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A Mother's Mental Load

June 13, 2019 1 Comment

A Mother's Mental Load

The idea for this post has been swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. I've gone back and forth about whether I would write it and what I would or would not include. So, here we are. I decided that I didn't have to have it all figured out before I started writing and that I wanted to be vulnerable about some hard things.  I do have a couple disclaimers before I begin: 

1) I deeply love my children and always, always want to avoid excessive complaining about them or being a mom. I love my mom gig and wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING. That said, I feel like it's important to talk about the struggles of being a mother so that other moms don't feel this crazy need to have it all together because everyone else appears to be doing just fine.

2) My kids are little. I'll be writing from that perspective. I don't yet know what it feels like to have older kids and how the mental load is for moms with kids who don't need them as much. I'm thinking it's still a pretty heavy mental load, but maybe just looks a little different. 

So, here we go.  

For any new readers, I'm Erienne. I've been married for 12 years and I have two kids (Harper 4.5, Elias 22 months). I am a stay-at-home mom and business owner. That means that my kids go to preschool from 9-1 most days and I work during those hours (and sometimes at 4:30am). I pick them up from school at 1:00 and then mostly switch over to the mom gig. My husband also owns his own business which makes him VERY busy, but also able to have a somewhat flexible schedule and help out at home (which he does, a ton). 

A typical not-so-crazy day for me looks something like what you see below: 

4:30am: Wake up to work or go to the gym depending on the day. I try to get in 2-3 days at the gym plus 2-3 days of yoga at home. 

6:15am: Coffee, shower, and get ready for the day. 

7:00am: Throw in a load of laundry, empty dishwasher. Pick up any random toys from the night before. Make lunches, prep breakfast (we keep it simple with gluten free butter toast + yogurt). 

8:00am: Wake kids if they aren't already up (my kiddos usually wake up between 7:15 and 8:15). Get them breakfast and ready to head out the door by 8:45/8:50.

9:00am: Preschool drop off

9:15am: back home for me to work (making products, fulfilling orders, labeling, answering emails, etc.)

12:15pm: quick lunch for me, post office drop off 

1:00pm: pick up kids from school 

1:30pm-3:30pm: Elias takes a nap. Harper has tv time. I work or lay down and listen to an audiobook depending on 1) how tired I am and 2) how much work I have. 

3:30pm: afternoon snack, play date or walk to the park

4:30pm: start prepping dinner (or text my husband and plead with him to bring home takeout)

5:30pm: dinner

6:30pm: baths, toy clean up, brush teeth, stories

7:00/7:30pm: bedtime for the kids

8:00pm: prep for the following day (empty lunch boxes, finish dinner clean-up)

8:30pm: I usually do one of two things. 1) CRASH hard and fall asleep by 8:45/9:00pm 2) spend time with my husband catching up or watching something on Netflix.


That schedule in and of itself is pretty full and most definitely takes a lot of mental and physical energy. What I left out though was all the little things that happen in between those highlights. These are the things that really take a toll mentally. The waking up at 3:30am many mornings and not being able to fall back asleep because my mind is full of things I forgot to do the day before. The kids who wake up in the middle of the night sick or with nightmares. The standing in the kitchen in the morning and not knowing what to do next because the list feels so long. The grumpy almost two year old who usually wakes up in a foul mood and needs to be held by someone for at least 10-15 minutes or he'll start hitting and throwing things. The kids who get sick over and over again during cold and flu season which means they don't go to school and I have to wake up even earlier or stay up late to catch up on work. The van that breaks down in the pouring rain with two kids still in car seats (this happened yesterday and I'm still recovering. Praise for AAA and Uber). The kid that throws up all over my bed right after I've changed the sheets. The dinner making that often needs a glass of wine because one kid is screaming to be held or demanding a piece of cheese and the other one is asking me the 100 millionth question of the day. The 6 baskets of laundry that line my living room because I haven't had the time to fold them and I'm also slightly OCD about laundry and don't like anyone else to fold it so it just sits there for a week or so. The not having time to spend with my husband because I'm so very tired at the end of the day and once he's home I'm basically just pushing through until I can reunite with my bed. 

All of this leads to major mental fatigue for me. Some days are better than others. Some days we dance in the kitchen when everyone is screaming during the dinner making process and it makes us all feel better. Some days my husband brings home takeout + a bottle of wine instead. Some days we throw in a frozen pizza and all go to bed early. Some days I have to apologize to my kids multiple times throughout the day. Some days I cry after the kids go to bed because the hard days have piled up on me and I need to let myself feel all the feels about it. 

Thankfully, our society is much more aware of the possibility of postpartum depression and anxiety. I've definitely had my share of postpartum anxiety, especially after baby number two, but I think that I wasn't as aware of how it would be a little further down the road. It's been almost two years since I gave birth to Elias and the anxiety still rears its ugly head at times. Is there a name for that? I'd like to think we could call it something like Moms Who Keep Up With All The Things anxiety. Because that's what anxiety is for me. It's this state of overwhelm that pulls me from the present moment into stressing/worrying about all the things I have to do and keep up with in the near future (my husband has the stressing about the further away future covered for me). 

So what's the point of this post? The point is that, Mamas, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When we are scrolling through social media it often looks like all the other moms have it together and don't deal with hard things. I promise you they do. I do. You are not alone. 

When I started dealing with more anxiety after Elias was born, the first thing I did was go to see a counselor. Sharing about what I was dealing with in a safe space helped me tremendously. The second thing I did was come up with a checklist of things that help me when I am feeling anxious. Here's my list: 

1) I ask myself if I've taken care of the basic necessities. Have I worked out in the last couple days? Have I showered? Did I get enough sleep the night before? Have I eaten recently? Sometimes skipping these basics causes my anxiety to worsen and these can be relatively simple fixes. 

2) Get outside. Going for a walk or gardening outside can make a big difference for me. 

3) Read. Poetry specifically really helps me when I'm feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver are my favorites. 

4) Take some time for myself. This might mean going out with friends for dinner and a drink. It might mean getting a massage or staying at a hotel for a weekend by myself (yep, I've totally done that last one and it was glorious). 

5) Schedule uninterrupted time to think through the upcoming week. I'm a planner (enneagram 1 here) and getting all the to-dos down on paper and out of my head makes a huge difference for me. I like to try and do this one day over the weekend at a favorite coffee shop. 

6) Ask for help. This one is hard for me because I naturally feel a deep sense of responsibility and think that I need to take care of everything myself. Becoming a parent has shown me that this just isn't possible unless I want to run myself into the ground. So I've learned to ask for very specific help and to say what I need.

7) Meditation. Yoga. Working out. I personally need a little of each of these things. I do a 12 minute yoga series a few mornings a week at home (using the app Yoga Wake Up) and also get in 2-3 days at my Crossfit gym. I throw in meditation as needed (usually before picking my kids up from school or at night). 


The above things may not help you, but I encourage you to take the time to figure out what does. Make it a priority.

I hope that me sharing my struggles helps you feel a little less ashamed of your own. YOU ARE DOING GREAT, MAMA. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and loving yourself and your people well.

1 Response

Jennifer W
Jennifer W

June 15, 2019

Literally one of the most helpful blogs on the weight of motherhood that I’ve read. Thank you, friend.

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