top of page

The Mental Load of Motherhood: The Invisible Weight We Carry (And Why We Need to Talk About It)

Motherhood. It's a wild ride filled with moments of pure joy, gut-wrenching worry, and everything in between. But let's get real for a minute—behind those Instagram-perfect family photos lies an invisible weight that many mothers bear: the mental load. This isn't just some abstract concept; it's a real, heavy, and often overwhelming burden that impacts our daily lives and well-being. So, let's dive in and talk about the mental load, why it's more than just a “mom problem,” and how we can start lifting some of that weight.

What Exactly is the Mental Load?

The mental load refers to the cognitive and emotional effort required to manage a household and family. It’s not just the physical tasks like cooking, cleaning, or ferrying kids to soccer and dance practice. It’s the constant mental juggling of schedules, remembering appointments, planning meals, organizing activities, and making sure everyone’s needs are met. It's the endless checklist running through a mother’s mind, even when she’s trying to catch a break.

The Invisible Work

Let’s break it down with some real-life examples:

  • Scheduling and Planning: Remembering every single school event, doctor’s appointment, and extracurricular activity while coordinating with your work schedule (and that of your partner if you have one).

  • Anticipating Needs: Knowing when the baby’s nap is due, anticipating the toddler’s hunger meltdown, instilling positive body image with your tween, and prepping for the teenager’s big exam stress.

  • Problem-Solving: Finding a backup babysitter when the usual one cancels, dealing with surprise school projects, and figuring out dinner when you’re out of groceries.

  • Emotional Labor: Being the emotional rock for everyone in the house, from soothing a crying toddler to supporting a stressed-out partner or friend.

  • Decision Making: Making countless decisions daily, from meal planning to managing behavioral issues, often without any acknowledgment.

The Emotional Toll

This mental load? It’s no joke. It can lead to significant emotional and psychological stress. Many mothers feel:

  • Overwhelmed: The constant responsibility can be exhausting.

  • Invisible: Because the mental load is often unseen, it can feel like your hard work goes unrecognized and unappreciated.

  • Anxious: The fear of forgetting something important or not being able to manage everything can lead to anxiety.

  • Guilty: The pressure to be the perfect mother, combined with inevitable slip-ups, can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

  • Unappreciated: Words of affirmation are wonderful if a mother receives them, but some really need a change in the way the mental load is carried, not a high five for spreading herself too thin.

  • Resentment: The pressure to "do it all" and the desire to "F* it all" is a real one that can lead to burn out.

The Impact on Relationships

This isn’t just about moms, either. The mental load can strain relationships, too. For mothers that are partnered, their partner might not fully understand the extent of the mental load, leading to miscommunications and resentment. This imbalance can create friction, especially when household responsibilities aren’t equally shared.

Sharing the Load

Addressing the mental load means everyone in the household needs to step up. Here are some ways to lighten the load:

1. Communicate Openly

Talk about the mental load with your partner and family members. Share how it affects you and stress the need for shared responsibility. Open communication is key to fostering understanding and empathy.

2. Delegate Responsibilities

Divide household tasks more equitably. Make a list of responsibilities and distribute them based on availability and capability. This includes both physical chores and mental tasks.

3. Use Tools and Systems

Use planners, apps, and calendars to manage schedules and tasks. These tools can help organize information and set reminders, easing the mental burden.

4. Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries to protect your mental space. This could mean setting aside time for yourself, saying no to extra commitments, or asking for help when needed.

5. Practice Self-Care

Prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being. This includes physical activities, hobbies, socializing, and simply taking time to relax.

6. Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or professional counselors. Talking about your struggles can provide relief and perspective.

How EMDR Can Help with the Mental Load of Motherhood

You might be thinking, “Okay, I get it. But how do I actually start feeling better?” This is where EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can come into play. Originally developed to help people recover from trauma, EMDR has been found to be effective in addressing the mental load that mothers carry. Here's how:

1. Processing Past Traumas

Many mothers carry unresolved traumas from their own childhood or previous life experiences. These traumas can amplify the stress of the mental load. EMDR helps by reprocessing these traumatic memories, reducing their emotional impact, and allowing you to approach your daily challenges with a clearer, calmer mind.

2. Reducing Anxiety and Overwhelm

The constant mental juggling act can lead to chronic anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. EMDR can help reduce these feelings by targeting and reprocessing the specific triggers that contribute to your anxiety, making it easier to manage your responsibilities without feeling constantly on edge.

3. Improving Emotional Regulation

EMDR helps improve emotional regulation, making it easier to manage the highs and lows of motherhood. By addressing the root causes of emotional distress, you can respond to your family’s needs with greater patience and resilience.

4. Empowering Decision-Making

When you’re bogged down by the mental load, decision-making can feel paralyzing. EMDR can help clear the mental clutter, giving you the mental clarity and confidence to make decisions more efficiently and effectively.

5. Enhancing Self-Care

By alleviating some of the emotional and psychological burdens, EMDR frees up mental space for self-care. This renewed focus on self-care is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being and ability to manage the mental load.

Intersectionality and the Mental Load

Let’s not forget that the mental load doesn’t weigh equally on all mothers. Intersectional feminism teaches us that women of different races, classes, and sexual orientations experience motherhood—and the mental load—in varied ways. For example, Black mothers often face additional stresses due to systemic racism, while single mothers might not have a partner to share the load with at all. Queer mothers might deal with societal prejudices on top of their everyday responsibilities. Acknowledging these differences is crucial in understanding and addressing the mental load comprehensively.

Final Thoughts

The mental load of motherhood is significant yet often overlooked. Recognizing and addressing it is essential for the well-being of mothers and the overall harmony of the household. By sharing the load, communicating openly, prioritizing self-care, and considering therapies like EMDR, mothers can find balance and alleviate some of the weight they carry.

Remember, motherhood is a journey, and you don’t have to carry the mental load alone. Let’s ensure that this invisible weight becomes a shared responsibility, leading to a more supportive and understanding family dynamic.

So, next time you’re juggling a thousand mental tasks, don’t just grin and bear it—speak up, delegate, and demand the support you deserve. And if the weight feels too heavy, consider EMDR as a tool to help lighten the load and reclaim your mental well-being.


Erica Wilcox, LPC is a Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDRIA Approved Consultant in East Hampton, CT. She is the Founder and CEO of Wilcox Wellness Center for Personal Growth and speaks globally about mental health and wellness. She specializes in intensive EMDR therapy and works with clients across the nation who travel to Connecticut for a self-led therapy retreat focused on intensive EMDR and healing.

Contact Erica at to connect and take your next step towards freedom.


bottom of page