Do you remember that time before marriage and kids? Cruising through life smug and content from endless weekend sleep-ins and long, lazy brunches? You built your schedule around your needs and priorities and were (mostly) able to juggle everything you had going on deftly and gracefully. You may have occasionally woken up on a Sunday morning with a half-eaten kebab next to you on the pillow but hey, you did it with style. You had no need for productivity apps, shared calendars or reminders. You knew everything you had to do and you only had yourself to take care of. Everything just worked.
And then? Partner and kids. Goodbye streamlined schedule, hello mental load.
What is the mental load?
The mental load has been discussed a lot on social media, particularly in the context of working mothers. Put very simply, it means that the mental duties involved in running a house and keeping children alive fall to the woman by default.
Consider this scenario. It’s Christmas time. Who makes the lists? Who buys the presents (including presents for the other person’s parents)? Who organises relatives who are travelling from far away, RSVPs for the Christmas events and kindy performances, double checks the car has been serviced prior to a long drive and organises someone to look after the animals? Sound familiar?
The mental load does not suggest that the man (or other partner) in the relationship does nothing. That partner will often say that they ‘just need to be asked.’ What it indicates is that the role of house CEO, chief organiser, administrator and coach is taken by the woman. She is responsible for keeping track of everything and ensuring that not only do the wheels NOT fall off but that they’re pointing in the right direction in the first place. The other partner is not an equal player in this scenario because they passively wait to be asked rather than proactively taking on board an even share of the mental load and organisation.
Every timetable, decision, bill payment, grocery list, maintenance request and purchase of yet another pair of tiny leggings falls to her. This is the mental load for working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. It’s not necessarily that the partner is unwilling to help, it’s that always having to ASK for that help can be exhausting.
And as working mothers, we DO need help.
How do working mothers need help?
You know you’re a working mother who is carrying the mental load if…
Your husband can’t dress the kids without asking where things are in their rooms. Hint: check the drawers, darling!
In your exhaustion, you accidentally send a work email ‘reply all’ when you shouldn’t have. You deal with it by taking a few days off and coming back with a new haircut. Disguises always work.
Breakfast for the kids? Sure. Breakfast for you? What’s that? You exist on fumes and the awesome breakfast items and coffee at the centre your kids go to. Perks!
You clean the entire house and lay in a sweaty, exhausted mess on the tiles only to have your partner come in and say they were ‘just about to do that’ and ‘you should have asked.’ They have impeccable timing, you have to give them that!
You know exactly who in your husband’s family has intolerances to gluten, dairy, egg and nuts. You know who will only listen to Paul Kelly during dinner, who can’t stand him and which side of Aunt Doris everyone has to sit on. Your husband doesn’t know his brother’s birthday and asks you every year at the start of April, “It’s soon-ish, right?”
You desperately want your young children to have a well-rounded start to life so try to cram your free time with as many wholesome and educational activities as possible. You have signed them up to a range of different activities only to go for a few weeks and realise it’s not a great fit or it’s too far away. You feel guilty at not being able to give more to them but you’re literally giving all you can in every minute you have. You research and call and investigate to try and find a way to balance extra-curricular activities with your intense schedule.
Dinner for the kids is sandwiches more often that you’d like to admit. Dinner for you is a soggy crust of said sandwiches. Glamorous, glamorous.
Your career takes a hit every year during school holidays as you have to take time off to care for the kids. Why is it always you that stays home?
Whenever you’re out trying to get some ‘me’ time, you see someone you know that asks where your kids are. I’m not sure, Maddy. Perhaps I left them in the car while I popped into this cocktail bar at 9pm and had a daquiri
Help is here for working mothers
Being a working mother while carrying the mental load is exhausting. Sustaining a break-neck pace and trying to find time to be that happy, carefree version of yourself might seem almost impossible.
Little Scholars happily offers the following services specifically designed to make your life easier.
Extra-curricular activities for learners so they can study a foreign language and engage with specialist educators.
A take home meal and dinner service for busy parents so dinner is already organised.
The provision of breakfast and coffee for working mothers (and fathers) in the morning, free of charge.
Before and after school care (and vacation care) for working families with older children.