The list is long. We spend our days ticking along the list of life, wondering if we will ever see the end. That physical list of parenthood is a burden we all know too well, and we manage it because it is part and parcel of being a parent. What we may not recognise or even see is the mental load. The overburden that sits inside our heads as we work through the mental to-do list.
Also known as cognitive labour, the mental load includes remembering to book dental appointments. It’s remembering when music lessons fees are due, where the important documents are, such as birth certs and PPS numbers, and knowing the login details for every household account like the bank accounts, utility accounts, and renewing the TV licence. The mental load is so vast that it is a wonder we can avoid potential overwhelm when the cognitive load is not shared.
What Does The Mental Load Look Like?
The mental load is often highlighted when we have to ask for help repeatedly. This invisible work means we are left to keep track of the activities of everyone in the house. It’s being the only person who organises birthdays, family gatherings, school outings, payments, reminders, appointments, grocery lists, household chores, and every other schedule. It’s managing the emotions of our children and often neglecting our own. The mental load usually means we forget about our own needs and put those of others in our house ahead of everything else we may need for ourselves.
We Need A Break
The mental load can lead to parental burnout - a prolonged emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. It is vital that we find space and time to break away from the mental load, refill our cup, and care for our mental wellbeing. So, how can we find freedom from the mental load that follows us everywhere?
Share The Load – We should not have to ask for help routinely, but our partner will not know how we are experiencing the overwhelm unless we tell them and spread out the physical and mental chores.
Make The Mental List Visible – The easiest way to highlight all you are carrying, and to get some of it out of your head, is to write it down. Write down a chore list for everyone in the house and get them to take ownership of the mess too.
Tackle Everything Together – If something goes wrong in the house or life, don’t take immediate responsibility to straighten everything out. Tackle the big and small issues together.
Banish The Guilt – The mental load can quickly get on top of us, especially when we don’t give ourselves the appropriate time to unwind, relax and rest. Guilt plays a big part in stopping us from taking time for ourselves. Permit yourself to rest. Recognise the importance of self-care and take time to leave the spaces that overwhelm you.