The invisible load of motherhood. In my home, I manage homework schedules and projects, lunches, snacks, water bottles, library books, communication with teachers, food or attire for special days (can we all petition for “Spirit Week” to become “Spirit Day”?), doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, orthodontist appointments, play dates, gifts for teachers, gifts for birthday parties . . . and so much more.
I sign my three kids up for swim lessons and soccer and summer camps. I buy the gear, and I organize the gear, and I provide the transportation. I load the car for each event. Goggles, check. Change of clothes, check. Towel, check. Then I wash all those things when I get home and put them back in their proper place.
This year, I drop off and pick up each kid from a different school at slightly staggered times and locations.
I plan meals for five people, I grocery shop and I cook. I plan vacations, and I pack myself and three kids for those vacations. I make every holiday “magical.” I write all the thank you notes after Christmas. I send gifts and birthday texts to our family and friends. I clean the house that five people live in. I also have a part-time job and the occasional need to do something for my own darn self.
The mental load of motherhood is managing a billion things–most of which you just hold in your brain and never even write down. It would be silly to write down “Charge Chromebook every night.” But every night, I see my son’s Chromebook sitting around the house and I go plug it in.
Mothers hold a million tiny things in their brains and try to hold everything together . . . for all our family members . . . all the time.
It’s a lot. Here’s how I manage to sort of kind of keep our family running.
Communicate Well with Your Partner
Sometimes, I just need someone to take one or two things off my to-do list. I used to say to my husband, “We need to talk to your parents about their visit this summer” or “We need to call the car dealership and get that repair started on the van.” Then neither of us would do it; therefore, it would remain in my mental load because I felt that I had to keep reminding him.
What I was really trying to say was: “Can you please call your parents about their visit this summer and make a plan? I want it off of my plate and I don’t want to have to think about it again.”
So finally, I said that. I explained that I occasionally want to be able to ask him to do something and then NEVER think about it again.
I want it to be his responsibility and not mine anymore. We agreed upon a location to keep his to-do list, and after I ask him and write it on his list, it is now his job and not mine. Voila! I don’t have to carry that mental load. I’m not responsible to remind him or make sure it gets done.
Side note: Single parents who shoulder all of this alone get extra special props. What you are doing is hard. Try to surround yourself with people who can support you because no one can do it all.
Outsource a Task
Moms can’t do everything. We just can’t. We can’t clean the house and volunteer at the school and thrive in our jobs and serve in our church and look perfect every day and call our own parents to chat and wipe every kid’s tears and impart constant wisdom and emotional support to our children. It’s okay not to do everything.
We’ve hired someone to clean our house twice a month because it allows me to spend at least parts of the weekend with the family doing something I enjoy. It also removes that mental load of constantly looking around the house and thinking: “Oh, the floors really need mopping but I don’t have time.” I know it will happen at least every other week.
I know that hiring a cleaning person is a privilege and may not easily fit into everyone’s budget, but I encourage you to consider outsourcing a task to someone else. We can “pay” for our cleaning service by changing a couple of small habits (like eating out and using food delivery services less frequently)–and that sacrifice is totally worth it to me.
Teach Your Kids to Do Their Part
This is the hardest tip of all. But . . . don’t enable your kids to rely on you for every little thing (especially things they can do). I used to take everyone’s plates to the sink. I’d pick up everyone’s shoes, socks, and backpacks strewn about the house. I’d hang up coats and throw away food wrappers.
But lately, I’ve had to accept that one of the reasons I carry such a huge mental load is that I don’t require my kids to carry some of the burdens.
It’s so tough because it’s often faster to just do things yourself. And the kids are always doing it wrong when I ask them to clean something. But, I’m learning to expect more of my kids–and it really does remove a lot of my load.
» » » » » » » » RELATED READ: It’s Okay Not to Be Okay :: Mom Burnout Is Real « « « « « « « «
Here’s a pro tip: give your kids two or three jobs to complete before they can start their screen time (or any other activity they really enjoy). They will zip around the house, throwing away trash, putting away shoes, and picking up their toys.
Moms really are amazing! Without us, our households would surely fall apart in days.
I try to find joy and purpose in this work. I know that on top of maintaining schedules and getting kids to school on time, I also do innumerable daily activities that I’d never cross off a to-do list. I hug my kids when they are sad. I stay up late to research that rash on my son’s hand. I offer a high five and a cheer when my son comes home with a 100% on a test.
Moms, you are irreplaceable. And what you do matters! But don’t forget, you can and should accept help from others.
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