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The Endless Spinning Plates of Parenthood

A mom’s mental load: I once broached this topic with my husband. After explaining it to him, he looked at me like I had grown an extra set of eyes. He didn’t understand, and I couldn’t come up with another way to explain. I wished I could draw him a picture to explain this foreign concept.

Photo credit: Antony Stanley
Photo credit: Antony Stanley

Do you know those circus performers that stand in the center of the ring and balance spinning plates on tiny sticks? That’s what I do. I picture myself with one arm spinning separate plates for piano lessons, swim lessons, soccer, and speech therapy. We are at a crazy point in the next few weeks where one activity is starting before one ends. I’ll admit to feeling a bit frazzled when I think about it. Then there is another arm spinning plates for school. There are backpacks, lunchboxes, clothes, shoes, school supplies, and medication forms to complete. Off of that arm is a pole with plates for cooking, cleaning, and laundry. We have a house with small boys, and so this means that never-ending puddle of pee on the floor next to the toilet. No matter how much I accidently soak up with my socks, the puddle just never seems to get any smaller. Yeah, there is a constant plate spinning for that puddle!

I have a pole spinning a plate for each of my children and my husband. There is a pole with plates representing my relationships with family and friends. We can add some plates because the van needs an oil change and my kids are already bugging me to order their Halloween costumes! Then there is another pole for doctor and dentist appointments. I messed up and scheduled them the first week of school right in the middle of the day. What was I thinking? I think — maybe, I’m not entirely sure — that there is a pole labeled “me” behind my back somewhere. I know that if I tried to turn to see if I can even get a glimpse of this hidden pole, those plates that are spinning back there would for sure drop some of these other plates I’m trying to balance. Well, I think the plates are still spinning. I’m too busy to even attempt to look down to see if they’ve shattered at my feet. If they did, I didn’t notice.

Can you see this in your mind — me with all the poles with all the spinning plates?

Because we are a military family, there is another person in the ring with me. He gives me that illusion that I oversee my own life. Uncle Sam may decide to throw me a bunch of unwanted spinning plates with no notice. He may arbitrarily look over to see if those plates are still spinning or if they’ve all landed in a heap on the ground. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my life as a military spouse. However, Uncle Sam is really great at ruining perfectly good plans at no notice. I’ve learned to try to keep an arm free of spinning plates just to anticipate Uncle Sam’s plans for my husband.

So moms, I give myself permission to say no more often. I give myself grace to realize that I can’t always keep all of these plates spinning. I promise to hand over some of these plates to my husband more often. Lastly, I give myself forgiveness when I accidently drop a plate.

My name is Julie, and I am a mother of four. My husband and I are expecting our fifth child in December. We currently live in Fallon, and my husband has a career in the U.S. Navy.


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