First Lady Jill Biden Reveals Her Secret To Unloading the Mental Load

Dr. Biden shares a genius hack for unloading the silent work that creeps into our lives every day and spoiler alert: It's not a high-tech solution.

Jill Biden
The September issue of REAL SIMPLE is on sale August 12. Photo: LELANIE FOSTER - Courtesy of Real Simple

Jill Biden, Ed.D, wears many hats these days. As First Lady, she has traveled to about 40 states, 75 cities, and 10 countries. She visits and listens to everyone from U.S. students and teachers to Ukrainian people displaced by Russia's war. She also continues to teach at a community college. And, of course, she's a wife to Joe Biden, mom to grown child Ashley, and stepmother to Hunter and the late Beau Biden.

To say Dr. Biden does a lot wouldn't be doing her justice, but she has plenty of experience taking on multiple roles. Dr. Biden recently opened up about her journey as a working mom—and the genius hack that helped her unload some of the mental load in an interview with Real Simple.

For the unfamiliar, the mental load occurs when one parent, often the mom, does more parenting and general work running the house without realizing it. Think, "I should sign my kid up for library classes so they get more socialization" or, "Oh, it's time to schedule my children's annual check-up with the pediatrician."

Over the years, Dr. Biden hasn't been immune to this burden, but she learned to delegate with a little help from Post-it notes.

"The Bidens are a big family, and we have a lot of gatherings," Dr. Biden told Real Simple. "And they would all say, 'What can I do to help?' And by the time you've explained, 'You get the salad bowl out, it's in this cupboard, here are the utensils, etc.' I thought, 'There's got to be an easier way.'"

Enter Post-it notes.

"I know my meal, and what I'm going to serve, so I do Post-it notes, like 'Fill the glasses with ice,' 'Light the candles,' and I put them on the cabinet above my kitchen counter," Dr. Biden continued. "Then I put out the salad bowl with the tomatoes or the lemons or whatever needs to be cut, and everything is set up so when somebody comes in, they do what they want to do."

Family members have embraced the strategy, and Dr. Biden has had to do less instructing, freeing up her time to do more cooking and visiting.

"They're helping, but they're doing what they chose to do," Dr. Biden said. "And nobody's asking, ''What shape do you want the lemons?" Everybody knows their role…I do the main. Everything else is up for grabs."

Dr. Biden doesn't just lean on Post-it notes when she's hosting. She says she uses them at work and even to connect with her husband.

"[The notes are] telling me what to do," says Dr. Biden. "And if I want to get a message to Joe, I put one on his mirror. It may be a nice 'I missed you' or 'I hope you get whatever it is you're working on.'"

Though Dr. Biden has a ton on her plate, she prefers to describe how she handles her load as "managing" instead of "juggling" and "balancing."

"You can't do anything in a haphazard way," says Dr. Biden. "You have to have purpose while you're doing it, and it has to be organized. That's the key to it."

Dr. Biden may look like she has it all figured out, but even she has felt pulled in multiple directions.

"You're always thinking, 'Did I spend enough time at his game?' Or, 'Should I have said that?'" says Dr. Biden. "You're always questioning yourself because you want to be the best mother you can be, the best teacher you can be…I think it's part of human nature."

And even though her children are grown, it hasn't gotten easier.

"You're always a mother," says Dr. Biden. "If I can tell you anything as a mother, it's this: It never gets easier."

But Dr. Biden says it's on policymakers to reduce the load on working parents—but assures families Pres. Biden will continue to advocate for them.

"We should be passing child care laws and universal pre-K," says Dr. Biden. "Congress has got to step up. The House passed the subsidized child care and his universal pre-K bills, but the Senate did not. I don't understand why it wasn't instantly voted in. Joe's not going to give up."

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