One mama gives us a glimpse of the invisible workload that many mums bear – researching paraben-free shampoo, ordering groceries, rejigging kids’ schedules, and 99 other daily things that often go unnoticed
Last night you came into the kids’ room during our bedtime reading asking where the adhesive tape was as you couldn’t find it in the drawer where we usually keep it. I told you it was on the kids’ bookshelf. You took the tape while muttering in annoyance, “Can we just put things back where they are supposed to be?” Well, I wish to explain why I hadn’t returned the adhesive tape to where it was supposed to be.
You see, after the usual morning rush to get our son ready for the school bus picking him up at 630am for primary school and after you had rushed off for work, I heard a wail from our daughter’s room when I was filling her water bottle and getting her pre-school uniform while in-between bites and gulps of my toast and lukewarm coffee. I ran to investigate and found her distraught over her favourite book (which she had intended to take to school today) that had come apart. I took the adhesive tape from the drawer and mended the book. We were running late, but I had her dress and use the toilet, then packed her book and water bottle and drove her to her pre-school.
When I came home, I worked on my laptop for an hour while sipping the now cold coffee. Midway, I went online to order our kids’ shampoo which was running low. I checked manually and mentally, what else we were low on and could order together to save us on delivery costs. In the end, I ordered toothbrushes (our son has outgrown the little kid’s toothbrush), toilet paper (we only had a few left), hand soap (using this up fast due to recent frequent handwashing), and paraben- and artificial fragrance-free body lotion for the kids (I read up and apparently these are better for their sensitive skin).
I spent the next hour cleaning the kids’ bedroom, and hanging out the laundry to dry. Halfway, I was interrupted by some emails including a credit card bill (I’ve settled it), one from the library on our books being due soon (I placed the books in my bag so we’d remember to return them during the weekend), and an email from our son’s school on the dates of his term two weighted assessments. I wrote down the dates in my calendar and did a quick planning of pre-assessment revisions. Then I busied in the kitchen to make our son’s favourite Bolognese meatball pasta for lunch.
Once I was done, it was time to pick up our daughter. Before I headed out, I brought along the excursion consent form and fees that our daughter’s pre-school teacher had reminded me about this morning. Back home, I showered our daughter and played a board game with her. Then we went downstairs to wait for our son’s school bus. Our son complained the bus was hot and stuffy (it was also evident from his sweaty head) so I will have to check with the bus driver if the air-con could be turned up, if not, I will look for a neck fan he could use on the bus.
I heated up lunch and ate with our son while he told me about a quiz he had aced in school today. But halfway through I had to attend to our daughter as she had started fussing at the table. After feeding our son his vitamin supplements, I put our daughter down for her afternoon nap (which took at least half an hour as she wouldn’t go without a story). I’m thinking it might be time for her to skip afternoon naps. I will have to think about that and how to plan her day’s schedule around it. While she napped, I signed a bunch of worksheets that our son brought home from school, and hunted for art supplies like brushes, containers, and an apron for his school’s art lesson tomorrow.
After telling our son to revise for his spelling test tomorrow, I ironed our son’s uniforms and prepared his lunch box for tomorrow. Midway, I helped him with a math problem he could not solve. Then our daughter was up. I let her watch some TV so I could finish up. I was suddenly reminded we are low on cod liver oil. I wrote that down on our grocery list for my grocery run tomorrow, along with cheese and tomato paste as our kids miss homemade pizzas. Our son played with his sister while I started dinner prep, though that was interrupted by occasional tale-telling by our son on his sister and vice versa, which I resolved halfway through vegetable frying.
Dinner was ready when you came home. While you minded the kids at the dining table, I went to take a shower. But two minutes later, our daughter came pounding on the bathroom door telling me she didn’t want to eat the broccoli. You came to get our daughter so I could shower in peace but she ended up in tears and I cut short my shower to soothe her. I gobbled down dinner and replied to a few work emails on my phone while you played with the kids. Then it was time for me to get the children ready for bed while you cleared the dishes. As we were 20 minutes into our bedtime reading, you came in and asked about the adhesive tape and I realised I had left it on the bookshelf this morning.
So, that was how I had forgotten to return the adhesive tape to the usual drawer.
My dear husband, you might not know this but all mothers bear an invisible workload. You may notice my everyday visible workload of working, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids but what you don’t see is my mind working non-stop every waking hour thinking, planning, noticing what our family needs, then taking action on what needs to be done just so that everyone in our household is alive, healthy and comfortable.
I wrack my brain every day on the three meals to prepare for our picky-eaters, yet making sure the meals are delicious and not repetitive. I notice and take stock of our household necessities, groceries, clothes/shoes/books that our children are outgrowing, and attend to every school email/event and items they need for school. I’m always planning so we get to school/playdates/dental and doctor appointments on time while ensuring our kids get sufficient sleep and eat at appropriate hours. This, and the above, is just a snippet of what I do and what goes through my mind. Every. Single. Day.
You might say, if I needed help, I could ask for it. I don’t ask for help because asking husband for help and teaching husband how to do XYZ is put simply, another thing for me to do. Between asking you how to do something/explaining how to do it, and getting it done much faster on my own, the latter always prevails amid my everyday rush to get things done. It is a vicious cycle, I know.
But I also know you would be willing to learn and help. Just like how you take care of our utility bills, car and home Wi-Fi troubles, and post-dinner cleaning. So at an appropriate time, come to me without me having to ask and tell me you would like to learn how to pack our son’s lunch box or take charge of his school revision—I will explain to you how and you can take that load off me.
And when you commit to a task, please make it yours and see it through. Don’t let it be a half-baked effort like remembering to fill our kids’ water-bottles today but forgetting to do so tomorrow, or doing the laundry but forgetting to separate the whites and coloureds leaving me with the aftermath of ordering new school uniforms because our son’s white shirts had turned colour. A half-baked effort only means the workload is still mine as I have to check and complete it later.
Oh, and the next time when I forget to put the adhesive tape back or miss your numerous calls when I’m at the supermarket as I’m trying to load the groceries while reasoning with our little girl why we aren’t buying the sugar-loaded cereals, don’t get annoyed with me. That one thing I failed to do is really one out of the 100 things I had to do today, of which I had already completed the ninety-nine things in my to-do list. Just cut me some slack because I know I deserve it.
*This is a fictional essay written by the author to depict what goes through the minds of most mothers on a daily basis.