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The mental workload of a mother

Here’s what it consists of. 

The mental workload of a mother

My husband and I thought we had this whole equal marriage thing figured out. We are a modern couple, after all. He is perfectly capable of cooking and cleaning. I know how to use a drill and do yard work. There were times I worked full time and he took care of the house, and there were times when he worked more and I picked up more of the load.


Equality. An egalitarian partnership. Occasionally we had to work some things out, but overall: no problem.

And then we had kids.

It’s impossible to describe just how much the workload increases when kids come along. But one of the most difficult things about the work of parenting is that so much of it is invisible.

So one parent—let’s be honest, usually the dad—can think they are doing the same amount of work as the other. But sometimes they can just be completely unaware of all of the many things that the other parent—usually the mom—is completely taking care of.

Often the most tiring aspect of this work is being the “Knower of All the Things.” So often the mom is the one who holds all of the behind-the-scenes knowledge about all of the many things involved in raising a kid. The one who plans, who notices, who anticipates, who researches, who worries. This is often referred to as “the mental load.”

The mental load” is not just one job though: it is pervasive. It applies to nearly all aspects of raising kids and managing a household. EVERYTHING.

Why is it so often the mom who carries the mental load? Maybe we tend to be naturally better at these kinds of things, but dads are perfectly capable of carrying that mental load in their jobs and hobbies. So why can’t they more often also carry some of the mental load at home?

Surely this is mostly about our socialization. They don’t because they don’t have to. Because someone else has always done it for them, and it might be completely invisible to them.

So, as a service to fellow moms everywhere, let me spell it out for you, dads. (You’re welcome.)

Here’s what a mother’s “mental load” consists of:

Stuff

Just this week my husband said, “We need to go through all of these toys and get rid of the junk and loose parts.” Guess what? I already do that every couple of months, apparently completely unnoticed.

There is so much stuff everywhere, all the time. We are in a constant war to try to get SOME of it out of the house before the next Christmas when they will get dozens of toys with 10,000 tiny, sharp-edged parts.

Mountains of toys, but also things like sippy cups, broken umbrellas, sports equipment, books, school and art supplies, etc ad infinitum. Anticipating what we will need, deciding what toys are developmentally appropriate, where to take things we’re getting rid of or recycling, noticing what our kid is into now or will be into in the future.

And then there are the clothes. Oh, the hours of my life I have spent sorting through clothes! Mountains of received hand-me-downs, mountains of outgrown clothing.

Do they have the right size, the right season? Do they have the next sizes available for when they grow out of the current one? Will they ever in a million years actually wear this? Let’s place bets on what shoe size they’ll be in when school starts, because who the hell knows.

Gifts

Attending a birthday party? We can’t just show up. We have to buy a gift. We have to think about the age-appropriateness of the gift, what the kid is into, if there’s anything the parents might object to.

And of course, there are the gifts for our own families. All of the Christmas gifts, plus extended family. Picking up things on sale throughout the year that you think they’ll like, finding the best deals. Sometimes moms even take care of their own Mother’s Day gifts.

And let’s not forget things like end-of-year teacher gifts. My husband did not even know this was a thing that existed in the world.

Staying connected

Keeping in touch with family, remembering birthdays, posting pictures for grandma on Facebook, planning family gatherings and visits, getting kids to write letters and make homemade birthday cards for grandpa, making sure they get to spend quality time with their cousins. Organizing playdates with friends, knowing who they are hanging out with, who they are having conflicts with, who is a good influence and who is not. Knowing who their parents are and if it’s a safe place to sleepover.

School

Oh, the never-ending paperwork of school: So many school forms. Reading records. Permission slips. Emergency contact forms. Multi-page forms for every activity. And then there’s overseeing homework, knowing what they are struggling with, knowing when to contact the teacher, making sure they put the homework BACK IN THE BACKPACK FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, preparing for class parties and holidays, choosing school supplies, packing lunches or sending lunch money, bus schedules, Mom-I-forgot-I-need-cupcakes-TOMORROW, communicated at 9 p.m.

Calendar

Managing the family calendar, anticipating schedules for each season, noticing conflicts: this takes up a huge amount of brain space. Just a sampling of the things we have to consider: school schedule (especially weird days off that sneak up on us), bus schedules, concerts, recitals, lessons, class parties, field trips, work travel, childcare, doctor appointments (if there are any chronic health needs in the family this becomes a part-time job in itself), dentist appointments, school meetings, teacher conferences, haircuts, sleepovers, birthday parties, summer camps, and all of the things that everybody forgets to tell you about.

Meal planning

Planning and shopping to a budget, but also noticing what staples are running low, knowing what everyone will actually eat at any given time, knowing when someone must be having a growth spurt because they are eating enough to feed a small army, balancing health concerns with treats and favorites.

Emotional needs

And finally, looking after the emotional needs of the family. We think about what is going on in everyone’s emotional world.

Who needs some extra support and hugs, who needs to talk, who needs some space and freedom to figure things out on their own? Who is not feeling well and needs cuddles? How can we help them manage their anger better, channel their anxiety, learn empathy for others, treat people kindly, be less bossy? The world sorely needs men who do a better job of noticing how other people feel. Dads, this starts with you.

Tired yet? This is only the tip of the iceberg. And it doesn’t even cover crises and catastrophes. The list is endless and could fill a whole book.

Originally posted on The Wild Word.

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

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

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With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

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