The Mother Load: The Weight of the Mental Load in Motherhood

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Recently, I’ve read and heard a lot about the mental load — you know, that invisible 300-pound weight mothers tend to carry around in their heads. Regardless of how we split up or divide chores and duties in our families with our significant others and even our children, moms end up carrying a “mental load” that is everything from dredging through our daughters’ emotional journeys with them to spending three hours researching a book series that meets our sons’ predetermined reading level and that might also actually keep him interested for all 278 pages of book one… all while making sure our kids have taken showers fairly recently (when was the last bath night?) and ate at least one vegetable today (do French fries count?), managing full-time careers and trying to look like we’ve got it all in the bag on social media with a well-lit and heavily filtered photo. #momlife

As someone who lives largely in my own head, it’s extremely easy for me to take on (by choice) the emotional weight of my children’s lives and also want to take on the entirety of their needs because, A) I love being their mom, and B) “I got this.” But oh my gosh, a mom can really drive herself into the ground trying to do it all and be it all — for everyone. Sometimes I’ve failed before 9:00 a.m. It’s exhausting.

In my circle, there are moms that have babies, toddlers, grade school kids and middle schoolers. And every single time any of us get together, we each have a different yet totally the same scenario about our struggle to “manage it all” — while also looking awesome in our yoga pants (we don’t do yoga). It’s the same conversation — we’re all treading water just trying to stay afloat.

Most of us are married to men that are super-active in our kids’ lives and do their share when it comes to the household chores and realities of daily life. I’m not dissin’ the dads, here. This has nothing to do with their level of participation or even their desire to pitch in. It’s likely the dads don’t even know how overwhelmed we really are because “we’re fine; everything’s fine!” It’s something that we moms have unintentionally taken on ourselves as the nurturers of our families and we truly want to do it all. But it can leave us with little energy to do anything else, which ultimately makes us feel like we’re failing at motherhood — the one thing that is supposed to come naturally to us.

 

Ask for Help

So we’ve got to be willing to swallow our pride, raise the white flag and just ask for a little help. Delegating to our partners is the first thing we can do to lighten our load. They are there for us; they love us; they want to help. And while we hate to ask, it’s okay to hand off some of the mental load. It doesn’t mean we can’t handle parenthood, it just means we’re in it together.

Say No

I’m going to admit I’m something of  a “yes” person. I’m inclined to say yes mostly because I want to. But with an already-overloaded plate, one more yes can feel like a burden, even if you’re saying “yes” to dinner with friends, a workout class or helping with your kid’s class party. So, if you want to say yes all the time, but then feel like you can’t fit in all it, put a pause on your response before you commit. Once you’ve had time to check your calendar and assessed whether you actually have time for that commitment, then you can respond. Then you can fully enjoy the experience instead of feeling like you should be doing something else while you’re there. 

Depend on One Another

Another thing we moms can do is lean in to one another. Carpool or switch off driving the kids who have shared activities and sports or create a kid-swap sleepover once a month so each of you can actually go out with your man and feel like a woman again, not “just a mom.” And go out with each other – even if you just meet at the park and sip lattes while your kids play. Talk to each other. Really talk — dig in deep to the good stuff. Other moms, your tribe — they get it. They are feeling it, too. Maybe they’re ashamed to admit it or maybe they feel alone in their thoughts. But once you let it out and hash through it together, you will feel that load lift. Because we can’t do it all — at least not all at once. And when we realize that and do what we need to do to balance the mother load, we will feel more balanced. And hey, we might even find time to actually do a little yoga, which can do wonders for your mental clarity, too.

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Molly, a professional writer and editor with 20 years of experience, has been obsessed with the written word since she learned to hold a pen. From interviewing longtime U.S. Senator John McCain to eating lavish eight-course meals in the name of research, she covers topics across the board and tackles each one with passion and enthusiasm (especially the food-related ones!)  Molly and her husband of 15 years have two children, Jimmy and Saylor. Together they cook, eat, travel, play and try to make the most of every single day. While teetering between being relentlessly exhausted and tirelessly energetic, Molly's life motto is "lead with love." Follow her on Instagram (@azgypsymama) for food and travel pics, plus random quotes that range from inspirational to the occasional whiskey-fueled enlightenment.

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