Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Means Carrying the Mental Load of the Family
When you have a new baby, it can be appealing to have one parent stay home with them for a while. Having someone with the baby 24/7 seems like an appealing choice for a variety of reasons.
You may want to stay home because:
You want your child to have dedicated attention
You want to save money on childcare
You are breastfeeding
You want to be there for the "Big Moments"
You want to simplify your life
When our little one was born, we had intended to put her into childcare at 6 weeks, but she seemed still so small. Finally we decided it was right for our family to have my partner stay at home with her. We made the choice because I had more consistent income, and health insurance at my job.
However, now the tables have turned and I am the one staying home with our little one.
Even though she is in kindergarten for 6 hours a day now, there is still a lot to be done during the day. I work during the day, so this is my work time. However, there is still a lot of other things to be done during the day that take up a lot of time such as housekeeping, going to appointments and taking care of our pets.
It can be a demanding schedule being home with kids all day, and one of the things that seems to go unnoticed is the mental load that stay-at-home parents carry for the family.
Typically, you will be the one keeping track of the family schedule, running errands, grocery shopping, taking kids to classes, making appointments for the doctor and the dentist, and making sure the household keeps running.
This is called the Mental Load of a relationship or family.
According to Mind Body Green,
The mental load is a term for the invisible labor involved in managing a household and family, which typically falls on women's shoulders.
Also sometimes referred to as "worry work" or "cognitive labor," the mental load is about not the physical tasks but rather the overseeing of those tasks. It's being the one in charge of having the never-ending list of to-do items constantly running in your head, remembering what needs to get done and when, delegating all the tasks to respective family members, and making sure they actually get done.
At times, especially with all the demands of having a new baby at home, this can become overwhelming. Because of this, it is important to make sure that you have time for self-care, and try to share the mental load of the household with your partner.
Relationship is key
Having a strong relationship is especially important. Make sure you are communicating clearly with your partner about your needs, and about everything that is going on at home.
Keeping your relationship strong with your partner will give you strength to get through your difficult days, and allow you to have someone to rely on.
When you can rely on your partner, this allows you to get your needs met more easily.
Since my partner and I have both had times when we stayed home with our daughter, we are both able to juggle the home tasks with work tasks and share the mental load of parenthood more easily.
We both understand all the things that need to be done during the day, and appointments that need to be taken care of during the week. Every day we have a check-in in the morning so we can talk through what needs to be done during the day, then we divide up our tasks.
This allows us to share the mental load of our relationship and family more smoothly.
If you are struggling with your relationship because of the mental load of motherhood, it is important to talk to your partner about how you are feeling, and what is going on in the household.
Carrying the mental load
If your partner is working away from home and you are home with your little one, they may not understand everything that goes into running a household, especially with a young baby.
People tend to overestimate the amount of time you will have while your little one is napping. However, you may not have large blocks of time to get tasks accomplished. You may just be able to shower and do the dishes for example. Then, you are back to taking care of the baby again.
Having a child is a full time job. So is running a household. This means that if you are at home all day and carrying the mental load of the family too, then you will be taking on basically two full time jobs.
Therefore, it is key to make sure that you are sharing at least some of the household tasks. Perhaps your partner can swing by the store on the way home from work, or do the dishes after dinner.
Also, if your partner can help with the baby at night that is huge too. When I was working outside the home, I would come home and take over with my daughter right away. This would give my partner some time to rest and do something for himself.
Being able to share tasks and responsibilities is key in your relationship, because as parents you are a team. It is important not to forget that just because one person is home with the baby during the day.
When you have a new baby, there are many reasons for one parent to stay home with your newborn for some time. In some countries, you may even get parental leave to allow you to do so before going back to work.
No matter the age of your child, there is a lot of other household work that needs to be done during the day. The more you can share these tasks equally with your partner, the less likely you are to burn out.