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The Mental Load

baby brain honest parenting mental health mental illness mental load modern motherhood mom life motherhood mum life PND post natal depression Pregnancy

Let me just rattle off an example of a day in the life of a mum.

Well, me. This is a day in the life of me and I'm a stay at home mum so I'm just going to throw it out there and say that this could probably cover a lot of other mums (the ones I've spoken to, at least).

My day starts when my baby wakes up, which is usually at the same time my partner gets up for work (6:15am) because my two-year-old comes into our bed every night so his alarm usually wakes her too. We're up to have a coffee together (she demands a babycino every morning too) and I'll set her up for breakfast. This will usually change between toast or cereal or yoghurt and muesli. And by change, I don't mean day-to-day. She'll just change her mind a couple of bites in or as soon as you put the plate in front of her. I like to let my coffee kick in before I eat anything though.

Once her dad leaves for work around 7am, that's when the chaos begins. Breakfast clean up usually gets underway whilst said small child is dismantling something like the entire Tupperware cupboard. As I pack all the plastics back away and make a mental note at how fucking disgusting the kitchen floor is, she's usually entertaining herself by throwing pencils around the lounge room. It's at about this point that she demands breakfast number 2 - something messy that she likes to walk around with like bowl of yoghurt or strawberries to rub on the table or something crumbly to throw on the couch or the floor. But at least that keeps her busy for a few moments while I try to pack some orders. I generally have to fight her for a pen so I can write on the packages though. 

By this time she's pretty filthy, there's probably a secret wee somewhere and I'm a sweaty mess so we regroup in the shower. Afterwards I'll try to to get us organised to leave the house which generally consists of 5 or so minutes dressing myself and packing a bag and 20 minutes chasing around a naked toddler who doesn't want to wear anything I try to put on her and is generally yelling "EAT!" at me. So I've got to bribe her into the car with promise of a babycino and we head into town to get through a list of shit.

First stop is the post office to drop off some orders. She's very independent and likes to carry the parcels herself, which is great. But she's also very independent and doesn't like to hold my hand while we cross the road, which is not so great. It usually goes me saying "you've got to hold my hand just while we cross the road otherwise I can carry you" then she replies with a firm and whiney "NO!" and ends with me carrying a screaming, flailing child or feeling like I'm holding onto a cut snake as she tries to free her hand from mine. After the post I might have to buy some more packaging materials or groceries but somewhere between thinking about the fact that I've got to come up with some new designs and stop comparing myself to others, trying to remember what's the next thing I need to organise for our car show and putting back all the random shit that Frank has pulled off the shelves I will ALWAYS forget at least one thing from my list. Throw in that babycino I bribed her with earlier and another coffee and something to eat for me (because I still haven't eaten a bite yet) and that usually rounds us up to an overdue nap time.

Nap time is sort of touch and go. I can blink and all of a sudden she's awake and all I've done is spent an hour and a half scrolling Instagram. Or sometimes I actually utilise that time to clean up the crumbs she threw on the floor or the yoghurt she rubbed over the table earlier. I might bring in the washing that I hung out 4 days ago and put on the 5 loads of backlogged washing. While putting the washing away I'll get off track and start to actually declutter the wardrobes or wash the walls or google bedding or just things I don't really need to be doing. Maybe I'll put away the dishes. Maybe make the beds (ha). Maybe tidying up her books and the pencils that she's thrown everywhere. Whatever I do, you can bet that she'll wake up the moment I get myself something to eat.

Post nap time just consists of her constantly giving me heart attacks of varying degrees or just generally making me go grey. Trying to do things like run inside the house brandishing dripping paint brushes, or trying to ride her trike down our seriously rocky, steep, kid-unfriendly backyard ramp, ripping all her books off the shelves, throwing every single toy she owns out of the box. Biscuits over here, orange slices over there. I left the room for literally a minute and a half the other day and came back to her covered in pen, drinking soy sauce from the bottle and pouring make up remover on the floor. You can't make this shit up. I don't even know what I do during this time but I'm usually hanging by thread by the time Des gets home from work watching my 6th episode of The Wiggles.

But he usually gets stuck into some sort of project when he gets home so while I might manage to steal an hour to get to the gym (2-3 times a week if I'm lucky), the day doesn't end there. I'll come back home to my house that looks like a total shit fight despite all the chores I actually did, dishes piled up again from all the snacks she's eaten throughout the day, and I'll throw together some average as fuck meal because I hate cooking and I'm exhausted. It's the witching hour and my child is borderline demonic by now whilst I try to get her ready for bed - teeth brushed and wrestled into some pjs to start the 5 or so attempts at getting her to sleep which ends with me sitting by her bed barely keeping my own eyes open.

Somewhere in all this I'm meant to remember to reorder some more stock as things are getting dangerously low, come up with some new designs, work on a show poster, remember to pay the bills, try to actually connect with friends, my partner, my family and always last and should never be least - take care of myself.

If you've made it this far, well done, you! Well done on finding 2 spare seconds to read it all. Well done for putting up with my whining.

If you've made it this far maybe this rings true for you too? Maybe you're also feeling like you're drowning. Like your mind never stops. Like you never see any outcome from everything you do. Like you're burned the fuck out and you need some god damn help.

You're not alone. It's not bullshit. It IS all in our minds but there's actually a term for it. It's called "The Mental Load" and it refers to that pile up of tasks in our mind that we're constantly juggling. It's not something that is exclusively applicable to mothers but I can tell you from personal experience, the mental load I experience now as a stay a home mother absolutely towers the mental load I had pre-parenthood.

So what the hell can we do about it? I'm no professional here. I know what can be done about it but it can be hard to put some of it into practice (I'm gonna try harder though). Here's a few good suggestions I've come across:

Give yourself a god damn break. Seriously. If there's a chance for you to regroup, do it. Use that nap time. That time they go to daycare, a friend's house, the grandparents. That time your kid's in the shower. That time they're preoccupied with a book. When they're quiet. When they go to bed at night. Wherever you can get a spare second for yourself, seize it. Sit down and take a breath. Take bath. Read a book. Go for a walk. Listen to loud as fuck music. Whatever you want to do, do it in that moment for you and don't fucking feel guilty about it.

Pass on some of that mental load to someone else. If you're lucky enough to have help near by, you have a partner or a housemate - let them bear some of that weight for you. Share the load more evenly with your partner and delegate some of those tasks clouding your mind to them. If you don't have a partner, a housemate or family nearby and you're you're stuck bearing that load by yourself the next couple are for you.

Get yourself a god damn diary, a calendar, a notepad or even a wad of scrap paper. Get those little tasks out of your head on onto some paper. It can be truly clarifying to actually see what you need to do, tick things off as you go and see what you've achieved rather than battling through a swamp of dot points in your head.

And lastly, stop expecting so much of yourself. That's right - lower your expectations. Lower. Even lower. That's better.

There's nothing wrong with wanting more and pushing yourself to achieve great things but you don't want to burn yourself out before you get there. 

If none of these suggestions are helpful to you, just know that you're not alone and you don't need to suffer in silence. Get in touch with your GP and talk about starting a mental health plan, call PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) on 1300 726 306 or Life Line on 13 11 14.

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  • Michelle on

    Baby Daddy got home from work last night and I was borderline manic with sadness and boredom and I said I had to get out of there (not without instructing him to blend the baby food I’d just cooked for babies dinner! Mum life)- and I hit the road. I turned up the music and headed down the coast to the beach. I’d swim by myself, look at the horizon and feel BETTER. I cried in the car, I yelled, I swore at other drivers. I had that swim and I walked along the beach and then when I felt better and the sun was going down I drove home again. It was worth the 3 hour round trip. Its so important to unload The Mental Load. Great blog.

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