The Things Moms Carry (In Their Brains)

by Wendy Wisner
Scary Mommy black logo with a red crown illustration

There are many things I carry in my mama-heart.

I remember so vividly the first time I felt each of my babies kick—one felt like a tiny fish swimming across me; the other was more subtle, like a firefly lighting up.

I will always remember holding my babies right after birth, their wet, wailing bodies against my bare skin.

I hold the baby I lost in my heart too, even though I was only pregnant with him (or her) for a blip of a week. My heart wonders what would be, and mourns that lost soul.

My heart carries fear, too. The day my child fainted in the bathtub, and I was certain for half a second he had died. And the afternoon this past summer that my toddler raced into a full parking lot, and I ran with the speed of light to catch him.

Oh, my heart is full of endless love and wonderment for my children—along with a deep drive to protect them.

I fully expected all those things as soon as I saw the two lines appear on the pregnancy test. Right then and there, my heart expanded—it exploded with love.

But what I didn’t expect was all the many things I would carry in my brain. Apparently, these tiny humans pretty much have no way of keeping track of anything. And yet, they have busy little lives: They need homework done, clean clothes to wear (that fit!) and a fridge that has to be restocked at an alarming rate.

And the thing is, my husband (bless his heart), just doesn’t seem to have the brain-space for all of these things—the minute details of life just pass him by. He’s a great dad and an excellent provider, but keeping track of everyone’s life is just not his thing.

So the burden falls on me. And I’m good at it. Really good—too good, I fear. All these details filling my brain is probably why my “momnesia” has lasted well beyond the baby years. It’s why I sometimes have trouble shutting my brain off at night. And it’s probably why I have no brain cells left for any intellectual pursuits—lately, even the crossword puzzles my third-grader brings home seem too complex for me.

Here are some of the things taking residence in my brain at the moment:

– The location of each kid’s water bottle, how much water is left in them and when they’re going to need to be refilled.

– The last day my toddler pooped, the poop’s consistency and an educated guess of when the next one is coming (which is the last possible day before I’ll need to go out and buy more diapers).

– The exact contents of my kid’s backpack, down to the ruler at the bottom of the bag, and lint-covered mitten in the outer pocket. Believe me, he’s going to ask for each of them someday soon, and I’m going to know exactly where they are.

– Each and every pair of pants my boys own, including how many holes, how they fit, and a pretty good idea of the month when they will be outgrown and need to be replaced.

– The exact hour and minute each kid fell asleep last night and woke up this morning, and consequently, exactly when the evening witching hour will commence for each of them.

– All the snacks in the cupboard, and how much is left in each container.

– The location of every toy in the entire house, except for the teeny-tiny-pieces-of-crap toys that seem to vanish into thin air.

– Each kids’ last doctor and dental checkup, and the dreaded week we need to make new appointments.

– Endless lists of wanted items: library books that need to be reserved, wish-list toys that will be purchased for birthdays and holidays, the ripped bathmat that needs replacing, vitamins that need reordering, and those peanut butter crackers that only can be purchased at the specialty store three towns away.

– Every permission slip that needs signing, every upcoming project and homework assignment, the next PTA meeting date, the deadline for signing up for toddler yoga, and how many make-up playdates my 8-year-old thinks he’s owed.

Sigh. I know that one day, there will be room in my brain for something else. One of these days, I’ll even read a novel again (right now, anything more than 800 words seems to fry my brain). And little by little, the kids will keep some of these things in their own brains (let’s hope).

For now, my brain holds it all. It’s mind-numbing and exhausting, and I do resent it sometimes. But when I remind myself how fleeting it is, there is something beautiful and bittersweet about it all. From the holes in their jeans that need patching, to those little ringlets of hair that need trimming—these details are what define their lives right now, and my life too, as their mom.

These two sweet boys have already stolen my heart, so I’ll let them steal a few brain cells while they’re at it—though I’m hoping I’ll get at least a few back someday.