How Moms Can Better Manage Their Mental Load
“Imagine moms are both an employee and manager at the same time,” says Laurel Sims-Stewart, a therapist and Community Outreach Director at Bridge Counseling and Wellness. “Mothers are doing all they need to keep their own lives running while mentally holding down everything the family has to accomplish, too.” A mom’s mental load, she explains, is all the invisible labor that goes into organizing and anticipating the physical and emotional needs of a household.
The Mental Pressure of Mothering
Sally Scott, a mother of three children agrees. “I put a lot of pressure on myself for things to run perfectly and smoothly. I project that other people look to me for that as well,” she says. The reasons moms feel compelled to carry this weight manifests differently for everyone. Cultural expectations, watching other mothers behave in the same way, and seeing this as the norm without question can all be root causes, Sims-Stewart says.
Angela Cooper Plasko, a mother to four girls, says the most difficult part of managing her mental load is finding that all-important me-time. “Between work, parenting four kids, and all the other responsibilities of life, making time for myself can almost seem impossible,” she says. This invisible labor is draining and taking time out to rest can help ease tensions and support you in feeling refreshed.
Taking a Shower is Not Self Care
“We need to stop thinking of taking a shower and going to the grocery store as self-care,” Sims-Stewart states. “Those are still tasks and moms need to find time to step away from the mental load.” So, find a space that’s not task-related and take part in an activity that revitalizes you. Scotts says she hangs with friends, runs and takes trips. Her family also encourages her need for downtime and Scott is conscious about asking for breaks before she burns out.
“It’s not easy, but having burned out in the past, I know how vital it is to take care of myself,” says Plasko. Reaching out to your partner, a family member, or mom friends to support your need for space can help recharge your overworked mom-brain.
Don’t be Embarrassed to Ask Your Partner for Support
Invite your partner to take on one specific task. “Start with one thing and then let your partner truly have it,” Sims-Stewart says. “I like to think that I delegate, but then even before that person can do it, I end up doing. We can still ask for help and be good moms.”
Being intentional in creating self-care space, having that long-overdue conversation with your partner, or delegating responsibilities are ways to lighten the invisible load. “My teenagers can do their own laundry and fold it. The 10-year-old can feed the dogs and pack her school snacks,” says Plasko. Even with one weekly task completely given over to my husband, my load feels lighter. So, maybe I can set down a bit of my mental load and find some time for this Cruise Director to turn on the “cruise control.”