“You’re in charge of dinner,” I told my mom last night. I was just so tired. I recently started a new job and the learning curve was exhausting. All that topped with listening to my kids screaming downstairs all day, while I worked in my bedroom, left me mentally drained in a way that I never felt pre-COVID.
“Ok,” my mom responded. “Should I give the kids mac and cheese? Fish sticks? Do both the kids like fish sticks?”
I pretended not to hear her as I walked upstairs. By delegating her as in charge of dinner, her question was exactly what I wanted a break from. It wasn’t just the actual cooking and setting the table, finding out which kid wants milk and which wants water. Then the power struggle of how much they each needed to eat to warrant dessert, followed by clean up.
It’s the mental load of making decisions. Of running the household. Of being in charge of everything.
Where is my green dinosaur?
Are the dishes in the dishwasher dirty?
Do we have any toilet paper?
When’s the last time the bedsheets were cleaned?
Do the kids have their dentist appointments scheduled? Doctor? OT, behaviorist, and where are we on IEP stuff?
This is the mental load of motherhood. I am in charge of all of it. I store it all in my head, and yes, I have the answers to all of it. But sometimes, I wish I didn’t.
Sometimes, I wish I could pass the buck.
Check the dishwasher yourself.
Where did you last see your dinosaur?
Did you check the garage for more toilet paper?
But for the most part, the reason the weight of the mental load is so heavy is because I do know.
I do know where you left your dino.
I do know the dishes in the dishwasher are clean, and probably still hot, so be careful when touching them.
I know it’s been more than a week since the bedsheets were cleaned and yes, I know when every appointment is scheduled and where we are on the IEP.
And the paradox of it all? I want to know. I want to be in charge 95% of the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way . . . must be the controller in me. But it’s that last 5% that gets me every time. It’s the part that makes me snap and yell, often passive aggressively ask, “Have you looked?” or ignore the questions and walk away. Because that 5% just wants to mute all the noise. Tune out everyone else and focus on me. Me—not me as a mom, a wife, an employee—just me as a person.
Because, sometimes, she gets so lost in the chaos, I’m not even sure she’s still there.
I should mention my mom took the hint. She figured dinner out and gave me time to sit with myself, alone and undisturbed. When I did come back down, I felt refreshed and ready to resume my duties. I asked my mom how much the kids ate and where the kids were on the dessert trajectory. I was back. My 5% was filled. I was ready to mom again.
As moms, we don’t always get this time. Sometimes we don’t get any break, as single moms know all too well. But maybe, by explaining to our partners and family, that we need to fill our 5% . . . maybe they can better understand. Last night wasn’t just about cooking dinner for the family, it was about making the decisions around it, too. Those decisions can be heavy.
The mental load is something we carry as mothers. It is heavy. Yes, moms have superpowers. We can carry heavy. We do it all the time.
But as humans, we eventually need to put it down.
Originally published on Celeste Yvonne – The Ultimate Mom Challenge