The term mental load or invisible work felt sort of abstract to me, as if this concept did not relate to my life… until Motherhood hit. Now I am super aware of these unspoken tasks and want to share 9 ways to manage the invisible load of motherhood. (because its really hard!)
I first heard the concept of “invisible work” from my mom in Sweden. It had become a common area of discussions culturally, specifically referring to the work space. Woman in particular took on “undescriptive” tasks that increased everyone’s well being in the office.
Some examples might include, keeping track of birthdays and making sure everyone signs the card, organizing the logistics during employee get togethers, or simply making sure the coffee is reordered in the staff kitchen.
I have always been the type of person the easily takes on invisible loads, but when I became a mom, it was much more apparent how big of a problem this was for my well being. I needed to make a change.
What Does Invisible Load Mean?
Social life, work and family dynamics are very fluid, which makes it impossible to clearly outline ALL the tasks needed for everyone to proceed through the day in symphony. That is where the invisible work comes in. It’s the work performed that fill in the gaps and makes sure everyone is ok.
In a family setting, this is the person who keeps everyone’s schedules running smoothly. They often have a checklist of things to do in her head and it can be very draining. That mental list is referred to the mental load (of the invisible work).
Example Of Invisible Load(often carried out by woman)
– meal planning
– keeping track of kid’s activities
– getting kids ready to leave the house
– making sure everyone is getting along (also known as emotional labor)
– delegating tasks
– the list goes on….
Most likely you are reading this and thinking, I definitely do all these things.
Even if your partner cleans the house or puts kid’s jackets and shoes on in the morning, ask yourself this: Are you still keeping track that it is being done? or worse- is the underlying sentiment of their actions meant as “helping you”, rather than taking on the full responsibility? In that case you are still carrying the mental load of that task, regardless of who completes it.
Here is a super popular comic on the Invisible Load you should definitely check out.
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How Can I Reduce The Mental Load Of Motherhood?
How can you change this pattern in your family dynamic, especially if the significant other is resistant to taking on more work at home?
Think of it as baby steps, because re-distributing the invisible load of motherhood is breaking generations of learned behavior. You as a mother need to let go of expectations while your partner needs to ease into these new tasks.
#1 Let Go Of Control
Never expect someone else to accomplish a task exactly the way you would do it. Letting go of certain invisible labor means making space for change. Still set an expectation of what it means to accomplish a tasks, but after that let go of control.
ex.1, a task may be making sure the kids have clothing. The expectation can be that the kids should always have CLEAN options of weather appropriate clothing in their size every morning.
ex.2 another task could be week-night dinners. An expectation can be that there should always be a carb, protein, and vegetable every night. Simply making dinner is not enough. It has to meet a minimum standard. (otherwise what’s the point?)
#2 Identify What Invisible Labor You Are Doing
Think of all the things you do for the family and split them into 2 lists. First list are tasks you enjoy, the second list are tasks that make you unhappy but you feel like are your responsibility for it to get done. (ex, getting kids ready in the morning, cooking meals, laundry, updating the family calendar etc.).
Can any of these tasks be delegated to your partner? Probably yes. Before you throw the list in their face (which can come off as accusatory), have a frank conversation about how you need them to take over some of those tasks.
It’s very possible that you experience resistance from your partner but don’t take that as a message that you are asking for too much. Change is hard and they have been benefitting from you taking care them. This is where boundaries come in and you will start to see shifts happen when you prioritize YOU.
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#3 Set Boundaries With Your Partner
Invisible labor is not all bad, we all do some. If unevenly distributed onto the mom though, it will lead to mom burn-out.
The best way to start alleviating some of the invisible tasks you do, is setting boundaries with your partner that focus on your self care. You are then signaling to the family dynamic that your needs are important too.
Not sure what type of boundaries to set with your partner? here are a few examples:
-I need weekend mornings to myself to unwind from the week.
-I can no longer cook all the meals. We need to divide up the week.
-I don’t have the energy to help you with xyz in the evenings. You will need ti figure it out on your own.
-I need you to take over getting the kids ready in the morning, by making sure they eat their breakfast and are dressed.
#4 Stop Multi Tasking
It’s been scientifically proven that the brain can’t think about two different things at the same time. Every time you switch from one thing to another it drains brain power. You can end up feeling busy without really completing anything. Make the invisible labor seen by your family by giving it concrete time and not squeezing it in.
Ex, if you are preparing breakfast in the morning, don’t start filling in the family calendar while waiting for the toaster to pop or eggs to fry. Instead make it an actual activity so if calendar is updated on Sunday evenings, your partner takes the kids so you can focus.
#5 Don’t Hover Over Your Partner
Take advantage when delegating full responsibilities to your partner and stop thinking about it. Completely let go so you can focus your attention on other aspects of your life.
If they are in charge of the dishwasher, don’t tell them how to set it up for max load, or that utensils should be organized in a certain way. It’s no longer your task.
If its hard to be more flexible, give yourself grace. You are over tired and over worked. You can’t be the best version of yourself when stressed. You will notice that as everyone gets used to the new division of labor, you will also get more relaxed about not having control over everything.
#6 Write Out What You Want To Accomplish That Day
Do you have a habit of keeping all your to do’s as a mental list, (which I often do) but then when you have a moment to accomplish a task you can’t remember any of them?
Writing down the things you feel pressure to remember will lighten the mental load. Deciding exactly what you’ll accomplish that day will allow you to stop over thinking and over-doing. This is a great way to practice self care too, because once that list has been completed you can enjoy some time knowing you have accomplished the required tasks that day.
I like to write down my daily tasks into 2 columns. The first one are appointments with specific times I need to follow. The second column are general tasks I want to comeplete.
I love Julie from the TikTok account The Bossy House. She talks a lot about the invisible labor often carried by moms and helps you reduce stress via a command center. It’s basically a physical organization system (in an area of your home) that holds all holds all the mental load for you!
#7 Say Daily Affirmations
I have started saying daily affirmations for both me and my toddler. They have a big impact on how I feel and can help sweep away negative thoughts clouding my brain.
Good times to say them are in the morning, before starting a difficult activity or task and before bed. I like to say them after my mornings yoga, or when getting ready in the mirror. If I feel overwhelmed, I like to take a moment to say a few affirmations in the moment.
My favorite affirmations are:
“I Am Safe”
“I Am Loved”
“My Needs Matter”
“Everything Will Be Ok”
#8 Find Yourself Again
What do you enjoy doing? What fuels your tank and makes you love life? Well, if you start to re-remember the person you are outside of the house manager, it can be easier to let go of some of those roles. Find time to see your friends again, begin focusing on YOUR health, take time to read a book.
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Self care is not selfish. Everyone will benefit from a happy you, even if there might be some growing pains in the beginning.
For example, I love drinking coffee while watching a good crime drama, I like practicing yoga and love catching up with friends that hold similar interests as me.
#9 Stop Asking For Help (do this instead)
You need to rephrase the role your partner has in their own home. They are NOT helping you, they are doing their part as an adult and parent that lives there. If you continuously ask your partner to help you with things, it will be more difficult to break the cycle of carrying the mental load.
Instead, sit down and decide who does what, (look at the section #3 Set Boundaries With Your Partner).
What Is One Less Thing I Can Do Today?
Invisible Labor is a very difficult topic to address with a partner because of how intangible it is. Being aware of this form of labor and taking baby steps to better self care as a mom is a huge first step towards redistributing the invisible load of motherhood in the family.
This might seem like a lot to tackle as an already exhausted mom. So I challenge you to this: What is ONE LESS THING you can do today to free your plate? Managing the invisible load of motherhood is not always easy but I believe you have it in you to make the change!
GENTLE PARENTING | POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS | SELF CARE FOR MOMS
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