Allie, my five-year-old, watches me from the kitchen table. “How can you carry both things?” she asks. Her big brown eyes are wide.
“Moms can carry lots of things,” I say, holding a box of Rice Krispies in one hand and a gallon of milk in the other.
I continue walking toward the table, placing the plastic jug next to her empty bowl. She clutches the bowl with both hands as I pour the cereal into it.
My response went in one ear and out the other—she just wanted breakfast.
Many things I carry are unseen (or unnoticed).
Some days it looks like love in one hand and resentment in the other. Grateful and irritated. Happy and tired. (And, if I’m being honest, the negative emotion is generally the one I show.) Sometimes, for me, the weight of carrying such big feelings at the same time feels very heavy. (Maybe this is a personality thing? An Enneagram five thing?) And truthfully, it’s hard for me to admit that it’s okay to be both. The ever-present: both/and.
Then there is the mental gymnastics I often do, from school schedules and well-check appointments to birthdays and anniversaries. Add on top of that, the worrying I do about the emotions and well-being of everyone in my family. This work is often referred to as the “invisible workload.” Typically, the mom takes on this role. For example, in my house, it tends to fall on me to keep track of when our kids are the “star student” or “helper of the day,” and to remember their assigned days to send snacks to school. And every morning, I make sure they have water bottles in their backpacks. (Seriously, where do the bottles go? They keep disappearing as the school year goes on.)
On top of the unseen things I carry, there are the physical items I’m toting around. As a mom of three young children, I can often be found holding the baby while wiping another kid’s bottom or carrying a diaper bag and groceries. Or one kid on each hip and another at my feet. Or the nights when I’m bringing dinner to the table, both hands full, while one of them asks for a glass of milk.
I never want my kids to feel like they are to blame for my feelings. (Or to feel the need to praise me constantly.) I’m grateful for the labor and time I can put into our family. But it’s nice to be noticed every once in a while when I’m carrying some things too.
Even if it’s just a gallon of milk and a box of cereal.
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Feature image by Josey Miller | @storyanthology