Cheeky Daddy

How To Understand And Manage Mental Load

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the volume of physical tasks you need to complete as a parent? What about the idea that just having to constantly remember, plan, and manage all your parenting and household tasks can seem so draining? That, in a nutshell, is what we call the mental load. .The mental tasks, or invisible tasks, of simply organising your household and family responsibilities. You’ll often see this topic discussed in the context of mothers, and we’ll get to why that’s justifiable. However, we know that fathers shoulder a significant mental load, too.

Let’s examine the notion of mental load as a parent and explore how you can navigate this together with your partner.

What is Mental Load?

First off, let’s explain the concept of a mental load a little more deeply. Your mental load refers to the invisible labour related to the management of your household and family life. It’s that brain-frazzled feeling you get from juggling all the little tasks that make up your week at home. But, the key is that this isn’t just about doing the laundry or cooking dinner but thinking about these tasks. It’s about remembering the laundry needs to be done. It’s going through the calculations of planning meals for dinner. It’s about knowing when the fridge is empty and it’s time to shop.

Here’s a nightmarish list just to give you an idea of the heavy mental load you carry. Note** It’s not exhaustive!

  • Meal planning
  • Planning grocery shopping
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Anticipating needs of your children/partner
  • Planning time for household chores
  • Organising child care
  • Paying bills
  • Keeping track of school stuff
  • Keeping track of birthdays
  • Monitoring progress of all of the above!
  • And much, much more

Apologies if we’ve given you a panic attack. Essentially, it’s the mental load of organising, remembering, and coordinating life. This mental work can feel like a constant battle. Please understand that these household responsibilities can really take it out of you, and you’re not alone if you’re feeling the strain.

The Impact of Mental Load on Parents

Carrying this kind of cognitive and emotional burden can lead to mental health issues. An overbearing mental load may lead to stress, exhaustion, and even burnout. In the face of this challenge, we must practise self-care to watch over our mental well-being.

As parents, you need to be at your best for your children. So, if you’re fortunate to have a willing partner, you need to tag team this emotional labour to reduce stress.

Traditionally, society expects mothers to carry the brunt of this load. This relates to outdated ideas of the mother as the traditional caregiver. The household being the woman’s domain, while the man is expected to be the breadwinner.

Stats suggest that these old-fashioned ideas may still hold sway. According to the Skimm’s 2023 State of Women Report, 71% of women feel that they bear the brunt of the physical and mental workload at home.

But as family dynamics in heterosexual relationships evolve, fathers are increasingly stepping up in this invisible labour. From the male perspective, we shouldn’t shy away from this fact; many people underestimate the mental load that fathers carry.

However, don’t get lost in a Top Trumps competition over who is doing the most work. The critical aspect is this: you both acknowledge the need to tackle all aspects of household management together. 0We need to start by recognising that an overbearing mental load on either parent is harmful. When one parent takes on too many of these invisible tasks, their mental and physical health suffers. And, when that happens, the whole family suffers.

So, what can you do? How do you avoid a one-sided mental load dynamic in your home?

Strategies for Sharing the Mental Load

A problem shared is a problem halved! Here are some strategies to help you split up these responsibilities.

Open Communication

Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your partner about household responsibilities, as regular family meetings can help ensure that everyone is on the same page. Don’t shirk this first step or shrug it off as unnecessary.

There’s no need to overcomplicate things here; this isn’t about scaffolding a framework for discussion. You often just need to get the ball rolling by sitting down and working out what needs to be done.

Use Technology

There are tons of tools and apps out there to help you manage family tasks. These include shared Google calendars and list-making apps. These handy apps can help distribute the mental load more evenly. Here’s a couple of recommendations for you to explore:

  • Our Home: An app to help you divvy up chores
  • Google Keep: A free note taking app. Share lists and notes that can be accessed on any device, perfect for quick reminders, grocery lists, and to-do lists that require frequent updating.
  • 2Houses: An app specifically for divorced parents who are co-parenting.
  • Cozi: Another family organiser app designed to keep everyone’s schedules and all your lists in one place. This one’s a versatile tool.

Divide and Conquer

Clearly define who is responsible for what tasks. This doesn’t just help in organising but ensures that one person isn’t left keeping track of everything. If you’re lucky, you may be able to align this along tasks that you each prefer doing.

Establish Routines

Creating predictable routines reduces the need to plan every detail and can help in automating some of the mental work. For example, if you use a calendar tool shared above and allocate a specific day to deal with paying bills or grocery shopping, for example, you can compartmentalise this task. The idea is this should stop you from mentally cycling through all your tasks on a daily basis.

Teach and Delegate

Your kids can contribute. Involve your children in age-appropriate chores and decisions. This not only reduces your load but helps them develop important life skills. Okay, so we’re not suggesting you outsource your mortgage payments, but they may be able to contribute and help with some basic household chores like washing the dishes or laying the table.

Building Support Systems

Family sharing the mental load

Sometimes, sharing the heavy mental load within the family isn’t enough. Building a broader support system through friends, family, or community resources can provide additional relief for struggling parents. Outside help might not be able to actually perform these chores, but we’ve established that mental juggling is half the burden. Speaking to a sympathetic ear and receiving advice can make a huge difference to your mental health.

Beyond this emotional support, you can earn yourself a well-earned break every now and then. We’re talking about a professional cleaning service if the chores are too much. A babysitter to give yourselves a date night. A takeaway for when you forget to do the shopping. Of course, these aren’t permanent solutions, but the message is to never be too hard on yourself if you just need a bit of breathing room.

Final Thoughts on the Parental Mental Load

Mental load is no joke, and it’s a challenge that affects both mothers and fathers. This makes it a great equaliser as a parenting couple. You need to understand what it entails and actively work to distribute this load more equitably.

In this way, families can support one another better, reducing stress and building a happier, healthier home environment. How do you and your partner manage the mental load in your family? Have you found effective strategies that help lighten the load for both of you? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top

Join our Cheeky Daddy Mailing list!

Get all latest research, advice and dad questions answered straight in your inbox

Join The List

Sign up to receive the latest research, advice and dad questions straight to your inbox