There has been a buzz around woman’s “invisible” work for awhile now.
A few years ago a viral post entitled “You should have asked” had a lot of people talking about the hidden or invisible work that women take on as mother’s.
This invisible work has now been studied and the research concludes that this added workload is actually bad for women’s health.
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Even though modern men are doing more household chores and childcare then they used to, women continue to take on more of the mental organizing and project management.
Research published in the journal Sex Roles, finds that 9 out of 10 mother’s said they felt solely responsible for organizing the schedules of the entire family.
So what? Keeping track of sports schedules, doctors appointments, school trips and meal planning is putting a mental burden on modern mothers who also work full time.
The women in the study also felt responsibility for:
- 7/10 mothers feel responsible for routines and assigning chores
- 8/10 mothers say they are the ones who know the teacher’s name
- ⅔ mothers are the most attentive to the children’s emotional needs.
This “invisible workload”, “mental load” or “third shift” is leading to women feeling overwhelmed and empty. The expectation that this workload falls on the mother can also lead to resentment in a marriage.
Even though many modern husbands take on a good deal of household chores there is a still a gap versus what mother’s take on. Often times women are responsible for the management of the chore – assigning the chore and organizing its completion.
One of the report’s authors, Dr Lucia Ciciolla, explains: “Even though women may be physically doing fewer loads of laundry, they continue to hold the responsibility for making sure the detergent does not run out, all the dirty clothes make it into the wash and that there are always clean towels available. (Source)
There are also things like buying new clothes for a growing baby, researching age appropriate toys, signing up for swimming lessons, the list goes on.
So why does this happen?
One of the reasons this workload ends up on the mother’s shoulders is due to maternity leave.
When a mother is on maternity leave it is her job to take care of the baby and everything that comes with it. Father’s work full time and help on weekends and evenings. However the majority of the responsibility sits with the mother just based on the amount of time they spend with the baby.
The problems start when the mother goes back to work. The same workload she was carrying on maternity leave is added on top of her full time job. The work doesn’t get split after she goes back to work. And as the child grows and more children are added to the family the mental workload gets more complex and creates more stress.
What can Mother’s Do?
Ask for Help
The number one thing mother’s can do is admit that they need help in reducing the mental load. This means engaging their partners and sharing the responsibility.
- If you’re pregnant, have the discussions now on who will be responsible for what. You can reevaluate later once the baby has arrived, but a strong foundation will keep the workload more equal. Talk about things like who will book doctors appointments and take the child to the appointment.
- If you’re on Maternity Leave, have the discussion before you go back to work. Who will pack the daycare bag daily? Who will be the first name on the contact list? Who will update your child’s immunization records with the daycare?
- If you are already working full time, make a list of all the “invisible labor” you do this week and identify areas that you would like help, or for it to come off your list completely. Just ensure you don’t end up micromanaging the task, you have to let go completely.
Spread the workload even further
Amazon has a great Family Subscription deal where you set up delivery of diapers, baby food, paper towels, laundry detergent and other items to automatically be delivered once a month. You can get up to a 20% discount doing it this way and you also reduce the “oh we need more diapers, I will pick them up on my way home from work” moments.
You can also sign up for subscription meal boxes that take out the meal planning and food shopping. We like Hellofresh.com.
Get Organized as a family
Marie Kondo is getting a lot of attention lately. Her recently released Netflix show based on her organizing philosophies, shows families getting together to organize their homes. (She also shares her methods in more detail in her book – buy it on Amazon)
That means everyone becomes responsible for their own belongings, finding places for them to live, and deciding if they stay or go. This should reduce the “mom where is my backpack?” “Honey, where do we keep the tape?” because you are no longer the sole household organizer.
Being a mom is hard. Being responsible for all the invisible workload is too hard to do on your own. Ask for help, outsource, organize. Don’t risk your mental health by trying to be the perfect mom who does it all.
NO ONE can do it all without sacrificing something.
Please share your tips on how you deal with the invisible workload in the comments.