10 March 2021 (updated)

What Is Mental Load and How to Equalize It

The mental load of motherhood is half the battle of being a parent. But there are ways to deal with this burden, so you don’t have to go it alone!

We parents have a seemingly endless list of things that we have to do or get done for our family. But a lot of the labor involved in being a parent isn’t just physical. Whether it's organizing a birthday present for your daughter's kindergarten friend or making doctor's appointments - most of the time, the hard work is to keep tasks and deadlines in mind.

So in order to stay on schedule, most parents and especially moms, have to keep a mental list of everything that needs to be done. It’s this ‘mental load’ that can potentially weigh us down with all the unseen responsibility.

What Is Mental Load?

A mental load is something that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. However, the working definition often refers to the labor involved in managing a household. It’s not really about the daily tasks but related to the to-do list of things that need to be done or delegated. For example, making a doctor's appointment for your kid's check-up is a task, but remembering what you want to discuss with your physician is a mental load.

Unfortunately, the mental load and emotional labor of maintaining a household most often fall on women. According to a Bright Horizons Family Solutions poll, moms working full time are three times more likely to keep their children’s schedule than full-time fathers!

Day after day of having to deal with this alone can become a huge burden for any parent. This can lead to stress or even burnout, so sharing the mental load between the parents is key.

How Do You Share Mental Load?

The mom may commonly take on the mental load checklist, but that doesn’t mean it has to be this way. Also, only delegating tasks and writing notes for your spouse isn't really sharing the mental load as you're still the one responsible for everything. Share your tips for creating gender balance at home on your favorite family app!

1. Take Charge of Your Family Together

It’s important to have a partner who understands that the demands of your life are just as important. Whether it’s personally or professionally, your time is valuable! By having an egalitarian relationship with your spouse, you can be sure it’s the starting point for equal parenting expectations. So talk openly about the fact that you're both responsible for daily family life with all the tasks and duties.

2. Keep Communicating

Even in the best relationships, communication can be a challenge. That’s why it’s so important to have mental load explained, so you’re both aware of what you need to give. There’s no sense in being resentful of your partner not doing a chore or contributing enough if you haven’t discussed the issue.

3. Choose Your Area

Most of us have specific housework we do around the home or with a child that is our ‘area of expertise’. Consider dividing the mental load amongst you and your spouse’s ‘natural’ tasks so that it comes more naturally. For example, if dad takes care of the kids’ sports or the vehicles, mom can help with school projects or gift-giving for family members and friends.

That would mean you no longer have to organize a carpool for your kid's sports event or maintain your cars and bikes.

4. Trust Each Other

If you really want to share your mental load, you have to let go. This can be hard for many moms who have been responsible for everything in the family over the last few years. Especially if you're the kind of person, who wants to be in control.

Some moms will tend to say: "I can't let him take care of the diaper bag; he doesn't know what to put into it!" Well, dad might not know right away, but he will learn it along the way. Just have a little patience and let him know that you trust his decisions and way of taking action.

5. There’s an App for That!

Technology is something that most of us use every day to make our lives a little easier. And it can also help in dealing with mental load. With apps like Evernote, Cozi, and FamilyApp, you can create to-do lists and reminders to make life easier for everyone. You can even share them with family members, so everyone knows what’s going on. They are also a great way to give your partner a little head start and show him your support.

Like many things, having an open dialogue with your husband about mental load is an important part of creating balance. It may not always be easy to deal with the challenges of motherhood, but it’s easier if you carry it together!

Do you have any tips for how to create mental load balance? Share them with others in our comments! It’s one thing to survive the super busy weeks of being a parent, but thriving makes all the difference!



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