I had a new low in my life as a mom last week.
Most days, I feel like I’m a chicken running with its head cut off. As a mom with three kids who works full time and has a side job, as someone who still tries to volunteer and make sure my kids are involved in ballet or soccer or basketball or whatever activity is in season - I’m doing well just making sure my kids are fed, clothed and where they are supposed to be relatively on time.
But it was the morning after President’s Day when my daughter woke up and stumbled sleepily down the hallway that I knew I messed up. Not her normal, morning-person, chipper self, I realized right away what was wrong. She was quiet. She was upset.
The tooth fairy forgot to come.
The tooth fairy has forgotten to come once before at our house, a few years back, when the weather was cold and apparently her wings froze over and she had to enlist the help of Santa to deliver the tooth money. But I wasn’t sure that excuse would slide, now that my eldest daughter is in fourth grade and probably barely believing in such things.
The tooth fairy probably got backed up, I explained. Let’s just see if she comes tonight, I suggested, as the kids rushed out the door to school that morning. As luck would have it, my daughter lost another tooth that night - double duty for the tooth fairy.
Only, I was busy volunteering at my church until almost 9 p.m. that night. I was busy grading papers for my class that week, and trying to make sure that I met a big upcoming deadline at work. As I went to bed that night, I thought about getting our taxes done, maybe buying a new couch for the living room, canceling a doctor’s appointment the next morning and trying to remember to sign up my son for baseball. I thought about the need to get another load of laundry in, about the need to pack my youngest daughter’s ballet bag when I left for work the next morning, and the thought that we were almost out of milk.
What I did not think about was the tooth fairy - for the second night in a row.
When my husband woke our oldest child the next morning, she instantly put her hand under her pillow, only to find the Ziploc baggie with her two teeth in it, still waiting. She groaned and plopped her head back down on her pillow is disappointment.
The tooth fairy, failed again.
There are times when I have so much going on between work, keeping up the house and managing the schedules of my three kids that inevitably, something falls through the cracks. And apparently, it’s not that uncommon.
At least 86 percent of women are still handling all primary responsibilities when it comes to their families, regardless if they work outside of the home or not, according to a 2017 Modern Family Index report from Bright Horizons. Regardless of work status or how much “co-parenting” a father may take on, the vast majority of women feel that it is their duty to tackle their children’s schedule and management of the home. That could include anything from doctor’s appointments and extracurricular activities to picking up prescriptions or getting the groceries.
The study also found that mothers who are the primary breadwinners in married households are three times more likely than primary breadwinner fathers to manage the children’s schedule. Over time, the “mental load” for women has actually increased, not decreased, the report found.
The average person has more than 150 tasks on their mind at any given time, things that they inevitably need or want to do. But when the mind is trying to remember these tasks, stress increases. And when the mind is on overload or someone is stressed, it increases the chance for something to be forgotten.
I’m not sure about a solution, as cutting back on my career or my kids’ activities isn’t an option. Maybe I’ll just have to start giving myself more reminders on my phone, setting more alarms through our Amazon Dot or I should just start putting sticky notes all over my house reminding me (and my husband) of what we’ve got going on.
On day two after the tooth fairy forgot, my daughter rode home from school on the bus to meet a babysitter, who asked her excitedly about her two new missing teeth. My 9-year-old slumped, and told her the tooth fairy hadn’t come yet. When the babysitter asked to see the newly-fallen-out baby teeth, my daughter ran to her room, only to find several crisp dollar bills laying in wait under her pillow, along with a tiny, handwritten note from the tooth fairy apologizing for the delay. Apparently her “wings” got frozen over again.
Not sure how much longer that excuse will work, but I’m hoping I won’t have to use it again. Fingers crossed.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.