It’s a dirty secret of working mothers that we feel guilty for not doing enough. You’re a good mom, you tell yourself. If only you could get more done in the day!
So you try to squeeze more and more out of your already lacking energy and still end up feeling depleted and insecure.
So how do we learn to be realistic and accept our limitations all while embracing the truth that you are already an amazing mother?
The mental strain on mamas is rough, we all have our weaknesses, but there are some surprising things you may not know about mental load on working moms – like the fact that it can make us less productive at work too!
This post is going to share 10 facts you may not know about mental load that may help to lighten your own. And maybe, just maybe, after reading you’ll feel much better about letting some of the stress and mental strain go.
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What is Mental load
Wondering what exactly mental load is? Well, in short it is the unseen work involved in maintaining a household and family. And unfortunately it is a concept that more often than not falls on the shoulders of women.
The mental load is also often referred to as “worry work” or “cognitive labor,” not about the physical activities, but rather the control of those tasks.
It’s burdened by the one in charge of continuously running the never-ending list of to-do items in your head, recalling what needs to be done and when, delegating all the responsibilities to the respective family members, and ensuring that they are done.
It is the internalization of a problem, and coordinating it, and it is exhausting!
Surprising Truths about Mental Load
Knowing the definition of mental load is only one part of the equation to getting ahead of shouldering the burden of family coordinator. You also have to know the why and how of mental load in order to begin to move to a place of more shared responsibility.
Lets look at a few facts and tips on the mental pressure in motherhood so that we can begin to unravel this frustrating phenomenon and make progress to a more balanced existence.
1. Mental Load starts with a breakdown in communication
The first thing that we should recognize about mental load is the fact that it basically comes down to a breakdown in communication between the default caregiver (the one who probably has not spent an uninterrupted moment in the restroom since having children) and the non default parent (the parent who doesn’t know what a bathroom interruption is :)).
This can be attributed to many reasons, but in a lot of cases as working moms we have a guilt for working that makes us believe that the home tasks that we are able to do, we should do. This busyness keeps us from speaking our mind and expressing our need for help.
2. To do list Mistakes increase mental Load for working moms
One of the misconceptions about mental pressure is that you can simply quit doing things on your to do list. This simply isn’t true. There is always going to be someone who takes the brunt of the mental load, however, there are ways to make it easier.
In the same line of thinking there are also ways that you can make it harder, and making a few of the common to do list mistakes that I see so many moms make (read me too) is one of them. These mistakes range from not keeping a physical or digital copy of your to do list, and not planning well in advance can make the inevitable mental load worse.
3. Mental Load decreases productivity
When you have a lot on your mind, it is impossible to focus on the task at hand, insert reduced productivity. And this is true for all of us, even the non-working moms. It was a study conducted in 2014 that showed that when women are asked to juggle caregiving and employment tasks, they were not only more likely to experience depression, but experienced reduced productivity at work too.
4. Mental Load is often a side effect of poor boundaries
In addition to the fact that we mentioned mental load is secondary to poor communication, it can also be attributed to inadequate boundaries. When we do not express what we are capable of and what we are not capable of, it is impossible for others to help us out.
Setting clear boundaries on your time and energy, and speaking with your spouse about the mental requirements of maintaining the home can do wonders for reducing the stress of mentally coordinating and managing your household.
5. Mental Fatigue in moms is tied to gender stereotypes.
The last fact about mental load is that it is often tied to gender stereotypes. Whether you grew up in a household where mom took care of most of the home tasks and you have a personal expectation for what moms and dads should do, or you grew up in a less traditional household, gender stereotypes are very real and permeated throughout our society.
From the questions moms get about their plans for remaining in the workforce as soon as they announce their pregnancies to the undertone of reduced work output from managers and bosses, its easy to see why moms end up with an unbalanced amount of the overall home management load.
So, then what can we do about this phenomenon?
Tips for Overcoming the Mental Load
Now that we have the words that describe the mental pressure that clutters our house, home, and heart and keeps us constantly exhausted with the management of the home, lets look at a few simple things that you can do to overcome this burden.
Talk it over with your spouse
Seriously, if a truth of mental load is that it starts with a breakdown in communication, the remedy is to talk it over with your spouse. Now I know this may be difficult or perhaps you have tried it before, so lets look at how to make this conversation go smoothly.
- Share this post! No seriously, I often tell my husband that he hears me best when my words come from someone else, so shoot him a text with this link! I’ll be the bearer of the news
- Give concrete examples of what emotional burden looks like. What are some of the tasks that you are in charge of that are mental, emotional, or otherwise invisible? Planning weekends? Remembering important dates? Often husbands take for granted that when they do unpaid tasks of home management, there is often a little birdie (i.e. the mama) in his ear helping him along the way. Share these things with him and be open to suggestions for ways to improve them.
- Explain how you want to share the management, not just the chore list. At its heart, this is about your spouse taking action before being reminded or requested.
Delegate without Expectation
This one may be a difficult one! It was for me! I have come to accept and admit that I can be a micromanager, which strips those who are helping you of their power and creativity.
When delegating and dividing out the household tasks and their management, you have to allow for creative flexibility in how they get done. Delegating without expectations allows you to truly release responsibility of that particular task.
You do not have to be a Pinterest worthy mom. Or maybe you can but a different style. Instead of the elaborate type, be the hacking mom.
The one who can make anything with a rotisserie chicken, or the mom who has a cleaning schedule that incorporates gentle bribery to let the children take on more responsibility. (This will help them as they grow!)
Mental Load often makes us believe that we do not have the time to do things that we want and/or need to do for ourselves. We neglect the proper stewarding of our own health and wellness to get more done.
The chores and to-do lists will always be there, but your health may not. Prioritizing self-care is a step in making sure you are not only healthier but also more productive.
Automation, Delegation, and Outsourcing are key to decreased mental load
You do not have to do everything in the home. I will repeat, the world will not come to an end if you miss a load of laundry or set a boundary around your free time.
Additionally, finding ways that you can give away mental tasks by delegating, outsourcing and automation can be a true lifesaver!
Tasks such as grocery shopping and meal planning, laundry, and even plant maintenance can be automated and outsourced.
Reduce the Mental Load for More Time to do what Matters
I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything. As a working mom, it can feel impossible to keep up with all that needs done in both your personal and professional life at once. It’s hard enough juggling these responsibilities without also carrying the weight of mental load 100% on our own shoulders. But when we do this, there is no room left for ourselves or even for things like exercise and fun time with friends – which are essential parts of living a balanced life! One way you can get back some balance (and find more time) is to have support from others and ask for help.
By asking for help with these tasks from others in our lives–our partner, mom friends at school pickup, etc.–we free up more time in the days when we need it most so we can find space for what matters most to us—the things we enjoy doing outside of work and family life! Join me in our Facebook group Rest and Reset Mamas where I share tips about how to maintain balance while juggling career and family!