There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the mental load. It is the invisible labor that goes into running a household and raising a family. Typically one partner carries more of the mental load. As a therapist, I hear about it often in my practice. As a mom, I feel it in my own life.
This is what it looks like:
- Did I pick up the immunizations?
- Order the uniforms
- Pay Entergy
- Reschedule that therapy appointment
- I need to work on handwriting with my oldest
- Work on letter sounds with my youngest
- The dog needs flea medicine
- Get water shoes by tomorrow for the splash pad play date
The Mental Load is real
It is the never-ending list of things in your head. It can get overwhelming. It can include:
- Managing Appointments
Doing All of the Things
Like most families, we are managing many things. My husband works and is finishing up graduate school and I own my own business, a psychotherapy practice. We also have one child who has special needs. I have gotten good at emailing therapists, managing appointments, doing exercises, and planning everything that needs to happen. My husband is always willing to help but the reality is that most of the mental load is invisible. That is what can make it an issue for many families.
Here are things that I find helpful:
Make the Mental Load Visible
Someone cannot help unless they can see it and know what needs to be done. Find a way to make your mental load visible to your partner. Sit down and talk about it. Create a list or a map so that everyone knows what the load looks like.
Make a List
I know it sounds cliche and simple, but checking one or two things off of the list each day feels good. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and it allows everyone to see what needs to be done. Hang it where everyone can see it. It is visible now.
Another option is to use technology to create a visible list. There are some great apps out there for family organizing. Google Calendar, Trello, Evernote and Cozi to name a few. Everyone can log in and see the grocery list, the to-do list, and the calendar. You can even create lists for birthday parties and other events that you are planning. Everyone can add to the list or check things off of the list. All of these apps have different strengths depending on what you are needing.
Pay the two bills that need to be paid and order uniforms. Check! The rest can wait. Prioritize what is the most important today.
Delegating does not work because it still makes one person responsible. When we delegate, it still means one partner has to figure out all of the delegating. This becomes one more task and adds to your mental load. Coming up with a system that you can both see is much more helpful. It encourages mutual responsibility.
Let your partner help even if it’s not done the way you want it done. This is hard for many individuals who have been doing certain tasks. This means that the clothes may not be folded exactly the way that you like. Handwriting may not be done the way you do it. Learning to let go reduces your mental load and it allows your partner to be more involved.
Look at the big picture when you are overwhelmed. Use self-affirmations. Here are my favorites: “There is always tomorrow,” “It will eventually get done,” and “Everyone is healthy.”