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The Mental Load

Finding time for yourself, especially when you’re the parent of young children, can sometimes be difficult. There’s laundry to be done, messes to be cleaned, and blogs to be written. Even at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and you might have an hour to enjoy your favorite late-night television show or play a game, the list of things that still need to be done may still be weighing on your mind. This is what has become known as “the mental load.”

The idea of the mental load isn’t a new concept but has gained more attention, especially this year as a French illustrator named Emma made a comic depicting what affect it has on women, especially working mothers. (You can find that comic here.)

The idea is that the woman is expected to ask her partner to pitch in or to do something, therefore making her a “manager,” as he has expectations that she would ask for his help instead of him asking what help she might need.

She manages the household but also must remember everything that is going on around her: what activities the kids might be involved in, if they’re outgrowing their clothes, what groceries need to be picked up, what bills need to be paid, and more.

It’s doing a long list of things at one time when you may have started with just one task in mind.

Of course, I’d never say that this is only something women deal with. I’m fairly certain single fathers have to deal with this and possibly any men that take on more of the household duties even while working. It isn’t a gendered issue but primarily one where women are mainly taking on this mental load.

I’m a stay-at-home parent. I don’t have the added stress of dealing with other people all day long or doing a certain job other than parenting my child. But, I do find that I’m sometimes bearing this mental load as I’m almost hyperaware of things that need to be done or things that need to be remembered or noticed for a later time.

My husband has made a more concerted effort to help me with things around the house that he may have left to me in the past, which I appreciate, especially since he does work each day.

However, this doesn’t always quell the sense of responsibility I have since my main contribution to our finances is making sure bills are paid on time and meal planning and grocery shopping are done. This also sometimes includes taking care of car maintenance and always being aware of the household budget.

Of course, being a stay-at-home parent also contributes to our financial well-being since we don’t have to pay for daycare.

What am I getting at in all this? It’s important to unplug and have time for yourself. Leave the dishes for another night. Let the mess your 1-year-old made go for a day. Let someone else make dinner every once in awhile. Take care of yourself!

It’s far too often that we care for everyone else and forget about ourselves.

So take a minute, or two, or a hundred, and do something for you!

What do you do to unwind? How do you deal with the mental load? Sound off in the comments below! 


  • Mary Spangler

    Mary was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She currently lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, SFC Spangler, their two sons, and one cat. Previous duty stations include Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, Rivanna Station, Virginia, and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.


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