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You don’t how you did it, but you managed to make it out the door only a few minutes behind schedule.
Three kids, four lunches, one 100 Days of School project with 100 thumbprints, one laptop, and a week’s worth of your partner’s dry cleaning.
You drop the kids off at school and daycare and commute to your fulltime job. It’s only Tuesday and your mind feels overwhelmed, overstuffed, and overtired. You catch yourself double checking your phone frequently just to make sure you’re headed in the right direction at the right time.
Moms’ Mental Load
As moms, our minds are always going fast and in a million different directions. “That endless running to-do list is called the mental load. It is heavy, and in most families, it is carried by the mom,” writes Simplemost.
Even when we have a partner that helps with some of the parenting and household chores, moms are still the ringmaster of the circus called “Our Family.” We are amazingly capable and make things happen by what appears to be magic. While this magic makes everyone else happy, it drains our mental energy fast!
Sound familiar? I found myself in this very situation repeatedly for years with three busy kids and a fulltime job.
Why do we carry the mental load for the family? Because we’re high achievers and we take our responsibilities as a professional and parent very seriously. We embrace the honor of raising little humans into happy and healthy adults. As important as this is, we also know we bring a lot of knowledge and skills to the workplace and showing up as our best capable selves results in feeling greater satisfaction with our life.
The Heavier the Load, the More Moms’ Health Suffers
Without enough daily mental energy, though, we don’t bring our best brainpower to work. And, we’re impatient with the ones we love and live with. We may even live in a state of high alert, sure that we will forget something important. This lack of mental energy causes additional stress physically. Living in a chronic state of high alert, regardless of the reason, causes inflammation throughout the body (which leads to chronic health issues such as hypothyroidism, migraines, and adrenal fatigue, just to name a few).
How to Lighten the Mental Load
During my commute to work one day, I had an ah-ha moment, realizing that each of my kids was like a big long-term project. While I wanted the same future for each of my children, their strengths, challenges, and personalities were different, so a one-size-fits-all approach was a nonstarter. The best I could do in the late ’90s was use a manila folder for each kid to coral All. The. Things. Unfortunately, this system never really took off and my mental load remained heavy.
Today, project management apps on our ever-present phones can help. Trello is the app I wished for. It would have helped me parent better by carrying some of my mental load and reducing stress. (In case you’re wondering, I am not an affiliate of Trello; I just really like it.)
Trello writes on its website that the “boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way.”
One way to lighten your mental load is to create one place that is always accessible (aka your phone) where you use an app to keep track of your ideas, to-dos, and shiny objects. I use a Trello board to create my grocery shopping checklists for Costco and Wegmans. Probably most important, however, is my shiny objects list. This board helps keep track of all the ideas I’d like to explore someday, but not right now because focusing on it would be a distraction.
Imagine if you could make a board with multiple lists and cards for each kid! For example, a board for child #1 could include lists such as school, activities, and developmental milestones. The list for school might have cards for immediate actions (like return the permission slip by x date), questions to ask the teacher, and sports and activities to consider for next season.
You could also create a board that keeps track of the family’s medical needs for the year. Or maybe possible vacation ideas. Or maybe house maintenance to-dos. The sky is truly the limit!
Wrapping It Up
Just typing these ideas brings me feelings of greater energy and lightness. How wonderful would it be to open the app on your phone anytime or place and trust that you’ve captured all the important details? You would no longer need to keep them all in your head!
Join me in the Working Moms Who Thrive Facebook group to share how you apply project management apps to manage your mental load.