There’s no question that motherhood is a transformative and fulfilling journey. It’s filled with truly immeasurable joy and love that cannot be adequately expressed.
But, beyond the blissful moments lies an invisible burden. A heavy weight that that many mothers carry – the mental load of motherhood.
This mental load encompasses the countless tasks, responsibilities, and emotional labor that mothers take on, often going unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than carry this weight alone, let’s delve into the impact on mothers and strategies to navigate and share these burdens more equitably.
The Invisible Load of Motherhood
This mental load refers to the cognitive and emotional burden associated with managing and coordinating various aspects of family life. It includes planning and organizing schedules, tracking appointments, remembering important dates, managing household chores, making decisions about child-rearing, and much more.
It's a constant mental checklist that occupies a significant portion of a mother's mind. As a mother of two, here’s a short summary of my invisible list from the last few days alone:
- How much toilet paper do we have?
- I need to remember to add that to the Target order.
- The kids are overdue for their well-child checks.
- I’ll try to schedule on my lunch break.
- What summer extracurriculars should I sign the kids up for?
- Wait, how much is that?
- I need to meal plan.
- We’ll be gone Saturday, so I’ll run to the store Sunday afternoon.
- Where did that bill go from the dentist?
- Why didn’t my insurance cover that procedure?
- My sister-in-law’s birthday is next week. I need to get her a card.
- My brother needs a graduation gift. Should I do something personal, or cash?
- The shower needs to be cleaned.
- The kids are out of their favorite body wash.
- Where are we going to send the boys for preschool?
- Should they know all of their shapes by now?
- Great – we’re out of milk. I’ll have to pick some up on my way home.
- We should be investing more for our future.
- Are we overpaying for our internet?
- I should set up a playdate for Saturday.
- My child sleeps with his mouth open. Will this be create problems for him?
- I need to read that potty training book ASAP…
And, you get the point.
Yet, that’s not even an exhaustive list. This is how a mother’s brain operates from the time she wakes up until the time she’s tossing and turning in bed each night.
And we wonder why we’re exhausted?
The Impact on Mothers
Not only is this mental load taxing, but it’s also emotionally draining. It’s a constant juggling of tasks, decision-making for others, and anticipating the needs of our children and partners. When all intersect, it’s a perfect storm for a state of overwhelm, anxiety, and complete exhaustion.
Since the mental load of motherhood is often invisible to others, it often creates an unbalanced distribution of household and parenting responsibilities.
Our partners may assume that since we naturally excel at managing these responsibilities, the weight doesn’t appear as such a heavy burden. But when we shoulder these responsibilities in isolation, it leaves little time for rest, leisure, pursuing our own goals and interests, let alone time to let our mind sit in silence.
Sharing the Mental Load: 7 Steps
If you’re anything like me, even the task of asking for help or communicating your needs feels like another burden in and of itself. Afterall, where do we even begin?
Regardless, sharing the load is crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced household. By sharing these invisible burdens, parents can improve communication and mutual support for one another. Here are a few steps for how to free yourself from the mental load overwhelm:
Step 1: Open communication
Start by having an open conversation with your partner about the mental load you’re carrying along with its impact. Share your feelings, experiences, and the specific tasks that are overwhelming your mind. Start a discussion around how you can work together as a team to redistribute some of those responsibilities more equitably.
Step 2: Delegation
Give yourself a big dose of grace and recognize that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Although delegation can also feel like a burden at times, lightening your load by passing off responsibilities to your partner, children, or others can take something off of your plate and clear your mind for more pressing responsibilities.
Step 3: Prioritize and simplify
Simplifying routines and processes within your household can help to reduce mental clutter. First, identify tasks that are essential or top priority and allow the others to wait. Create a shared family calendar with your partner and agree in advance about who is following through on various responsibilities. Consider technology a resource that can help streamline planning for your family. Autoship anyone?
Step 4: Let go of perfection
Easier said than done, right? Regardless, it’s a worthy reminder that perfection is not the end goal. In fact, your happiness and peace is incredibly more valuable. Sometimes our partners may complete tasks differently than we would. That’s no reason to reacquire the responsibility. Sharing the mental load is about collaboration, not managing others.
Step 5: Set some boundaries
People are often quick to talk about the importance of self-care without first discussing the importance of setting clear boundaries. When we communicate our needs, along with our limits, we can build back time for rest, relaxation, and pursuing things that bring us joy. Only then can we prioritize self-care, mental and emotional well-being.
Step 6: Involve children
While I’m not suggesting that you task your children with calling the clinic to discuss their bill, I am recommending involving your children in age-appropriate responsibilities. As mothers, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the skills they need to be successful long after we’re gone. When we involve them in household tasks, it can not only lighten your load but also nurture a sense of responsibility.
Plus, it’s an opportunity to challenge perpetuating gender roles and societal expectations for future generations.
Step 7: Find your tribe
Seeking support is crucial for mothers navigating the mental load of motherhood. It can be immensely helpful to connect with other mothers who understand the challenges and experiences firsthand. This can be done in-person or through online communities and forums dedicated to motherhood.
Engaging in conversations within these spaces can provide a sense of validation, encouragement, and solidarity. It is important to create safe spaces where mothers can openly share their experiences, frustrations, and triumphs. These conversations play a vital role in fostering change and promoting a more balanced and supportive environment for mothers.
Lightening the Mental Load
In the intricate tapestry of motherhood, the mental load remains a complex and often unspoken reality. However, it is imperative that we recognize and honor the immense weight borne by mothers, as it directly impacts their well-being, self-care, and overall fulfillment.
No parent should be left to navigate this complex terrain alone. As a society, it is our collective duty to challenge the prevailing societal norms that perpetuate this imbalance.
Creating Social Change
At Everydae, we firmly believe in creating a world where mothers are truly seen, heard, and supported. We advocate for a paradigm shift where the mental load of motherhood is not only acknowledged but also shared and alleviated.
By embracing this vision, we can foster an environment where mothers can flourish, not solely as dedicated caregivers, but as individuals with their own dreams, aspirations, and moments of respite.
Investing in the equitable distribution of the mental load is not only a noble endeavor but also one that yields invaluable returns. It transcends personal benefit, extending to the betterment of families, communities, and society at large.
Together, let us embark on this transformative journey, uplifting and empowering mothers as they navigate the beautiful complexities of motherhood, hand in hand.