Moms and the Mental Load
I walked into the bathroom and sighed in frustration as I saw that the toilet paper roll was, once again, empty. Feeling overwhelmed, I got up and walked to the hallway closet where the extra rolls are kept, and replaced the roll.
As I marched back out into the hallway, I called my three children to attention and lectured them vehemently about replacing the toilet paper, refilling the paper towel roll, and taking out the trash when it’s full. They blankly stared at me, waiting for permission to go back to their rooms.
I dismissed them, wondering why I felt so upset by an empty toilet paper roll. Why did the responsibility of changing it feel like it was much more than a simple, everyday task?
As I asked myself these questions, I realized that it wasn’t the act itself, but the thought behind leaving the roll empty that was irking me. It was the fact that behind that empty toilet paper roll was an assumption: an assumption that I, as the mom, would replace it.
In most families, there is a “default parent”: the one who keeps tabs on everything, from stocking the fridge to keeping track of the kids’ schedules and tidying up the house. More often than not, the default parent is the mom.
Being the default and in charge of these so-called “invisible tasks” can be referred to as “carrying the mental load.” All the little things that happen in a household every day don’t happen on their own. Someone has to make sure the household runs smoothly and everyone’s needs are met. That duty is, most often,
the mother’s. A combination of centuries of societal gender roles and the prevailing perception that women are “just better at that kind of stuff” continue to feed this imbalance in home life structure. At times, it can seem like you, as a mom, will never dig yourself out from underneath the mountain of responsibilities that seemingly only gets larger no matter how hard you work.
The weight of responsibility in a family won’t shift itself. It’s up to us, as families, partners, and parents, to take control of the narrative and work toward making these “background tasks” something the whole family can share. The next time a task fills you with frustration or makes you feel like you’re trapped under the weight of motherly duties, ask yourself, “Could someone else in this family do this?”
I have three children, and I am confident that all three are fully capable of changing a toilet paper roll. As moms, we tend to bear our invisible burden without thinking of doing something as simple as asking for help. The reality is that many of our daily functions could easily be shared! Try assigning your kids one mundane task a day to get it off your plate. Put someone else in charge of changing the toilet paper roll! Ask your spouse or partner if they could shuttle the kids to their activities one or two days a week. Most of the time, your family will be happy to help you out because they love you, but they aren’t mind-readers! Do your best to put into words the ways that they can help share the burden of the day-to-day duties that running a household entails, and breathe a little easier, mama. You’ve earned it.