I wish I could hand off my mental load—but if I didn't do it, who would?
My husband doesn't need me to keep reminding him to text his parents to request they watch the kids while we go celebrate our anniversary. But also if he did this simple task when I first asked him to do it weeks ago, then we both could have been saved a whole lot of reminders in the meantime.
Or, more realistically, if I had just sent the text from the get-go, this would all be a non-issue.
And that, my friends, is why when I attempt to lighten my mental load, it so often feels like it's even heavier.
I've always been the "if you want a job done right, do it yourself" kind of person, much to the delight of many partners on class projects. When I became a mom and the unofficial CEO of the household, the pressure became even more intense as there was a never-ending list of appointments to schedule, things to clean, groceries to buy, bills to pay and activities to plan.
Unlike when I was in school and paired up with just anyone, I truly have an amazing partner who could never be described as a slacker. (Example: The man single-handedly painted the whole exterior of our house at my request.)
For all of his strengths, however, I'm still the self-designated details person—who doesn't just notice we're running low on milk but does something about it. Who keeps tracks of the kids' friends' birthday parties. Who creates the annual picture books. And who stays up on far too many nights thinking about these things.
I don't love that it's this way. I also know I have a partner who is glad to do just about anything I request. I have support around me. So why am I still unable to level the mental load? Because so much of the to-do list lives exclusively in my head, I can't just divide it in half right down the middle and expect it all to get done.
Don't get me wrong—I've let many 'a things go in the course of motherhood. I know that my kids may not always eat the nutritious meals I want them to when someone else is on duty. I know that they may get away with more at the grandparents' houses. And I really, really know that I'm not doing things as "perfectly" as I may have dreamed I would back in those child-free years.
Parenthood isn't just controlling the daily routines and habits, though. It's about establishing them and then making sure everything stays in motion. So while sending that text may look like a small, non-time-sensitive detail to my partner, it's a link in the chain to me; if it goes missing, then so much else gets messed up. Sure, maybe I'm Chicken Little, but the sky still hasn't fallen on my watch.
For today, I don't have any tidy answers on how to fix this, only a conclusion to this story: When, on the 10th time I reminded my husband to send that text, he did. As anticipated, it was a quick exchange and all ended up working out perfectly fine. He was validated (although he kindly refrained from "I told you so"), but it was also an opportunity for me to try to explain why it wasn't that I didn't trust him, only that I was still unsure of how to proceed until the issue was resolved.
Like the wonderful partner he is, he listened to me with sincere interest and said he understood what I was saying. Almost more than anything else, this represents the beauty of a good partnership: We may not be evenly dividing and conquering all of the time. I may always be the one with the mental load, just as he may always be the one who feels the weight of the financial load.
But even if there isn't a quick fix or any fix at all, we make sure the other person feels heard, supported in whatever ways possible and loved. And, hey, maybe next time I will only have to give him five reminders instead of 10. 😉