Dear Husband, After a decade of marriage, I have a confession to make. I’m never losing the baby weight. There. I said it.
Just kidding, that’s not it! At this point, that could hardly be considered a confession; it’s more common knowledge around here.
What I actually need to share with you is this: I just can’t keep track of your family, too.
I am done. Finished. Tapped out. Mentally housed. Age-appropriate behaviors, developmental milestones, well visits, dental check-ups, parent-teacher conferences, swim team registration, baseball practices, and beyond, are all swirling around in my mind constantly. Sometimes you know about these responsibilities and concerns, sometimes you have no idea they even exist until they’ve been managed (or possibly, mismanaged) by me.
I don’t blame you for this. You have a full-time job that you physically go to. Your salary pays for nearly all of our bills. I stay home full-time and my part-time job is done from home.
The division of labor we have makes sense, but the logic of it all doesn’t make my mind any less full or my calendar any more manageable.
Aside from the family we’ve created together, I still have the family I was born into. I love them all dearly and they have been important to me my whole life. I know their birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant dates, and I do my best to celebrate them when I can.
Because my family is pretty large–massive might be the more appropriate word here–this is quite an undertaking. I don’t expect you to do this for me (and thank goodness, because that means I’d wish my parents “Happy Anniversary” sometime between never and next-never). However, somehow, the job of celebrating everyone on your side of the family also seems to fall to me.
It’s been this way all along. Since we’ve been together, I’ve been a walking, talking equivalent of event-planning software for you. Just call me Remind 101 (this is actual reminder software for students, typically teens. Feel free to draw whatever parallels you wish here).
“Did you buy your mom a birthday card? Have you thought about what you want to get your Dad this year for Christmas? Did you call your brother to wish him Happy Birthday? I had the boys make these ornaments for your parents for Christmas. I created this calendar for your grandmother.”
Experts refer to this task broadly as kin-keeping, and it’s the invisible labor that helps comprise what women describe as “the mental load.” It’s largely thankless work that goes mostly unnoticed, unless the woman in question fails to do it. Then, believe me, people notice.
As the holidays approach, this becomes especially important. Halloween may barely be upon us, but the stores around here started flirting with Christmas in late August, so this conversation needs to happen now.
It’s not that I don’t care about your side of the family, because I do.
It’s not that I don’t love them, because I do. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate them, because, once more for the cheap seats, I do. It’s that there is only so much mental real estate in my brain, and currently, there’s no more vacancy.
If I remember their special day, of course, I will remind you. If I see a gift I think they will appreciate, I will pick it up (and by see a gift, I mean when I’m browsing Amazon. We have three little kids. Brick-and-mortar shopping is a fool’s errand right now). If the kids are with me on the special day, and I think about it, I will have the kids make that phone call.
However, we’re at the point where the primary responsibility needs to shift to you.
After ten years, I have used up all of my gift ideas. After three kids, I don’t have time to oversee a special handprint craft for every birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and beyond (times two sides of the family).
Without a doubt, it is a blessing to have so much family to celebrate. But when something falls through the cracks, and a special day is missed or shortchanged, I can’t shoulder the blame or guilt anymore. I can’t be responsible for the last minute (or late), poorly planned, thrown-together gift. I need you to shoulder your fair share of this.
Something has to give here. If you don’t want that “something” to be the flowers sent to your mother on her birthday, well, you better mark your calendar now. Your Administrative Assistant is taking a leave of absence.
Editor’s note: The writer of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous.