Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood


Motherhood comes with some serious mental baggage. Learn how to balance the mental load and keep your sanity!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Scheduling doctor and dentist appointments. Meal planning. Picking up a gift for a classmate’s birthday party. RSVPing to said party. Vacation planning. Making sure that the favorite outfit is clean (you know, the one that causes a tantrum if it’s unavailable). Remembering the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and relatives on both sides of the family. Making sure each child has clothes that fit for the next season. Providing thoughtful teacher gifts and thank you notes at the end of the year.  Calling the insurance company to dispute a rejected claim. Making sure a show-and-tell object makes it to school. Getting medications refilled on time. Ensuring everyone has holiday gifts…

This list could go on and on. I know mine does. These – and so many others – are the tasks that tend to fall to mom.

In many ways, my husband and I share the work of a family pretty equally. We both cook and do laundry. We both do baths and bedtime. He does all the grocery shopping. He knows how to fix our daughters’ hair. We don’t refer to it as “babysitting” when he’s home with the kids by himself. And, yet, somehow, these seemingly small tasks crept into my To-Do list, piling up ad nauseam, without either of us being aware it was happening. Until one day, I became all too aware, feeling unbearably overwhelmed and decided I wasn’t going to shoulder the burden alone anymore.

Get the Family Involved

The first step to lightening the load of motherhood is to enlist help, including your kids, if they’re old enough. I didn’t have a formal sit-down with my husband, but I did let him know I was going to be asking for help with a few more “minor” tasks than usual. And, while my daughters are still relatively young, as Daniel Tiger says, “Everyone is big enough to do some things.” We are a family and are in this together!


Of course, your loving family has agreed that they’ll help you, so the next step is to delegate some of these tasks to them.  I had a chance to do this recently while I was planning my daughter’s birthday party. Between selecting the date, securing a venue, sending out invitations, and ordering the refreshments, I was over it. I told my husband, “The party favor bags are yours. Make it happen, please.” And, you know what…he did.

Two things:

  1. Yes, this means I do technically still have the mental load with the awareness that these tasks exist, but not having to execute on all of them feels pretty great. 
  2. You’ll be tempted to say to yourself, “By the time I tell someone else what needs to be done, I could have just done it.” Don’t fall into that trap! It might take you longer to explain what needs to be done, today, in this moment, but next time, it won’t, and it’ll be one more to-do off your plate.

Don’t Micro-Manage

This is the hardest one for me. What can I say? I like things the way I like them. But when you delegate a task, don’t micro-manage how it’s done. Say it with me (and maybe eventually I’ll believe it), “My way is NOT the only right way.” If no harm is being done by the difference in process, let it go! Is the dishwasher not loaded in the intricate Tetris-like style you’ve perfected? Take a deep breath and walk away. Were the party favor bags exactly what I would have put together? Who cares! I didn’t have to make them, and the kids loved them.

No Take Backs

If the mental load is truly to be shared, resist the urge to take back control when something doesn’t turn out right the first time you delegate. Did your partner forget to call the cable company about the suddenly increased bill? Re-delegate and try again. If you immediately take back the responsibility, it will just reinforce that you are the only one who can get things done. While that sometimes feels true, it isn’t. Everyone is capable!

In the end, recognizing that I couldn’t do it all (and didn’t want to) was the first step to sharing responsibilities more equally in our household. I’ll admit, I’m a work in progress. Asking for help before I feel overwhelmed isn’t easy for me, but with every successfully delegated task, I find myself more and more willing to let my family help lighten the load.

What’s your mental load like? What tasks would you love to get off your to-do list forever?