When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.
A close friend recently mentioned that she was feeling exhausted and shared all that was on her mind. I empathized and then mentioned that it sounded like she was talking about the mental load of motherhood. This was a term she had never heard before, one not coined by me, but something that has been gaining more traction and attention in society lately.
So, what is the mental load of motherhood (sometimes referred to as “mommy brain”)? It’s all the thoughts/items you’re carrying and processing in your mind, not just for you, but for your children as well. Often, this includes things for you partner and your family as a whole too.
So, what kinds of things are being carried in our mom brains?
- Schedules for all family members (often including the family pets too)- school, appointments (including the doctor, dentist, vet, etc.), meetings, play dates, events, etc.
- Every day household responsibilities- including cooking, cleaning, organizing, maintenance, decorating, shopping, lawn care, etc.
- Physical well being of the household- exercise, water intake, healthy meals, vitamins, medication, etc.
- Emotional well being of the household- is everyone getting along? What does this child’s behavior mean? I’m worried about this kid because they aren’t acting like their normal self.
- Mental well being of the household- are they learning what they should be learning? Are they being challenged mentally? Are they spending too much time on their electronic devices?
- Spiritual well being of the household- Are they getting their spiritual needs met?
That’s a lot of mental energy being expended here, without adding in your “stuff” (work, health, connection to others, etc.), as well as your partners “stuff” (Are they doing okay? Do they need more from me?), and anyone outside of the family who may also be on your mind. It’s a lot to carry and a lot to process all on your own.
So, how can you alleviate some of the mental load of motherhood?
- Acknowledge how much you really are carrying mentally.
- Ask your partner for support.
- Set clear mental boundaries around what you are and are not able to take on.
- Discuss this issue with your close mom friends for some much needed normalizing and validation from them.
- As your kids get older and are more mature, allow them to take over areas in their lives that pertain to them such as their school responsibilities.
- Process how you’re feeling in therapy with a trained therapist.
- Prioritize self-care- meditation, journaling, exercise, mindfulness, healthy eating, etc. can all be helpful.
- Write it down- get it out of your head and on paper or in your calendar.
- Have some fun- play with your kids, be silly, create new things together, etc.
The mental load of motherhood can be so very draining and taxing for all of us at times. Take notice of what’s going on situationally around you, so you won’t be blindsided by these external factors. Big transitions like moving and the return to school (especially during a pandemic) can be especially stressful for our “mom brains” as well. Take care of you, prioritize your inner wellbeing, and delegate when possible!