One mom unloaded about the mental load on Reddit—and it's all too relatable. And commenters chimed in with some super-useful advice.

By Beth Ann Mayer
April 26, 2021
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We're more than 13 months into the pandemic, and moms are exhausted. Many have cooked, cleaned, done so much laundry, and helped their kids with remote learning, all while trying to keep (and do) their own jobs.

One mom on Twitter actually went on strike in March. Another just needed to find some support. She took to Reddit.

"Since COVID, I've been working from 'home' with our toddler," started u/ifimhereimrealbored in the Parenting subreddit. "My husband is an essential worker who still goes into an office. My husband is amazing…But sometimes he seems to forget that just because I'm with our kid every day, and I don't go into a physical office, I'm not a stay-at-home mom."

The mom goes on to say that she's lucky to get some help from both sets of grandparents, but they need breaks throughout the day. Sometimes, they can't help, and the mom has to rearrange her work schedule.

"It's the decision fatigue that's killing me," the mom continued. "Three meals a day with my kid, for 13 months. Endless decisions that balance my work, my kid's needs, and the needs of two grandmothers. Plus, prioritizing my work for the limited time I have."

She also mentioned having to constantly weigh the risks of previously fun activities for her son, like playdates with friends or trips to the park, during a pandemic.

"When my husband just gets dressed in the morning and walks out the door, leaving me to pick out weather-appropriate kid clothes…or when he comes home and asks what's for dinner or says he's too tired to put our son down…I just want to scream," she said. "I know this is the age-old problem of 'mental load' falling traditionally on the mom. He and I have discussed it at length. He tries to help. He does help a little."

She asked Redditors if they had any advice, and they responded in droves.

One commenter suggested that when Dad comes home and asks "What's for dinner?" OP responds, "No idea, I've been working all day. Whatever you feel like making sounds good to me." And when he says he's too tired to put their child down, say, "Me too. Rock, paper, scissors for it?"

"My husband now gets childcare lunches packed the night before," wrote one Redditor, who was previously in a similar situation. "It's made such a big difference in our morning stress levels. He also takes care of feeding him breakfast."

"What helped for us was to make someone the 'owner' of each task and everything associated with it," another commenter responded. "If laundry is your job, it's also your job to keep track of how much detergent we have and put it on the shopping list when it gets low and notice if something needs mending."

Redditors gave some really good advice. The mom is right—women carry an invisible load, and the pandemic has only exacerbated it. In December, one survey reported that nearly 10 million working mothers were suffering from burnout. The same survey showed they were 28 percent more likely to be burned out than working fathers.

In one recent paper, Harvard Ph.D., candidate Allison Daminger, who was recently featured in The New York Times, divided "cognitive labor" into four parts:

  • Anticipate: Perhaps you anticipate that your child will need new bathing suits for summer beach days.
  • Identify: You research bathing suit trends, carefully reading the reviews to ensure you buy one that's comfortable, stylish, and durable.
  • Decide: You choose a bathing suit.
  • Monitor: You track the shipping. During the summer, you check to see if it's dirty or ripped.

Though Daminger told The New York Times that the decision-making process was often equal, the rest of it wasn't. To even the playing field, experts advise:

  • Considering both partners' time as equally valuable. In OP's case, Dad's time to relax after work isn't any more important than hers.
  • Having honest conversations. Marriage and parenting take work, and you're both on the same team.
  • Not obsessing over a 50-50 split. Instead, focus on creating a system that makes you both happy.

If parents work towards those goals—and keep communicating about their needs—then they can start to achieve a much more even split of all the many tasks that go into raising kids.