The Mental Load of Motherhood

Jun 21, 2022

living, parenting, self-work

BY VALERIE ROBINSON

mother with son

I wish someone had told me how much of a rollercoaster this season of my life would be. 

When I first found out I was going to be a mother back in September of 2019, I distinctly remember that one of the first things I did (aside from immediately tell my husband) was download a baby tracker app – you know, the ones that tell you which fruit your baby is that week. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it contained much more information than that. Such as: what to expect at doctor’s visits, baby registry stuff, pregnancy symptoms, a ton of medical knowledge, and even a community forum! And yes, I found myself going down little Google rabbit holes many nights. But overall, I felt like I was really figuring it out.

I didn’t start following mom pages until after Sam was born, and my baby tracker app just wasn’t cutting it.

And I now realize that what I was on the search for was the raw truth about motherhood. I wanted to see people I could relate to who wasn’t sugar-coating it. If you speak to women in your mother’s or grandmother’s generation, you aren’t going to get the raw details from them. Whether it’s because they’re so long removed from that season of their life or they’re too proud, what you will often get from them is how wonderful and beautiful and challenging yet rewarding it all is. Sometimes even a little bit of how easy it came to them. Sure, it is really wonderful, beautiful, and rewarding – but when it’s coupled with maybe how easy they had x, y, and z, you realize that times are different, and we’re starting to live in a world where we acknowledge all feelings more openly. And you want to be prepared for how hard that hard is really going to be.

The mental load of motherhood can be so much different for many mothers. But I want to share what mine is in hopes of illuminating what you can feel on your journey and validating some of your feelings, and in turn, not feel so alone!

I started to feel so many things after Sam had been with us for some weeks, and the “adrenaline rush” of becoming a mother had sort of worn off. No one told me that there was something referred to as “the 4th trimester,” and no one told me how challenging it would be either. I experienced so much self-doubt, low self-esteem, body image issues, and anxiety that already came with what I had expected, which was extreme fatigue from sleepless nights. I wanted help but didn’t know how to ask for it! I was looking for help with meals, housekeeping, and running certain errands. What I got was someone constantly telling me they could watch my baby. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to communicate what I needed. To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. 

mother planning

My mental load also consisted of being “touched out,” another new term I came across. Mine was definitely linked to a very exhausting breastfeeding journey, but also from not being prepared for just how little time to myself I would have and leaving no space for self-care. I found myself in a constant mental tug-of-war of wanting me-time but wanting to be with my baby as much as possible.

Eventually, my mental load also included going back to work. Juggling caring for your child, doctor’s appointments, groceries, laundry, meal preparation, housekeeping, running errands, and whatever else I’m missing is absolutely no joke. Daycare was not an option for us, so I work remotely. Don’t let anyone tell you that working from home is sunshine and rainbows! Trying to have a healthy balance of work and personal life in your home is extremely difficult, and throwing children into the thick of that can be draining.

And why do I keep calling all this the mental load? Simply put, because many women compartmentalize their lives and feelings, trying to address them later takes a toll. It overloads your mental space, significantly affecting your mental health. I’m here to tell you not only what the mental load can look like but also that you must address it. Do not hold it in. Do not try to be Supermom. You are a super perfectly handpicked mom for your family, but you don’t have to be a hero.

First, talk often with your partner about how you’re feeling

Sometimes you just need to take a load off. My husband likes to ask me, “are you venting, or do you need a solution?” This has helped eliminate many frustrations for both of us, so give it a try!

Second, you need to prioritize self-care

You know when you’re getting the safety to debrief on an airplane, and they say, “put your mask on first before putting a mask on others”? It’s cliché, but that most definitely applies to motherhood. To be the best motherly version of yourself, you need to take good care of yourself! Don’t skip breakfast and replace it with just coffee. Don’t skip that workout you’ve wanted to do or read that book you want to read. Whatever self-care looks like for you, DO IT. Everyone will thank you for it, especially you.

Third, and the most challenging, ask for help.

Be honest about the help you’re expecting. And if someone doesn’t like it, then they didn’t really want to help you – they just thought they did. If it’s not helpful for you for someone to repeatedly say, “I can watch your child,” then speak up. “I really appreciate that you want to take care of my child for me, but I’m not ready for that. I actually really need my grocery order to be picked up, though.” Those who care will be thrilled to help fold the laundry or pick up your groceries.

Finally, it’s okay if you don’t love every moment of motherhood.

It’s okay if you’re tired of breastfeeding, making meals, or sitting on the floor stacking the same blocks repeatedly. Try not to compare yourself to all the moms on social media who seemingly have it all together, with their hair and make-up done, and love nothing more in this world than to play pat-a-cake with their little ones. They have bad days too.

Yes, motherhood is an emotional rollercoaster. But acknowledging that bad days are okay (they do NOT make you a bad mom) and addressing your mental load, whatever that looks like for you, will make you feel so much better. You will feel empowered, stronger, and healthier. You will find that you can be more present. So give yourself that gift because I know you deserve it!

Valerie Robinson

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