The mental load refers to the invisible work of managing daily life, such as organizing tasks, schedules, and chores. Studies show that women often bear a disproportionate amount of this load, particularly in managing family and household responsibilities. This constant mental processing can lead to stress, anxiety, burnout, and strained relationships. Recognising the mental load and dividing responsibilities more fairly with your partner can improve your daily life and relationships. Seeking professional help, such as relationship coaching or therapy, can also be beneficial.
The Mental Load
Whether you’re familiar with the term or not, if you’re reading this you most likely feel the impact of the mental load on your daily life. Once you have children, the list of tasks, responsibilities, and obligations you have to juggle grows massively. If you’re the one managing your family, your home, and your work life, you might feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all.
In straight couples, it’s still most often the woman who bears the weight of the mental effort to know what everyone needs and make sure those needs get met. The term “mental load” is a helpful shorthand, and discovering it often makes mums in particular feel seen and understood in a new way.
Understanding the concept can help you to explain it to your partner, divide the load more fairly, manage your daily life, and reduce stress and conflict. In this blog post we’ll explore what the mental load is, how it impacts your daily life, and how you can share the load more evenly.
What Is The Mental Load?
The mental load refers to the invisible work that goes into managing and organising your daily life. It’s the mental work we do to keep track of things like shopping lists, appointments, school and childcare schedules, bills, and household chores. It’s the constant mental processing that goes into making sure everything runs smoothly, even when you’re not actively doing anything at that moment.
Everyone carries a mental load associated with their responsibilities at work and home. However, studies have shown that women tend to bear a disproportionate amount of this load, especially when it comes to managing household and family responsibilities.
What Does “The Mental Load” Mean?
The concept of the mental load acknowledges that our brains are constantly working, even when we’re not physically doing anything. It’s the mental burden that comes from keeping track of multiple tasks, responsibilities, and obligations. This constant mental processing can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout, as our brains never get a chance to fully rest.
Additionally, the mental load can impact our relationships, as it can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment. For example, if you’re taking on a greater share of the mental load than your partner, you might feel unsupported or unappreciated. This can lead to tension and conflict in your relationship.
How Carrying Too Much Of The Mental Load Impacts Your Daily Life And Holds You Back
The mental load can impact your daily life in a variety of ways. Let’s look at how it impacts women’s lives and upholds the systems that hold us back… and what we can do about it.
1. Reduced Capacity For Other Work Or Interests
When your brain is constantly working to keep track of everything, it can be difficult to focus on any one task. This can make it difficult to be productive or accomplish your goals. When your mental energy is being used on family and household responsibilities, it’s hard to get the headspace for other things that are important to you. What would you do with the extra time and energy that sharing the load more fairly free up for you? How might you and other women change the world?
2. Increased Stress and Anxiety
The constant mental processing that comes with carrying the mental load can lead to increased stress and anxiety. This can have negative impacts on your mental, emotional, and physical health. This can make it feel harder to address the root cause of the issue, creating a vicious cycle of disappointment and resentment. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as men. How do we decide what’s a disorder, and what’s a natural response?
3. Strained Relationships
As mentioned earlier, an unequal division of responsibilities – and the mental load associated with them – can lead to strained relationships. It’s natural to feel frustrated and resentful if the way you’re dividing your shared responsibilities doesn’t feel fair. Many men grow up believing that women are irrational and impossible to please. But here’s the truth: fairness is fundamental to relationship satisfaction.
When you’re constantly juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities, you might well become overwhelmed and burnt out. Carrying a huge mental load is exhausting, and it can make it harder to take care of yourself, keeping you feeling stuck. How is a generation of burnt-out mothers supposed to fight for a better deal?
How To Manage The Mental Load
Ultimately the mental load comes down to who’s taking responsibility for what. Better balance comes when we make the invisible visible, and the implicit explicit.
If you’re in a relationship but you feel like you’re buckling under the weight of the mental load, you and your partner are most likely not sharing your responsibilities fairly. Resentment is a natural consequence, so my top mental load tips are all included in my free 7-step action plan out of resentment.
This 10-minute read covers:
- Why you might feel resentful – and why it matters
- One powerful question your need to ask yourself whenever you feel resentful
- Why women still carry more than their fair share of the mental load
- 7 practical steps you can take to start redressing the balance in your relationship today
You can read it here.
The mental load is a real and significant burden that affects many people, particularly women. The constant mental processing that goes into managing more than your fair share of your daily life can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout, and impact your relationship. Understanding what the mental load is is the first step in learning to divide it more fairly with your partner.
Tackling the mental load is one of the most powerful things you can do to change things for the next generation. It’s not a one time thing – it’s an ongoing conversation over many years. And to keep that conversation going (without it turning into an argument) you’ll need your relationship to be in a pretty good place.
If you’re struggling to have productive conversations with your partner about how you share the mental load, consulting a professional relationship therapist or coach can help. By taking action to address your division of responsibilities, you can reduce stress and conflict, and create a more balanced and fulfilling daily life.
Need More Help?
If your relationship has becomes strained, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Through relationship coaching and/or therapy, we can work together to get your relationship back on track. Click here to get in touch and find out more.
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