I was passing through the living room quickly with a toddler melting down over the thought of getting her diaper changed. I needed to get rid of the stench immediately, but had also passed by about ten small beads on the rug that blended in just enough to stay there for days if I forgot about them due to the inevitable next task I’d dive into right after the diaper change. And if I forgot, my youngest would likely eat those beads at some point.
MENTAL NOTE: PICK UP THOSE BEADS AFTER I CHANGE THIS DIAPER.
I went into my kiddo’s bedroom to get the wipes and a new diaper and cleaned my 18-month-old while repeating in my head, don’t forget about those beads, get the beads after this…. beads, beads, beads.
I remembered the beads and while I was cleaning them up I reminded myself to remember to flip the laundry. But then I moved onto making lunch and while I was making lunch I remembered I needed to call the doctor back then made a mental note to change the sheets in Natalie’s crib and forgot about the laundry forever.
I find myself making SO many mental notes throughout the day. There’s the “remember to bring the tuition check to school” mental note, the “remember to finally put those clothes away” mental note, the “someone just spilled a ton of water, remember to wipe it up before someone slips” mental note, the “remember to change her Band-Aid and clean out her cut” mental note etc. etc. etc.
And these notes, mental as they are, seem to pop into my head at the most inopportune times. I remember the check while I’m driving in the car. I remember to clean up the water that spilled after someone slipped because I had to help someone in the bathroom before I could get to it. I finally remembered the Band-Aid hours later. (And I never remember the laundry so thank God Colin somehow has that one wired in his brain.)
Sometimes the mental notes stay mental. They never escape the shackles of my brain to find freedom on paper or my iCalendar or the notes app on my phone. And then I get frustrated with myself when I forget. Sometimes I beat myself up for forgetting.
But what I try (so hard!) to remember is this—there are usually about 5,000 things going on at once. I am raising three children (5, 3, 18 months) who like to chat and tell stories and listen to music and they’re asking for snacks and water and need help and other things and not to mention I have to do things for myself during the day too. So things are going to slip through the cracks, and I am going to forget. Or I’m going to remember hours, days, weeks later. And life will go on, and all the wheels will still turn.
Because the thing is—there’s always going to be a higher-level priority thing to remember. I mean, motherhood really feels like a constant cycle of remembering, forgetting, trying to remember, then forgetting again, then (maybe) remembering again one day… at some point in time.
It’s these dang mental notes—THAT’S what is exhausting us.
(That and sleep regressions, children waking up in the night and standing over our faces until we wake up, teething, bed wetting, the 500 questions in one day, the physicality of motherhood… to name a few…)
I asked my therapist, the amazing Dr. Maureen Magauran, a holistic psychiatrist and meditation teacher what moms can do about these mental notes. She shared:
“They can be a burden. It’s important to take a step back from everything you’re doing and ask yourself: What is the one most important thing that needs to happen today?
A major tool you can use in order to feel less anxious is prioritizing your time so that you spend more time on what’s important to you and less time putting out fires. That being said, it’s crucial that you regularly remind yourself that there’s only one of you and only so much you can get done.
Check in with yourself and ask: How can I stop adding things to my to-do list? Can I take on less projects or say no to more expectations? Can I ask for support or get help or hand off tasks to someone else?
Personally, I use my Google calendar and set alerts in hopes to remember to get a task done. I typically set one for two hours ahead of time as a head’s up and then a half hour before I’m aiming to get something done (in case I forgot about my head’s up). I try my best to get that task done anywhere within that time frame.
I also try to be realistic with myself and if I don’t get it done that day, I look at my calendar and see when I can reasonably fit the task in that week or the next, and I reschedule it for myself.”
I think the most important part about what Maureen is saying is that we have to be realistic. We’re not going to remember everything, but we are going to (eventually) remember the important things.
And I have found that even when I forget things, most of the time the people involved in my forgetting are really gentle with me. It’s me who is the critical one. So I’m trying to extend myself some grace when I forget. Because if I’m honest with myself, I remember more often than I forget, so that has to count for something!
My strategies for these random things I need to remember:
- Keep a notebook open with a pen nearby in a central location (for me, that’s our kitchen) to scribble random thoughts down as they come to me.
- Have a million notes with millions of things typed onto them in my notes app.
- Add reminders to my iCalendar like a wild woman and review them throughout the day. As I forget—similar to Maureen—I move them to the next day and at some point in time, I usually remember to get them done.
- Sometimes there are certain things on my calendar that I end up moving sooo many times I eventually just get real with myself and say, “You’re never going to do this,” as I click ‘delete’ and let it go.