How To Make the ‘Invisible Load’ of Motherhood Visible to Your Partner

Moms know doing all of the things can feel overwhelming, well … all of the time. Dealing with your kid’s schedule (or multiple schedules), managing the household, and supporting the emotional needs of your family are only a teeny-tiny number of the tasks your Mom-mind juggles constantly. 

The mental and emotional load you carry might look invisible to the outside world, but it’s there in your brain and body — and studies show women who carry the bulk of the weight for their family can feel negatively impacted. This can be even more significant if your partner has a hard time “seeing” your unseen pressures, leaving you to handle them alone. So let’s make the invisible visible, shall we? This way you and your partner can work together to share the parenting load, and you can feel lighter and more supported in the process. 

Finding words to describe the invisible is a tall order. Seriously, it’s not like Wonder Woman is asked by her super friends to give all the particulars about her Invisible Jet, so why are super moms asked to provide proof of their invisible multi-tasking powers? If you’re looking for the words to explain all you do, Dr. Katie Smith, a licensed clinical and child psychologist, explains a mother’s mental load like this: “If you think of a family as a functioning system, a mother’s mental and emotional role is pervasive within the system. She impacts — or more importantly, manages and oversees — nearly every aspect of the system.” This includes supervising functions like feeding, clothing, socializing, educating, and scheduling. You know, #doingallthethings. 

One reason it’s challenging for a partner to understand the unseen labor a mama gets done is that mothers don’t always talk about it. Megan B. Bartley, mental health and mindfulness coach, and founder of The Mindfulness Center, says moms don’t think to speak about their mental load because they’re more focused on accomplishing it and oftentimes don’t want to add more to their partner’s list. Whether you’re just trying to get the kiddos to bed on time or hoping to help out your spouse, Dr. Smith does add here, too, that mothers also assume they should be able to handle doing everything, and therefore don’t bring this up to ask for help. 

With societal beliefs, how you were raised, and even anthropological instincts influencing expectations you’ve set, it’s no wonder you feel a strange and unresolved pressure to keep your home (and everyone in it) running smoothly. In certain situations, when the pressure builds and you find yourself venting to your significant other, the frustrations can increase because it can be hard for partners to empathize.

“Partners, especially males, often cannot relate to the assumed role of women,” Dr. Smith begins, “in many cases, they weren’t raised (and society does not expect them) to assume the role of managing the family system and all its related facets.” So, let the experts help you make your unseen mama mental load seen and supported by your partner. Here are three ways to start.

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