The pandemic revealed so much about how much so many of us were doing every day by grinding everything suddenly and unexpectedly to a halt. Childcare and schools were closed. Businesses were divided into essential and nonessential and we all were trying to create workspaces and school desks at home. As all of these changes were taking place, another stark reality of our society was revealed: moms still bear the weight of the mental load of parenting.
As families were trying to figure out online learning systems, grocery deliveries, and how to set up Zoom accounts for their own work, the monitoring and adjusting fell squarely on the shoulders of mothers to remember how had a Google meet when. They were the ones figuring out that the grocery order needed to include more snack options and construction paper and scissors and glue in order to account for the materials that schools and childcare provided every day.
The mental load that mothers carry isn’t a new topic. It was a conversation about the stress mothers, especially working mothers, are carrying every day. While the physical tasks of the household are being more evenly divided, the mental work of remembering what needs to be replaced in the refrigerator and who is due for wellness check ups and whether there are enough diapers for the week ahead is still rolling around in mothers’ heads. Because this work is largely cognitive, it’s hard to measure how much this mental load weighs.
Until the pandemic hit.
Almost 1 million moms have left the workforce. 70% of mothers report that the stress and worry of the pandemic are impacting their physical and mental health. Women are spending 15 more hours a day in domestic duties, a day and a half of work, than men. The resulting exhaustion from this balancing act leaves women with the impossible choice of quitting or scaling back hours and losing much-needed income during an economic crisis or continuing to burn the candle at both ends without knowing how long they will have to do that. A recent report from the New York Times catalogs the journey of working mothers over the past year by following the stories of three women over the past year.
I’m giving up the mom hustle.
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve let go of the expectation that I would return phone calls and emails with 24 hours. I’ve let go of the expectation that we wouldn’t run out of milk or grapes before the next grocery order is delivered. I’ve let go of the expectation that as soon as the kids settle down for rest time that I would get straight to responding to emails and making phone calls. Some days we have activite during homeschool and some days we read and play.
I’ve stopped hustling.
Without knowing how much longer we have in the pandemic, there’s no way to gauge or plan for how much longer we will be living with so many additional responsibilities and stress. Rather than planning ahead and pushing every day to do more and be more, I am slowing down.
Instead, I am listening to the rhythms of the day recognizing that some days we will create together and some days we will rest together.