The Kids Are All Right: Part I
WTAF? What. The. Actual. Fuck…have I gotten myself into, having this kid? There are a few commonly known facts about having a baby, widely accepted “truths” that, while nothing can truly prepare you for parenthood, can at least tell you a few things to expect and [try to] prepare for: lack of sleep, certain postpartum issues, teething, things like that. Again, nothing, NOTHING can truly prepare you for having a baby if you’ve never done it before, but I feel like there are SO many things that still aren’t talked about as much as they should be (although it’s getting better)….things that wouldn’t have necessarily made things easier, but that would have been comforting to have heard and talked about that would have been comforting to would-be parents, if just to know that when the time came/comes, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.
THE MENTAL LOAD
From what I’ve read, talked about, heard, and experienced, this is a mom thing. While dads have their own issues too, the ever constant and always exhausting Mental Load seems to be the moms’ to carry. It’s the phenom of going to complete a task, but on the way to completing that task (or even while attempting to complete a task), you complete several other tasks in the process….
You’re attempting to sit down to create a meal plan for the week. In the process, you have to look in your fridge/freezer/pantry to see what you already have, and in doing so, you see that something in the fridge has spilled. You go to wipe clean it up, but there are no clean dishrags, so you go to throw in a load of laundry. On the way to the washing machine, you trip over shoes in the middle of the floor. Picking up said shoes and putting them away, you notice that your child’s room is a mess, so you go in search of your offspring to nag them to clean up a bit. Your child is outside playing, and on your way there, the dogs are begging to go outside to use the bathroom. And so on and so forth. This is why when you ask a SAHM what she does all day, it’s hard for her to give an exact answer, because she’s doing ALL THE THINGS. Her goal was to create a meal plan for the week, but in the process, she’s doing a million other things, and those millions of other things eat up the day, and it’s gone.
This. Is. Exhausting. And moms take on most of the brunt of going through children’s clothes and getting rid of what no longer fits (and buying new clothes), making appointments, signing kids up for things, knowing when the car seat has been outgrown, and all those seemingly small things…but those small things are so much work! This is not to bash dads, or to say that they do nothing…..I have THE most supportive and helpful husband you could possibly ask for, but he has no idea what size shoe our child wears, how often she needs to go in for a checkup, and he still asks me every single day what to feed her for dinner. In the midst of All The Things, moms are “expected” to bathe regularly, wear clothes that aren’t yoga pants, exercise, eat healthy, and generally try not to look like (and/or be) a hot mess.
This is not unique to SAHM moms. Working moms face the same things, but with so much less time to play with. When I went back to work after having a baby, I still had to do All The Things, but I had pretty much zero energy to do them after being at work all day. And don’t get me started on the weekends. Combine all this with missing my child while I was at work, and worrying if she was being well taken-care of (she was), and you have a recipe for regular meltdowns for this mom.
Oh, the worry. It never, ever ends. True, as children get older, the worry changes, but it’s always still there. When my Little was an infant, the worry was SIDS and proper swaddling and sleeping habits, how much to feed her, how much she was pooping, if “this or that” was okay to do, if she was breathing okay. Then it was worry that she wasn’t crawling or walking “on time,” worry that she wasn’t saying any words, if you’re screwing up by giving her “screen time.” My husband just listens to what the pediatrician says, and goes about his day. I WISH I COULD DO THAT. With me, it’s not are we doing enough, it’s am I doing enough. Enough. That is a HUGE parenting word, one spiked with guilt and comparison, but that’s another subject altogether. I realize that this might sound like moms are just more concerned about their children than dads are, but I don’t think that at all. I just think that, when it comes to their children’s health and development, men are okay with just doing the best they can and they don’t become obsessed with things they cannot control. I am not this way. When it comes to my child, all I do is obsess about things I cannot control. And with few exceptions, if anything goes wrong (“wrong”), it’s not our fault, it’s my fault. My brain knows that there was a partnership in making this baby, and there’s also a partnership in raising this baby, but my heart tells me that this whole thing is up to ME. I can’t tell you why that is.
I can tell you that this shit is No. Joke.