The Mental Load of Motherhood: Letting Go of Control


mental load of motherhood. Des Moines MomA few months ago, I was getting ready to head out the door, scrambling to get my stuff ready in the midst of relaying last-minute directions to my husband, “Make sure you give them a veggie with dinner, Sullivan’s blanket is in the dryer, and oh yea, make sure you have Saidey get out her soccer clothes.” 

I also texted him when I was pulling out of the driveway with last-minute requests, “And can you please take the basket of clean clothes upstairs?” 

That’s when I had an AHA moment.

As I was sitting in my driveway, with my phone out, I realized my husband NEVER gives me directions, he never leaves and is reminding me to do household chores. I also realized that often, upon returning home and he’s been at home with the kids all day, I go into some kind of army mom mode. I rant about ALLLL the things that didn’t get done. 

The Mental Load

We’ve all heard about the mental load of motherhood and the funny joke that dads are kind of clueless and moms just do it all, right? I see that stereotype play out in my own house to the numerous amount of women I talk to as a therapist and I can’t help but wonder- at least in my case- my OWN role in this. 

If my husband ever came home and questioned what I had done that day, I might literally throw a shoe at him or worse. So, when I had that AHA moment, I started reflecting on the roles my husband and I have sort of “fell into.” Often I catch myself complaining, joking but not really joking about the fact that it often feels like “I’m the only one who does anything here.”  

As I think back to when that began to shift, it was when we became parents. I  fell into the role of captain and he fell into the role of co-captain. I sort of directed him and he followed suit. It worked and we had a good system down. But then, we had another baby and another. And now, almost 13 years later I’m still driving the boat. And while I complain and joke that a lot falls on me I haven’t even attempted to let my husband drive the boat. 

Letting Go

Why is that?

Why do I (and maybe some of you) want more help, want more of a partnership when it comes to household management and raising of kids but then when the opportunity presents itself have a hard time giving up control?

For me, it’s a little anxiety sprinkled with perfectionism and guilt/shame. I realized the pressures I was putting on myself were causing me to want control. A byproduct of that was that I had gradually added more and more to my plate without any room for splitting things up more evenly. 

I know my husband is fully capable and doesn’t need directions when he is left with the kids. They all survive and actually, do quite fine without me. So, maybe he doesn’t do things exactly as I would, but at the end of the day, they are clothed, fed, housed, and loved. He quite literally pushes me out the door, encouraging me to have “me time” and not to worry about what’s going on at home on more occasions than I’d like to admit.

Once I realized this, I decided some changes needed to happen and those changes mostly started with me. 

Let go of control

Easier said than done, huh?!

I have to remind myself it’s ok that things aren’t perfect or as I would do. My husband does run things differently than I do and that’s ok. Yes, there are some things we need to agree on (like routines, screen time limits, etc, for example) but overall, what the kids eat, what they do, etc he is more than capable of managing that. 

Greet everyone first

My own rule when I walk in from anywhere and my husband has been home is to make sure I greet everyone. Say hi, give hugs, and see how everyone is doing and how their day is.

I intentionally ignore any messes. I don’t ask what got done, and I don’t ask ANYTHING about household management. This one can be hard. Messes give me anxiety and I generally keep things picked up. My husband isn’t necessarily the same. But I try to resist the urge to start cleaning and bite my tongue. I truly want my husband AND my kids to know I am excited about seeing their faces rather than zoning in on the mess or all the things that didn’t get done. 

Agree on household chores

Make a list of household chores and decide together who is doing what. If my husband takes on dishes, then that is his job. It’s also up to him when he does it and how he does it. I can’t complain about how it’s done. IF I decide I want to help him and end up doing it, that is my choice. I won’t hold resentments or grudges.

For more on this, I highly recommend the book Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky.

I am here to say it isn’t easy. It’s a process and it’s ongoing. Letting go of control is hard. But it’s been key in finding balance and joy in motherhood for me. 

How do you manage the mental load of motherhood? 


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