On most weeknights, we do what I call the "weeknight hustle:" get home from work, play with our daughter for a bit while one or both of us make dinner (and consequently, a mess of the kitchen), eat dinner too quickly, sometimes a bath or shower for the little one, then books, and bed.
Once our daughter goes to sleep, the hustle continues: cleaning up the kitchen, packing breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the next day, showering, picking out our clothes, picking up the house and then collapsing on the couch about 10 minutes before we should get to bed.
Some nights we do a brain dump and try to empty our minds of everything that's going on. Current hot topics that are pretty heavily discussed right now: our year-long house hunt, when to contact our fertility clinic to get the ball rolling on a second child, considering side jobs to help us achieve our dream house goals, the week's schedule, weekend obligations and so on...
Other nights we may sit there in silence. While we are enjoying each other's company, we're likely too exhausted or overwhelmed by life to do a brain dump. We both wonder, "Do all parents feel this way? Are we just extra sensitive or is everyone else just barely getting by, both physically and mentally?"
One recent night, we skipped the couch altogether out of exhaustion and instead, stumbled into bed to read. While reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I came upon an incredible idea.
About three-quarters of the way through the book is the chapter called, "The Pensieve." In it, J. K. Rowling describes an object that only a parent could dream up (the Pensieve). As Dumbledore tells Harry, "I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind."
Harry thinks to himself that he actually doesn't know that feeling, but me, personally? Well, I was doing a good impression of Hermione in my bed, raising my hand as high as I could. Me, Dumbledore! I know that feeling! I feel it Every. Single. Day! Please, can I have a Pensieve?!
My mind started drifting from the book and instead went to dreaming of such an object… a mama's dream. It would be so useful to rid my mind of all the hundreds of thoughts swimming around—thoughts that have increased tenfold since becoming a mother and have totally overwhelmed me many times. (I nearly lost it my first Christmas as a mother, to be honest.)
I knew I wasn't the only one who could use such an object, as I had seen the popular "You should've asked" comic by Emma explaining the mental load of working mothers making its way around Facebook. Many of my friends had shared it, so I knew it had hit a nerve with a lot of mothers who carry around a heavy mental load every day.
I'm lucky that in our household, the mental load seems pretty equal for both of us. I have a partner who shares in a large responsibility of our household tasks and though I'll often find myself frustrated when he doesn't understand how my head feels like it's going to burst if I have to come up with one more new lunch combination for our daughter this week(!) I remind myself that he remembered to empty the too-small recycling bin for the third time that week while I continued to try to jam it full.
But it's still there for both of us and it continues to overwhelm us. If only we could remove some not-so-important thoughts to make room for the important ones or put the thoughts that are totally useless to rest—I think our minds would be a bit calmer.
If I had a magic wand, I'd pull out these 10 things:
1. All of the Ace of Base lyrics that have been using up a lot of valuable space since 1990.
2. Worrying about how my two-year postpartum belly still doesn't look quite right to me. Is my skin going to be perpetually stretched out forever? Can I do something about it if I work out harder? Will it get better once I stop breastfeeding? Should I pretend that I'm content in my postpartum shape and proudly show it in a bikini this summer or hide my shame in a ruched one piece?
3. Any lingering insecurities I have about not having given my daughter a Pinterest-worthy birthday party. She had a ball and that's all that matters.
4. The guilt I have left over from my new mama days over not realizing sooner that I needed to put my ego aside and start supplementing with formula because, despite every effort on my part, I couldn't make enough milk to keep her healthy. She doesn't remember, she's perfectly happy and healthy, and we were still able to maintain a breastfeeding relationship, even if it wasn't on 100% breast milk as I originally expected.
5. Dwelling on giving her a turkey and cheese sandwich for the third day in a row because she wouldn't eat leftovers.
6. Wondering what anyone else thinks about my parenting decisions. The only ones who matter are my husband and my daughter.
7. Feeling inadequate because my house doesn't look like a Pottery Barn catalog and, in fact, on most days is a bit of a mess. Our house is a home because it's full of love. Everything isn't perfectly perfect and neat because I have a toddler. End of story.
8. Thinking about hiring a photographer for Christmas cards. Why, why, why am I thinking about this in June?!
9. Should we start thinking about preschools or just keep her at her daycare?
10. Does our daughter need more bows for her hair? Or are the slight fall/winter colors okay for the spring and summer?
These are only just a few of the hundreds of mind-cluttering thoughts that I have. They are not serving me well in this busy season of my life. I am working on letting go of them, but in the meantime, perhaps dumping my mental load here will have to serve as my personal Pensieve.
What thoughts would you eliminate to ease your mental burden, mamas?