How Many Texts, Alerts, and Emails Can One Mom Handle?

by Erika Sanzi
MoMo Productions / Getty

A text from CVS that my prescription is ready for pick up. A text from the school to remind me about a fundraiser at Chili’s later this week. An email to let me know that my youngest’s son school lunch account balance has dropped to $1.20. A reminder about the next orthodontist appointment. A text from my husband asking me what size our middle son’s feet will be this summer (because I have a crystal ball when it comes to the speed of growth of my children’s feet, don’t ya know.) And that was just this morning.

The mental load. It’s a real thing and moms carry most of it. And oh my God, our phones make it worse while also helping us to keep track of everything that if we forget, will be doubly worse. According to Australian writer Leah Ruppanner, “The mental load includes the planning work required to ensure the children make it to Bollywood dancing, the refrigerator is stocked for dinner and the smoke detector battery gets replaced. It’s incessant, gnawing and exhausting, and disproportionately falls to women.”

Ha! I forgot about the beeping. We have a smoke detector that needs a battery change and it’s actually pretty remarkable how hard it can be to figure out where the beeping is actually coming from—but alas, it’s the basement. 9-volt or two double A’s. I know this. But I forget. And we are likely out of both so, add that to the list that is so long it makes a CVS receipt look like a post-it note.

But since it’s a piece of paper that actually matters, I will have figured out a way to lose it before I even get to the store. The boarding pass from our recent trip will undoubtedly be in the abyss that is my purse and I will find that very annoying when I’m looking for my list that was supposed to remind me to get batteries for the smoke detector. The receipt for gum and a bottle of water will rankle me too.

Oh, and let’s not forget the email notifications that came bounding into my email inbox today letting me know that grades had been entered into the online grade-book for my seventh grader. (This piece isn’t about online grade books but, suffice it to say, that I do have some thoughts about that too.) Add to those the emails from the kids’ schools about school safety, a message about scheduling the parent teacher conference, a reminder about the spring dance, and the email about Little League opening day, the permission slip for the dodgeball tournament, and oh, for the love of God, my head is exploding a little. Ok, a lot.

But it doesn’t stop there. I also received three different text messages via group chat informing me of all the game times for my boys’ upcoming basketball tournament. And two group texts about baseball practice including a reminder that all catchers must bring catchers’ gear and wear pants to practice. Oh, and don’t forget to book your hotels for the April baseball trip to New York and the Memorial Day weekend tournament in New Jersey.

But there was a saving grace today on the group text front—unlike most days, people didn’t immediately start responding with questions and comments and needless emojis to the group text so that all of us could have our phones ding so many times in a matter of 15 minutes that we throw them against the wall of our office and end up having to buy new ones, and then pay someone to fix the wall. Maybe I should just add “YouTube how to fix wall” and add that to my own personal mental load. I’m kidding. I’ll just hang a picture over the damage like I usually do and no one will have to know.

I know, I know. I should just turn off the notifications. But there are two problems with that plan. One is that I don’t really know how to do that. But secondly, and more importantly, I tend to forget things. Lots of things. And I rely on lots of reminders to not totally mess up pretty much everything for everyone. I mean, it’s one thing when I forget to take myself to the dentist after a text, a voicemail, and a calendar alert on my phone, but it’s another thing when my beloved children don’t get their teeth cleaned, miss practice, or show up to a birthday party on the wrong day. Yes, I did that. Once. At Monkey Joe’s.

So to all you mamas gearing up for another day of reminders, alerts, and incessant dings, I suggest some deep breaths. And peanut M & Ms.

But if you go to Target for those M & Ms, can you pick me up some batteries? And if you’re really feeling a generous, I could use a Fitbit too because apparently mine wasn’t as waterproof as I thought and I really need to up my steps after all these peanut M & Ms.