Perhaps by now you have heard the phrase “mental load” or “the mental load of motherhood”. The Mental Load is a term that refers to all the ‘stuff’ moms are always carrying around each day: the stuff we are thinking about, planning, handling, and doing to keep our family’s lives going. Over the next few weeks I want to dive deep into the Mental Load of Motherhood. What does it mean? What does it include for me? For you? What does the weight of it do to us as moms? And how can we overcome this load to better serve ourselves and our families?
Moms Tell Me the Biggest Contributor to Their Mental Load is Mom GUILT.
Do you remember what it was like when those around you first learned that you were expecting a baby? The things older women used to say to you? “Oh congratulations! Being a mom is seriously the best but be careful it goes so fast!” or “Don’t blink because they will be grown before you know it!”
If you were like me, you heard these comments and with a smile brushed them off. I mean of course being a mom was going to be awesome…duh! But surely it didn’t “fly by” as quickly as everyone said! I mean those nine months to meeting baby seem to take an eternity so surely 18 years with the kid won’t be “a blink of an eye”.
The Hard Truth
Sadly though, here I sit on my bed after my nearly 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 year olds have fallen asleep and I can see exactly why those women said what they did. I can’t believe it is already the end of September or that Asher is in pre-K or that Ellery is old enough to be fully engaging in our conversations or that they aren’t both still tiny babies I snuggle on my chest. Time really does fly! These last four years have been the fastest four years of my life and sadly, I know every year from this point on will only seem faster than the ones before.
In this current season of motherhood, I have struggled with the fleeting nature of my children’s baby and toddler years. It seems difficult to balance life while taking in every moment with my kids. I yearn each day to bottle it up just so I can have some of it for later. I have often battled with the guilt from wondering if I am doing enough? If I am involved enough? If I am spending enough time with them? If I am just…enough?
The Curse That Plagues Us All – G.U.I.L.T
Guilt. It is, likely, the biggest enemy of all moms. We’ve all had its unwelcomed visit in the middle of the night. And we’ve all felt it when we look upon the face of our sleeping angels and wish we could take back our words from earlier when we were stressed and overwhelmed.
As mamas we work so hard to be a “perfect” mother for our kids, but as we all know it just isn’t possible to do it all, all the time. But even knowing that, we still hold such high standards for ourselves and are plagued with guilt when we don’t do it all.
I am very blessed to be in a job that only takes me from our home two days a week but even then I still feel guilt as a working mom. I feel the guilt when I can’t play because I have household tasks to do, guilt when they go to the sitter each week, or guilt when I am exhausted or short tempered and lose my cool. On countless occasions, I have the guilt at night when I think back on the times I had to say “just a minute” or “hang on, let me finish ______” or “not right now”.
Overcome the Guilt!
Sadly I don’t think any of us will ever be able to ever fully escape from guilt and sadly we will never be able to slow down time the way we wish we could to “make up” for the times we feel like we’ve failed. This is the curse of motherhood. But I want you to know, there is far too much beauty and good in this journey of motherhood to wade in our guilt and focus only on our list of short comings.
It is important to remember that the feelings of guilt are generally unwarranted and usually placed on us by US unnecessarily. We feel guilt because we often set unrealistic, unachievable expectations for ourselves and it feels like we’ve failed when we don’t reach those expectations. But let’s think about this…is there really a mom out there who is doing everything that we expect of ourselves? Likely no! The truth is there is simply no way to be and do all that we expect of ourselves.
So What Do We Do?
Some might suggest just “lowering the bar”. I mean if you don’t care as much you can’t fail, right? But I don’t think that is the answer. Is it even in a mother’s nature to ‘not care’? I don’t think so. So can there be any good from guilt? Maybe. I mean we feel guilt because we want to do better and we think our kids deserve for us to do better. Guilt, in its essence is born from a place of deep, fierce love. And I think striving for better and loving fiercely is good. Just like in all areas of life, in motherhood, we should seek to learn from our mistakes, grow, adjust, and improve with time.
So perhaps we can start to reframing that guilt. Instead of wallowing in it, and labeling ourselves a failure, we can identify where it comes from and use it to grow and adjust.
Reframing Our Guilt
Like I said, guilt usually comes from a place of where we love so hard, so deeply to our souls, that we feel pain for not meeting our expectations. We can use that fierce love and express it. Shower it onto your people, your family, and your kids but then look honestly at your expectations and see where you can adjust. Do you need to make an elaborate home cooked meal every night or do you need to make sure your family is fed? Are you loving your people just as fiercely when they eat a three course meal as when they eat cereal? If your answer is YES then perhaps you can see why wallowing in guilt isn’t necessary.
When you look hard at why you feel guilty you will likely find that, while it comes from a place of love and wanting the best for your people, it often isn’t necessary.
So we wake up each morning and love hard on our people. We try our best to show that love in whatever ways we feel best but always remember we are still just humans and it is okay to slip up, falter and even fail at times. When we fail we can use it as a chance to re-evaluate, grow, and adjust. And so long as everything you are doing is coming from that source of deep, fierce, mama bear love, then Mama, you’re doing a perfect job!