The Motherload Part 2: Some loads are meant to be shared

by Brian Russell

Maybe I just made up a new proverb: it’s the invisible load that is often the heaviest to bear.  It is the things we are not aware of that weigh us down the most because we feel their weight, but don’t realize what is causing it.

This is the case for moms in general, but it is striking how strongly it holds true for working moms.  It doesn’t take much digging on Google to find articles, blogs, and research about the invisible load they carry.  Moms take the lead on handling the emotional responsibility for the family and this is taking its toll on the overall mental health and well-being of moms everywhere.  We have written about this before and it is time to address it once again.

Some interesting facts have come out that reinforce what is happening:

  • though men are doing more housework, women continue to manage the household, even if they work full-time (even if they are the main breadwinner in the home).
  • a majority of women report carrying the main responsibility for scheduling and family routines.
  • a large proportion of women report they are responsible for the emotional care and well-being of the children.
  • feeling overwhelmed with family and work negatively affects a woman’s sense or wellbeing, stress, and satisfaction with her relationships (see here for more).

And there is more.  This article has found the following about breadwinning moms:

  • are three times more likely to look after the children’s schedules and get them to activities and appointments than are breadwinning fathers.
  • are are 3X more likely to volunteer at school than are breadwinning fathers
  • are more likely than other working mothers to do manage finances (34% more), look after the yard (63%), organize vacations (30%), and take care of home maintenance (38%)

My guess is that moms will always feel the weight of caring and responsibility for the family functioning.  I don’t think our goal should necessarily be to force that to change.  At the same time the majority of dads are looking for ways to do more than just “help out” once in a while to be nice.  These same articles mentioned above refer to the things dads are doing and asking for that bring some balance to the invisible load – things like looking for more flexibility at work to get more time at home with the family and being willing to take a raise in time away from work rather than in money.

So as dads get more and more engaged at home there are things they can do to help shoulder the load so that mom feels some relief from this invisible weight.

  1. Share the load.  Get used to knowing and being part of the schedule of the family.
  2. Share a family Google calendar.  See where and when your kids’ things are happening.
  3. Take the lead on something in the schedule.  Make something your kids need to do something you make sure happens.  It could be the doctor, the dentist, something at school, lessons, or whatever.  Pick from what your family does and make it yours.
  4. Find a chore at home and make it your own.  It could be the laundry, the dishes, the garbage, etc.  And do more than just finishing the task.  Make sure you have what you need to get the task done; like re-stocking the laundry soap or dish detergent.
  5. Talk with mom about the load she is carrying.  Make the invisible visible.  Let her know you see the load she carries.  Find out how you can share it.  Let her vent about things from her day – at work or at home.
  6. Think of yourself as a “first-responder” to your child’s needs. Be on the alert for the things your kids are doing.  Try to think ahead to what needs to happen in order for your kids to be cared for.  This could be knowing when the sign-up dates for community programs are or when the annual dentist check up is due.
  7. Show gratitude to mom for the invisible things she does.  Being thanked is one of the best ways to feel we are important and valued.  Be specific in what you are thankful for, but also let her know you appreciate her for who she is as a woman and a mom.
  8. Show her you care.  Feeling cared for goes a long way towards warding off feeling overwhelmed.  And it does a lot to help her feel more satisfied with your relationship.

Dads in Canada are about to get some more paternity leave.  These few weeks at home with your new child can be a great opportunity to get used to carrying some of the invisible things in the family.   It helps you feel more connected to your family.  It helps moms feel less stress and exhaustion.  And it helps your kids see a dad who is willing to do anything it takes to be the kind of man they need him to be.

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