I hear my husband tell my toddler we are out of applesauce when I know we have two new jars, which I made sure to add to the pick-up order along with the toilet paper and jam.
“Behind the mac and cheese and under the crackers,” I call out from upstairs, where I’m working.
“We need to RSVP to that birthday party,” I remind him for the third time that week. As I say this, I make a pile out of empty toilet paper rolls and construction paper, in preparation for a Halloween craft at my daughter’s class, an event that my husband and I are signed up to lead. Caring for three little kids is not a walk in the park for my husband either. He’s tired and stressed too. Up until recently, I had a much more demanding job, which put more of the daily caregiving responsibilities on him. He does the majority of school drop-offs and pick-ups. He packs the school lunches, often makes dinner, and handles all of the car maintenance. But somehow I became the one who always picks out the Christmas gifts, schedules the doctor appointments, researches summer camps, and knows the whereabouts of my daughter’s current favorite toy. Even as my husband and I split caregiving duties equally, I’m the one who has a piece of my brain carved out for deadlines and a never-ending mental to-do list. I am the go-to for anything that requires research, planning, and scheduling.
This mental load, or “thinking work”, refers to the invisible labor that often falls more on the mother in a heterosexual two-parent household. In fact, in Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood report, 50% of primary income-earning moms report that they still handle a majority of the household chores, up from 40% five years ago. Today, almost half (48%) are the family financial planner, meaning moms pay all the bills and manage the household finances.
This invisible mental load is remembering the time of the parent-teacher conferences, scheduling doctors’ appointments, and knowing where the kids’ birth certificates are. So yes, my husband does school pick-up, but I’m the one reminding him of early dismissal days.
Mom burnout and the invisible mental load of motherhood: How did we get to this point?
Is it that moms are better at all of this? Or do we do this out of necessity, knowing that if we don’t, no one else will?
In her New York Times article, Jessica Grose explains that “we have culturally defined good mothering as worrying and doing this sort of mental labor, whereas we don’t define good fathering in quite the same way” which leads to mothers being the ones held accountable for these responsibilities. Research confirms that mothers put these tasks ahead of their own leisure and sleep and 67% of mothers reported that they have less than one hour a day to themselves that is not work or family oriented. . Only 8% of moms report getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep, according to this year’s State of Motherhood survey.
Putting these tasks ahead of our own needs are leading to burnout and stress. Countless articles highlight studies that show that invisible work has a detrimental impact on mothers’ mental health. In recent years, this is even more so the case. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the amount of these tasks that mothers have taken on, leading to a negative impact on mental health.
What can we do about the invisible mental load of motherhood?
In her book “Fair Play,” Eve Rodsky argues that we can rebalance this “invisible work,” dividing these types of tasks up more evenly between partners in a two-parent household. She even created a system in the form of a card game, with five categories of household responsibilities and explains that one parent should be in charge of the CPE (conceiving, planning, and executing) for each task.
That’s a great start. But is it always realistic? And I’m not convinced it’s enough.
How Lilvil is helping to make parents’ lives easier
What about taking the mental load off of both parents’ plates? This is what I had in mind when I created Lilvil. I wanted to help answer the question, “How can we make parents’ lives easier?” Lilvil enables parents to outsource some of the research, planning, and scheduling tasks such as meal planning, activity scheduling, and summer camp research.
Parents can go to the website, select a task, and complete a quick survey about their specific needs. Trained and experienced Lilvil Experts, mostly moms, complete the tasks. For example, someone can select ‘Meal Planning’ and answer a few questions about the number of people, their family’s dietary restrictions, and grocery budget. Lilvil Experts will create a customized meal plan for their family, complete with recipe links, a grocery list, and tips for how to prepare the meals ahead of time, eliminating the need to cook every night. Lilvil is available throughout the United States and each task can be purchased individually in five minutes or less. Costs of these requests range from $15 for gift shopping and haircut scheduling up to $100+ for childcare research.
By reducing the time spent on these things from hours to minutes and reducing the number of decisions they need to make, parents save time and energy, enabling them to spend it on things like sleep and leisure. We may not be able to help you remember where your child’s favorite stuffed animal is (yet), but we can help free up your time by crossing a few things off your to-do list.
Motherly designed and administered The State of Motherhood survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.
This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.