There’s been a whole lot of buzz about “mental load” on social media this past summer and while I’m certainly feeling its weight like so many parents that carry the brunt, I have to wonder if our proverbial load has increased in the digital age.
What parent hasn’t felt a seemingly endless stream of mental “to-do” notes, perhaps heightened more now by the ideals we’re bombarded with on Facebook or Pinterest?
Seriously? Time to make a rhubarb pie? Where does one even get rhubarb? Is it a fruit? A root?
There’s no time for rhubarb pie!
As we may repeatedly tell ourselves, our time only allows for so much, but still, there remains a sense of urgency to get everything off our plate to make room for an eternally regenerating stack. But, what would happen if we didn’t check off the mental list with such insistence?
Just now taking a moment to imagine halting the mental “to-do’s” and I start to feel my body clench. I feel my brain start to enter into a state of withdrawal, inciting real panic with a sense of something that’s not going to get done that, really — Must. Be. Done. Like now.
But wait … there’s more!
Instead of minimizing the list, over the last year, I even added more to my load as I set out to start a business venture called kidcareshare. (There’s no irony that it’s an app to help parents connect, help schedule care, and ultimately, hopefully, find some balance).
Struggling to find that balance, I often revert to the mom credo: Must. Help. Others. It’s as if my struggles warrant adding more to the stack to keep me just busy enough so I don’t have to confront the realities of just being present in that moment’s space and time. Whoa, right?
During a recent phone call with one of my advisers, I was presented with a powerful observation. As he listened to me lament about the stress of being a mom, upholding house and family, rattling off my must-do list for getting my business to the next stage of development, including my concern over a diminishing runway, how to get to the next milestone, and questioning the meaning of putting my heart and soul into something that has no guarantees, knowing I have limited time, etc. etc.
He said this in a very deliberate tone:
“But what is time, really?”
What is time?
I thought about it.
In other words, why am I in a race against the clock to get this app launched? Yes, there is the reality of running out of money (that’s kind of a big deal). Yes, there are competitors coming into the market. (Uber and Lyft. Zillow and Redfin. It happens and it’s healthy). Yes, I am crunched to deliver on my promise for a product that many parents are waiting for. But really, should the concept of time be my enemy? Who is giving me the deadline?
Yes, I have to book doctor appointments and grocery shop, and shuttle to camp and schedule a play date and run to the bank and work on my business, and cook dinner, be a friend, walk the dogs, be a wife, be a conscious mom, work on my business some more, network and spend quality undivided time with my family.
In all the bustle of getting it done, the last thing on my list, well, it should really be the first.
What if I took a moment to move through this load at a less frenzied pace to allow for more purpose and self-compassion. Could I let go of anxiety and actually live with more intention? Does the laundry have to be done, right this minute?
Here’s a playback of an ongoing conversation with myself:
Oh, but there’s so much more I need to learn, discover, give, receive, understand… there’s so much more I should do. It’s just that I only have so much time to do it all.
Really? Why then must you do it all? Who is telling you that you need to do any of it?
But then it won’t get done!
In truth, when I’ve found myself immobilized by daily stress, unable to breathe, something usually shuts me down with a slap — either in the form of an illness, a family member desperately needing my support, or my child making a statement that cuts through the heart. (“Mom, I don’t want to brush my hair. You’re judging me.”).
On the flip side, when I’ve found myself stopping to breathe deeply, to feel the moment and to open up to the world by practicing kindness, listening and living each day with gratitude, it just so happens that the opportunities find their way. Things work out. It’s quite simple, really. When we trust in the power of letting go, we find our joy in the journey.
When we trust in the power of letting go, we find our joy in the journey.
Think about that.
Make time for things that bring joy
Starting a business, even with all its ambition, I felt the undertaking to be less of a load, and more of a magical journey. I’ve found myself reconnecting with old peers, building a network of support, learning new things and enjoying the whole process and prospect of helping others.
It’s all really good stuff.
When I find more time, (I say that with tongue-in-cheek), there are some books I’d like to read, like Brené Brown’s treasure, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
Oh, that sounds lovely.