Sharing the Mental Burden of Parenting: Tips for Less Stressful Days
Created on May 25, 2023
5 Minutes to read
Created on May 25, 2023
5 Minutes to read
Mental load can be referred to as: “the psychological burden (especially for women) involved in managing domestic and educational tasks, causing not only physical but mental fatigue.” In short, it involves the fact that one must think of - and often manage – a whole bundle of subjects from work, family life as a parent, other relationships, one’s love life, sex life, children's hobbies, holidays, doctor's appointments, homework, household chores, life admin... the list is endless.
While many men are involved in family life and do participate in it, recent studies show that women’s mental load is greater than that of their spouse/co-parent. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 62% of women spent 5+ hours in the last week on unpaid indoor housework compared with 35% of men. This disparity can tend to generate tension within the couple, with each parent feeling he/she is doing more and can no longer find any me-time.
Do you feel exhausted, drained, guilty for not being able to manage everything? Do you feel behind on everything, depressed, stressed, or inefficient? If the answer is yes, your mental load is indeed too high.
Imagine yourself facing a very large meal and you can’t swallow one more bite. A mental overload will have the same effect: you cannot process the slightest bit of new information. You may find it impossible to make decisions, or to react or be receptive to situations. This can lead to emotional, mental, and physical pressure.
In many complex situations that impact our daily well-being, the first step is to accept the situation. Not so easy... for many parents, accepting the situation means accepting the fact that you are not the parent you had imagined or the ideal parent you thought you could be. Now is the time to accept it, to admit that you cannot control everything and that you are overwhelmed.
With this mental load, the couple’s relationship can sometimes become strained when baby arrives. We call this period the “postpartum fighting phase”. Communicating with your partner is key to explain your feelings and what you are going through (stress, insomnia, etc.).
The same goes for people around you: spread the message and let your loved ones know how you feel. Talk to your parents and friends. You may find it difficult to admit that you are not fully coping with the situation, but speaking up will also help others unveil their concerns… and you will see that you’re not alone in this case.
Are you used to managing everything? Do you plan your days well ahead? Do you tend to go by your bearings with no plan to change them? If you’re experiencing mental overload, changing your habits will be lifesaving. While you may see it as a waste of time at first, changing your habits can help you gain perspective, identify what's blocking you and what you can change/optimize.
Take a moment to list everything you do on a daily basis. Then try to identify what is essential and what is “good but not necessary” (ex: maybe baby's outfits don’t need to be folded into perfect little piles or maybe your child CAN go to bed in a room that’s not impeccably tidy).
The last (but not least) step in your process: reallocate your tasks! You might be tempted to think "I'm keeping this task because I know how to do it, I’ll do it faster" and yet you need to relieve yourself of the burden to avoid another overload. Bath time for instance: you may be used to bathing your children, you know their routines and their favorite habits, but you CAN delegate it. Maybe your spouse will be clumsier in the beginning, but after a while, your whole family will have new bearings and your mental load will have reduced successfully!
Many tools and applications are now available to be able to share kid-related information with your partner: Kidganizer is an Australian parenting app that helps you organize and share information about your children. It allows you to create and share calendars, to-do lists, and shopping lists with your partner. You can also track milestones, document growth, and store important documents within the app. Tinybeans is a popular family sharing app that enables you to create a private online journal of your children's moments and milestones. You can share photos, videos, and updates with your partner, family members, and close friends. The app also offers features like calendars, growth charts, and milestone tracking. Now you’re all set! No excuses for not sharing the tasks!
Although mental load can be a significant issue for many new parents, it does not have to become the norm. It is important to recognise that you are not alone and to implement strategies that work for your family while maintaining open communication with your partner.
In the event that things still feel unmanageable, do not hesitate to consult with your GP for further assistance.