I read this brilliant article by Pick Any Two recently. It is all about how as Mothers, we carry the invisible burden of keeping the family together. It is up to us to remember birthdays, (on both sides!), buy and post cards and presents, phone distant cousins, keep up to date with various illness and milestones and remember who bought your child which outfit so they can wear them when you see the person.
It got me thinking. The article is aimed at Mothers and I think it is more often Mothers that worry about that kind of thing but I started thinking about all the things you need to remember when you are the primary caregiver to a child.
Feeding. If you have a baby you need to think about when they will need to feed, where will you be, who will you be with, do you have enough milk, bottles, a spare bra and top for leaks, for older children, do you have enough snacks, even if you get caught in a traffic jam, where are you going to have meals, a drink?
Change bag. Do you have it, is it packed correctly, checked whether the clothes are the right size, nappies, wipes, nappy bags, cream etc etc. When they get older do you have spare pants, spare clothes in case of mud, wet wipes for emergencies?
For school. what is show and tell this week, where is their library book, do they need sports kits, musical instruments, have you done their reading, their homework, have they got their water bottle, do they know what the lunch options are?
Friendships. Any playdates this week, what are they going to eat, any food allergies, likes/ dislikes, (not just your own children to remember now), birthdays, parties, have you rsvp’d, chosen meals, bought an appropriate present, wrapped it, bought a card, got your child to write it?
Your friendships. Have you returned that text, (you can read more about how I feel I’m a rubbish friend here), called someone overdue a chat, did you find out how the worrying doctor appointment for your friend’s daughter went, bought, wrapped and posted a card and present for a birthday you can’t get to, remembered your friend’s children’s birthdays, booked babysitting for a night out with another couple, planned that drink you’ve been talking about for months, invited people round for dinner, bought the food, cooked it?
Life. The food shopping, online or in person, what do you need, what are you cooking every night for the whole week, what ingredients will carry you through until the following week shop, if you’ve got behind, when can you go, when do you have time to sit down and take the time to fill up your virtual basket, and then when will you be home to wait in for your hour or two slot, have the time to unpack?
Admin. Did you phone up about that parcel that never arrived, logged on to give that meter reading that was overdue, first taking 10 minutes to reset your password because you have no space in your brain to remember the 55 passwords you need on a regular basis and might or might not contain a symbol, a capitol letter or have been created by your partner.
Home. Is the spare room clear, you have your mother in law coming at the weekend, where is the spare bedding, is it clean, matching, where have the pillows gone, they were definitely here last time you had guests, can you see the bed, has it become an overspill for the laundry factory you seem to be running, those christmas boxes need a new home, where shall they go, up in the loft, but if you do that you need to move some stuff around, which will take a few hours. You swiftly realise that to put the stuff in the boxes away, you need to have somewhere to put them, debate ordering some new furniture, go to the shop or have it delivered, wait in for it to arrive, build it, put it into place after moving the stuff that is already in the space, debate where to put the stuff that is removed, back in the spare room, shut the door, decide to deal with it later in the week.
Washing. Does everyone have clean pants for the week, is it going to be sun or snow or both, is there a load on the line, in the machine already, you really really need to go through everyone’s wardrobes and remove everything that is too small, schedule in a few hours for that.
Cleaning. Is anyone visiting this week, what day, can you get away with not hoovering, why can no-one be in the house without causing epic mess, how can we spend 10 of the 13 hours they are awake out of the house and yet the whole house still looks like a cyclone has been through it, how does everything get so sticky?
Work. Have you replied to the urgent email yet, replaced the one decent skirt you had that you ripped on the door handle last week, renewed your tube or train pass, been through your briefcase which is embarrassingly full of old paperwork and makes you look totally dis-organised when you have to sift through a wodge of pictures from nursery before finding that vital contract you were up until 3am finishing.
I’m going to stop here because it’s making me exhausted just thinking about it, this list is no means exhaustive either, if your child is ill you need to add in medicine, do you have it, does it need to be kept in the fridge, what time will you need to go home for it, when do they need to take it, with food? And don’t even get me started on self care, when do you shave your legs, dye your hair, pluck your eyebrows, put on make up for the school run?!
If you’re anything like me, your day is timed to the second, tenuously balanced to make sure you include everything that you need to achieve, your mind frantically flipping through your mental to do list, always slightly distracted trying to remember everything for the next day, and the one after that too.
So when my husband drops a casual; ‘Can you just…?’, followed by a seemingly tiny favour in at breakfast, is it so unreasonable that I want to scream at him but settle for a death stare over the children’s heads as my day unravels into chaos in my already choked mind?
After all, looking after kids is easy isn’t it? Don’t we just spend our days hanging out at the park and drinking coffee………? 😉