Discover more from To Tell You The Truth
The Truth is Messy
Happy Back to School Season to all who celebrate!
Emerson began his Sophomore year on Monday, and Mercy started her 5th Grade Era on Thursday. But let's be honest, we’ve been preparing for this time for weeks. Gathering up all the to-do lists and scheduling the appointments to make sure everything is in order for the clubs and classes and sports and ALL THE THINGS.
It wasn’t until I walked back into my home after school drop-off, empty except for my two weirdo dogs, that I realized I’d actually been holding my breath for a very long time. I was exhausted, having spent months limping across a finish line for a race I didn’t even know I was running.
So let’s talk about that, shall we?
What I’m referring to is the mental load we carry as parents, and primarily as women+. First of all, it never ends. Our brains and bodies are constantly internalizing care and concern for our kids, partners, homes, loved ones, work, the state of the world, and about a million other mundane things, from orchestrating calendars to grocery lists to eye doctor appointments. There is no downtime, no off-switch.
Regardless of a woman’s work status outside of the home, the stats show that we are still mentally managing more of the day-to-day functioning than our male counterparts. Even the tasks we share with our partners or housemates cost us energy as we make them lists and send requests and reminders. Something* about being a parent and a woman+ means that most of the unseen tasks tend to fall to us (*ahem . . . could it be the patriarchy?!)
The start of the school year stacks even more weight to the load, demanding we maintain a preemptive managerial position in addition to the everyday frontline parental role we embody. The mental load of preparing for all that a new school year requires, from supplies lists to open house nights and meeting the teacher, endless forms, physicals, and permission slips, to nurturing the emotional needs that change and disruption can trigger in our kids. All of these details sit in our cerebral cortexes like tiny sponges soaking up our energy and focus, taking up more and more space as they grow larger.
I wonder if you can relate.
As I walked into my deliciously quiet house and let out a sigh of relief, I noticed a twinge of guilt creep up immediately. Should I feel glad for a break? Or does that make me a bad mom? Should I feel bad for celebrating that I am finally done with my never-alone-always-on-summer plus the week-before-school chaos? And on and on.
Repeat after me: Should is a dirty word.
It is okay to feel relief when you finally cross the finish line, and it is normal to feel guilty for feeling that relief, and you have nothing to feel guilty about. You did it, you launched them into another fresh year of firsts and try-agains and all the in-betweens. They are planted into a new season full of possibilities and challenges, all of which will help them become more of themselves in this world.
In a world that loves to see women+ suffer with a smile, we can talk about how hard it is, how impossible it seems, and how exhausting and overwhelming life can be.
In a system that enforces impossible and contradictory standards for women+, we can normalize imperfection and refuse to hide our true selves by playing small.
In a society that offers women+ a shit arrangement by putting the onus on us to carry the mental load and absorb our struggle internally while presenting as perfect all the time, we can choose to opt out.
Telling the truth about our struggle can feel dangerous, and admitting we need help might seem counterintuitive — but the alternative isn’t working. Trying to keep up with unattainable expectations isn’t serving us. In fact, it’s killing us. I was crumbling internally, all the while assuming there was something wrong with me. Others made it look so easy. They didn’t appear to forget to schedule the dentist appointment or reply to that email. Their kids have new haircuts and perfectly ironed shirts, meanwhile, my girl wore the same jeans three days in a row this week.
The illusion is perfection.
The truth is messy.
I’m learning, albeit slowly, that this stage of life is more like an unfinished painting in an artist’s studio and less like a masterpiece hanging on a gallery wall. In-process and ever-changing, full of possibility and vision, layers upon layers — just like each of us.
In lieu of Five Faves this week, I’d like to invite you to consider donating to TogetherRising, which is collecting emergency funds and distributing them to vetted reputable organizations providing aid to the people and community of Maui. Our hearts are with you, Maui.