All the extra things that mothers do: the true weight of motherhood

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When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a mother. I feel like it was always a part of me. I did all the things that I thought mothers did: I carried around my baby dolls. I dressed them. I pushed them in my doll stroller. I rocked them in my little rocking chair. I even lifted my shirt to nurse them.

girl with baby doll 1980s

girl with cabbage patch doll 1990s

I cooked pretend meals in my play kitchen and washed pretend pots and pans. When I was old enough to help with real household chores, I was always daydreaming about cooking for my own family or cleaning my own house.

This was all I really ever wanted.

Then why do I sometimes feel so…unhappy? Unfulfilled? 

These are far too strong of words, but I’m struggling to find the right ones:

Tired. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Burdened. Stretched. Stressed. Pressed. Strained.

Why does motherhood feel so heavy?

All the extra things that mothers do: the true weight of motherhood

When my three-year-old slips his little hand into mine as we walk across the parking lot, something sparks within me and my heart overflows with love, goodness, and a sense of belonging. There’s no where else I’d rather be…

…until five minutes later when I leave him at preschool and I walk away feeling just a tiny bit lighter knowing that I have one less responsibility for the next 3 1/2 hours.

For the last month I’ve been drafting this post in my head as I have had a realization about the true weight of motherhood. I realized that the problem isn’t that I’m on the wrong path or I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. The problem isn’t even that I was unprepared for the baby-tending, cooking, and cleaning.

The problem is that I was unprepared for all the extra things mothers do that I never really noticed.

All the extra things that mothers do: the true weight of motherhood - The longer I am a mother, the more that I grow in appreciation for my own mother. Because now I can see all the things that she did that I took for granted. 
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Mothers remember when library books are due – and end up paying fines for overdue books and movies because life got in the way and they didn’t get returned on time.

Mothers sign the forms. All the forms. The permission slip forms. The school forms. The registration forms. The summer camp forms. The medication forms. The doctors forms. The records release forms. All. the. forms.

Mothers remember it’s “teacher appreciation week” and buy gifts for teachers at the end of the year and on holidays. They are the ones who volunteer at school.

Mothers liaise between school and home – who let the teachers know what’s going on at home and the husband what’s going on at school. They are the ones who pass notes (or app messages, now) back and forth with the teachers, or go into the school for extra chats before or after school.

Mothers are the first to read the progress reports and report cards, and the ones who try to keep track of what school assignments are due and when.

Mothers remember that we are out of toothpaste or toilet paper, and remember (or forget) to pick some up at the store.

Mothers trade out summer clothes for winter, weed out clothes and shoes that are too small, and make sure their kids have an acceptable wardrobe for the coming months.

Mothers plan vacations and trips and sign up for what snacks to bring to the family reunion.

The other day I pulled into the school and began inching my way through the car dropoff line. In the car in front of us, a man was driving, and a woman who I assumed to be mom was in the backseat with her daughter – brushing her hair into a ponytail.

At a stoplight between school and the YMCA, I glanced over to the lane next to me. A mom had both hands on the steering wheel, resting on either side of a clipboard or folder containing a spelling list. She was quizzing her daughter on her words while driving. It made me think of all the hours my mom spent preparing me for state-wide spelling bees.

None of these things, in and of themselves, are really all that burdensome. A form, a trip to the grocery store, 10 minutes going over spelling words, a trip into the school in the morning.

But when you add them all up, these administrative tasks take on a load of their own.

What I struggle with is the severe memory load. Especially when I’m under a lot of stress already as a special needs wife and mom caregiving for two people with mental and emotional challenges, and working part-time from home (doing a job I love)…

I forget a lot. I forget to return the library books. I forget to buy snacks for my child to take to church because he can’t have the donuts they provide. I forget to buy the toothpaste. I forget to return the permission slip form. I forget to sign and return the report card envelope. I forget to buy the new shoes until the old ones have a hole in the toe. I forget that we are out of juice boxes (again).

All the extra things that mothers do: the true weight of motherhood | baby boots

Then I remember, and I feel like I’m failing.

Why can’t I get my act together?

Maybe I’m just not cut out for this…

Is it supposed to be this hard?

Do all moms feel this way?

I think that they probably do.

So, this Mother’s Day, while the cards and the memes and the commercials may celebrate the big things you do – the kissing of boo-boos, rocking babies to sleep, and putting dinner on the table…

Today, I’m celebrating you and all the little things that mothers do.

For every permission slip form you’ve signed, every teacher gift you’ve bought, every library fine you’ve paid, every registration form you’ve ever filled out, every homework packet you’ve checked over, every time you squeezed another pea-sized drop of toothpaste onto a Minions toothbrush because you forgot to buy more…

It matters. It all matters. You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

Happy Mother’s Day. 

All the extra things that mothers do: the true weight of motherhood


Thoughts about motherhood on my first Mother’s Day as a new mom

Knowing that the mundane matters

Mother’s Day and Special Needs Parenting

Special Needs Moms Share Their Thoughts About Mother’s Day

Messy Motherhood (through the eyes of another)

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One Comment

  • jeanniere

    You get it! And though you are in the midst of it right now I promise you that some day you will look back and say “It was worth it!” Every exhausted moment, every signed form, every battle fought is worth it when you see those children grown and having children of their own, living full lives. Yes it is worth it. I wouldn’t trade one moment of those years.

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