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The Mother Load: An Education in Communication

So, this post used to look a lot different. I'd carefully crafted an entire blog that came out of years of conversations with friends and family about what so many of us struggle with as women, which is the feeling of invisible-ness within our own lives. The invisible mental and emotional load we carry to keep this family train moving on time, with snacks for everyone and an extra change of preschooler clothes thrown into your mom purse at all times. And I was pretty proud of it and was planning on posting it last week. But there was just something about it that made me think that I should share it with Ian first.


I should say here that I’ve never once sent my husband a piece ahead of time that I’ve written for this, or any other website. I’ve never asked for his approval of my writing, never asked for his permission to share bits of our lives, outside of the initial conversation about the fact that I wanted to write a blog that would inevitably share details about our marriage sometimes, to which he was all in. He’s always been immensely supportive. But I’ve also never written anything that had even the vaguest undertone of true criticism of him or our marriage. And to be honest, I didn’t think The Mother Load piece did any of that either - I’d even included a line in there about how it had absolutely nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. But for whatever reason, I sent it to him the day before it was scheduled to post. I emailed him at work, copy and pasted the entire text, and said, “What do you think?”


Then I waited about two hours for a response. And when I got it, I was both relieved and taken aback. My husband is, at all times, thoughtful, gives me the benefit of the doubt, and is genuine and honest. And so, he was all of those things in his response. But he was also a bit taken aback by what I’d written. But why, I thought to myself. I even said this had nothing to do with him…why did he take this as anything other than an essay about motherhood?


So I read it again. Except this time, I read it through the lens of my husband’s eyes. Through the eyes of someone who gives 100% to me and to our girls at any given moment. Through the eyes of someone who gets our girls dressed in the morning, makes them breakfast, and drops them off at daycare each day. He does the laundry all of the time, takes out the garbage, and repeatedly reminds me about how to actually recycle. He plays dual parenting roles when I’m traveling for work and never complains about the extra weight of those moments. He asks me if there’s anything I need him to pick up at Target on his lunch break and adds to the never-ending grocery list we have going at all times on our calendar wipey board. He’s my partner in all things. And yet…


I wrote an essay, complete with a list all of the invisible things I do that make me feel like I’m carrying the Mother Load. All of these things that I have taken on over the years, yet never addressed with him. He never asked me to do all of these things and I never expressed to him that any of it felt like too much. But what I failed to do for the last forever years, was talk to him about it. Sending him this essay was the first time he saw in writing all that I felt I was carrying alone.


Read that again: I sent him an essay that was about to tell the world what I’d not even taken the time to tell him.


Woah.


I know, you’re judging me. And I don’t blame you, I’d judge me, too. I did judge me. That was a tough pill to swallow. I was about to get up on my soapbox and talk all about this Mother Load while letting my husband read along with you - for the first time - that I felt this way. Which is why I’m an Uncurated Mama and not the spokesperson for how good wives communicate with their husbands, apparently.


And then we started talking. He told me how he felt about it, I told him how I felt about it, and he even took the additional step of saying that he wrote down my list to remind him of things he could be more involved with, day-to-day.


Dammit! He out-spoused me! I mean, I know this isn’t a competition, but have we met? Of course I want to win at spousing!


Anyway. Let’s get real, it can feel really isolating when you don’t let your partner in on the fact that you feel like you’re drowning in responsibility and need a life jacket. Because what so many of us do is a lot of invisible work and I think it’s the reason we moms can sometimes feel like we’re invisible, too. Except I failed to give Ian the chance to see me. To tell him how frustrating it can be to have years and years of conversations with people about what a hands-on dad my husband is and what a great, contributing partner he is, yet nobody’s ever had that conversation with him about me. And it’s embarrassing to acknowledge out loud because it’s not a competition, I know, but it’s the truth.


Which I think is why it sometimes feels like too much to shoulder, because it’s rarely, if ever, spoken out loud or acknowledged. It feels expected and that can feel crappy. But then, if you’re anything like me, you hit a breaking point of not being able to manage one more freaking list and you maybe pour a glass of wine or go on a walk or hate-text with your best mom friend who gets it, and it passes.


But the Mother Load is real and I wanted to speak it out loud for us all, while also staying married. I see you, mama, all of the invisible-ness of your day and the uneventful yet exhilarating lameness of checking four things off of a list that never ends. I see it, I live it, too, and I love and hate it in tandem, on some days. You’re doing a good job, mama, and I see you.


Also, as it turns out, if you give your husband the chance, he might just see you, too! AND he might just out-spouse you. Which is the greatest gift he could give me, to be honest, because the other night he voluntarily went and got the vacuum and started cleaning the kitchen after one of our messier dinners, where everyone under four feet tall decided that throwing corn was good table manners. To which I looked at him in awe, smiled, and asked if he had any R-rated ulterior motives behind this impromptu cleaning.


“If that’s on the table, then just call me Mrs. Doubtfire!” said the smartest man in America.


The lesson here? Give him a chance to see you, mama. It just might lighten that load after all.