Mother­hood not for wimps

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FORUM - JEN­NIFER MCGUIRE

The other day I got into a little spat with my son.

I was chat­ter­ing away in the kitchen, as is my wont, and when I looked up for a re­sponse he was look­ing at his phone. I waited, and then he launched into a story that had noth­ing to do with what I was say­ing. Be­cause he wasn’t lis­ten­ing at all.

I called him out and he re­sponded by call­ing me out, which is ac­tu­ally an ar­gu­ment tac­tic I sort of loathe. He pointed out that he and all of his brothers had ex­pe­ri­enced this ex­act sit­u­a­tion. They would be telling me a story about their day in the car, maybe some­thing about a friend or a teacher or more of­ten than not, a com­pli­cated tale about foot­ball prac­tice, and I would be off in my own world, as he put it. “Mum­bling a gro­cery list to your­self” is ac­tu­ally what he said.

He thought he was mak­ing a great point, of course. And in my head, I laughed and laughed.

Why? Be­cause kids don’t re­ally un­der­stand much about the in­vis­i­ble, men­tal work­load of be­ing a mom. When they see me driv­ing, they fig­ure my mind is as blank as a fresh sheet of pa­per. That my only task is keep­ing us on the road and lis­ten­ing to their charm­ing anec­dotes. Which, by the way, they are. My kids are next-level sto­ry­tellers if I do say so my­self. They know how to weave a hell of a yarn for me from any mun­dane old thing that hap­pened in their day. Their sto­ries are funny and sur­pris­ingly em­pa­thetic, and I truly love hear­ing them.

But here’s what they don’t get; I have hun­dreds of thou­sands of their sto­ries stored up in my in­ad­e­quate brain. I am the sieve, the con­duit, through which all of their emo­tions and thoughts and con­cerns are fil­tered. And I am ex­pected to re­mem­ber ev­ery de­tail of ev­ery story, ev­ery thought, ev­ery quirk for four in­cred­i­bly quirky guys. If I for­get any­thing, even down to get­ting quizzed on each one of their Hal­loween cos­tumes through­out the years, I am met with two re­sponses. In­credulity and hurt. Here are some re­cent ex­am­ples:

I don’t like lemon meringue pie… how do you not re­mem­ber this?

Did you se­ri­ously for­get that I have a rugby game next Thurs­day? What’s wrong with you?

You thought I didn’t know how to use a cheese grater? I’ve lit­er­ally done this dozens of times with you stand­ing right be­side me.

I am meant to store all of their mem­o­ries, all of their foibles, all of their se­crets. But there’s more to the men­tal work­load of a mom than that.

I’m also the de­cider, the list maker, the no­ticer. Sure, the boys are happy to “help out” around the house, but it falls on me to point out what needs to be done. And how it needs to be done. And some­times, if they’re in an es­pe­cially frus­trat­ing mood, why it needs to be done. Like mak­ing the bed, a lux­ury I have long since given up on if I have any hope of hold­ing on to my san­ity.

So yes, some­times I “zone out” as my sons call it. Which re­ally means I am try­ing to un­pack my brain to re­mem­ber all the things I’m sup­posed to re­mem­ber in the day. Yes, I am mum­bling the gro­cery list to my­self while you tell me a story about how your teacher was a jerk to­day. Mostly be­cause I have too much on my mind, but maybe a little be­cause I don’t agree with you and don’t want to get into a big thing about it.

There’s a whole lot of in­vis­i­ble, grind­ing, ex­haust­ing men­tal work that goes into be­ing a mom. And I’m not even that good at it; I can’t imag­ine what it must be like for moms who are gen­uinely de­cent hu­man be­ings.

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