Overcoming the Mental Load of Motherhood
Mamas, I am writing this blog post while on a plane headed for a girls’ trip. In preparation for the trip, not only have I packed and organized for my trip, but I have also coordinated for extra babysitting when my husband has to work, picked up groceries to ensure there is food for the week, suggested activities for the weekend, signed all the necessary notes for school – these tasks are examples of what we call the mental load of motherhood. It’s that perpetual list of things to do to keep the household running, the kids entertained, and the date nights happening; a list of to do’s that is usually thought about, organized and executed by mom. They say moms have 2.5 full-time jobs when you count their actual full-time job, plus the work associated with the kids and the running of the household. If all of the above sounds familiar, if all the above is weighing on you and causing resentment towards your partner, I want you to know you are not alone. I was/am feeling this which is why I reached out to the many moms in my network (aka my League of Moms) to understand how they manage the mental load of motherhood.
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That’s right you need to actually ask your partner. Toronto photographer Emily Doukogiannis said it best: ‘I realized early on that everyone is busy and if your partner thinks you have it under control then why would they ask?” Point blank, she is right. While your partner might take initiative at work, there is no promotion at home if they offer to wake up at 6:30am to sign the kids up for City of Toronto programs – especially if they know you’re on it. So start by asking for what you need and delegating tasks. Vital Physiotherapy & Wellness owner Chana Ross said that delegating tasks is how she things get done in her household but admitted that that doesn’t actually solve the mental load – although it is a step in the right direction and reduces your workload at the very least. Take some of the time you’ve earned back to relax.
Divide and Conquer and TRUST!
As a family unit, you need to divide and conquer. Set clear and specific roles/jobs in the family. For example, have one person be responsible for all things (mental loads included) related to afterschool activities while the other is responsible for all things related to groceries and dinner. Whatever the divide, the key is to not interfere with your partner’s responsibilities. According to executive coach, Jackie Serviss, you need to let go and trust your spouse. She’s an executive coach for a reason because that’s good coaching. Leave it (whatever it is) to your partner, believe in their abilities to get it done, and if they mess up, then they need to have that experience to do better next time. I have to admit, this one is a work in progress for me. I reminded my husband three times that my son is starting skating and that he said he would get him skates. He is an adult with a successful career, he knows how to manage shit, yet I felt the need to remind him because I like to do things well in advance and he doesn’t, but he got it done and I needed to trust him. Allison Villa, Psychotherapist and expert in helping couples thrive after kids, notes that everyone has their own timeline and approach to how they do things. She goes on to say that while accommodating to your partner’s approach can be tough, it is worth it in the long run in order to let your partner take on the project in the way feels right for them so that the task can be taken off your list for good.
I love this tip from Aly Tsourounis, the PR expert behind Hank PR: she and her partner have a weekly 15-minute meeting to go over what needs to get done, weekly schedules, and so on. I find that we do this when I am feeling most overwhelmed and nearing breakdown – so I suggest like Aly you make it a weekly thing so you don’t end up with a list of 50 must-dos and on the verge of tears, like me. Laura & Josie (A.K.A the GG sisters) also use this tactic and they like to put the list on the fridge so that there is something visual for everyone to see as a daily reminder.
Forget about Equal
I think this one is really important. Thank you to Andrea, Nutritionist and Founder of Andrea Grace Wellness, and all-around cool girl, for bringing it to my attention when she said, don’t expect a 50/50 divide. Just don’t. Every family’s scenario will be unique and require a different setup. For some, it might be 50/50, but for most, it will be 60/40, 70/30 and so on! Maybe you work fewer hours or have more flexibility than your partner which means you can do pick-ups and drop-offs. Maybe you need to travel for work, so your partner needs to handle all the weekday duties while you manage the weekend plans. Just don’t expect it to be 50/50 if that doesn’t make sense for your family. The important thing is to be clear about who is responsible for what and to check in with each other periodically to assess and potentially revise the division of labour as schedules and needs (your own included) change, as they inevitably will.
Remove the Pressure
The GG Sisters shared what might be the most important thing in relinquishing the mental load: ‘remove the pressure of thinking this is your responsibility’. Mind blown! It’s true, we moms put this pressure on ourselves and we need to just stop. If something gets missed it is not on you. I repeat, it is not on you. You and your partner built your life and family together, and you need to manage it together too.
While I was on my 6-day girls’ trip, I truly disconnected from home. Sure I checked in, but I wasn’t worried about the grocery list, the babysitting, or planning play dates for my kids. And guess what? My family survived! In fact, by turning off that list that is always in my head, I was actually able to relax and make space for myself and some new ideas. It was glorious, mamas, and I want you all to experience and feel it too.
Thanks to all the amazing mamas for their inputs to this post. Anything you would add to the list above? Let me know in the comments.
League of Moms / 11/19/2019