When the mental load of motherhood feels too heavy, I wish I could empty my brain

What thoughts would you eliminate to ease your mental burden, mamas?

When the mental load of motherhood feels too heavy, I wish I could empty my brain

On most weeknights, we do what I call the "weeknight hustle:" get home from work, play with our daughter for a bit while one or both of us make dinner (and consequently, a mess of the kitchen), eat dinner too quickly, sometimes a bath or shower for the little one, then books, and bed.

Once our daughter goes to sleep, the hustle continues: cleaning up the kitchen, packing breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the next day, showering, picking out our clothes, picking up the house and then collapsing on the couch about 10 minutes before we should get to bed.

Some nights we do a brain dump and try to empty our minds of everything that's going on. Current hot topics that are pretty heavily discussed right now: our year-long house hunt, when to contact our fertility clinic to get the ball rolling on a second child, considering side jobs to help us achieve our dream house goals, the week's schedule, weekend obligations and so on...

Other nights we may sit there in silence. While we are enjoying each other's company, we're likely too exhausted or overwhelmed by life to do a brain dump. We both wonder, "Do all parents feel this way? Are we just extra sensitive or is everyone else just barely getting by, both physically and mentally?"

One recent night, we skipped the couch altogether out of exhaustion and instead, stumbled into bed to read. While reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I came upon an incredible idea.

About three-quarters of the way through the book is the chapter called, "The Pensieve." In it, J. K. Rowling describes an object that only a parent could dream up (the Pensieve). As Dumbledore tells Harry, "I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind."

Harry thinks to himself that he actually doesn't know that feeling, but me, personally? Well, I was doing a good impression of Hermione in my bed, raising my hand as high as I could. Me, Dumbledore! I know that feeling! I feel it Every. Single. Day! Please, can I have a Pensieve?!

My mind started drifting from the book and instead went to dreaming of such an object… a mama's dream. It would be so useful to rid my mind of all the hundreds of thoughts swimming around—thoughts that have increased tenfold since becoming a mother and have totally overwhelmed me many times. (I nearly lost it my first Christmas as a mother, to be honest.)

I knew I wasn't the only one who could use such an object, as I had seen the popular "You should've asked" comic by Emma explaining the mental load of working mothers making its way around Facebook. Many of my friends had shared it, so I knew it had hit a nerve with a lot of mothers who carry around a heavy mental load every day.

I'm lucky that in our household, the mental load seems pretty equal for both of us. I have a partner who shares in a large responsibility of our household tasks and though I'll often find myself frustrated when he doesn't understand how my head feels like it's going to burst if I have to come up with one more new lunch combination for our daughter this week(!) I remind myself that he remembered to empty the too-small recycling bin for the third time that week while I continued to try to jam it full.

But it's still there for both of us and it continues to overwhelm us. If only we could remove some not-so-important thoughts to make room for the important ones or put the thoughts that are totally useless to rest—I think our minds would be a bit calmer.

If I had a magic wand, I'd pull out these 10 things:

1. All of the Ace of Base lyrics that have been using up a lot of valuable space since 1990.

2. Worrying about how my two-year postpartum belly still doesn't look quite right to me. Is my skin going to be perpetually stretched out forever? Can I do something about it if I work out harder? Will it get better once I stop breastfeeding? Should I pretend that I'm content in my postpartum shape and proudly show it in a bikini this summer or hide my shame in a ruched one piece?

3. Any lingering insecurities I have about not having given my daughter a Pinterest-worthy birthday party. She had a ball and that's all that matters.

4. The guilt I have left over from my new mama days over not realizing sooner that I needed to put my ego aside and start supplementing with formula because, despite every effort on my part, I couldn't make enough milk to keep her healthy. She doesn't remember, she's perfectly happy and healthy, and we were still able to maintain a breastfeeding relationship, even if it wasn't on 100% breast milk as I originally expected.

5. Dwelling on giving her a turkey and cheese sandwich for the third day in a row because she wouldn't eat leftovers.

6. Wondering what anyone else thinks about my parenting decisions. The only ones who matter are my husband and my daughter.

7. Feeling inadequate because my house doesn't look like a Pottery Barn catalog and, in fact, on most days is a bit of a mess. Our house is a home because it's full of love. Everything isn't perfectly perfect and neat because I have a toddler. End of story.

8. Thinking about hiring a photographer for Christmas cards. Why, why, why am I thinking about this in June?!

9. Should we start thinking about preschools or just keep her at her daycare?

10. Does our daughter need more bows for her hair? Or are the slight fall/winter colors okay for the spring and summer?

These are only just a few of the hundreds of mind-cluttering thoughts that I have. They are not serving me well in this busy season of my life. I am working on letting go of them, but in the meantime, perhaps dumping my mental load here will have to serve as my personal Pensieve.

What thoughts would you eliminate to ease your mental burden, mamas?

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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

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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.


Balance board

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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!


Detective set

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Wooden doll stroller

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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.


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.


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.


Mini golf set

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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.


Vintage scooter balance bike

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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.


Wooden rocking pegasus

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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.


Croquet set

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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.


Wooden digital camera

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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.


Wooden bulldozer toy

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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.


Pull-along hippo

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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.


Baby forest fox ride-on

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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.


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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.

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Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

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.

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