Does your brain hurt? Because mine does — a lot. It aches, and if personified, I think it would look like a marathon runner at mile 25, just begging for the race of daily motherhood duties to end already, dammit!
No, it’s not a headache brought on by run-of-the-mill parenting stress: hormones, a crying baby, a tantrum throwing 3-year-old, or an eye-rolling stubborn teenager. It’s not a headache triggered by a dirty house, a spat with the hubs, or a nasty look from a fellow PTA member. It’s a headache that is screaming, “I can’t make another decision! Someone make them all for me! Just tell me what to do!”
Do you know the average brain makes 35,000 decisions a day? These are considered remotely conscious decisions, based on the fact our brains work on a combination of impulse and logic. I can bet if a neurologist was able to analyze and quantify the amount of decisions the average mother makes in a day, it quite possibly could be double this amount.
Think about it, moms. From the second that line turns pink or blue on a pregnancy test, our brains go into full-throttle decision-making. I dare say that mothers by nature are control freaks to the umpteenth degree because every decision we make is, in effect, keeping humanity alive.
We spend nine months of pregnancy thinking, processing, and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of everything we eat, do, plan for, say, and buy. Then when the kids come, the decisions (and the severity of their consequences) multiply tenfold, and we spend our days in a frenzy of “Yes, we need to do that. No, not that. This? Should we do that? Why? Why not? What about this? And that?” You become a meal-cooking, taxi-driving, laundry-washing, answer-giving, decision-making machine, where the level of control you’re required to have over all the things becomes downright oppressive.
Dinner. Carpool. Work meetings. School meetings. Appointment times. Workout goals. Kid goals. Marriage goals. Life goals. Decide. Decide. Decide!!!
Until one day when you’re driving to date night, your husband looks over at you and asks, “Where do you want to go for dinner and what movie do you want to see?”
And then your head explodes — right there in the front seat of the family SUV — and hypothetical brain matter spews all over, splattered on top of crushed Goldfish crackers and late library books. The pressure of the millions and millions of mothering, parenting, marital, and life decisions you’ve had to make over the last two decades finally bursts.
You look at your loving, patient husband who has no idea what just happened in your head, and you quietly (and almost sadistically) say, “I. Cannot. Make. Another. Decision. Today. Or ever maybe.” My brain, now instantly devoid of having to decide where we go to eat and what movie we see, completely relaxes and is eager, ready, and willing for someone else (anyone) to tell to tell it what to do.
And that relaxed, serene feeling? I want to feel it more than just now. I want very much to feel it again and again. And the only way to feel it is to have someone else make as many decisions as they can because I’m so very tired of being in control of every damn thing.
So. Very. Tired.
This generation of modern mothers have more choices available to them — and thus more decisions to make — than any other generation of mothers before them. Don’t believe me? Look at the variety of ketchups available on your grocer’s shelf. Our moms? Their choices were Heinz and one generic brand. Us? There are no less than 15 different ketchups on the shelf to choose from. One the one hand, yes, it’s great we have so much to choose from. But on the other hand? We’re mentally exhausted and overcome by the tidal wave of daily decisions we now have to make as moms — ketchup choices being a metaphor for our entire lives. Even grocers are starting to realize that offering fewer choices to shoppers greatly reduces their anxiety, and as a result, encourages them to spend more.
Can we somehow translate that into motherhood? Perhaps the reasons we have millions of mothers walking around in permanent states of anxiety is because the pressures of all the decisions we’re making are clogging up our otherwise sane, calm brains. Newsflash, moms: You have permission to step back and let other people decide!
As tough as is it to make real, consistent mental changes in our lives, to fight against well-worn habits of thinking and deciding and managing everything, it’s so worth it. At no other time in my life have I deferred so many decisions to other people than I am doing now — I, the queen of delegation, and not only to my husband but to my kids too. And the result of me slowly and silently getting off the decision-making treadmill has been nothing short of glorious.
Shit still gets done — it’s just that now other people are stepping up to the plate and getting it done. Maybe not the same way I’d do it, but hell, I don’t care. The liberation is too great. Succumbing to this realization that moms don’t have to decide all the things has made me a happier and calmer mom. And being a happy mom is the best decision I’ve ever made.