Recently, I’ve been reading about the Spoon Theory (also sometimes called the token theory). The idea is that we’re all given a certain amount of spoons (or tokens) each day—metaphorically of course–to spend on all the things that we need to get done during the day.
It is usually applied to explain disabilities or chronic illnesses, which often can’t be seen but still make people’s lives difficult (like Lupus, Chronic Pain or Aspbergers). But I actually think that, without dismissing the experiences of these people, the spoon theory also can be expanded to include moms.
Just think of all the things you have to do during the day, and then imagine doing them without children. You wouldn’t even have to think when you got dressed in the morning. Eating breakfast would be simple and effortless. You’d be able to get out of the house in a matter of minutes and you might even be able to get places on time.
When you’re a mom, suddenly everything takes more time. You don’t only have to make breakfast for yourself, you make it for one, two, three, or more people. Here go three spoons- and I don’t mean the ones you use to eat breakfast.
You want to get out of the house. You put your coat on, your children’s coats on. Your price in spoons depends on the amount of children you have and the season- less children cost less spoons, winter is more expensive than summer.
Whatever you do, whether you are a working mom or a SAHM, you likely will be out of spoons by the end of the day. Some days are better and you may even have a few spoons left. Some days are horrible and you run out of spoons before noon. The unexpected temper tantrum costs a spoon or three. Taking your child to the hospital because he’s sick is another five spoons.
Remember, you only get a certain amount of spoons per day and that amount is limited. You can borrow the spoons from the next day but that could be the very day your child gets sick or when she decides that from now on, she will absolutely refuse to do whatever you ask her to do.
But not all moms are given equal amounts of spoons. Some have less than others. These are the moms who have disabled children. These are single moms with two jobs and no support. These are the moms all over the world living in poverty. They struggle every day to provide the best for their children. Yes, parenting under such circumstances is definitely more spoon-costly.
But it isn’t easy even for a family without such challenges. So what can we do? Spend our spoons wisely. Prioritize.
For example, in my case, perfectly folded laundry isn’t worth a spoon but a nicely prepared dinner most definitely is. We can try to replenish our spoons by getting some me-time. We can remember to sleep. We can get help- whether it’s from family, friends or childcare.
These are the things we can do for ourselves. But there are also things we can do for others. When thinking about how to spend your spoons or tokens, please set aside a certain amount for your fellow moms. You can do it by offering support. Offer a shoulder to cry on, extend your helping hand, say encouraging words.
It may seem like spending your own precious spoons but it is really a kind of investment. Because any price is easier to pay if everyone pitches in.
But, all economic and metaphorical imagery aside, I just want to point out the obvious: motherhood is hard. Let’s be kind to ourselves. And let’s help each other out.
Of course, we don’t really need such theories to explain how hard it it so be a mom. But I thought the spoon theory is a rather good way to illustrate the challenges of motherhood.
What are you thoughts on this? Is it helpful to think of your day in terms of having a limited number of spoons (or tokens) to spend?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our Polish writer in the Netherlands, Olga Mecking.
The image used in this post is credited to Nicki Mannix. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
I’m very fond of such metaphores and I’ve always really loved to spoon theory!
I never thought about applying it to being a mother, but I like it!
I wish I found a way to have a secret stash of spoons, to use when my daily amount runs out by noon 🙂
I like this! I will probably think about this for the rest of the day, to see how I can put this to practice in my life. I run out of spoons every single day.
I am a (recovering) perfectionist and with me, everything is a priority.
Clearly that does not work. 😉
I just regained access to a whole bunch of spoons and am contemplating how I want to re-allocate and share them. Very timely post for me. Thank you!
I’m out of spoons!!!! 😉 Help!
Interesting perspective, Olga!
This is great, Olga!
I work on a simple and similar principle: essentials first, possibles second. Some days, even the impossible seems to get done. (Look I got time to read this post!)
As someone who has both a chronic illness and children I really like your comparison. I had never heard of the spoon theory. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!