This post: The Mental Load of Motherhood: The Side Our Family Never Sees
I was making out my weekly grocery list and, as my husband strolled into the kitchen to fill his coffee cup, I asked him if there was anything he needed or wanted to add to the list.
“Umm, yeah,” he said. “Can you add sunflower seeds, deodorant and maybe those frozen potato skins I like?”
THREE THINGS. That’s it.
While I was busy racking my brain trying to figure out what to make for dinner the next several nights (along with all the ingredients I’d need to make them), digging through the pantry and refrigerator to see what we had enough of and what we needed this week and thinking about all the food my kids like that they can’t live without, (not to mention all the cleaning supplies, toiletries and pet supplies we needed), my husband’s list consisted of three things.
I’m not knocking my husband. I actually consider myself pretty darn fortunate to have a hubby who pitches in and takes care of a lot of things I’d rather not do – like keeping up with the bills and the yard work But, I’m here to tell you, he really doesn’t get how much I do.
And, it’s not just the physical side of mothering and keeping up with the house. It’s the overwhelming, life-sucking, exhausting mental load of motherhood that has a way of consuming me that he’s rather clueless about. In fact, my kids are just as clueless.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade being a wife and mom for anything in the world – my family means everything to me. I just wish I could turn it off. I wish my family understood how tired I am. I wish this wasn’t so hard.
And, I know I’m not alone. It’s a lot of moms I know. It’s how we are. It’s what we do. It’s the side of us our families never see and, frankly, it totally sucks.
While the rest of the world is fast asleep, we lie awake with a racing brain thinking about… well, ALL OF IT.
Our kid’s next soccer game and what snacks we have to bring. Our daughter’s crummy grade in math and how we need to work with her more. The fact that the dog hasn’t been groomed in months or that our son is learning to drive and we dread the day he drives off alone or that we promised a friend we’d meet for lunch but we really need to cancel because we have way too much going on.
We are the planners, the organizers, the thinkers and overthinkers, the overreactors, the worriers and the regretters. We are the fixers, the doubters, the encouragers, the supporters, and the ones who are in charge of remembering it all.
We can literally be sitting in a room full of people holding a conversation with someone while simultaneously thinking about what we have to do tomorrow when we wake up, what we forgot to do this afternoon, and what we need to pick up from the store on the way home.
We can be sitting in front of the television looking (outwardly, anyway) very relaxed and our brains will be running at 80 miles per hour thinking about that gift we need to buy before Saturday. Or, how we’re worried that our teen is spending too much time alone in her room. Or, how our son got into trouble in school and we’re concerned he’s hanging with the wrong crowd. Or, how we need to make an ortho appointment for our kid or how we can’t forget to wash their uniform before Sunday’s game.
We NEVER rest… EVER.
The mental load of motherhood is so real, moms. And, it’s heavy… oh, so heavy.
But I’ve learned after years of being a mom that it really doesn’t have to be. We really can quiet our minds (at least somewhat). Here are a few practical ways to take the pressure, ease your mind and reduce the mental load of motherhood.
1. Talk to Your Family
You’re not doing yourself or your family any favors by suffering in silence. Hold it inside long enough and you know what’s going to happen… you’re going to blow and you’re going to break. Talk to your husband or partner. Hold a family meeting. Share your feelings. They need to know the burden you carry.
So much of what we worry about is intertwined with our to-do list. The less you have on your plate, the less your brain will go into overdrive. Let your kids cook dinner for themselves once a week so you can have a night off. Stop cleaning up after them and let them pick up the slack. Ask your husband or partner to drive the kids to practice. Stop trying to do it all.
3. Pay Attention to Your Triggers
If you gave it some thought, there’s a good chance you’d realize that your mental stress kicks into high gear rather predictably. Being mindful of your triggers will help you manage your worries, concerns, fears or stress better and help you put them into proper “buckets,” i.e. things you can control versus things you can’t control.
4. Stop Being So Available
One of the reasons moms get so completely overwhelmed, both physically and mentally is that we’re always “on call.” Our college kid calls at 11pm? You bet we’ll take the call. Our daughter needs poster board at 9pm at night? Of course, it’s us who will run out to buy it. There will always be times you have to be available and flexible, but on those days when you’ve had enough, announce it to your family. “I’m done for the day. I love you, but unless you’re bleeding or the house is on fire, you’re on your own.”
5. Lower Your Standards
This was a hard one for me. I’m a self-professed (borderline) perfectionist. Not in the “everything has to be totally perfect kind of way,” but rather, “I simply like things the way I like them.” Letting go is never easy. But when you’re overwhelmed, it’s necessary. Focus on the big picture and learn to let some of it go.
6. Be Your Own Best Friend
You are the heartbeat of your family, mom. When you’re exhausted or stressed, your family feels it to the core. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and give yourself the break you need before you reach your breaking point. Need to escape to your bedroom with a cup of tea and a good book? Do it. Be good to YOU.
7. Solicit Help
Maybe you need to hire a house cleaner for a few months or join that carpool group so you don’t have to spend so many hours in the car or hire a tutor so you’re not spending countless hours helping your middle schooler with their math homework. Having a little help can go a long way in taking the pressure off.
8. Get Organized
Your house doesn’t have to be perfect, but being surrounded by chaos and clutter has an effect on your brain. It can drain your cognitive resources, reducing your ability to focus. In other words, spend some time getting organized. Also, create a list of everything you have on your plate. Purchase a weekly or monthly calendar to keep track of everything from your kids’ appointments and school functions to what you’re making for dinner each night and what errands you need to run. The more organized you are, the more “together” you’ll feel which will lighten your mental load.
9. Put Worry and Fear in its Place
Chances are, 80% of what you worry about or fear is likely never going to happen. Still, we worry because we’re moms! Focus on what you can control and do your best to forget the rest – put it in God’s hands, mama.
10. Reach Out to Friends
Just having someone to talk to or vent about your worries, frustrations or fears can make a huge difference in how you feel. Reach out to other moms you know. There’s a good chance they’re feeling the same way you are.
I know you’re stressed. I’ve been there. But with a shift in mindset, the help of your family, and a little planning, you can reduce both your physical and your mental load. Don’t go through life feeling exasperated and overwhelmed. Your family needs you present… not lost in thoughts of worry or your to-do list.
If you enjoyed reading, “The Mental Load of Motherhood: The Side Our Family Never Sees,” you might also enjoy reading: