The mental load is real, folks
Motherhood is exhausting. It seems like even if we get the 1,000 things crossed off our actual to-do lists, there is still a mental list of items we should be doing, playing on repeat in our heads for all of eternity. One mom noticed just that as she watched her husband peacefully sleeping one day — and it’s something many of us can connect with.
Meredith Ethington, who writes at Perfection Pending, snapped an adorable photo of her husband of 15 years taking a snooze on the couch. Then she decided to make a list of all of the things she would have to cross off her mental to-do list in order to lie down and rest as peacefully as her husband.
Scratch that, by the time any woman got near the couch, we’d have another list a mile long swimming around in our brains because we cannot help ourselves.
Ethington titles the list, “THOUGHTS MOMS HAVE AFTER A LONG DAY OF WORK,” and it goes a little something like this: “OMG. This house is a mess. Do we have enough bread for lunch tomorrow? I need to have a talk with the five year old about honesty and have him return that toy he “borrowed”. I hope I can get some sleep tonight. Like, actual real sleep where I have a dream, or twitch, or something. I should buy a sleep mask. Did I put the laundry in the dryer?”
It’s funny because it’s true.
Every woman can relate to Ethington’s mental laundry list on some level. Our brains are in a constant state of thinking, worrying, planning, and remembering. Hell, my own mom keeps a note pad and light-up pen by her bed so when she wakes up thinking of things that need done, she can write it down with the vague hope of actually going back to sleep.
Perhaps we’ll stop this madness when we’re dead, but probably not even then.
Ethington goes on, “Did I hit send on that email? Is it too late to register the 8yo for soccer that is six months away? Are they caught up on their shots for school? Do we need more cat food? How is the ceiling fan THAT dusty? Like, for real. Why is there so much dust on a fan that spins all day? How is that even possible? I hope that we get into that good preschool and not the shady looking one that for sure has a hand foot and mouth infestation.” And on and on and on until eventually we won’t even need the nap because our heads will explode.
Her husband’s thoughts after a long day of work? “I’m going to lay down here and take a nap real quick.” Because men have the capacity to just turn all the noise off, which is admirable, but makes us want to shove a pillow over their faces while they’re sleeping. Not until they stop breathing, of course, but just so they know we could if we really felt like it.
In a follow up post, Ethington writes, “When I talk about the mental load I carry, it isn’t meant to be an insult to men everywhere. To me, it’s not a competition.” It’s not to say there aren’t men who carry the burden of it all in their heads or feel that responsibility. She is simply saying for her, and for many other women, this is what it feels like.
“I do think we’re wired differently, and that it’s harder for us to relax,” Ethington tells Scary Mommy. “We feel so much guilt if we lay down and rest when there is a pile of laundry to fold, or dishes to do. My husband is a fabulous guy that helps out a ton around the house. I don’t see this as a shot at him at all. It’s more about the way my brain seems to never shut off. I wish I could be more like him and relax a little more about the to-do list, but I’m also kind of terrified I’ll forget something important.”
Ethington’s sentiment is exactly why we moms need a break every once in a while. “I need a freaking vacation from mom life,” she writes, “but who would remember that we need more ramen noodles?”