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Parenting 'The mental load of June is real - I'll be spending it in a state of disarray'

Mum Margaret Lynch is looking forward to the summer holidays because the mental load right now is unreal.

JUNE IS THE absolute worst time of year for parents, and I won’t hear any differently. In a normal week, I feel like I am sprinting from the moment the alarm goes off on Monday morning until I get home Friday evening.

June, however, is a different story.

There isn’t enough coffee in the world to propel me through everything that needs to be done. In June, no matter how fast we run, juggle, dodge and catch, we just can’t catch up.

As the school year winds down, and as the kids, parents and teachers fight exhaustion, we have just ramped up the month to involve thousands of daytime events that you are required to attend. Ceremonies, sports days, school tours, choir ceremonies, picture days, coffee mornings and plays. At this point, it would be easier for me to camp overnight at the school gates.

Trying to stay organised

I frantically add everything to my phone calendar, with information gathered from texts, school apps, crumpled forms from the bottom of the school bag and overheard snippets of conversation. It might not be the best system, but it usually works.

And while I do typically remember all (most) of the things that need to be done, at this point of the year I feel like something gets lost every time I have something new to remember.

So, if I remember to wave off the school tour bus, I am going to forget the athletics pick-up.

This is because the mental load becomes completely unmanageable and causes everything to fall apart. The mental load is the term given to all the things that parents have to remember, it is the cognitive aspect of parenting. When the bedsheets were last changed, how many clean school shirts are in the press and who needs a new toothbrush?

We are also somehow supposed to keep a running counter of fruit & veg portions, homework, books read, water consumption, screen time and knowledge of who unloaded the dishwasher last because, god forbid, you ask the same child twice in a row, which chores have/haven’t been done for pocket money, birthday parties, whose turn it is to sit in the front seat, eye tests and vaccines.

You also somehow need to build resilience, teach manners, instil discipline and respect, and don’t forget to enjoy every minute.

While the mental load usually takes up around 97% of my brain, in June it grows arms, legs, six heads and sits on my shoulders. The tasks I usually juggle get slapped out of my hands. Already this month we have one missed choir practice on my parenting report card. The younger one was supposed to be at school 15 minutes earlier on Tuesday, but this information sailed in and then right out of my head. She went in at the normal time and had to spend the day with another class instead!

The guilt is real

The little reminder for this event, the space it was occupying, then gets replaced with a little ball of guilt, and if I don’t watch those little guilt balls carefully they can quickly spiral. And then it also takes up mental space. Along with everything else; the reminders, the guilt, the regret, the blueprint of the entire house with everything’s current location so that you can locate a sports sock, school bag or water bottle in seconds.

The social media algorithm also has me in a chokehold. Anytime I open my phone I am reminded how the end of the school year means they are a little bit bigger than they were last year.

It gives me helpful quotes like ’20 years from now, the only people who will remember that you worked late are your kids’. I am actually screenshotting that one to bring up with my therapist.

And it is true, that kids do base 75% of their childhood memories on the things we don’t attend. One year I missed the little ones’ sports day entirely. The school had postponed it a few times, due to weather and we had a couple of ‘will it/won’t it’ days. I had just started a new job and was in a meeting that ran late. When I checked my phone afterwards I realised we had missed the whole thing. My daughter was only around seven or eight, but she was so hurt that I wasn’t there for it.

We actually went on a family holiday later that year to Lapland, but while those memories are rarely brought up, we ruminate on the missed sports day at least twice a year. Usually at bedtime, when all requests for a glass of water have been denied.

Last week we had my younger daughter’s confirmation. This was a jam-packed, two-year programme of printing, completing and hand-delivering the assignments to the church. From there we were straight into the 1st Year’s end-of-year exams. I am pretty sure they have both slipped non-existent ‘no-uniform days’ by me this week and the younger one had an unsubstantiated Inservice day yesterday. It also doesn’t help that I am completely out of steam by this point in the year. The once pristine uniforms are stained beyond recognition.

Goodbye, lunches

We haven’t seen the tie in months and the lunchboxes are absolutely feral. Every time I pass one of the kids they ask if we are going on Summer holidays this year, or what we are doing for the bank holiday.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to process that it somehow isn’t February anymore.

So I will be spending June in a wildly unhinged state of disarray. I will be drowning in the pile of permission slips on the counter, waiting for the respite of the Summer months.

We will be sliding into the finish line battered and bruised. And this will be every June until technology can clone me, and I can send one to the school gates to wave encouragingly, one to work to actually earn the money we set fire to, and one home to tackle the laundry.

Knowing my luck though, AI will continue to just generate pictures of your cat if they were an astronaut until my kids leave school and then will develop a highly efficient scheduling app that can gather all this information and effectively manage the mental load. For now, it’s on us.

Margaret is a busy mum, working and living in Kildare.  


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