Mental Load And Emotional Labor | Mom Blogs | Mom’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Moms and Dads, is There a Better Way to Fight?

“We brought couples into the lab and had them argue with each other. And we found that how negatively or positively, they interacted with each other, actually predicted their experience of the birth! So, prenatal couples conflict predicted stress during childbirth and the baby’s medical outcomes. Couples are such an interesting target for prevention and intervention. We’re now thinking about how to support relationship quality,” said Dr. Darby Saxbe, Professor and Researcher.

Some couples have grown closer in the pandemic. But most have not. We’ve heard from over 2,000 parents, mostly Moms (97%) who are married or cohabiting. And the loss of date nights and personal space, combined with the rise in housework and childcare, has been a recipe for marital stress.

The gendered power struggle continues to test relationships for many Moms partnered with Dads. Who gets to have leisure? And who gets to do the laundry? It’s tricky to disagree without damaging trust. Particularly when the topic, sharing the work at home, is a well-worn source of tension. So, what can we do?

Invest in Better Communication

“There’s been much more demand on everything from meals to dishes, to just supervising kids in the pandemic. So, the stress on couples has really multiplied,” Darby said. But she’s seen couples get aligned. “There are great approaches to couples therapy. And improved Continue reading “Moms and Dads, is There a Better Way to Fight?”

What if you Gave a Little Bit Less of Yourself to Motherhood?

“Les, I’m having trouble with this K,” my Mother said. I suggested, “can you do one for her last name instead?” She looked up briefly and nodded a silent, ‘no.’ Then she found a hanger to push more stuffing into the narrow corners. We were surrounded by letter-shaped pillows. Each one represented a guest for my birthday party. I held my letter, ‘L’ closely while Mum worked. I can still remember the hum of her sewing machine. And the bright, flowered fabric.

She was the Queen of birthday parties, every detail was planned with love and creative flair. And I was so proud of everything about the kind of Mom she was. I remember how growing up, our home was spotless. When I took off my coat, she usually hung it up before I had time to turn around. She was always there for me and our family. But also, everyone else who needed her. She volunteered in our school, church, Girl Scout troop and the community. She gave cheerfully to everyone around her.

She was and still is, a loving Mother. And I’m grateful for it. But I see her sacrifices differently now.

There’s a Cost to Chronic Giving

Through my early childhood, she was incredibly happy. Because she was living the life she planned. But by the time I was in middle school, things changed. And we faced a lot of trials. When her life became bumpy and difficult, the stress and all that conditioned-people-pleasing, took a toll.

She hasn’t just aged, she’s weathered. When we’re together, I look for traces of who she was. And I often wonder, what if she had pulled back a little from Mothering? And reserved some of that once voracious energy, for herself? I wonder if she would have had more resilience. And more peace now, in her senior years.

We’re Distanced from our Families

Today, we extend ourselves even more than my Mother’s generation did. We spend more time with our kids and more time on paid work. And running a household is a lot like playing chess. You’re always planning your next move. For school to happen on time, breakfast had to happen on time. So, if you’re lucky, everyone slept and ate dinner the night before, when they were supposed to. It’s a complex system that gets adjusted in real-time. Constantly. And it’s okay to be proud of pulling the pieces together. Because it’s a feat of mastery! But it’s relentless. And it keeps us from living in the moment.

Because We’re Doing More of Everything

Over 2,000 parents, mostly Moms (97%) have participated in our pandemic research study. And as a group, Moms are breaking. Covid eliminated most of the workarounds, we used to manage unsustainable, fragile schedules. And although most surveyed Moms (87%) faced disruptions to childcare or onsite school. Most are doing more of Continue reading “What if you Gave a Little Bit Less of Yourself to Motherhood?”

Is the Mental and Emotional Load Shared in Your Household?

“I need the older children in the family and my husband to step up and help out. I feel like I’ve taken up all the slack and their responsibilities have remained the same. My husband says I just need to ask him for “help” but that just puts it on me to manage everything. I’m frustrated and exhausted and he doesn’t get it.”

“I am literally drowning in overwhelm while my husband is having a great time working from home! Because I’m picking up all the pieces keeping everything together.”

“I told my husband that him “helping” around the house is not enough anymore. He’s an adult and he needs full ownership of at least 50% of keeping our lives together.”

Over 1,800 parents, mostly Moms (98,%) have shared their pandemic stories for our research study. And they’re drained from doing more of everything: housework (78%,) kids activities (54%,) and childcare (73%.) Although they’re overwhelmingly married or cohabiting, in the pandemic, only 30% state their partners are doing more housework or childcare. The gendered division of household labor for Moms partnered with Dads isn’t new. And it’s a corrosive undercurrent for many couples.

The consuming nature of parenting and running a home, has ballooned during Covid. Although the physical work is considerable, the mental energy to plan, triage and react to countless daily choices, adds strain to the situation.

Although some couples successfully divide the work, few share the mental load. And that’s often where the perception gap between Moms partnered with Dads lies. But what if we could make all that hidden work visible? Does it change the conversation between couples?

Mind the Gendered Gap

“I’m doing all the emotional work of parenting (my spouse does only non-emotional tasks like grocery shopping and lawn mowing)…)

“…My personal routine has been overshadowed by helping/dealing with everyone else. If I try to work out, I’ve got kids hanging all over me, when I’m trying to work during nap time my husband wants to chat always preceded by “I know you’re busy but, just real quick…”

A recent Morning Consult survey echoes the stunning Continue reading “Is the Mental and Emotional Load Shared in Your Household?”

Free Yourself from the Soul Crushing Disputes About Who does What

How Gamification Can Save Your Marriage…And Your Sanity

“I love you and I don’t want to break up our life. I really want to stay married. But you have to start looking at my time as valuable,” said Eve Rodsky, Entrepreneur & New York Times Best Selling-Author, to her husband. That conversation changed her life. Eve, like many Moms, was overwhelmed managing a schedule with no room for error or downtime. She said, “It was the unfairness of watching him every night be able to just get into the bed and watch a documentary, finish a PowerPoint deck and workout, while I worked in service to our household until midnight.”

In the US, Moms partnered with Dads still choreograph and do most of the housework and childcare. In our pandemic study, although men are stepping up, only 30% of respondents cite their partners are helping out more. So, conflict between couples continues to rise. Without onsite school or childcare and the bulk of housework falling onto Moms, like caged tigers, we’re eviscerating anything that limits our sleep, sanity or solvency. But there aren’t many options. Adjusting expectations at work is difficult for most. So, sharing the household and childcare if partnered, is the most promising, albeit Continue reading “Free Yourself from the Soul Crushing Disputes About Who does What”

Welcome to the Tyranny of Self-Care

“Self-care is taking care of my own energy level.” Said Leah Ruppanner, Author of Motherlands and Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne. It’s a powerful definition and rallying cry to disrupt how we think about it. She added, “I’m trying to resist how the wellness industry defines self-care, where I have to do yoga and become thin. I reject that model of self-care but sometimes, find it very seductive, because it’s simple solutions for complex problems.”

Audre Lorde, who coined the term described it as an “act of self-preservation.” So, it’s ironic that self-care has become a source of inner conflict. Because it’s often conflated with pampering, some feel pressured by it.

But what if we measure our downtime by how rested we are instead of how much we get done? We live busy and in the pandemic, it’s unrealistic not to be. But powering through without some form of self-care leads to burnout.

Time Is More Fragmented Than Ever

Sheltered with family 24/7 makes this more challenging. “What I have found in this pandemic, is that my work requires concentrated, uninterrupted time. And my child requires instruction and constant Continue reading “Welcome to the Tyranny of Self-Care”

It’s Okay to Let Go of the Old Normal and Build Something Better

Takeaways from ‘The Working Mom’s Playbook to Quarantine’ Panel Discussion

We learned how to compartmentalize work for sanity, presence and productivity but the separation is part of what makes it hard. Hiding the messiness of child-rearing from work and the appetite of work from our families, was tiring.

Now we’re trying to work, find work or start businesses during a pandemic and cultural revolution. Samantha Skey moderated a thoughtful discussion during last month’s BlogHer event with Super Mamas Karolina Kurkova, Eve Rodsky and Dara Tresseder.

They shared what they’ve embraced amidst the chaos and the need to change our systems at home. Now is a tumultuous yet perfect time to reexamine everything we’re doing. Remember, most of us were not emotionally or physically well before COVID19.
Continue reading “It’s Okay to Let Go of the Old Normal and Build Something Better”

How to Manage the Increased Mental Load Under Quarantine

I gave my son the same math homework twice, started my daughter’s Zoom call late and forgot to pull chicken from the freezer. That was yesterday. Because it hasn’t felt holiday-like, I forgot to buy jelly beans. Between debates about ‘carrying the one’ with my oldest and playing musical-rooms for video calls, I’ve been working at half-speed. When I spoke with my attorney, a mother of 3, to apologize for ignoring her emails, I admitted to fighting mental fog. She agreed and said, “I feel like I did when my kids were babies!” Exactly.

The mental load for Moms, from the to-do list in our heads, isn’t new. It starts when our kids are in diapers but it’s increased with COVID19. Big time. We’re relearning how to work, live and parent all at once, which strains our cognitive capacity. When the routines dissolve, school’s at home and housework multiplies, what are our options? Although we have to approach it differently, we can lighten the mental load during this surreal time.

Why we Can’t Concentrate

In most families, Moms remember the haircuts, permission slips and camp deadlines. This invisible choreography is at the heart of overdo and never-done. We tend to forget our brains have limits and it helps to understand what they are. I spoke with Dr. April Seifert, Psychologist and Co-founder of Peak Mind and she explained, “Any time we’ve got way too much on our mind that we’re trying Continue reading “How to Manage the Increased Mental Load Under Quarantine”

How To Find Bravery in a Culture of Perfectionism

A book review for Reshma Saujani’s Brave Not Perfect

What have you perfected? Whether it’s cartwheels, your backhand or public speaking, there’s a good chance you put in serious time to get great. Pre-kids, decent sleep, plus will and attention, can lead to mastery. But after kids, when our rest and thoughts are constantly interrupted, new pursuits can feel impossible. We’re not alone in feeling this way. Perfectionism is a slippery, unattainable bar, we’re taught to seek. Motherhood puts more at risk and we loose that desire to stumble. Possibly even fail. We double-down on trying to get everything ‘right’ at home and work.

Reshma Saujani, Author and CEO of Girls Who Code, gave an amazing talk at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference which lead me to devour her book, Brave Not Perfect. She eloquently states the problem, “We go from trying to be perfect students and daughters, to perfect professionals, perfect girlfriends, perfect wives and perfect mommies. …Hitting all the marks we’re supposed to and Continue reading “How To Find Bravery in a Culture of Perfectionism”

What is Self-Care? Spoiler Alert, It’s Not On Your To-Do List

It Begins With Self-Love. Today and Everyday!

Self-care is your divine right to emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. It’s belief, intention and action. Self-care cannot be purchased. It’s not something ‘else’ to ‘fit in.’ It’s a mindset.

Society doesn’t champion Moms yet wants to conflate our self-worth with achievement. We’re cheerfully encouraged to busy-ourselves-to-death. We work unsustainable schedules, to pay for unaffordable childcare. It’s a tiring race to the bottom.

In the trance-of-busy, we push healthy to Continue reading “What is Self-Care? Spoiler Alert, It’s Not On Your To-Do List”

Is There A Better Way to Fight the Mental Load and Get Things Done?

A Book Review for David Allen’s Productivity Bible, ‘Getting Things Done’

We were 40 minutes into leaving the house, still a choreography of chaos, when my son said, “Mommy, they’re too tight.” I vaguely remembered a we-need-new-boots-discussion with both kids. That was 3 weeks ago. My tired brain, trying to lighten the load, threw that thought overboard.

The mental load is my constant companion. So, tasks spill onto the floor in unfortunate ways at inopportune times. Like when trying to get two kids in 6 layers of clothes out to sled before dark. Even before the boot incident, I knew I needed a systems upgrade. My new job, holiday madness and scheduling weeks of ceiling leak repairs, pushed things to a new low. I decided to consult David Allen’s tomb, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

In Most Families Mom Carries the ‘Mental Load’

We’re stressed from the invisible-never-ending planning for our families. However, before you get too excited about this book review, let me be clear, there’s no simple Continue reading “Is There A Better Way to Fight the Mental Load and Get Things Done?”

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