It’s 5 p.m., and I’m in full-on survivor mode.
The kids are watching Moana, and I’m throwing snacks their way like the little zoo animals they were today. Ten minutes into the movie, it appears they might actually watch the whole thing without fighting or smearing food on the furniture.
This is promising.
I head to the kitchen to make some popcorn. This will totally be my dinner tonight, and I have zero craps left to give about it. When I return to the couch with my snack-dinner, I grab my phone to see if Hubs has checked in yet. It’s only 5:06?
How is it not bedtime yet? Why am I so burnt-out already? When will their dad be home?
I look over at my kids who are happily noshing on cheese puffs. I gaze over the toys scattered across floor, and the cracker bits that are now becoming one with our carpet. As I take in the hot mess that is our current state of affairs, it occurs to me: I am tired as hell, but I have nothing to show for it.
What have I even accomplished today?
This room was tidy just 20 minutes ago. Now it looks like a war zone. The kids were clean this morning, but now they kinda smell like a cheesy pet store. I stocked the fridge on Monday, but now we need at least two cases of yogurt, formula, diapers… The list has grown long enough to justify a trip tomorrow morning, so I make a mental note to make that happen — except crap! I almost forgot about the baby’s doctor’s appointment at 9 a.m. If I was on the fence about bath time, I’m not anymore. Nobody needs CPS called on account of a stank butt baby.
I’m on my hands and knees now, cleaning Ritz Cracker Massacre from the floor and wondering if hiring a personal assistant might be the solution to my struggles. Except what would that job listing even look like?
Help Needed: I don’t know what I do all day, but I’m really exhausted!
Yah, that wouldn’t work.
My husband gets home and we immediately jump into Tag-Team Bedtime Mode. An hour later, both kids are in bed with clean butts, and the two of us crash on to the couch for a moment of rest.
“How was your day?” I ask.
“Good,” he responds. “How was yours?”
He’s flipping through channels, and I’m trying to decide how to answer that question when I spot a dirty diaper sitting on top of the TV stand.
I hop up to take that diaper to the trash and wonder, “Did I remember to add diapers to the grocery list?”
And that’s when I realize: This is exactly why I’m so exhausted.
The work I do is constantly being undone. I clean a floor and then it’s filthy. I clean a butt, and it stinks an hour later. I stock the pantry, and in a few days time, it’s like a cloud of locusts have visited our kitchen. I’m on a constant hamster wheel that’s spinning and spinning, and that’s just the stuff you can see.
What’s most exhausting, what consumes all of my remaining energy, is the invisible burden of running our home. My mom brain is a command center that keeps grocery lists, doctor’s appointments, work schedules, and vacation requests in order. I don’t just make a sandwich. I make a sandwich and realize that we need peanut butter, that the bread is three days from going stale, and that I need to use the rest of our milk before Friday or it will be wasted.
The mental load of running a home is exhausting, but it’s only half of what a parent’s day entails. And perhaps that is why so many of us sit on the couch at the end of the day, looking out over a landscape of cracker crumbs and forgotten diapers and wonder, “Why am I so tired?”
Well, here’s the answer: We are tired because we are really freaking busy. We are busy doing the very real work of running a household and raising children. Sometimes that work looks like wiping down a high chair and switching the wash over to the dryer. Sometimes it looks like nothing at all. Because it’s a grocery list in your head, an appointment reminder kept in the archives of your brain. The mental note that you took to ask the pediatrician how to convince your baby how to eat more vegetables.
You may not have something to “show for” all of your work, because with parents, sometimes it’s invisible.
But believe me, that doesn’t make it any less real. You worked your ass off, even if there are toys all over that damn floor again.