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How do I Reduce my Mental Load as a Mum?

How do I Reduce my Mental Load as a Mum?

When “What’s Next” is Always On Our Minds

Published on 04 April, 2024

Wan Xin Ng

author

Wan Xin was a preschool teacher before leaving her job to become a SAHM. She believes in being home for her boys, aged 4 and 2, to nurture their character, and enjoys cooking for her family. She enjoys music and loves singing too!

According to BBC, mental load is about “preparing, organising and anticipating everything, emotional and practical, that needs to get done to make life flow.” It is like having ten tabs open and running at the same time in our minds, as we go about our daily responsibilities as mums.  

We can be preparing lunch while anticipating what picking up our child will be like, whether he will be moody because of the long hours in school or the lack of sleep from the night before, while also making dinner plans and trying to recall if we have paid the month’s bills.  

Mental load is one of the hardest things to accurately explain to people, and also one of the biggest sources of anxiety. We feel the need to be in control of what is happening and what is going to happen so that we feel sufficiently confident to handle the various situations.  

This mental load will not lessen until our children are independent enough to make decisions and take care of their own basic needs. Such a responsibility can sometimes cause us to feel overwhelmed and burnt out, if not handled with care. It is therefore important for us to learn how to cope well.  

1. Having fixed routines helps us anticipate with more certainty 

We often hear that children thrive with routines because they can anticipate what is coming and feel more empowered to carry out the task. Similarly, adults rely heavily on routines to carry out our daily responsibilities.  

Having fixed routines can help us anticipate with more certainty the flow of events for the day, which will also help us be more prepared even if unforeseen circumstances crop up. For example, if our children’s routine is to shower – dinner – play – sleep, it wouldn’t hurt to have dinner before taking a shower on days when we get home later than expected.  

Routines act as a baseline for both kids and parents, since they know that these tasks must be completed even if they were coupled with meltdowns and yelling. It takes away the “what’s next” while we deal with the meltdowns, and that helps to give us a sense of clarity amidst the chaos.

2. Schedule brain breaks

Whenever possible, schedule brain breaks during the day. This could be in the form of swapping out one homecooked meal for a  giving the kids fifteen minutes of screen time while we have a cup of coffee and take it slow. This is possible when our children are familiar with the day-to-day routines and have a certain level of independence.  

Short breaks may not seem like much but can go a long way when scheduled at the right intervals. For example, taking a break at midday can help us continue managing the various responsibilities till the children go to bed.  

3. Find community among fellow mums

Bearing the mental load by ourselves is difficult, but adequately describing it to others and explaining its effects on us can also be challenging. Therefore, finding mum friends who can relate is very important. They can be a great source of support and an outlet for you to share your frustration. 

Though our responsibilities haven’t changed, the emotional support our mum friends provide can sometimes give us that little push to last through a difficult day. 

It helps us feel understood and seen by people who have gone through what we have and know exactly what we are talking about, especially when mental load in itself is invisible. Though our responsibilities haven’t changed, the emotional support our mum friends provide can sometimes give us that little push to last through a difficult day.  

4. Give yourself a ‘mum’s day off’

Giving yourself an “off-day” sounds incredibly attractive, because of the sheer responsibility of being a mum. As a working adult, we can switch our phones off and choose not to log in to our emails when on leave, but we cannot turn our brains off and ignore our kids.  

We can only be momentarily free from caregiving when we intentionally step out and away from the family. When we can relinquish the role of caregiving to another trusted adult, be it our spouse or family member, we can turn our minds away from the needs and demands of our family and just focus on ourselves.  

This is absolutely crucial in helping us tune in to our own needs and do the things that we want to do. It helps us feel that our needs can and will be met. We are also a priority and are not forgotten amidst the chaos at home.  

The catch is that we must be intentional to take our minds off whatever is happening at home. It defeats the purpose if we are out but our minds are constantly worried about our children and their plans and activities for the day. 

We can better plan, schedule and care for our children when we are happy and well taken care of. 

Practical tips to reduce mental load

Try these practical tips to better manage your mental load: 

  • Think about which activities you can incorporate into a routine. Perhaps it is doing an emotional check-in at bedtime, or planning for the week’s meals on a Sunday evening. 
  • Schedule your brain breaks into your weekly calendar. Start with once a week and work your way up! 
  • Regularly share with your spouse/mum support group what might be weighing you down or causing you anxiety. 
  • Give yourself time off to do something you enjoy – once a month! 

The mental load of motherhood accumulates over time due to the changing seasons our children go through, and it is important for us to consider our own needs while giving to our children. We can better plan, schedule and care for our children when we are happy and well taken care of.  

The journey is long, but we are also training our mental resilience through the years as our children grow. Take heart, mummies! We can do this! 

© 2024 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 


Wan Xin Ng

author

Wan Xin was a preschool teacher before leaving her job to become a SAHM. She believes in being home for her boys, aged 4 and 2, to nurture their character, and enjoys cooking for her family. She enjoys music and loves singing too!