WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE MENTAL LOAD
It's the peak of summer, the air is stifling hot, the humidity is at an all time high and there isn't a whisper of a breeze. I confirm this as I look over to the palm trees on the horizon from where I am standing in the kitchen of my home, and they aren't moving. This is not a good sign. In a mad rush I just jumped off my computer to start dinner, even though I wasn't close to ticking everything off my to do list. Not only is my mind in overdrive thinking of the work I still have left to do, it's also whirring with all the tasks that need to get done around the house before I hit the pillow - at who knows what time. To make matters even more intense, my one year old is tired and hungry, a lethal afternoon combination as every parent knows.
I scramble to make my son's dinner whilst distracting him at the same time with various kitchen utensils. I am now sweating bullets. My husband is busy unpacking our son's daycare bag and is prepping to have a shower with him after dinner. I throw our son into his high chair, plonk down his bowl of food and a cool drink, whilst I get back to prepping dinner for my husband and I. I'm trying to spiralise zucchini for our dinner, and failing miserably as the zucchini is not catching onto the contraption. I am now further drenched in sweat whilst our son is squishing and throwing his food around. Yes, that beautiful dinner I put together for him. I can feel the heat rising in my body and mind as I rush over to him, and feed him a few spoonfuls all whilst being aware that our dinner needs to get finished.
I rush back to the kitchen and think, this is multi-tasking at it's worst. And then I lose it. I pick up the zucchini that isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing on the spiralizer, and throw it. It quite literally smashes into a million pieces on the ground and I immediately feel pleased with myself, but also foolish yet amazed that a zucchini could cause such a mess. My husband looks at me as though I have lost my mind, so I storm into our bedroom, strip my clothes off, walked into the shower and started crying. Water is the only thing that calms me down, and my mind. It's moments like these when I remember people asking me "how do you do it all?" and I can't help but think to myself - I am not doing it all. Show me someone who is! They don't exist.
The following day, I decided to re-listen to a podcast episode from "Ladies We Need To Talk" about the mental load. And it really stuck a chord with me. Here it was, the problem I have been plagued with for the last 18 months (since becoming a homeowner and a mum to be honest) spoken about so openly and honestly. Time is a precious commodity these days and trying to juggle mum life, work life, home life, admin life and wife life was causing me serious mental load. And something needed to change straight away.
As soon as I had self-diagnosed my condition, a dark cloud lifted off my shoulders. And I spoke to Jase about it and how he could help me. Since recognising the symptoms and being able to give it a name, I feel so much better. So how can you get more comfortable with the mental load?
Figuring out if this is something that's affecting you. If you are anything like me in your family - the banker, the bill payer, the main home cleaner, the clothes washer and folder, the post office lady, the birthday gift buyer and wrapper, and you work, and you own your home, and you have children - then the mental load could well and truly be affecting you.
Next on the agenda is to recognise areas where you need help. I wrote down a list of things that attribute to my mental load. Even writing this list down made me feel so much better.
Then you need to ask for help. Sit down with your partner, family and friends to let them know the areas where they can help relieve your mental load. It many ways, it felt like I was standing up for myself and my mental health. This was not an easy experience as I feel completely stripped naked, but as soon as I ripped the bandaid off and let people know, I felt amazing.
Once your mental load begins to lessen, you truly need to make sure it doesn't creep back into your life. If you are like me, you will need to surrender control in the tasks that you hand over to other people. Jason might not clean the kitchen as well as I do, but at least it's done and at least I have help. It's all part of the process, but I can assure you it will all be worth it in the end.
Leave a note in your diary in three months time to check-in on the list you created. Have a look to see how you have fared. Does anything need changing? How is your mental load looking? Are you still getting help? If you're tracking well, congrats! If you need to reassess and remind those around you to help out more, go for it!