Wake up ………”what day is it? Wednesday, ok, I must remember to check that Tilly has a clean PE kit for tomorrow, must collect the dry cleaning so that my red dress is ready for Friday’s presentation, is it this weekend we’re going to Jen and Nick’s party? Do we need to take something? Must remember to text her. Oh hell, the house insurance is due this week isn’t it, must not forget that” ………get up and start the day.
Is this sort of thing going on in your mind from the minute you wake up? And as you’re on your way to work or trying to fall asleep at night?
Do you carry the ‘mental load’ in your household? It’s the burden of remembering, and usually also doing, all those tasks required to keep a household ticking over. In many cases this is shouldered by the woman of the house. Are you the one who plans, who notices, who anticipates, who researches, who worries? Are you constantly thinking of everything to ensure the smooth running of the household? Are you the “Knower of All the Things” in your house?
This is often invisible work because no one really sees it, but it is constant, consuming and exhausting. We do thousands of tiny tasks without anyone noticing at all.
Through years and years of social conditioning, women have been taught that their primary role in society is that of the caregiver, and that career and self are secondary. Conversely, men have been socially conditioned to view their role as one of provider and breadwinner. I do see this starting to change but very slowly, our conditioning runs deep.
This mental load, that so many women carry, goes beyond doing everything, it’s about remembering everything – what a burden! Often we don’t realise we are even carrying this mental load. We saw our mums doing it, we see other mums doing it and we feel a huge pressure towards perfectionism, feeling that we’ve failed if we don’t do it all. We are conditioned to help others, we don’t like to say no and can feel reluctant to delegate. We want the best for everyone and we want to look after them.
A key point at which I see an increase in the mental load is on returning to work following maternity leave. When baby comes along and mum stays at home for sometimes up to a year the way you run the household is different from before. Then when you go back to work you still carry the load from when you were at home full-time, maybe reallocating tasks between you and your partner, but still somehow carrying that mental load. It seems that the majority of women also feel that it is their responsibility to stay on top of their children’s activities. We take on the CEO role of our family.
What I often see as a result of this mental load are worn out, angry and stressed mothers, who spend time berating themselves for not doing better! Women who are not achieving their full potential in their career because they feel overloaded by what they do at home.
Enough! Let’s stop this.
First step – recognise what’s going on in your life – ask yourself if you are carrying the mental load for your household.
Our expert guest blogger Lisa Florit, of Alto provides specialist leadership and personal effectiveness development for women leaders.
She has created a quick mental load self-assessment to help you answer this question and, most importantly if you are carrying that burden for your household, ideas on what can you do about it.
Click here to get started on the self-assessment and then you can get Lisa’s free tips for how to take control of these feelings of overwhelm.