The Mental Load
Whilst becoming a parent is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences you can have, no one prepares you for the mental load that you automatically inherit once you become a mum.
It refers to the invisible work that women perform in managing the household, family responsibilities, and career obligations, which often goes unnoticed and unrecognised. This mental load can have a significant impact on women's well-being, leading to stress, burnout, and even depression
It would be nice to say that this load is shared equally between both parents…But the truth is because of the way that maternity and paternity leave are set up, it generally falls to women.
With men on average being offered a mere two weeks paid paternity leave, and women in most cases being entitled to up to 52 weeks' maternity leave, this is where the division begins. This is the time when the majority of the mundane chores and tasks become ingrained into women's schedules, and remain once maternity leave has finished.
One of the challenges of the mental load is that it is often invisible and taken for granted. Society assumes that women will take care of the household and family responsibilities, even if they are also working outside the home. This can lead to a lack of recognition and appreciation for the work that women do. Obviously you can talk to your partner about sharing this load. But it can be difficult once you have got used to prioritising the many tasks on a day to day basis.
Here are some tips that will hopefully help:
- Write a list of all of the things you need to do/think about. This might be a very long list but you can then sort them out into - domestic chores, weekly meal planning, kids school schedule/additional activities, work, family time. This will also make it easier to see what items could be delegated to others. It will also then be easier for your partner to process and realise what needs to be done to get through the week successfully.
- During particularly busy weeks, batch cook/meal plan, some easy recipes that can be frozen, or ready in the fridge, to reheat in 15-20 minutes at the end of long days. Not worrying about mealtimes can lighten the load considerably.
We have all stood in the kitchen at the end of a busy day trying to work out what to make with half a packet of pasta and some veggies that are slightly on the turn, with an overtired and hungry child...it can be very stressful!!
- Make some time for you in the week. Prioritise doing something just for you. Whether that is a 30 min workout/yoga, time to call a friend or loved one, sitting down with a good book and a cuppa. It is not sustainable to rush around from one task to another without getting burned out, or it impacting on your mental wellbeing.
- Check in with your partner on a weekly basis, so you can discuss how you are both doing, and see how you can best support each other.
It is easy to get bogged down with the busy lives we lead, but it is important to stop, communicate and try and restore some order to our lives every now and then.
The mental load is always going to be there, but it can be shared, spoken about and hopefully lightened x