Packing for a trip is a test of mental endurance

I can’t forget the blender.

It hits me in the middle of the night, yet another item to add to my growing list of what to pack before heading out for a few days in sunny Florida. I can’t wait to escape Michigan’s gray skies for the Sunshine State, but first I have to survive my baggage.

And I can’t forget the blender. My daughter with special needs eats mashed potatoes because chewing is a challenge, so we can’t just roam McDonald’s drive-thru – or anywhere for that matter – to get her something to eat when we don’t. we’re not in town. And I don’t want her to rely on a week-long diet of yogurt and mashed potatoes, so I’ll bring our little Bullet Blender to puree the food while we’re away.

Packing for a vacation, especially as a mom (and multiplying that by 10 for a parent with special needs), is a test of mental endurance. I make lists, and more lists, and lists for my lists. I insist on forgetting even the little things that we will need. And by the time I’m done, I’ll need a vacation to pack my bags.

My husband – the same person who packs two T-shirts and shorts about 17 minutes before we leave for anywhere and calls it good – always chirps, “Don’t stress, Mo! If we forget something, we’ll get while we’re at it.”

The OCD part of my personality bristles at this approach. I prefer to plan and be prepared. I’m the one packing the ear drops just in case my daughter’s ears bother her while we’re out of town, which happened, or my son’s swimming goggles. And sometimes you cannot easily buy things, especially medicine, while you are away.

But sometimes I get so wrapped up in my baggage that I see the trees but not the forest. During a trip, I forgot some underwear. On another, I forgot my hairbrush.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who pack their bags well in advance and those like my husband, who literally opens his suitcase and puts his clean stuff in it before he leaves.

I am the old one. I plot and plan. I pack different possibilities and activities, all of which require different attire. But I’m not an overpacker either, especially if I’m flying. I always weigh the suitcase before arriving at the airport.

When my kids were younger and we flew to the East Coast to see family, packing was like doing a Tetris puzzle. There were car seats, baby gear, and gadgets, all of which needed to be put into the correct configuration. I repeatedly packed and weighed our suitcases, moving the items if the scale tipped more than 50 pounds.

The packing was even more intense when my daughter was very young and suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea. She slept on oxygen at night, so not only did we have to remember all the usual onesies, bottles and diapers babies need, but we also had to bring medical tubing for her nasal cannula and our pulse machine. I worked with a medical durable goods supplier to get oxygen sent to my in-laws. I think I deserved a medal for this trip.

Studies have been done on the mental load that women carry when it comes to household responsibilities, including packing and planning trips. We may live in a modern world and yet studies have shown that women still carry the majority of household responsibilities.

Last fall, Psychology Today published an article about a study by a Harvard doctoral student who conducted an in-depth discussion with 35 groups of parents asking them how household chores were distributed.

The “mental load process” has been divided into four parts regarding the tasks: anticipate, identify, decide and monitor. “Anticipating” could mean realizing that children have free time to go to school and realizing that something needs to be planned. “Identify” can mean choosing where a family can stay for a trip.

The study found that tasks were much more evenly divided for the ‘decide’ and ‘oversee’ part of decision-making, but ‘anticipate’ and ‘identify’ fell primarily on women.

“In the majority of families, women are more likely to put an item on the agenda and more likely to follow up to make sure it’s been done,” the story based on the study reads. .

And for my family, that includes packing for the holidays. In the end, I know it’s worth it because it will make everything run smoother in the long run. And I have to remind myself that it’s okay to sometimes take my husband’s approach too. But for this trip, I prepare the blender.

About Derrick Hill

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