Being a mum can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be incredibly challenging. One of the challenges that mums face is the mental load. The mental load refers to the cognitive and emotional work that is required to manage a household and family. It is the invisible and often unacknowledged work that keeps a family running smoothly. Unfortunately, mums tend to bear the brunt of the mental load, which can lead to stress, burnout, and a lack of time for self-care. In this article, we will explore what the mental load is, why it affects mums disproportionately, and provide 5 tips for managing it.
What is the Mental Load (or as we refer to it, The Motherload®?)
The mental load refers to the emotional and cognitive work that is required to manage a household and family. This includes tasks such as planning meals, keeping track of schedules, managing finances, and making sure that everyone’s needs are met. It is the invisible work that keeps a family running smoothly.
The mental load is often carried by mums, and it can be a significant source of stress and burnout. According to a survey by the mental health charity Mind, 75% of mums have experienced a mental health problem, with the mental load being one of the primary contributors.
Why Does the Mental Load Affect Mums Disproportionately?
“Women are disproportionately affected by the mental load in the home because of societal expectations that they should be primarily responsible for domestic tasks, as well as the fact that women are still more likely to be the primary caregivers for children and elderly relatives.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Kilbey, Clinical Psychologist and author of “Parenting in the Real World.”
There are several reasons why mums tend to bear the brunt of the mental load. Firstly, there are historical and social influences at play. Women have traditionally been seen as the primary caregivers in a family, and this expectation has not changed significantly over time. As a result, women are more likely to take on the mental load of managing a household and family.
Secondly, there are structural barriers that make it difficult for women to balance work and family life. Women are more likely to work part-time, which can limit their career progression and earning potential. This can lead to a lack of financial independence, which can make it harder to delegate tasks and share the mental load with a partner.
Finally, there are cultural and societal pressures that can make it difficult for mums to ask for help or take time for self-care. Women are often expected to be selfless and put the needs of their family before their own. This can lead to guilt and shame when they prioritise their own needs, which can exacerbate the mental load.
“The mental load is a cumulative burden that affects women’s ability to be present, happy and productive in their lives. It’s exhausting, demotivating and has significant consequences for women’s mental health and wellbeing.”
– Eve Rodsky, Author of “Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).”
Managing the Mother Load
Managing the mental load can be challenging, but it is essential for maintaining mental health and well-being. Here are 5 tips for managing the mental load:
One of the most effective ways to manage the mental load is to delegate tasks to other members of the family. This can be challenging if you are used to taking on all of the responsibilities, but it is essential for reducing stress and burnout. Start by making a list of all the tasks that need to be done and then delegate them to other family members. This can include tasks such as cooking dinner, doing laundry, or managing finances.
Make Self-Care Important
Taking time for self-care is essential for managing the mental load. This can include activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends. It is essential to prioritize self-care and make it a regular part of your routine. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is essential for maintaining mental health and well-being.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing the mental load. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being. There are several ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
Share Responsibilities Equally
Sharing responsibilities equally with your partner is essential for managing the mental load. This can be
challenging, as there may be cultural or societal expectations that make it difficult to do so. However, it is essential to have open and honest conversations with your partner about sharing responsibilities. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done and decide who will take responsibility for each task. Remember, sharing responsibilities equally will benefit both you and your partner in the long run.
Do a ‘Motherload’ Audit!
Conducting a mental load audit can help you to identify the tasks that are causing the most stress and find ways to manage them more effectively. A mental load audit involves making a list of all the tasks that need to be done and categorizing them into high, medium, and low priority. This can help you to prioritize your time and delegate tasks more effectively. You can conduct a mental load audit by using a template, such as the one provided by The Mental Load Project.
Take Control of The Mental Load
The mental load is a significant source of stress and burnout for mums, and it is essential to manage it effectively for mental health and well-being. Delegating tasks, making self-care important, practicing mindfulness, sharing responsibilities equally with your partner, and conducting a mental load audit are all effective ways to manage the mental load. Remember, managing the mental load is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. By implementing these strategies, you can find balance and time for yourself, and maintain your mental health and well-being.
- The Mental Load Project. (n.d.). Mental Load Audit. Retrieved from https://www.thementalloadproject.co.uk/mental-load-audit
- Mind. (2018). Mental Health of Mums: Women’s Voices. Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5415/mums-voices-report-2018.pdf