Mother's carry an enormous mental load. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. So what exactly is "The Mental Load" and what can you do to free yourself from the burden?
An average person has between 6,000 to 12,000 thoughts per day. An anxious mother can have around 50,000 thoughts per day. Insane.
“Have the children’s school uniforms dried?” “Is it going to be cold today?” “Do they need long sleeve shirts on or just short sleeves?” “Can he wear blue socks with blue pants, or do I need to find the white pair?” “Shit, I have to bleach all the white clothes” “Are his undies clean?”... Are just a few split seconds worth of thoughts that I have each morning while getting the children's clothes laid out for the day. Mothers have all of these thoughts every split second of every day, often before our husbands or partners have even opened their eyes.
What is The Mental Load and how does it affect us? And how can we slow our minds and focus on the important stuff?
The Mental Load is all the thoughts that a mother has each day for each of the dependents in her care. The Mental Load is always having to remember… Everything. The Mental Load is almost completely carried by the woman in a heterosexual relationship. It’s relentless. Permanent. Exhausting. Invisible. And worst of all… Unrecognised.
It’s relentless. Permanent. Exhausting. Invisible. And worst of all… Unrecognised.
The Mental Load was illustrated perfectly by French cartoonist, Emma, in her drawings entitled “You should have asked”. She gave illustrations and words to the constant nagging we find ourselves doing while trying to run a household. Check it out. She explains The Mental Load to a tee.
Census data clearly shows Australian women spend, on average, five to 14 hours per week in unpaid domestic work, whereas men spend less than five hours a week. Women also spend an additional hour a day looking after children.
Yet these measures fail to capture the additional time women spend organising these daily domestic and childcare activities, The Mental Load. When you take over the organising of your family's daily activities, you become the manager of your household and this casts all other members in a "helping" role (ABC.net).
It's the unpaid CEO role that is exhausting.
If we don’t reduce our mental load and spend more time remembering WHO WE ARE we risk losing ourselves completely. And that’s devastating.
So, how can we reduce The Mental Load and balance out the household duties?
Well, first of all, we can stop judging. Everyone. But especially ourselves. Stop judging the clothes on the lounge room floor. Stop judging our muffin tops over our jeans. Stop judging the pores on your nose. Stop judging the mother that races into the schoolyard late every afternoon. Stop judging that mother with the botox. Stop judging the mother without the botox. Just. Fucking. Stop. It. Stop judging and start accepting what is normal in society. After acceptance, will come the relief of the burden of unrealistic expectations.
Secondly, we need to take a freaking break. Start writing in your diary time for yourself. The same way you set aside time for grocery shopping or school work, set specific time aside for you. If you can’t find yourself an hour, start with 10 minutes then slowly expand that over a period of time. Build yourself up to the ever elusive “Mum’s weekend” that seems to be an urban myth, but I am determined to conquer this year! Taking some time for yourself is vital to maintaining sanity and your identity. Take the time to remember who you are and why you are so bloody amazing!
Next, reduce your expectations! I was told this by a few very wise mamma’s when I first had my twins, but I never really took it onboard. Until recently when I did an online course with Lisa Corduff: Home and she explained her “When OK is good enough” concept. You can’t be perfect in everything that you do. That's reality. But what can you do to accept that? Well, write down the things in your world that are “OK” and accept them! Completely and wholly accept them!! My things are like “my weight, my friendships, school work, housework” etc and then I accept that those things will always be OK. And OK is perfect, for me. I also wrote down all of my “Rubber Balls” and “Glass Balls”. These are things/objects/tasks/people etc that will either “Bounce” or “Shatter” if I let the ball drop, so to speak. My rubber balls are things like “Extended family time, house work, cooking every day”. My glass balls are things like “My children, my blog, Andrew” etc which I am unwilling to compromise on. I have these written on my bedroom wall and it’s a visual reminder each day of the most important things in my world and the things that I can let go of and come back to later. Head over to Lisa’s page and enrol in her online courses. They are super cheap (less than $30 ) and SUPER helpful.
Lastly, DELEGATE! Eve Rodsky has come up with a brilliant way to level out the playing field when it comes to domestic duties. In her book Fair Play recommended by Reese Witherspoon (amongst others!) she explains the card game concept following the 4 basic rules;
All time is equal
Reclaim your right to be interesting
Start where you are now
Establish your values and standards
Using this method, you can delegate tasks based on the wants and needs of the household and balance out the load. I’ve just ordered my copy, I can’t wait to share the results with you in my upcoming blogs.
The Mental Load is so real for so many of us. Are you crumbling from the weight of your mental load? What do you do to off load some of it? Let me know below and if you like this blog, please share with your loved ones and subscribe to get your “On a Mother's Mind” updates.
Love you all, Dee