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5 Tips To Manage The Mental Load of Motherhood

mental load kitchen table

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It’s Sunday night. Dinner is done, the kids are in bed. Your partner has done the dishes and watches you write a list of everything that needs to get done for the week. 

You and your partner have work in the morning, and your kids have daycare.

It’s highly likely that you find yourself wondering if there’s enough food in the house for lunches and snacks all week.

You need to know if all your clothes are clean; if you need more detergent; whose friends have birthdays coming up; and if you bought gifts for them, etc etc… 

You feel stressed out, overwhelmed, worried about getting it all done. Your partner helps out, but it still falls to you to be the project manager of the household, making sure everything runs smoothly. 

If this sounds familiar, mama, we get it. You are carrying the mental load, and you are tired. 

Never fear, though! There are ways to make the mental load lighter and to balance the work. In this article we will give you tips to:

  • help define the mental load, 
  • explain the mental load to your partner, 
  • and how to find the help you need and DESERVE! 
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What is the Mental Load?

The concept of the Mental load is the responsibility of anticipating needs, finding ways to fill those needs, making decisions, and monitoring progress of how the work is done. 

It is a never-ending to-do list of all the thoughts running through a mom’s head. 

Women are in the full time workforce now more than ever. Still, managing the household falls more to mothers. This invisible labor is a mental burden, one that can lead to burnout and mental load resentment. 

Being overworked at jobs and at home can create anxiety and depression for moms, coupled with sleep deprivation, feelings of disconnect and the heavy weight of mom guilt

Keeping a mental awareness of all the kids’ schedules and family members’ needs is exhausting.

The emotional load of household management isn’t compensated and is often unrecognized. 

Why “Let Me Know How I Can Help” Isn’t Actually Helpful

When asking for support in carrying the mental load, common responses from partners include “Let me know how I can help” and “You should have asked for help.” 

While these responses usually come from a place of care, they can be unhelpful and unsupportive. In asking to be asked, mothers are still seen as the family manager, responsible for delegation household chores, grocery shopping, and the mental work of planning it all

It is important to remember that what moms carrying the mental load want is to share the management work, not just the tasks themselves. 

How To Share The Mental Load

Sharing the mental load starts with understanding the dynamic, identifying the issues inherent in your day-to-day life, and talking to your partner. 

You can always seek outside support to help you and your partner articulate your needs to each other. Find a therapist to talk to, either together or on your own. Having an outside person to talk to and support you is so important.

mental load frustration
Are you frustrated and overwhelmed with the mental load? Try gently approaching your partner with ways they can help.

1. Talk To Your Partner 

Talking about the imbalance of labor is the first step to overcoming it. Discuss with your partner what you need and are not receiving. 

Discuss how holding the mental load affects you and why you need to shift the dynamics of your household. Explain to your partner the ways you carry the mental load. 

If you and your partner have an open line of communication and you feel like you are heard in your relationship, you might want to share that you feel overwhelmed, constantly worried, and that you are tired of holding the weight of the mental load. 

Say that you need extra support, whether it’s more help with household tasks or some time to yourself each day to recharge. You might be surprised that your partner didn’t even know you felt this way or didn’t recognize that you were carrying this load alone!

Emotional labor burnout is real. Talking to your partner is the first step to avoiding burnout and sharing the mental load. 

We recommend an emotional load check-in with your partner at least once a week. During a check-in, ask the following questions: 

  • Did my needs get met this week? 
  • How can we work on sharing the mental load? 
  • What can we do to make sure I feel supported? 

2. Create an Emotional Labor Task List

One great way to tackle the mental load of motherhood is to create an emotional labor task list and have accountability check-ins with your partner. 

We love to use note sharing apps, like Simplenote, Google Keep, or Todoist to write and share lists and keep track of what needs to get done. This keeps you from asking over and over again, and it keeps your partner from saying that they forgot about the task because it’s all written down in a place you both have access to.

An emotional labor task list helps both partners understand what the new division of labor looks like, and modeling an even division of labor is valuable for children to see. 

Dividing the emotional load balances your workload and your relationship and is good for your mental health. No one can pour from an empty cup!

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3. Practice Self-Care As A Necessity

Normalize resting and taking breaks for your mental health. 

Even if it’s just ten minutes of closing your eyes and breathing, rest is an important, grounding self-care technique that helps to replenish your energy and emotional stability. 

Find small, accessible things you can do each day for your self-care, such as: 

  • Take a walk around the block. Breathe the fresh air.
  • Stretch. Move your body in ways that feel good to you. 
  • Listen to music. Play a song that lifts your spirit. 
  • Eat something nourishing besides your kids’ leftovers. Make sure you’re taking care of your needs. 

You’re worth it! 

4. Seek Outside Support

If your resources allow, find a college student or an older high school student to help out a few hours a week. A few hours a week on your own is worth investing in. No one can do this alone! Find your village. 

Reach out to the people in your life who make you feel supported. Even if it’s just a text to say you’re thinking of them, building connection with people you care about is such a necessary part of taking care of yourself. 

There are also many virtual parenting groups that you can join to get outside emotional support and talk to other parents battling mental load resentment. Check out Postpartum Support International to find other parents going through similar situations. 

mental load late night

5. Build Your Community

Offer to trade off watching another parents’ kids once a week, to give each of you a quick, built-in break and create support networks in your neighborhood. Reach out to parents around you. 

Build your community online, with apps like Peanut to find moms in your neighborhood that you can get to know. Look for neighborhood parenting groups online, or search for local babysitting groups online, where both families and caregivers post what they’re looking for. 

Work Together To Lighten The Mental Load

By working together to solve the issue of mental load imbalance, remember that you and your partner are on the same team, working towards the same goals. You both want you to be able to be a good mother to your children, and that’s what’s important!

It is totally possible to get on the same page with your partner and lighten the mental load. Keep talking to each other. Check in often about how you’re feeling. You can do this. 

What are some ways you divide housework and tasks with your partner to reduce your mental load? Tell us in the comments!

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When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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