Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood

woman stressed with hands on face
Photo by Jacob Lund via Canva Pro

The mental load. The invisible load taken on by moms. The never ending running list in our heads of what needs to be done for our children, our home, our work and family. It’s like the reminders app that is constantly sending you notifications.

Right now, as I write this, I am doing my best to shut it off and not think about the other tasks that need to be done today, tomorrow, this week, this month. As moms, we take on this list because it feels like if we don’t no one else will. Then all the things won’t get done. It all falls apart. The carefully curated schedule we construct to fit everything in. Holding this list in our minds and on our shoulders gets heavy.

I’ve been struggling with it lately as my oldest started kindergarten, and we now have a new set of activities and events to participate in. How do we manage this list without letting it manage us? For me, I had to ask for help.

This is not something I am great at. While teaching my kiddos it is OK to ask help, they don’t have to do everything, I am gently reminding myself that it applies for me, too. When we carry this invisible load, it often seems easier to just do everything ourselves. We know how we want it done so let’s just do it. There comes a time for many of us when it becomes too heavy.

As I was trying to make our schedule for the month, managing my job, sports, school activities, birthdays, family visits, doctor appointments and pets, I was exhausted. I hadn’t even started adding in the cleaning, cooking and general house upkeep. I needed help. I needed to hand off some of this so I could still carry what I could without losing my grip on it all.

My spouse is great; I am lucky. I wish he could read my mind more sometimes and see this list getting longer, but, like I tell my daughter, we don’t all have a crystal ball. When I told him about all of this stress he said, “you don’t have to do this all. I am here to help.” Hearing those words allowed me to unclench my jaw, relax my shoulders and take a breath.

I have to ask for help sometimes, and that is OK. I am working on stopping myself before everything gets too heavy, and the pile gets too high.

This means prioritizing what I need to do, and deciding what can be offloaded. Coming up with a plan at the beginning of the week for tasks that may seem small, but add up.

Who is doing drop offs at school? Who is going to unload the dishes? Who is in charge of the pets? This is a work in progress, and I know there will be ups and downs. Knowing that it is OK to ask for and receive help makes a huge difference.

Unfortunately, in our society women are more often expected to carry this load. This is shifting a bit, gradually, but overwhelmingly it is moms who feel this. We are also sent the message that we can “have it all,” while we don’t often get the message “how can we help you?”

I am lucky, my husband is very helpful, and I appreciate having his support and that of my family and friends. I know not everyone’s situation looks the same. Some people can juggle more than I can, and that is amazing.

I just hope that when we are feeling overwhelmed by the mental load we have the courage and ability to ask for help from someone.

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Elizabeth Schnakenberg
Hi! I’m Elizabeth. I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas and have been living in Colorado for almost 10 years. I met my husband in Denver and we have two wonderful daughters. My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 17 months. I am a former preschool teacher turned health insurance broker. I do my best to juggle kid activities, two kitties and our dog and everything in between. I love the outdoors and being close to the mountains. Our family is slowly checking visiting National Parks off our list and hoping to instill a love and respect for nature in our children. I enjoy reading, indulging in Italian food, spending time with friends and family and trying to improve my disc golf skills. I’m looking forward to connecting with more Colorado mamas!


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