Mums & the mental load

May 2019

It seems to be something that transcends all cultures, every demographic, each age bracket. It does not discriminate to your years of childrearing experience, your level of organisational skills or how much sleep you get. I have come to realise, quite harshly, that the mental load that mums carry on their own each and every day may ironically be the very thing that binds us all together.

Yearly dental appointments, buying presents for upcoming birthday parties and renewing the roadside insurance. Remembering the one off changed sports day, knowing the refill rates of all the pantry items and making sure the fussy kid gets the right spoon. Events and dates so sporadic, yet vital to the ongoing running of a household locked inside the brain of one single person – a mother.

This right here mamas, is why we are so dang tired all the time. How we keep all the extra crap in our already overloaded minds baffles me. The running reel of jobs that steam roll at speed through our heads is known as the mental load, and in most families, it falls on the shoulders of the mother.

According to a British study, the average mum individually manages at least 26 little jobs and 12 major tasks each and every day. That’s close to 40 itemised, unrelated responsibilities that won’t leave her already crowded head until they are mentally ticked off. Those 40 odd duties will vary in importance, will all require some form of time or thought investment from her, but many will not even benefit her directly. That long list, growing by the day, dictates the way she spends her minutes, formulates the order in which she executes car trips, and haunts her exhausted mind before falling asleep each night.

The family flu shot, ordering the vegetable delivery, packing money for the white elephant stall and buying batteries. Taking the dog to the vet, changing the length of the baby seat straps, noticing when kids need new school shoes and telling the neighbours you're going away for the weekend. In isolation, none of these tasks are big. But knit them altogether, throw in a one month, three month, six month forecast, a bunch of kids and that my friend, is a mammoth undertaking for mums.

It. Never. Ends. No season brings reprieve, no external help lightens the load.

Thankfully these days, generally husbands and partners rarely resemble a couch potato or a 50’s business man. So, in most cases, fathers are a legitimate moving part that contributes to keeping families humming along without a fuss. My hubby actually does a lot, happily & mostly, intuitively. He washes all the laundry, strips beds, swaps out towels and takes out the garbage like clockwork. He will pack and unpack the dishwasher and even fold the odd piece of clothing that isn’t his. He is CEO of outdoor tasks, all things green, dirty or car related are his forte. I am slightly embarrassed to admit, as a capable, independent woman, that I do not know how to even start the lawn mower. He is a complete equal, if not the dominant parent in the kid’s bedtime routine. (Which let’s be honest, by the end of the day, I am more than happy to take a back seat with.) He makes teeth brushing a round house rodeo, reads with more enthusiasm than an MC at a music festival and literally picks up each boy and flies them to their beds.

But, while he adults quite well, fronting with all these tasks he does regularly, I still linger in the background – both physically and metaphorically. You see, without me, the unofficially appointed Head Chief of all things unseen, we’d have no garbage bags or laundry powder to even do the chores, the cars wouldn’t be booked in for their services and the water bill wouldn’t have been paid. He’d have no new library books to read at night and those beds he happily plunges the boys into wouldn’t even have sheets still on them if I hadn’t made them that morning. I manage all the crap that makes his duties possible. And while I'd love to say I am happy to do it, happy to be the only one remembering all this shit – I wouldn’t mind a little vacay from the list in my head, because, like you, I am tired!

It’s constant.

It’s relentless.

It’s invisible.

And it’s vital.

So, my dear mama, while some days the physical connections or adult conversations aren't there, we can be assured that in all corners of the world there are mums battling the same defeat. Ultimately, this is what binds us all together. The mental load we carry is an exhaustion hard to explain, and even trickier to share. You don’t get it, unless you're in it, and I'm in knee deep so I hear you. I hope you got some breakfast in bed today or a minute to yourself, a toilet break in peace is always a bloody win or a mindless hour doing something you love.

Happy Mother’s Day, legends!

Now don’t forget to make sure those uniforms are ironed, and the lunches are packed for tomorrow.

J x

Disclaimer: I am not naive enough to think this is the normal for everyone and I am very aware this a stereotype. But, for me and for all of the mums I know, the mental load is real and it's punishing. Read this, and all of my blogs, with an open mind and kind heart. x

Professional Photography Credits Mel Hill Photography