Like many mothers, I carry our family’s mental load.
In our household, my husband does a lot of the old-school “dad” stuff — emptying the trash and mowing the lawn, for example. And I appreciate everything he does (and try to remember to say it.) But all those things don’t change the fact that the orchestration of things is still on my shoulders. I’m the one who researches preschools, gets the kids ready for “Pirate Day” (while first remembering that it is Pirate Day), makes sure all the never-ending forms are signed, and all the rest. It’s nonstop mental and physical bookkeeping to make sure that everyone’s life is neat and orderly.
When I told my husband I was feeling overwhelmed, he jumped in and started helping more with the dishes, baths, and bedtime routines. All of that definitely helped with the physical exhaustion of day-to-day parenthood. But it didn’t help with my chaotic brain, the brain that was still working overtime to juggle everything. So, eventually, I came up with an idea that actually helped a lot: I told my husband he was in charge of the kids’ backpacks.
That’s it. Backpacks.
It would be his job, forever more, to be the packer and the un-packer of those backpacks. As every parent knows, there is so much hidden inside those innocent little backpacks in the way of tasks and to-dos and responsibility, making Backpack Duty so much more significant than it seems.
One of the stressors that lurks inside of my son’s backpack: The Binder. This white plastic object brings me the most angst of all because the inside screams complete chaos. To start with, there’s the sifting through all of the 532 handouts that are given weekly. There are permission slips that need to be excavated and signed, homework that needs to be filed, assignments that need to be calendared and fundraisers that need parent volunteer signups. THE VOLUNTEER SIGNUPS. And now this job is my husband’s.
Guys, identifying this task and outsourcing backpack duties has done so much to ease my mental load. Here’s why:
- Now my husband is in the know, so I’m not the only brain responsible for all the incoming data. We can both be aware that “Pirate Day” is on the horizon, and just sharing the knowledge of what’s ahead makes it feel more fun and like less of a chore.
- The evening homework grind is much easier. Now that my husband’s looped in, he can chime in and make sure our son is studying for his math test; it’s no longer just me reminding him to do it. So on some level I’m relieved of the burden of being a nagging mom.
- Our communication and overall family organization has improved immensely. My husband and I sync our smartphones, write things on the calendar hanging in the kitchen, and text each other reminders.
- Most importantly, it’s helped me be a better parent. It may sound cheesy, but now that my brain is less cluttered, I have the opportunity to connect with my son more in the afternoons and evenings. All kinds of mental space is freed up.
The evenings are now calmer for me. I’m no longer filled with crazed worrying that I’ve forgetten something for the following day. One night recently, I was sitting in my spot on the couch reading when I heard my husband tossing my son’s backpack onto the kitchen counter. As I heard that “Zzzzzzzip” sound, I just felt extremely thankful that this role was being taken care of by someone other than me. That little zzzzzzzip…. Who would ever guess it could sound so sweet?