Motherhood is grueling. For many of us, it’s more physically and emotionally demanding than we ever imagined it would be. Even if we have spouses or others who help with housework and childcare, the fact is that most moms have to take on a disproportionate amount of it all—from cooking, cleaning, disciplining, organizing, carpooling and beyond.
But there’s more to it than what you see. There’s also all the invisible work we do as moms. Women are so often the managers of the house, on top of everything else. And this work is usually unacknowledged, and very rarely shared by our significant other.
The truth is (and yes, it’s a generalization), most male partners just aren’t holding the millions of hidden tasks and facts of running a household in their heads—and too many aren’t even asking preemptively what they can do to help carry some of the load.
So I'm here to acknowledge all the invisible work you do. To celebrate it. To tell you what a badass you are for doing all the things, all the time. To commiserate with you about how hard it is. To tell you that I, too, feel like my head is going to literally explode from all the things I have to keep inside it.
And because I think it makes sense to voice our frustrations, rather than keep them inside, I will present you with some of the things that fill my head all the time, and quite honestly, sometimes make me want to stab my eyes out.
1. Knowing when the toothpaste tube will be need to be replaced...
...and the toilet paper, which no one seems to notice is empty, and the milk with one drop left that someone put back in the fridge, but didn’t put on the shopping list, and the prescriptions that need to be refilled… the list is endless, isn’t it?
2. Keeping everyone’s schedules in check.
Calendars are helpful, but we moms carry around the calendars in our brains too, navigating each day, trying to make sure that everything happens on time, so that the next event can go off without a hitch. We moms are always also planning next summer, next year—and even sometimes next decade (like how the heck we’re going to put our kids through college and retire.) Talk about exhausting!
3. Holiday, special events, and birthday parties, oh my!
Let’s face it: we are the ones who remember to get gifts for the special people in our lives. We are the ones who plan our own events, down to what food will be served, what clothes will be worn, and who will be invited (or not invited.) And we are the one who are responsible for putting the “magic” into the holidays and the birthdays for our little ones—from remembering to move the Elf-on-the-Shelf around each night, to remembering what our kid asked for seven months ago for their birthday.
4. Remembering what to take on a trip… or anytime you leave the house.
My husband can just toss a few things in a bag and think it’s time to go and wonder what’s taking me so long! But anytime we leave the house, I have to remember every. single. thing. Snacks, changes of clothes, favorite pillows. And of course, if we go on a long trip, I’ll probably be packing all my husband’s stuff, in addition to the kid’s stuff, and my own.
5. Clothes, OMG, clothes.
Kids grow fast, like at lightning speeds. When I notice that my kids have grown an inch or two, my immediate thought is that I’m going to need to secure some bigger clothes and shoes for them. We are the ones who handle the hand-me-down, organize our kids’ summer wardrobes, make sure they have winter boots, raincoats, and umbrellas. We are the ones who remember to label their camp clothes, and are make sure they will have something to wear for crazy hat day and Halloween.
6. We moms are drowning in a sea of paperwork and phone calls.
Permission slips, notes from the school, math tests that need to be signed—remembering to attend to these falls directly on us. So do the phone calls (and it’s not like we have time to talk on the phone!) The cable company, the health insurance company, the call to the school to make sure they received the permission slip... it just keeps going with no end in sight.
7. The emotional work of motherhood is intense, amiright?
We are the ones who know as soon as our child walks into the room if they’ve had a bad day. We are constantly thinking about how to manage their lives so that they can thrive, take risks, and have quiet time when they need it. This is an area where more and more dads these days are stepping up, but oftentimes, the most intense and draining aspect of it fall on us.
I could go on and on and I’m sure you could, too. But this is what I want all you drowning moms out there to know: this invisible work you do—it counts. It’s real. It can feel thankless at times. It can make us feel like we’re the un-fun parent. But this work is what keeps our families together, and keeps our kids healthy and well.
But most of all, I want you to know that if you're feeling like your head is going to explode from it all, you're not alone. I’m right there with you. I hope there will be a day that the burden can be carried more equally, but until then, I see you. I think you’re amazing. And I think you deserve a much-needed nap, a mani-pedi… or a vacation.