How to Deal With the Mental Load of Motherhood

Mother holds her baby while putting washing in the machine

The most difficult thing about parenting and being a mother is almost never about the children. More often than not it’s everything else surrounding the children. 

The endless to-do list and the constant need to mentally be on your 'A' game. The mental load of motherhood can have a serious effect on both physical and mental health.

Luckily there are a few ways we can tackle the anxieties head-on. Here’s how we can reduce anxieties and deal with the mental load of parenthood.

What is the Mental Load of Motherhood?

This relates to the invisible workload involved with parenting and running a household. Typically (and I'm generalising a bit here) this usually falls upon the mother's shoulders. 

The mental load refers to overseeing tasks rather than actually completing the tasks. It’s being the sole person in charge of a never-ending to-do list.

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How Can it Affect You?

Anxiety -Juggling family life with work, household responsibilities, and maintaining social relationships can feel really overwhelming. 

Not being able to step away from the mental load means parental anxiety can easily arise. It’s easy to get caught up in the loop and vicious cycle of anxiety, which over time unfortunately could lead to depression.

Memory Gaps - Feel like you’re forever losing things? Or that you forget what you’re saying halfway through a sentence? 

Memory gaps can happen because your mental load is taking over. That to-do list is taking over your thoughts. One thing goes into your brain, another thing comes out.

Sleep deprivation - It goes without saying that you’re more than likely going to suffer from sleep deprivation as a parent, especially in the newborn days. 

The lack of sleep begins with your child not sleeping through the night, but it can hang around for many years to come due to the mental load of motherhood. 

Tiredness and the lack of sleep can lead to other issues such as strained relationships, lower physical health, irritability and lack of energy.

Headaches - Lack of sleep, an increase in anxiety, and your never-ending to-do list can all lead to headaches. 

If you've practised hypnobirthing you’ll be aware of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline and your body's stress response can play havoc with you physically.

For example, if the muscles in your neck and shoulders are tight due to stress this will go on to affect the rest of your upper body and skull potentially causing tension and stress headaches.

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How Can You Ease the Mental Load of Motherhood?

When the mother is taking too much on it's easy to say 'don't take so much on'. This generalised response is often an instant response with unfortunately very little thought put into it. 

It's of course also easier said than done. so, let's break things down, get back to basics and try to ease the mental load of motherhood for you.

Set Boundaries - Recognising your limitations is imperative for reducing mental load. Sometimes we have to say 'no' to preserve our maternal mental health. 

Saying no isn't a bad thing. Healthy boundaries are crucial for giving yourself the ability to carve out 'me time'.

Delegate - As mothers, we need to learn to not suffer in silence and to ask for help as soon as it's needed. I'll be honest, I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to this one.

Delegating tasks and asking for help gives you so much more time and mental space.

For example, with household chores, ask yourself if there are any age-appropriate chores you can give to your children. Getting the kids involved with simple tasks can make everyday struggles a little bit easier.

Seek Outside Help - If you don't have access to family help and are struggling with the mental load, outside help can be a huge benefit. 

Licensed professionals or parent support groups are available if you reach out to them. Sometimes when we're struggling, it's not the problem that's the problem - it's not having someone to confide in or talk to. 

If you need outside help, please search for it. It will be so beneficial.

Make Time for Yourself - Self-care and making time for yourself are essential for freeing up your mental space.

You need to put yourself first sometimes and it's not something you should feel guilty about. Self-care looks different to everybody. 
For some, it's baths overflowing with bubbles and for others, it's a walk in nature or spending time journaling. 

Whatever makes you feel good and makes you feel at one with yourself, do it!

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