Mental load is a term women have trouble explaining and seldom talk about. It’s the mental tracking women typically do of all things family and household related — not just the soccer practice, soccer games and soccer tournament schedule but also the fact that this week is our week to bring snacks and drinks to the game which means we need to go to the grocery store before the game time arrives and before we go to the grocery store we have to consider the fact that after school pick up we have to drop little Suzy at the music studio but before we drop little Suzy who forgot to grab her music, we have to run to the house and get her music prior to the grocery store run which has to be completed before the game. 

It’s not just the fact that the laundry needs to be done but it’s about remembering to have the girls’ volleyball uniforms clean before Monday, the boys’ marching band practice t-shirts ready Thursday, Grandma’s Sunday dress cleaned before she attends her event on Wednesday and make sure to pull the dress shirts out of the dryer when the timer goes off so that we don’t have to spend extra time ironing. 

Mental load is a relentless cycle of planning, remembering, and executing a myriad of tasks that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s a silent burden that can sap our energy, leaving us feeling perpetually exhausted and unable to fully engage in the present moment. However, there are strategies to manage this load, lighten its impact, and reclaim our presence and peace of mind.

Delegate with Trust

Delegation is key, but it requires trust. It’s not just about offloading tasks but trusting others to handle them. This might mean letting our partners take full responsibility for a set of chores, even if they’re done differently than we would do them. (Read, “Don’t reorganize the dishwasher.”) It’s about focusing on the outcome rather than the process. Encourage your family members to take on responsibilities suitable for their age and capabilities, and let them own those tasks completely. (Read, “Don’t remake the 10 year old’s bed.”) This not only reduces your mental load but also fosters independence and responsibility in others.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

In today’s digital age, technology can be a significant ally in managing the mental load. Utilize apps and tools for family organization, such as shared calendars, reminder apps, and task lists that everyone can access and contribute to. This can help distribute the mental load more evenly and ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and schedules.

Set Aside Time for Planning

Dedicate a specific time each week for planning and organizing. This could be a family meeting where everyone discusses the upcoming week’s schedule, meal plans, and any special requirements like project materials or specific clothing for events. Having a clear plan can reduce last-minute scrambles and ensure that responsibilities are evenly distributed. 

Communicate Openly

Open communication with our partner, family, and even colleagues about the mental load we carry can lead to a better understanding and more support. Sometimes (okay, all-the-time), others are unaware of the extent of the load because it’s invisible. Sharing our feelings and struggles can help others realize the importance of contributing more actively to household and family responsibilities.

Learn to Prioritize

Not everything needs to be done right away, and not every request or invitation needs a “yes.” (Read, “You don’t have to attend everything you’re invited to and neither do your children.”) Learn to prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance, and be comfortable with saying no to things that overload your schedule or don’t align with your priorities. This can significantly reduce your mental load and leave more space for moments of presence and enjoyment.

Embracing Imperfection and Support

Managing the mental load is not about achieving perfection but about finding peace and making space for what truly matters. By embracing imperfection, seeking support, and employing strategies to distribute the load, we can reduce the overwhelm and find more moments of joy and presence in our daily life. Remember, it’s not just about getting through the list of tasks but about living a life that feels fulfilling, (even if it’s a little messy).