The Mental Load of Motherhood
She's always moody and too tired to connect...
I thought that after the kids were in bed that we would spend time together and they no longer want to. It's like I don't have a partner anymore...
My partner has no idea how much I have on my plate...
These are just some of the statements that we hear in both individual and couples counseling sessions with parents, very consistently. This is because there is often a lack of understanding that the mental load the primary parent hold to maintain a family system. Now, hold on for just a moment. This is not just exclusive to women or mothers and the mental load can be held by fathers as well. But for this post we will discuss mother because this is what we see most frequently.
Mothers have traditionally been expected to take on the bulk of the responsibilities involved in maintaining a household, and this can result in a significant mental load that can be difficult to manage. The mental load refers to the cognitive and emotional work that goes into managing a household, including planning and organizing tasks, coordinating schedules, and remembering important details.
One of the challenges of the mental load is that it can be difficult to quantify or articulate. It involves a range of tasks that are often invisible and undervalued, such as remembering to schedule appointments, planning meals, and coordinating family events. Mothers may feel like they are constantly "on call," responsible for responding to the needs and requests of family members, even when they are already overwhelmed with other tasks.
Another aspect of the mental load is that it is often invisible to others in the household. While mothers may be juggling a wide range of responsibilities, their partners and children may not even be aware of all the work that goes into maintaining the household. This can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment, as mothers may feel like they are shouldering an unfair burden.
The mental load can also be a source of stress and anxiety. Mothers may worry about forgetting important details or making mistakes that could have serious consequences, such as missing an appointment or failing to pay a bill on time. They may feel like they are constantly running on autopilot, never able to fully relax or enjoy leisure time.
Moreover, the mental load of mothers can have negative effects on their physical health as well. Chronic stress associated with the mental load can lead to symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and fatigue, and may increase the risk of developing more serious health problems over time.
To alleviate the mental load, it's important for partners and family members to recognize and value the work that goes into maintaining a household. This can involve sharing responsibilities, such as taking on a greater share of the household tasks or reminding family members of important deadlines and events. It can also involve acknowledging and validating the emotional labor involved in managing a household, such as listening to and supporting mothers when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Mothers can also take steps to manage their own mental load, such as prioritizing self-care and setting boundaries around their time and energy. This may involve delegating tasks, setting realistic expectations for themselves, and recognizing that it's okay to ask for help when needed.
Ultimately, recognizing and addressing the mental load of mothers is an important step toward creating a more equitable and supportive environment for families. By valuing and sharing the responsibilities involved in maintaining a household, we can help to alleviate the burden on mothers and create a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling home life for everyone.