Motherhood not for wimps
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.