Menu

The ‘mental load’ falls squarely on mother’s shoulders—and it’s making us very tired

Even with helpful partners, moms do most of the behind the scenes thinking when it comes to managing the house.

The ‘mental load’ falls squarely on mother’s shoulders—and it’s making us very tired

My husband has approximately three things he adds to our household grocery list:


  • His shaving cream.
  • His shampoo.
  • Shower spray. (Don’t ask about this one. He has an obsessive thing about the glass shower door.)

That’s it.

It’s not his fault. Not really. I make note of the rest of the 8,000 things a family of four requires because it falls squarely under the duties of CEO of our household—a position I never interviewed for, yet I rose up through the ranks to find myself in, sometime between the day I got married and the day I popped out a second kid.

I stay home with the kids, which means I am the default day-to-day manager. Nevermind that I also work, it just happens to be at the kitchen table. So while I attempt to craft the next viral essay on the hilarity of momhood, I’m also trying to teach my kids how to craft a homemade paper mache pinata.

This is 100 percent what is happening right now. See?

As moms, our minds are always going. Going fast. Going in a million different directions. Going away. Going.

And it’s not just the children and the shopping lists we manage. It’s all of it—we think about the cleaning, the cooking, the organizing, the planning, the dressing, the gift-buying, the brushing, the laundering, the caring about the everything.

If you are lucky like me, hubs is happy to pitch in. Mine shares carpool duty and manages bedtime. I have never cut a blade of grass or taken out the garbage. He is known as “Lord of the Dishwasher.”

But, even though he handles certain chores, there is always me, magically elfing behind the scenes—managing the stuff that makes his duties possible.

I tell him what time to pick up the kids and who has what practice when. Without me, there wouldn’t be dishwasher pods or garbage bags, and there certainly wouldn’t be toothpaste for brushing or new library books for bedtime stories.

This, my fellow moms, is why we are tired. Not because we don’t have help or get enough sleep—well, there is that.

But there is also the fact that mom brain is a real thing, and if you’re nodding along with me—congratulations, you, too, are suffering from it.

That endless running to-do list is called the mental load. It is heavy, and in most families, it is carried by the mom.

The notion of the mental load is beautifully captured in all its glory in this cartoon by French comic artist, Emma. Her depiction of the struggle entitled “You Should Have Asked” nails this idea that for the majority of households, women are constantly managing and keeping track of all that needs to be done.

In the cartoon, when things go haywire in the kitchen, the husband points out he was there to help. “You should’ve asked!” he says.

But, do we really have to ask?

In short, yes. So, go ahead, add “Ask for help” to your to-do list.

Susan Walzer, a sociologist at Skidmore College, published a research article in 1996, called, “Thinking About the Baby,” that confirms some truths in Emma’s cartoon. Walzer interviewed 23 couples who had recently become parents and found that women do, in fact, carry more of the mental load.

Noting that, even when their partners helped out, women are the ones who noticed what needed to be done in the first place.

At no point is this more clear than when I travel for work. Before I hop on that plane I pre-pack lunches, I buy and prepare easy dinners, I do all the laundry, I lay out clothes, I write down the schedule. I make all the plans that I won’t be a part of. When hubs travels, he just kisses us and leaves.

The burden of this self-inflicted mental load is mine. I’m the one worrying, thinking, planning. But honestly, if I did none of this, he would be fine. The kids would be happy.

He might feed them donuts and nuggets, and they’d dress themselves in a cacophony of colors, but the world would keep spinning.

But I return, and hubs rejoices. The heavy baton of mental load passes back to me: manager in residence. Balance (or imbalance) is restored as I resume my position lying awake in bed making mental lists and taking note of every dirty sock and empty ketchup bottle.

That, dear mamas, is why we’re all so darn tired.

This article was originally published on Simplemost.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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

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

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

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

Shop

Is the Belly Bandit helpful for postpartum recovery?

I personally found myself wanting more core support in my early postpartum months.

My belly has been through some things.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yep, severe debilitating pregnancy-related vomiting), the pregnancies of each of my four kids, the 65 pounds of weight gain I have endured with each pregnancy, stretch marks, Occupational Therapy for pregnancy pelvic pain, unmedicated childbirth, and of course, postpartum recovery.

It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

Keep reading Show less
Life