Last year I read a groundbreaking article in Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-mental-workload-of-a-mother_us_59765076e4b0c6616f7ce447. It introduced a term I hadn’t heard before, but was living quite vividly every day: the “mental load.”
The Mental Load
In parenthood, the mental load refers to the exhausting, invisible jobs that have to happen to make family life work. It’s the balancing of schedules (extracurriculars, appointments, work events), maintaining friend and familial relationships, planning birthdays & holidays, meal planning… The list is never ending. It’s remembering and executing those millions of little details that add up to a whole lot of time and physical/mental energy.
I’m an unabashed lovers of lists (which also happens to be my rap alter ego); just last week I had a list of, no joke, 32 things that needed to get done by Sunday. It included important/time-sensitive things like: pick up daughter’s asthma meds and make a follow up appointment for dog with bladder infection. It also included easy tasks like, pick up a gift bag for friend’s baby shower gift, and schedule hair appointment for son who is beginning to look like one of the Beatles. BUT, regardless of whether it’s crucial to the well-being of my family, or just silly superficial stuff, SOMEBODY’S GOTTA DO IT!
Who Bears the Burden?
As someone in a very modern relationship, one where we share the household (dishes, laundry, cleaning) & parenting (discipline, love, quality time) tasks impressively evenly (thank you, honey), I recognize that I am still bearing the burden of the mental load. I also accept that there’s not much of an alternative. Because I am the work-from-home parent, the invisible/necessary tasks are mine to conquer. This tends to be the case in any family; one of the parents carries the mental load; often it’s whomever stays at home, and if you’re both working it tends to default to Mom.
…And Then You Have A Baby
So what happens when you have a new baby at home, and these things STILL NEED TO GET DONE? New baby transition + lack of sleep + stresses of keeping your family/household running = brain officially turns to goo. The mental load during this season of life is damn near impossible to manage. I’m expecting my third little one next month, so this question feels especially relevant. It’s also relevant to our CLEbaby clients who do it all: they manage careers, social lives, and households, all while growing their families. It’s our privilege and joy to provide the support where and when they need it so that they can keep on keepin’ on.
My Game Plan
And my personal solution is that I’m hiring the CLEbaby postpartum doulas for as much support as I can get. I know what you’re thinking. “Holy smokes, Ashley, that is some shameless business promotion!” But I feel the need to tell you that I absolutely, positively could not make anything work without their help.
I understand this solution isn’t for everyone. CLEbaby revolves around the very notion that every family is different and has unique wants and needs. But for my family, my world-class doulas (I’m not being cheesy, I believe it with my whole heart!) will be saving me from total physical and mental destruction. Next month, when my third little cutie arrives, I will be prepared. I apologize in advance to the doulas for the lists on lists on lists. But I am looking forward to the lightening of my mental load so that I can truly enjoy that precious and fleeting time with my new babe.