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The “Mental Load” of Parenting

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July 31, 2017

I can’t seem to get through to my husband how much I put into parenting. I say things like, “Even when they’re asleep, I’m still ON,” or “Just one day at home can be exhausting.”

Lately, it’s the pressure of getting ready for a summer trip that he doesn’t seem to understand. To him, vacation preparation means throwing a few clothes and a toothbrush into a suitcase. Moms know it’s far more complicated than that.

This video of illustrations addresses the modern mom’s reality from an interesting perspective.

I love how this illustrator looks at the parenting dynamic from a work perspective. In most families, the mom is the family manager. In the work force, managers tend to focus only on the organization and details and usually don’t do the actual work. Managers shoulder the expectation and stress of making things happen. For moms, managing includes everything from maintaining and purchasing a grocery list, to helping with homework, to scheduling doctor’s appointments, to bath and bedtime routines. This is the “the mental load” that moms (and dads who are the primary parent in the family) carry all the time.

Her conclusion is that moms (or dads, when they are the primary parent) are put in the tense position of being both manager and part-time worker (part time only IF the partner does the other half of the work when asked). Essentially, the primary parent has to manage the family along with getting the actual work done. The other parent might agree to wash, dry, and fold the laundry while you dig out the suitcases and pack them, but you still are in charge of figuring out and remembering what, how much, or what not to bring. And if, for some reason, you forget something, you have to deal with the consequences.

There probably isn’t an easy answer to this dilemma, but I’ve been trying to come up with some ways to ease our parenting burdens some, and these are a few of my ideas.

Schedule a regular break with your parenting partner

Whether it’s a weekly date night, a monthly weekend away, or a yearly vacation (and preferably all of the above), schedule some regular adult time to devote to your relationship.

Share the work 

Ask your partner to cook dinner every Saturday night, and assign regular chores to your kids (even very small kids can empty wastebaskets or set the table).  Do a weekly house cleaning, and make sure everyone in the family has a job.

Give yourself credit

Even if you don’t see outside evidence of work done, give yourself credit for just getting through the day and managing the mental load. Take guilt-free time to recharge and rest!

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