We all know the memes about the mental load of motherhood — there’s this one and this one, and this one, too. When it comes to parenting, moms (stereotypically) bear the bulk of the mental load. And in my two-working-parent, equally-load-sharing household, that does tend to be the case. But does it have to be that way? I don’t think so. Here are some tips we’ve found to level the playing field and more evenly divide the mental load.
1. Take what’s in your head, and say it out loud.
At some point, we realized that I held most of the household knowledge — and therefore had to “tell my husband what to do” in order for him to do it. Now, we have a meal plan on the fridge and a joint, color-coded calendar on the wall that we can both reference to know what’s coming up each day.
When we run out of something, we write it on the meal plan list so that we both know what we’re out of and what we need at the store. When a child’s feet grow, we verbalize out loud, “So-and-so is growing out of a size 5 and moving into a size 6” so the information doesn’t just live in mom’s head. Does it work perfectly? No. But it does prevent me from being the keeper of all knowledge, and it makes it easier for us both to take care of menial day-to-day tasks without me needing to orchestrate everything.
2. Schedule a weekly calendar date (or coffee talk).
We do this every Sunday evening with a glass of wine, and it makes it much easier to share the physical tasks associated with kids’ sports, parties, and pickups — and it also decreases the mental energy required for planning. Plus, we get to talk through the week and any stress points, which makes it easier to be a team during the week!
3. Play to each other’s strengths (it’s OK to have clearly defined lanes).
Just because you are sharing the mental load doesn’t mean you both do everything equally. I am not a morning person, so my husband takes care of everything in the mornings. He works with the kids to make sure homework gets turned in because his methods lead to less stress than when I manage it. I handle meal planning and grocery shopping because I can do it quickly and easily. I manage our social calendar because I am logistically minded. He takes them to the dentist because I get squeamish.
Communicating “lanes” helps ensure that mom’s mental load is shared, and playing to strengths makes everyone’s load a little lighter.
4. Overtly ask teachers, coaches, and kids’ friends parents to communicate with both of you.
We ask teachers and coaches (and even our kids’ friends parents) to please make sure both mom and dad are on the email or contact list. When one of us emails a teacher, we always CC the other so we both know what’s going on. Schools are considerably more likely to contact mom versus dad, so it takes some intentionality to shift this. But when you do, it’s a simple way to reduce mom’s mental load! Most teachers do this really well, but it’s still key to make sure a teacher or coach has phone numbers and email addresses for both parents and to let them know which parent should be contacted first.
5. Let go.
This is hard. If you are serious about wanting to share the mental load, and if you have defined lanes, then you need to stay in your lane and let the rest go. You cannot both micromanage and effectively share the mental load. Your partner is going to do it differently than you — that’s OK. You can use your weekly touchpoint to strategize if there are pain points. But sharing the mental load requires actually letting go of some of it, and it will be a painful and unpleasant process for everyone if you continue to micromanage.
These tips and tricks are helping to reduce mom’s mental load in my household. Does this mean things are perfect? No. Does my husband know what size shoes our kids wear? I’m not positive. But is it infinitely better than when I tried to do it all myself? Yes, 1,000%.