Menu
sharing the mental load

The holiday season is upon us, but let's just say that this doesn't exactly conjure up feelings of holiday cheer and excitement for everyone. To many people the holidays are an incredibly stressful period of time for a variety of reasons. Within a very short time period there is a lot to juggle, and let's face it: As mamas, we often feel like that exponentially expanding to-do list falls squarely on us.

There is the planning of parties, buying gifts, the endless to-do list, making decisions about social plans, shopping for outfits to wear to said social plans, wrapping up the work year and coordinating winter vacation plans—just to name a few.

FEATURED VIDEO

The mental load of pulling off a successful holiday season is no easy feat and it's common for anxiety levels to run high. If our mental loads get too heavy and we feel like we are carrying them alone, we may start to resent our partners or support system and take the stress out on them. Ideally, we should share the load with our partners or village, making for a less anxious and more joyous holiday season.

Here are nine strategies to help share the mental load and ease your holiday stress, mama:

1. Pick a good time together + schedule it

We're all guilty of wanting to unload on someone else when our stress levels are high. If it's not a good time, your partner or family member may not be receptive and you will be left feeling disappointed. Rather than set yourself up for that, have a planned team huddle at a scheduled and agreed time when you are both available, willing and most receptive.

It could be in the evening after the kids are asleep, an early morning chat before the day starts, a phone conversation or during a night out. Put it on your calendars and plan to give your undivided attention.Throughout the holiday season, I encourage several of these plus check-in points and updates.

2. Write it down

Before you can share your mental load you have to identify what is on your (or your partner's) mind. Begin by making a list of all the things you need to do with the timeframe (making it as detailed as possible), and all the things you feel worried about with the holiday season. Mental load isn't just the tangible concrete tasks, but the added weight of how we feel about these tasks and the things that concern us.

3. Be mindful of your tone

When communicating, make sure your tone is supportive, encouraging and fun. This isn't a time to criticize and argue. Remind yourself that the more you can be in it together, the better it will feel for both of you.

4. Delegate tasks

Look at the list together and decide which tasks each of you can accomplish best. Each of you has strengths (and weaknesses), so delegate based on strengths, availability and interests.

For example, if you are really creative about gift ideas but your partner is the best bargain finder, make a list of items you want to purchase and have them do the actual purchasing. If your partner doesn't get riled talking to family about holiday logistics but you do, have them be the family liaison.

If you want to control everything and want your partner to take the kids out for the day to give you time to get it all done, that works too. Whatever the breakdown of tasks, ensure you are both on the same page about them.

Remember, if you choose to take ownership of something on the list, you can't also resent your partner for not doing it—that's not fair. If you want them out of the kitchen when you cook, let's not complain "Why am I always the one cooking?" When we delegate and accept the tasks we have divided, we want to also be okay doing so.

5. Learn to let it go

Once something has been delegated, let it go! Your partner is a different person than you and will inevitably do things differently than you—perhaps on a different timeline than you would want or in a different way than you want.

Part of reducing your mental load will be becoming comfortable that it will be done differently than you want, but that it will still get done. If you delegate and also then micromanage what you have delegated, you are not actually reducing your stress. In fact, it may feel even more stressful than just doing it yourself!

6. Offer positive feedback

It's easy to harp on the things we don't like about our partner. Remember, the more you criticize, the less likely that your partner will want to be in it with you. If your partner feels that nothing can ever be done right by you, they will stop even trying and resentment will only further ensue. If efforts (for both of you) are acknowledged and praised, you are much more likely to want to do more of it. Besides, wouldn't you rather have a happy relationship than have the perfect color napkins at your holiday table?

7. Communicate—don't mindread

How great would it be if everyone around us knew exactly what, when and how we wanted things all of the time? Unfortunately that's not reality. No matter how long someone knows us or how much someone loves us, that doesn't mean they know what is going through our minds and what exactly we want at any given moment!

Since we can't expect our support system to mindread, we need to be really clear and specific about what we do want.

It's also important to be clear about how you are feeling. Rather than internalizing and feeling angry or concerned about a situation, communicate it. If we don't actually verbalize it, it will still come out, just in less than ideal ways. If you feel concerned about a family dynamic, talk it through so you don't feel like you are shouldering it alone. Sometimes talking about it can also give us another perspective.

8. Manage expectations

The holidays are naturally going to heighten our stress levels. The more we can articulate our expectations of how we want things to go and what we are feeling anxious about, the better we will be able to manage and game-plan for our stress.

For example, if you have different expectations about what it means to be on time for a party or an airplane flight, talk about it in advance and come up with a plan together. Figure out what time specifically you will plan to leave rather than a vague let's get there on time.

9. Find humor

While it's last on the list, I think this is one of the most important tips I can give. It's so important to laugh. Find a way to be a team in the holiday season together and laugh about the things we may find stressful. Know that when you laugh at it together, it takes the weight of the situation away and also brings perspective.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play