I see you, mama. Brow furrowed, chewing on your lip. I hear you sigh. I see you staring off into space as you're pushing your cart through the grocery store or waiting to cross the street at a stop light.
Maybe, like me, you silently start mouthing words, mentally going through some of the tasks that are crossing your mind, shaking your head at the realization that you've forgotten to do a few things today.
You have a million things going through your head at all times. You are adding items to your to-do list all day.
Sometimes you're making mental reminders, sometimes you're adding to your daily planner, sometimes you're quickly pulling out your phone to remind yourself to take care of a task later that day. Those lists, seemingly never-ending, become daunting and discouraging. I know the feeling so well.
Late last week, I was feeling overwhelmed by everything I thought I NEEDED to do. Luckily my mother-in-law surprised me by taking the kids for a few hours (thank goodness for Grandma!) and I finally had a few hours alone to get some stuff done.
There were a few chores that have been sitting on my list—waiting, begging for my attention—for a couple of months. I was finally able to make some calls (a phone call without any little kids around is a mini-vacation), and get some work finished.
I even folded laundry which stayed neatly in their baskets rather than scattered across the floor due to a rambunctious preschooler with selective hearing (he can hear the word cookie from a mile away, but when I ask him to stop jumping on the clothes I may as well be whispering it from another country).
Completing these three tasks turned my entire day around. Being able to cross a few things off my ever-growing list took some of the weight off of my shoulders for a while. My kids were thrilled to have been able to spend the afternoon with one of their favorite people and came home in great moods. I think that's a win (not that I'm keeping score or anything, though).
I was revisiting my to-do list yesterday and noticed that the responsibilities were multiplying again. I could feel the stress creeping up on me, and the little nagging voice inside my head was telling me that I wasn't getting enough done. I jokingly said to my mother-in-law, while looking at the half-painted door frames, that I probably should have done more with my time the other day and taken care of those while she had the kids.
She told me that I take care of my kids daily and that I do plenty. I laughed it off at first, but I thought about it and, oh boy, was she right.
It's so easy to think that because I didn't cross something off of a tangible list, I didn't get anything done. However, I couldn't be more wrong.
I take care of my kids every day, from sunup to sundown. Mama, I know you do, too. Whether you're a SAHM, or you're dropping your child off at their caregivers, or you're off to work for the day—you're making sure your child is cared well for.
Although this looks different in every home, the desired outcome stays the same—we're creating stability and consistency for our children, day in and day out. Providing love and care for my children are necessities, not obligations, which play out in various ways. From ensuring they've had enough play time to making sure they've received enough of my attention, I'm constantly thinking of whether or not they're feeling fulfilled.
This often tips the scale of my mental load and I need to remember that ensuring my kids' well-being counts as getting things done.
I take care of myself and my happiness, too. This is not just for my mental health, this helps my kids too. That looks like me remembering to take my medication regularly or carving out a minimum of 15 childless minutes for myself.
It may not seem like much, but there are days when I don't feel like it, and I have to convince myself to get moving. It might look like I'm phoning it in by giving my kids cereal for dinner and letting them have more screen time than is recommended. But I'm up. I'm here. I'm trying. I get up every day and try again. And I'm crossing that off of my list.
Even when tasks on our to-do list remain for there for a week (or maybe a month) and it doesn't look like we're getting anything done, please remember this:
You are slaying the mental load of motherhood one day at a time.
We are always our own worst critics. As parents, we want what's best for our kids and our families. We're all doing our best, and we're doing a great job. So, add that to your list and make sure you check it off, Every. Single. Day.