in the form of a one-uppance game. I won with, “My husband has never even met our pediatrician.” My oldest was about to turn six. 

We are not stay-at-home moms. Two of us work part-time and one of us is taking the year off (unpaid) from a full-time job to be home with her infant.

Even if we were only employed by our own household, the mental load is real, and it is heavy.

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A mere two weeks into February, I had a chat with a friend of mine about how her husband thought they’d had their credit card info stolen when he saw the charge for their kids’ summer camp. He had no idea she’d signed them up. He didn’t know it had to be done in February. She wasn’t trying to deceive him or use his money for her own purposes. She handles those things is all. 

Then, coronavirus became part of our lives. School was canceled in my state starting March 16. My husband went to work that week, but his office closed following an executive order from the governor that Friday. 

How much toilet paper did I have left?! 

Turns out, plenty. I found a spare box in a closet. 

How much food do we have?! 

I didn’t want to panic shop, but I did some reasonable fruit and meat shopping and came home ready to face the end of the world. 

NO ONE HAS ANY SOCKS! 

I did six loads of laundry that first day and felt adequately stocked in clean loungewear for the family.

How do I homeschool?!

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My kids are little. I’m trying to let that one go . . . for now. There are a myriad of online resources, of course, and we are reading. Math is going to have to come naturally to them because I have no idea how they teach that nowadays. 

Where’s the tablet/toy/costume/snack/coloring book/etc./etc./etc. . . . forever?

Don’t worry. I know. I know where everything is. Everything. I’m surrounded by it all the time. 

I want French toast! I want bacon! I want kidney beans, not black beans! 

You’re going to have to be flexible, children (and husband).

I can’t pop to the store multiple times a week. They don’t have any canned goods anyway, at this time. 

My conversations with fellow moms continued online. We crowdsourced which stores still had diapers. We compared wait times for Instacart. We swapped online videos of astronauts reading books or art projects that kept them busy while we had Zoom meetings or tried to work from home in other ways. 

We left books on our porches for each other (and then wiped them down).

We had the kids video chat and send snail mail. We got creative with those foods stuffed in the back of the pantry and shared our culinary successes (or failures).

Husbands and partners, many working from home or, like mine, suddenly out of work, helped, but, honestly, none of us expected them to know exactly what to do.

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My son still only wants me when he’s scared. My husband didn’t have the doses memorized for the kids’ meds. He doesn’t know my daughter’s teacher’s email. He is happy to learn but teaching him where I put all the various types of towels (hand towels for the bathroom, washcloths, junk towels for outside, nice towels, kid bath towels, kitchen towels) generally takes longer than putting them away myself. 

So I do it myself.

Even though I have help. Even though I have time. Somehow, though, I don’t seem to be getting much time to myself these days. I finally lost it and took an hour yesterday to watch a show. Turns out I don’t know how to take time anymore because I folded four loads of laundry while watching. We were out of clean pajamas. 

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Portland, Oregon with her dentist and two children. She blogs about parenting, writes about everything, and teaches English and drama when not living in an apocalyptic dystopia. Her work has appeared on Sammiches and Psych Meds, Her View From Home, Scary Mommy, Filter Free Parenting, Motherwell, and Distressed Millennial. You can find her at https://www.laurawheatmanhill.com/ and on Twitter and Instagram @lwheatma