It had been a tough week. Even I didn’t realize how much I was suffering from absolute mental exhaustion. Work and school and soccer and golf and dance and scouts and cross country and scheduling flu shots …. All of it was fully underway.
I had already had my typical Wednesday conversation with my husband: “Remember that tomorrow I’m placing the grocery pick-up order, so please cart the items you need.” He and I are both forgetful, but like many mothers, I’ve adapted with better coping mechanisms. I’ve even tried letting things fall through the cracks, hoping they’d be caught or picked up by someone else. Here’s a spoiler every mom sees coming: they weren’t.
I was growing frustrated by the fact that, despite this routine, things like ordering the groceries requires a reminder every week. Which means that not only do I have to remember to actually execute the task (and countless others), I also have to remember to remind my husband about them. The next day I had to reschedule flu shots because I had accidentally set up our appointment on top of some other obligation. So I had to remember to call back to reschedule. The invisible mental workload had exhausted me. And because it was invisible, even to myself, I couldn’t see the storm brewing.
Here’s how it went down.
My hubby’s phone finally went kaput, so he went to the store and got a new one. Boom. Done. We then discussed how surprisingly easy it was for them to move everything over using his Apple ID. This reminded me that my ID was synced to an outdated, inaccessible email, which I had unsuccessfully tried to fix years ago and had been neglecting ever since. My chest tightened at the thought.
When so many other things were pressing and important, updating my Apple ID simply was not. In what felt like some Laura Numeroff version of “If You Give a Mom an Apple ID,” evidently the outcome is that she’ll have a mental breakdown. And want some wine to go with it. But that wasn’t even what set me off. It was his reaction when I tried to explain all of this:
“Just go to the Apple store.”
Just. JUST?! Yeah. Lemme just check my calendar right quick and see when I can slip in a trip to the Apple store without any combination of our four kids in tow. I’ll pencil it in for June of 2022.
JUST! Lemme *just* drop our Saturday plans and soccer games and dividing and conquering extracurricular activities to JUST go to the Apple store right quick!
While I’m JUST deciding what to cook and carting the groceries and rescheduling the flu shots and filling out the forgotten soccer try-out form and getting out a *green* shirt for tomorrow’s free dress day and remembering to put the jersey in the washing machine so it can be worn tomorrow and packing 24 allergy-friendly snacks and switching out the seasonal wear for the toddler (the WORST!), lemme JUST hop on over to the Apple store.
It was the flippancy that sent me right over the edge. His nonchalant tone was a reminder that, as awesome as my husband is, he and I live in two different mental spaces. Whether valid or not, I don’t feel as though my time belongs to me, especially not to tackle something that only affects or benefits myself, something that isn’t pressing or directly related to a family need.
How did he not realize that there is nothing “just” about my life? I can’t “just” hop over to the Apple store. Or Target. Or even to the grocery store unplanned. A schedule would have to be rearranged. And guess who would be doing the rearranging. I would literally be creating more work for myself if I ever wanted to “just” do something during such a busy season of our lives.
My husband didn’t know that word would be such a trigger reminding me of how overwhelmed I was. Neither did I. All I knew was that there was an implied sense of liberty that he didn’t realize I don’t always have, which felt unfair. Unjust.
This is a product of the value our culture places on “busy”. When one’s life is that hectic and insane that you have zero wiggle room to breathe, it’s time to scale WAY back and start saying “no” to things. Each kid only does one activity at a time. Older pack their snacks/lunches. Husband is asked to step in and – gasp! – order AND pick up the groceries.
Moms – we are doing this to ourselves. Stop taking on all the things and doing all the things for everyone else. Ask for help. Preserve your sanity. Schedule that massage or pedicure or lunch date with a friend and tell your partner or whomever that you won’t be available to mother everyone during that time. Men are adults too. So are mothers and mother-in-laws. Also there’s babysitters.
This made me tired to read and sad that so many mothers are carrying this load. It’s certainly not healthy and it affects nobody else except the mother carrying it.
Thank you for your comment. I can assure you, though I should not have to, that my husband does as much as I do. In fact, I have often credited him in past blog posts for our balance as parents. Still, life sometimes happens to both of us (I would argue to all of us). I just happened to share mine. People have different capacities for and approaches to handling the stressors of their lives. Men and women are entitled to feel their feelings, and in this case reflect and write about them. I don’t need to defend my experience, but some parent reading this in solidarity may need the reassurance that, yes, we may be able to control and facilitate our parenting, but sometimes parenting happens TO us, as well.
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