Buffalo Wild Wings Brain
It is not a secret that the overwhelming majority of the time the mother carries the mental load of their family. The appointments, school functions, activities, childcare schedule, etc. but also which kid doesn’t like certain foods in their lunch, which kid needs to take an apple to school on Tuesday for a project, which kid had some drama at school last week which may be leading to the hesitation to get out of the door Monday morning, which kid has library books due back Thursday, etc. Oh and the dog needs their heartguard. There’s just so much! Add in family stuff that isn’t kid specific and our own life stuff…yeesh. I’m tired just thinking about it. The mental load of motherhood is exhausting. The idea of sharing the mental load is wonderful and intriguing, but the reality of it is so tricky!
I had a conversation with my husband last week that went like this…
Me -“Do you have over or under 10 thoughts happening in your head at the same time?”
Him -“At the same time? Probably a max of 3.”
Me -“3?! Only 3?!”
I was baffled. I don’t know the last time, if ever, I’ve only had three thoughts in my mind at once. I immediately started asking questions. All the questions. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
I know my husband is good at compartmentalizing. He always has been. It is not something we share in common. But I had no idea how calm it was inside his brain! Or rather I had no idea just how chaotic it was inside of mine! I just assumed every adult was walking around with a minimum of 10 thoughts occurring simultaneously. I literally cannot imagine how different my brain and body would feel if there were only 3!
We started talking about how it is possible for him to only have one to three thoughts swirling at a time. He does the craziest thing. You guys, if a thought pops up that he can’t immediately tend to, change, etc. he just stops thinking about it. He described it as putting it in a room behind a closed door that he can open later if he wants. Excuse me, what?! Of course I had to ask what happens if you forget to re-open that door?! What happens if you were wrong and that thing did actually need attention?
I also asked him if he thought part of the reason why he only has a few thoughts at a time is because I’m thinking all the rest of them for him/us…
I explained to him that my brain is like Buffalo Wild Wings. I have the people sitting at my table with me and these are the immediate needs and focused thoughts. The things that need my attention at that moment. Writing this blog post. Going to pick up my kids. Making dinner. Listening to the kids recap their days. Etc. But then there are all the TVs with a dozen different games on them. Those are all the activities, appointments, commitments, etc. All the things I cannot forget but also can’t/don’t need to necessarily focus on right then. Then there’s all the background noise and movement. That’s the upcoming PTO meeting, extended family stuff, work ideas, client needs, my own needs, what is happening in the world, etc. Basically all the life stuff that is constantly happening and going on. It provides some noise and distraction and every now and then interrupts you at your table entirely, but mostly it is just always there.
My husband’s response to this was, “I guess my brain is like Buffalo Wild Wings too: wings, beer, and sports.”
I’m not going to lie to you, I was upset by this. Not at my husband, although I am a bit jealous. I’m upset that this has become so normal and such the expectation that I didn’t even realize how absurd it actually is.
I texted my friends the next day. They are also moms, they also struggle with anxiety on some level, and they also carry the mental load for their families. My Buffalo Wild Wings analogy made so much sense to them. And they were also suspecting their husbands would be much more like mine.
Are our partners able to have a max of three thoughts at a time because we are the ones holding onto all the others? It feels that way. But the thought of just giving my husband part of the load doesn’t seem feasible. How would it even work? And also, if he is only having a few thoughts at a time how will he ever remember the dang apple on Tuesday?! What if he puts that apple right behind the door and then doesn’t open it until Wednesday?! Are we going to end up with a bunch of rotten apples?!
The thing is, my husband is perfectly capable. He is involved. He wants to help. And he does. I was about to say that I trust him. And I do. But I don’t trust him to worry as well as I do. When it comes to my family, nobody worries quite as well or as often as I do. And in doing that I make sure a lot of shit gets done that could have or would have otherwise been missed.
My family might not know it but they rely on me worrying. They are used to my over functioning hypervigilance. It allows them to place some thoughts behind closed doors. But in doing so it also turns the volume up on the tvs in my brain.
My therapist regularly asks me “what are you worried will happen if you don’t worry or carry this?” and the answer is that things won’t happen, stuff will be missed, kids will be inconvenienced, etc. Me carrying the burden of this mental load keeps this ship afloat! I think that’s how most of us feel.
I don’t have any solutions for you yet. It’s a wall I just keep ramming my head into. But I’m also not actively making any changes to lighten this load, turn the volume down, or shift my focus. Too many parts of me are convinced that our ship will sink if I share any of this load. And I’ve assigned a whole lot of my value and worth to my ability to manage all the things that motherhood requires, so it makes it really difficult to release my grip. The mental load of motherhood is no freaking joke. Once I start to figure out how to do this, or take any action toward shifting this reality for myself and my family, I promise I’ll report back.
For now, I would love to hear from you. Does this resonate with you? Is your brain like Buffalo Wild Wings too? Or have you found ways to share the mental load? What do you do when your thoughts get too loud or you’re too overstimulated by them to be present to the things that do need your focus and attention? Share all of your tips and tricks with me! Comment here, email me, or find me on Instagram.
With so much love and gratitude,