I recently read an article about the mental load of primary parents and let me tell you I was shooketh. I’m going to make a confession. Are you ready for it? I have only read one full and complete book this year. It’s not because I don’t love to read. I love to read. It’s because reading is idling for me and I can not idle.
I know I can’t be the only one.
I’m writing/drafting this post from bed right now because I don’t know how to just be. Even when I’m not moving, my brain is Rolodexing (yes, I just made that a verb) all the things that should be done, all the needs that will have to be met, all the plans that have been made and how to execute them, all the things I need to buy, all the places I need to be. It’s exhausting. The only time I’m not actively moving mentally or physically is when I’m asleep. I’m all gas or all brakes. No idle here.
My kids are older now and I don’t constantly have to mind them and their every move. No. Now, I just have to be all the things to all the people.
Would you believe me if I told you that the chapstick they’re going to be looking for is on the floor next to the night stand near the front right corner but behind the black sock? I know because I saw it briefly in passing and my mommy brain Rolodexed it. My brain knew to save that little blip of information in case they ask. And they will ask. I know they need natural sugar and protein right after school. I know that Marian prefers footless tights for dance and a Laurel prefers frilly skirts and rhinestones. Jack has to have an hour of quiet time before he can fall asleep. And, Clara, likes to take her lunch on Wednesdays and ONLY Wednesdays.
Let me paint you a picture to help you understand the mommy mind. Do you remember the way the solitaire cards used to shoot across the screen when you’d win a game? Imagine each of those cards are something that needs managed or considered. That’s my mom brain. All. Day. Long.
I’m the primary parent in our family because I stay home. I am the one that answers the school phone calls, coordinates our schedules, gets the kids to where they’re going, makes the food, worries all the worries. Because I know all the things, I am the decision-maker in our home most of the time. I’m usually pretty decisive- I bought the first house I looked at TWICE. But. Decisions for my kids tend to require 26 lists, 68753 text conversations with my best friends, 1 or 2 phone calls to my mom, and at least 13 prayers and several Hail Marys thrown in for good measure… like the appeasing little Catholic girl I am. It is impossible for me to make a decision and, then, just rest. These kids are just too important for that.
I’m tired. I’m weary. I’m overworked in a way that you can’t know til you know. I’ve attempted to make a habit of willful rest but my mind does not care that I want to read a book, sit in the sun, or take a long bath. My mind doesn’t care that it needs rest. My mind is that of a manager and, frankly, it super sucks at delegating. Jerry is fantastic about being in the trenches right along with me, but how does one offload the mental stuff?
And, the guilt. Lord Jesus in Heaven, the guilt. I do have the good fortune of not being upset when one of my kids is mad at me, which is good because someone always is. The guilt, instead, comes from knowing that there is only one of me and I’m dispatching a real finite resource here: my wellness. Disappointment is part of growing and learning, but much of my idle-less life comes from trying to never have my kids be disappointed because they can’t do/go/be something or somewhere because there are 4 of them. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to most, but I guarantee it’s heavy to those that do. It feels like if I’m doing something for me to idle (working out and other physical wellness things not included) that I’m taking time away from juggling all the balls in the air. To me, the guilt of dropping one is worse than the weight of the idle-less life.
I’ve never done this before. You know? I’ve never been the mom of a 9, 8, 5, and 3 year old before. Every single step of every single day is a new unknown. It’ll be that way for the rest of their days at home. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I’m too busy white knuckling the steering wheel to spend too much time reflecting. There will be time for that later, I suppose. I pray to the momnesia gods that I remember just enough of the emotionally taxing times to be empathetic, but not so many that I can’t idle eventually.