Some time ago, I was sent a link to a comic strip that depicts what has become known as the ‘mental load of motherhood’. As I read through it, it all felt too real, like the author was inside my head.
One of the things that surprised me most about motherhood is the sheer amount of STUFF you need to think about…all the freakin’ time.
From the moment I open my eyes, to the moment my head hits the pillow at night I am weighed down by this mental load. I make lists before I get out of bed, create the day’s schedule before I’ve had a sip of tea and juggle everything till it’s time to sleep again.
Mind you, I am blessed with a great support system. My husband helps around the house and takes over Kate’s bathtime routine most nights whilst I prepare dinner. His efforts are appreciated, after all, he does have his own job to deal with. But no matter how we try to split chores evenly, and regardless of the fact that I’ve been off work for almost five months now, the mental load of knowing EVERYTHING about EVERYONE under our roof weighs down big time. In Kate’s early days, during my maternity leave, I figured that it was partly due to the fact that I was home with her all the time, that I knew what she needed more than anyone else because I was responsible for her daily schedule. But as she grew so did this gap in ‘parenting knowledge’. All of a sudden I became this apparent all-knowing oracle who organised everything about our days together.
Now I’ve always been a relatively organised person. I like lists and plans and spreadsheets. So I figured this would be a quality that would help me in the ‘looking after another human being whilst running a household’ department, but I could have never imagined that my skills would be tested to their limits. The mental load doesn’t just stop at Kate’s needs either. In the span of a few minutes I often find myself thinking about what errands I can squeeze around Kate’s (now singular) nap, which clothes need to be washed next, which garbage to take out the following day and what ingredients are needed for dinner.
It is exhausting. As mums, our minds are always racing. Racing fast. Racing in a million directions. Like I said, I’m lucky enough to have help at home. But even whilst my husband is doing a chore, there’s me…in the background…hovering around like an elf, like a coach on the sidelines, managing the things that make his chore-doing possible.
The fabulous comic titled ‘You Should Have Asked’ hits the nail on the head. If only she asked him to do it…he’d have done it! If the mum doesn’t ask, then she can’t expect it to be done. Which means that it’s the mum’s job to think about delegating any chore that needs doing, if she doesn’t just do it herself in the first place. And that requirement to think, ladies and gentlemen, is… you guessed it…the mental load of motherhood.
So, it would seem that if I was aware of all of this, then I’d just have a civilised conversation with hubby and reshift the balance in our home, right? Well, the strangest (most frustrating) part of all of this is that, as heavy as the mental load is, I know I’d be even more anxious if I weren’t in control. Which is why this just becomes a vicious cycle of taking the lead, begging for relief, letting go of control, freaking out that I have no control, begging for control…and taking the lead again.
The imbalance becomes comforting and before I know it I’m back in bed, making lists in my head and trying hard to remember that it’s the recycling bag that needs to be taken out tomorrow.