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The Extra Job in My Head

How to take a mental break when your mind is filled with reminders of your to-do list

I was sitting in a meeting with my team when I found myself drifting off to my to-do list located smack dab in my head: the sheets need changing, the dog needs groomed, the chicken’s been thawed for two days and needs to be cooked before it goes bad. On and on and on. This wasn’t a random occurrence of my mind wandering. This happens daily. It’s as if I’m doing two jobs concurrently—one in my head and one real, “hands-on” job right in front of me. I sometimes wonder, after I’ve come back to the present from my to-do list, if the men sitting around the table think about these same things—or if this is unique to women. I don’t know the definitive answer, but I do know after being married for 33 years that I do this more than my husband.

As a woman in full-time ministry, I’m constantly trying to integrate, juggle, keep up, and balance my roles as pastor, wife, mom, grandmother, and writer. Then add on to that keeping everything in my family’s world running. I’ve heard this described a million ways in women’s blogs and at women’s conferences. Whatever you call it, this invisible job takes up a huge amount of precious mental real estate and can be draining and anxiety producing, mostly because I don’t know how or if everything on the to-do list in my head is going to get done. I hold the list in my head through the work day, but it can explode when I get home, often driving me to bark orders at my family. The list must be accomplished!

My husband definitely helps. He takes care of our taxes, the insurance, and booking flights for our vacations. If I didn’t do the grocery shopping, sheet changing, or social planning, he’d pick up the slack. But would he think about it and add it to the list in his head? Do men even keep lists in their heads?

I remember when our children were little. I would be the one to think about the amount of diapers we had, or the shampoo levels in the bottles, or the amount of toothpaste left before the final squeeze, or when the kids needed their shots. I could keep this stuff in my head while working on projects or running the kids from school to soccer to piano lessons. But when I would ask my husband to pick up something from the grocery store on his way home from the office he would forget. How does that happen? How can he forget something that is constantly taking up so much space in my brain? His heart was to help me, and he certainly didn’t forget to stop by the grocery store on the way home on purpose.

June15, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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