I had a magnificent Monday morning plan. I would keep my phone off—all the way off—until Wednesday. I would spend my time being present with my kids. I would carve out quiet in a rare week where there were no immediate problems to solve.
The plan started out beautifully. I soaked in the early morning snuggles in bed with my younger daughter. I stood with her as she perched on the kitchen table, nuzzling noses and squishing my cheeks. I squeezed my older daughter good morning when she came downstairs, sat with her as she tried out a new breakfast we’d prepped (prepped!) the night before. I soaked in her delight when she said, “these strawberries are gooder than good.”
It was all so glorious, for a minute. And then I remembered. I forgot to tell her teacher that she’s getting picked up by her friend’s mom today for a playdate.
I turned my phone on to send the one teeny text. But before I got to it, I saw another text pop up about signing the kids up for summer camps.
Slight panic. I confered with my partner, who was making scrambled eggs. His eyes went wide like a deer in the headlights. His decision-making faculties hadn’t quite fired on yet. Mine were right there too—stretching to activate.
If you’re a novice to the hell-hole that is camp scheduling, here’s the scoop. Schools are out for summer break, and parents generally aren’t free from work all summer. So the band aid of a solution thus far has been to just enroll kids in a bunch of random camps. Camp sign-ups happen so damn early—some as early as February—and there aren’t enough camps for people who want spots (pulling us right into scarcity mindset). Sign-ups are fierce. I don’t plan anything six months in advance, and definitely not our summer schedule. But I cobbled together a plan—I’d sign my kiddo up for camps til mid July, then leave the rest of July and August open for travel, hoping my cousin’s wedding in Egypt would fall in the latter half of summer and we could take the kids back to the homeland to meet their kin.
I texted back and confirmed to sign up today at 10 for one last week of camp.
Then, the scramble began to figure out who would actually physically log in and sign up at 10am on the dot. My partner? No, he has a call. Me? No. I would be with our younger daughter at her forest school class. I checked the time. Somehow it was already 8:30, and we’re late to get the kids out the door for school. An unhurried morning turned into a logistical nightmare just like that.
Our quick fix was to rope in loving and willing grandparents. I told my partner to text my parents the login info and to stress that they need to be on it at 10am exactly. Then I tried to set a boundary: “I won’t be able to check in. I’ll be driving and in the woods.”
All of that and I still had yet to update my daughter’s teacher. I was officially harried, hurried and ungrounded. I scrambled my kids into the car and we started our commute across town to school.
Establishing our childcare community shouldn’t come at the steep price of drained and exhausted mothers at their wits end.
I played a kids audiobook to get through the long drive. In the time we drove to the school, my partner messaged that he couldn’t find the login info for the camps, my mom responded and asked how she was supposed to complete the sign-up and my younger daughter started acting fussy. I hugged my older child goodbye and then pulled the car over to settle things myself. I sent the login info to my mom and then finally got back on track with my morning.
The forest class made it possible for me to actually put my phone away for one whole hour. I helped my little one sit on the potty, put her rain gear on and then we went off to find fresh rain puddles. We followed her teacher through a woodsy path and heard the gushing of the creak. I was so immensely grateful for that pocket of quiet.
By the end of class, my phone had racked up a slew of notifications. Texts from my mom confirming the sign-up, texts from friends trying to coordinate camp weeks, a text from the nanny about time off and an update about my cousin’s wedding date.
This is the background hum of every primary parents’ life right now—most of whom are mothers—unless you have cracked the code for an interdependence and slowness that bypasses it, somehow.
This is just a small fraction of the logistical administration primary parents—Mothers—are carrying as it relates to childcare alone. There are playdates and birthday parties and camp sign-ups, swim lessons and dance lessons and soccer, school camping trips, carpools and nanny share agreements, school applications and interviews and daycares, valentines day cards and childcare coverage for the random week off.
A friend asked in playgroup the other day, “how many male-bodied people do you know that coordinate Valentine’s Day cards for school?” We collectively have yet to find a family where the male-bodied partner takes on that particular task
Can we ask ourselves, “is this all a good, healthy use of a mother’s time and energy and reserves?” Hell. No. It is not. It’s just not.
But here’s where I struggle: my desire to weave community, or even a survival level beneath that—my need for childcare so I can tend to basic needs—demands the logistical rigamarole I just described.
And okay—I definitely had agency. I could have done a better job not giving myself away. And that’s my internal practice.
The truth is, I value our collective time as mothers too much to resign to the sheer volume of logistical noise we have to take on in order to have our childcare needs met. There has to be a better way that preserves our brain cycles, and I intend to find it—or build it. The path to childcare shouldn’t be this hard. Establishing our childcare community shouldn’t come at the steep price of drained and exhausted mothers at their wits end.
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