I am efficient and capable. I am also capable of changing a lightbulb when one burns out. But you know what? I’m not going to do it.
Whenever I return from a few hours out on the town, my arrival initiates the following Pavlovian response… The second my kids lay eyes on me, they start salivating, and immediately break into a chorus of “I’M HUNGRY. MOM! CAN WE HAVE A SNACK? MOM! WHAT’S FOR SUPPER? MOM! MOM! GRANOLA BAR! BANANA! MUFFIN! NOT AN APPLE! CHEESE! I WANT CHEESE MOOOMMMM!!!”
This is not a big deal, and hardly surprising given that I am the one primarily responsible for putting food in their mouths, but this outburst is merely the tip of the entire iceberg of tasks required to oversee feeding the members of this household. It’s me who is largely responsible for the 3 meals + 5 snacks regime, but then, by default, it’s also me that then makes mental notes when we run out of this or that. It’s me who notices when our kids have not consumed a vegetable in three days, and it’s me who plans the meals, does the shopping, packs the lunches, and makes sure we run out of fresh food just before a long trip.
I enlist the occasional bit of help now and then, but generally I am the mind and brawn behind the multitude of small tasks it takes to oversee this aspect of our household. The same goes for laundry, our social calendar, home-school communications, and the general state of order and cleanliness on our entire property.
As a parent of young children, it seems my life is comprised almost entirely of thousands upon thousands of tiny micro-tasks—some may take 10 seconds, others 20 minutes or more. Individually, not one of those individual tasks is going to break me. But the elaborate mental scheme required to make sure all of these tasks are completed in a timely fashion and to an acceptable standard? That might.
So, you’ll excuse me if I don’t change the lightbulb.
The second I pull out a ladder and unscrew that damn thing, I’ll notice that we are out of bulbs for that fixture. Then I’ll notice it’s dusty up there, and on the rest of our fixtures, and then I’ll add that to my bottomless list of tasks to stress about.
I’ll debate whether we need to up the wattage of the replacement bulb because it’s kind of dark in that corner, and then I’ll research how to properly recycle CFL bulbs, and then if I accidentally drop it, I’ll find I’m the one clearing the house, opening all the windows and doors, and adding childhood cancer to the list of things giving me grey hairs.
I’ll price compare light bulbs at different stores and research alternatives to CFL’s, and, worst of all, anytime forever after if anything burns out, requires screwing, unscrewing, repair, or replacement in our household, the responsibility will now fall on my shoulders.
And the last thing I need is for the mere sight of me to initiate yet another Pavlovian cacophony of “MOM! CAN YOU CHANGE THE BATTERIES IN MY HATCHIMAL? MOM, MY RC IS BROKEN! MOM, THERE’S A SPOON CAUGHT IN THE GARBURATOR! MOM, WE’RE OUT OF BATTERIES. MOM, THE SWITCH WON’T TURN ON! MOM! MOM! MOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!”