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What is the mental load and why does it impact mums?

What is the mental load and why does it impact mums?

As a mum, we know you carry the mental load for, well...everyone. We know you’re juggling a hundred different things – whether it's your little one’s doctor’s appointments or after-school sports practices, your responsibilities and deadlines at work and the endless list of to-dos, there’s an enormous amount of admin work that goes into managing little ones. But today, we’re not just talking about the physical tasks on your list – we're talking about all the “thinking” required for keeping all the balls in the air.

And while every family is different and operates in ways that work best for them, women traditionally front this responsibility. In fact, did you know that women hold a disproportionate 70% of the household mental load? Yes – you might share chores and responsibilities evenly with your partner, but more often than not, it's women who do most of the “thinking” work – the cognitive labor of being a mum. Interestingly, same-sex couples tend to have a much more equal distribution compared to heterosexual couples – likely because they are not bound by expected gender roles.

As part of our Power of Mum campaign, we’re shining a light on all the visible and invisible work that mums do every single day. They are teachers, advocates, carers, powerhouses...they are mums. And they are extraordinary. You are extraordinary.

While we know there’s so little time in the day, we wanted to share some tips that we, as parents, have tried ourselves. LittleOak mums weighed in...and here’s what we’ve come up with – we really hope it helps, even in a small way.

Share the load

No matter your family dynamic and relationship style, it’s really important to share the load where you can. And we don’t just mean sharing the physical jobs that need to get done – we mean the “thinking” work. Ideally, both partners will be aware of what needs to get done and when. If one partner is responsible for delegating tasks and making sure the other is doing their part, they’re carrying that mental load. And it's not easy. Communication is everything, so try and have an open conversation about it. Explain that you want to share the management – not just the tasks themselves.

Include planning and management as part of your household tasks

While it’s tricky to equally divide up mental labor, the main priority is making sure that both parties are equally aware of the to-dos of your household. Sitting down together and mapping out responsibilities can be helpful – especially when the management and “thinking” work of those responsibilities get evenly distributed too. Implementing an organized, visible system or schedule could help greatly.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses

You and your partner have different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s helpful to consider what tasks might “fit” the other person best. What seems “equal” might not be a 50/50 split – and there are components of mental work that may require more time and energy than physical work. Once you make the “management” of these tasks more visible, it should be easier to have a discussion about who owns what in a way that suits your strengths. Remember that an “equal” load in one household will look different to another. But at the end of the day, it's really just about making sure both partners are supported.

We know this isn’t a solution, but we hope it can serve as a starting point for a bigger conversation around the invisible work you do at home. Communication is everything, so make sure to open that dialogue and go from there. We’re sending you love.

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LittleOak has been nourishing children for many years and feeds millions of infants, babies and children across the globe each and every day, in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. In the US, we're proud to have our FDA compliant Toddler Milk available for families.

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