When it comes to parenting, there’s the obvious work: making the dinners, feeding the kids, giving the baths. But then there’s also the mental management work of home and parenting: making the lists, assigning the jobs, knowing what needs to be done and when.
It’s the latter work that, while largely invisible, can weigh down and overwhelm the person who finds themselves responsible for it. Cameron Reeves Poynter, who blogs at LuckyOrangePants, recently drew an overwhelming response when she wrote on Facebook about what it feels like to be that person, whom she referred to as “the keeper.”
“I am the keeper,” the 41-year-old mother of 2 boys wrote in her viral post. “I am the keeper of schedules. Of practices, games, and lessons. Of projects, parties, and dinners. Of appointments and homework assignments.”
“I am the keeper of information,” she continued. “Who needs food 5 minutes before a meltdown occurs and who needs space when he gets angry. Whether there are clean clothes, whether bills are paid, and whether we are out of milk.”
“To me, a keeper is a person who spends much of their own emotional capital cataloging and remembering and anticipating the myriad ways to make other people feel loved and secure,” Poynter told HuffPost.
Poynter says she wrote the post in a “raw moment of self-doubt” about whether she was doing a good job as a parent. “I started to think about the weight of all the information ― tangible and amorphous ― we keep for the people we love,” she told HuffPost. “My husband and boys are incredibly loving and thoughtful human beings and they do a great job of recognizing that most of the time. But sometimes we need to hear it.”
In her post, she also writes about some of the side effects of being responsible for all of this information, and why being a “keeper” is such an exhausting role. While Poynter is careful to point out that both men and women can be keepers, the message is similar to that of a French comic entitled “You Should’ve Asked” that went viral in May for perfectly explaining the burden of “the mental load” on women.
“But sometimes the weight of the things I keep pulls me down below the surface until I am kicking and struggling to break the surface and gasp for breath. Because these things I keep are constantly flickering in the back of my brain, waiting to be forgotten. They scatter my thoughts and keep me awake long past my bedtime.”
Not only is this work stressful, but it’s “invisible, intangible,” she writes. All the things the keeper keeps “go unnoticed and unacknowledged until they are missed.”
And it’s that last piece that may explain the huge response to Poynter’s post, which had received over 68,000 reactions and had been shared over 72,000 times since September 18th.
“It clearly struck a chord with people who perhaps feel the work they do is invisible but oh so important,” Poynter said. “I’ve had so many friends and strangers reach out to me over the last week and tell me they didn’t think anyone else understood. That they desperately needed someone to simply say ‘I see you. I see what you do. And it really matters.’”