The Mental Load

As parents, do we ever really “switch off”, like fully unplug I mean? Remember those trips in our 20’s with not a care in the world, saying yes to that millionth margarita without even another thought. I mean truly sitting around and just “relaxing”, with ZERO (yes ZERO) parallel thoughts. Not one thought about whether I packed this or that for lunch, or did I turn the TV off before we rushed out of the house this morning, have I ordered this for Father’s Day or have I sorted a gift for Aunty Mabel’s upcoming birthday? I’m not sure about you but my mind is constantly on “the go” – This, my friends, is what they call the Mental Load. It’s the never-ending to-do list of all the thoughts running through in our heads – yes the ones right now tapping at you to remember this or that – they never really stop and for many of us, they just get louder the more we try to ignore them. With more women in the full time workforce than ever before, this mental load is trickling into families like we’ve not see before and we think it’s taking it’s toll. Add lockdown and, fuck me, it’s too much for many of us to deal with.


Our inability to disconnect is blurring the lines of work, home and parental roles in ways families haven’t had to cope with before.  Take, for example, Saturday sports, we get up and get the family ready but tonight it’s a BBQ for a friend’s engagement and you’ve agreed to make a speech etc, you spend all the time “watching” Johnny’s rugby game thinking about what you still need to do today to get ready for the rest of the weekend and before you even realise it, the full time whistle has blown and it’s “game over”. We are in a constant state of distraction that remaining present is almost impossible. But what can we do about it all? How can we get some control back into our lives and hopefully become more effective at managing our priorities, in all the roles we have in our lives. We have looked into the “Mental Load” and here’s our summary of what we can do to help ease this burden, be more present and enjoy the important things a little more.  

Sounds familiar right? We get it. You (we) are carrying this (enormous) mental load, and it’s exhausting - But Let's try fix it!

Share the Load – Mental Load doesn’t just fall onto Mum’s shoulders, now, more than ever roles at home are different and divided. Research recommends that we talk openly about our challenges and feelings to others that might understand. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved, and seeking help is not a sign of weakness – it’s the opposite in fact. If this isn’t possible, try speaking to a mental health professional who will no doubt have tools and resources to help you manage your situation and thoughts better. But, before all else - SPEAK TO YOUR PARTNER, let them understand how you are feeling, they might even have some capacity and you could both feel better by being able to help each other out.

Make a List. Not the usual to do list, but an emotional labour task list, share this with your partner for increased accountability and regularly (and honestly) check in on your progress. Reflection is a powerful tool, when done well, to evaluate if things are working or not.

Love thy Self. Genuine self-care is essential – this isn’t a new concept and we hear this all the time, but here goes another crack at getting us to care more about ourselves. You don’t drive your car until it stops because you know it’s not safe to do so, yet we keep driving ourselves and working ourselves stupid and for what? Doing things you love and enjoy will fill your cup and you’ll be surprised how this can reset your mindset too. The mental load, left unchecked can foster resentment and anger and without a focus on yourself it will be impossible to make it (you) better. It’s ok to be selfish and lean on others to get you through, it’s not a sign you’re not coping (which is ok too), it’s a reality of being human! So find that book, podcast, sketch pad and take control over “YOU TIME” and do this one TODAY! Because tomorrow will never come if you keep putting it off.

It’s ok to Get Help - make a list of the “day-to-day” things you need to do. Cleaning, cooking etc and maybe these jobs can be given to someone else. Kids, uni students who need a little extra cash. The idea here is to get rid of the things that diminish your mental capacity without benefit to you. Most of us are in lockdown still, so a walk around the block with a neighbour (restrictions permitting of course) could be an easy way to tick a few of these boxes, clear your mind and help you feel more productive.

Check in with your community. Keeping connected has never been more important. Schedule some virtual coffee catch ups or even start up a book club with the neighbours. There’s so many cool ideas out there at the moment that might help you clear that head and focus on more important things.

Give yourself a break. Let’s be honest, you can’t eat an elephant all at once but take small steps and you’ll get there. A big problem condensed into actionable chunks will feel less overwhelming and you’ll feel like you’re at least progressing.

Stop & Give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrate the wins and reflect on how far you are coming, I guarantee you are making some progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it you will be moving forward. Keep a record of your inner thoughts, reflect on them and watch them thin out over time and you’ll realise your mental load is actually declining.

      By working together to solve the issue of mental load imbalance, remember that you and your partner are on the same team, working towards the same goals. You both want that same thing, you want to be able to be good parents to your children and good people to each other, live happy and healthy lives and that’s what’s important!

      It is totally possible to get on the same page with your support network and work toward lightening the mental load. Keep talking to each other. Check in often about how you’re feeling. You (we) can do this.