The Mental Load is the New Mother Load

photo-1515961388535-56bc02b5bd0bAre you constantly thinking about your to-do list? Do you have more notes on the fridge than usual? Are you using your phone less for making calls and more for jotting fragmented thoughts all in an effort to avoid missing a deadline, invitation or commitment for you and your family?   You, my friend, are managing your Mental Load.

Mental load is the term used to describe the invisible mental weight that is carried as one manages tasks, appointments, chores, events and lists minute-by-minute in the mind.  Mental Load is the latest addition to the job description for motherhood.

Mothers have cracked the glass ceiling while at the same time knowing exactly where to find the crazy glue in the kitchen junk drawer to glue it back together.  In households across America, mothers, regardless of marital status have increased productivity in the workplace and at home, for their busy families.  Simultaneously, mothers know where to find the misplaced pack of Valentine’s Day pencils, remember to wash their children’s sports jerseys, sign and return all permission slips and remember to buy more spaghetti sauce for dinner.  It’s insane, it’s overwhelming and it’s the latest role that doesn’t require an audition.

The least appealing aspects of this new role is that no one wants it, no one will steal it away and honestly, not many can do it as well as mothers.  The Mental Load can be discouraging, seem unfair and very lonely however, the following tips can lessen the Mental Load, making it easier to manage.

  • ASK FOR HELP!

What seems obvious to you, is not always obvious to others. Ask for help!  Look around.  Someone near to you can lessen your load if you identify just one thing that they can do for you.  A mother’s efficiency gives others the impression that everything is under control.  The truth, burn-out is nipping at your heels. If your child has a sports practice, lesson or other afterschool activity, ask a friend or another parent to drop your child off at home afterwards.  You can maximize your time and lessen your Mental Load by using valuable time to cross nagging tasks off of your list.  Off of the list = off of your mind.

  • Grocery Pick-up or Delivery

More stores are offering grocery pick-up and delivery options.  Use your local store app, place your order, schedule a pick-up and save at least 2-hours in a given week.  You can ask family or friends to help by picking up your order or have it delivered to your door.

  • Use a Family Calendar. Lessen your load, by sharing your load.  Create a family calendar.  Load all appointments, lessons, practices, dinner dates into the calendar and have your spouse, teenagers or anyone that can help you, access to the account. By doing this, everyone with access knows where everyone needs to be at any given time.  This also works for email correspondence.  A family account allows anyone access the ability to see all messages coming in making everyone equally informed.  This works great with school/camp correspondence and billing accounts.  Link the calendar and email account to everyone’s mobile phone for 24/7 access.

Warning…be realistic!  Doing this doesn’t guarantee that others will automatically initiate tasks related to the messages or calendar, but by sharing access and information, you are sharing knowledge.

  • Brain Dump.  Are you losing sleep due to the non-stop racing thoughts running through your head? The constant thinking, calculating and troubleshooting can lead to less restful nights.   Brain dump!  Put a notebook on your night table.  Before bed, jot down all random thoughts.  Your notes do not need to make sense.  Get the thoughts out of your head and into the notebook until the morning.  Putting your thoughts “away” until later gives your mind permission to take a time-out and relax which will allow you to feel less stressed and more energized in the morning.

Realistically, life has become busy, complicated and filled to the brim with a lot on a daily basis.  Things are less likely to slow down over night.  The best way to successfully improve our ability to cope is to share the Mental Load.

By Chaina Porter, MHC Intern