The invisible workload of motherhood… where to even begin? I really like this topic because I feel like it is one that I naturally chat with my girlfriends about a lot. It comes up so often in conversation with other mom friends because it really can be all consuming. Sex roles play a huge factor but at the end of the day some things just are the way they are for certain families. Edwin works a very demanding job that consists of crazy hours and requires him to travel a lot. There are times when I think “what a privilege” and other times when I think “what would I do if I had to be away from Rowan like that – unimaginable.”
Edwin works so hard mentally, creatively, and physically for our family and I do too. At the current point we’re at in our careers and our family growth, our work just looks very very different. For the most part, we are both thriving in our roles. Neither of us can get enough of our little boy! Family is most important but, at the end of the day, work is so important too.
The invisible workload of raising a family and maintaining a household still in 2022 falls on women. I feel like this is a really hot topic right now. Would you agree? Edwin is so hands-on and I would never ever want to diminish that but I do a lot. The invisible workload of motherhood really consists of necessary things that moms do that are often unnoticed. The workload can be physical, emotional, or mental labor that is done to keep the entire household healthy, happy, and functioning. Unfortunately, the workload can take a toll on mothers’ overall well-being.
Invisible Workload of Motherhood
So, this post is dedicated to the different workloads mothers carry that often go unnoticed and uncompensated for as well as tips on how to manage them with some of my personal experience sprinkled in. The invisible workload of motherhood falls on women who do or have worked outside the home as well as women who work from home and women who are stay-at-home mothers. We’re all in this together! I hope this post is a little nudge that I see you and recognize all that you do as mothers and for your families. Your workload does not go unnoticed by me. All of us moms recognize the invisible workload of motherhood and what we are all balancing day in and day out.
P.S. The photos in this post are from last spring (Spring 2021) but I somehow never shared them on my blog. Gosh, my little boy! I love him at 18 months but simultaneously miss him as a baby so much. And that’s motherhood for you…
I’m wearing a LAKE Pajamas Shorts Set in their beautiful Sea Glass stripe and Rowan is in a matching baby set / I also can’t live without LAKE’s maternity pajamas while pregnant and post-birth in the 4th trimester
Invisible Workload of Motherhood
The invisible workload that mothers bear honestly goes on and on. I’m sure new items pop-up on the list as children grow and age too. Here is my list of invisible workload items that land on mothers – this list is just items that spring to the top of my mind. No doubt, there are other items as well because that is the current world we live in…
researching everything (I spend so much time researching the best straw sippy cups, the best natural teething gels, ideas for tummy time play, ways to encourage children to reach different developmental milestones, the most efficient travel strollers, healthy recipes that encourage vegetables, and literally every single thing under the su)
staying up to date on current neighborhood and community events for kids to participate in
attending extracurriculars with kids (playdates, music classes, little gyms, sports, dance, swim lessons, art classes, PT, speech, birthday parties, etc.)
driving everyone everywhere
making sure the household has enough of and all the necessary supplies
packing school lunches and snacks
medical and vaccine appointments (scheduling them and attending them)
buying medicine and other needs at the pharmacy
buying baby/kid necessities (diapers, wipes, bath supplies etc)
decorating kids rooms (I’m currently working on Rowan’s big kid room and it eats up so much time)
paying household bills
paying medical bills
coordinating and scheduling childcare
maintaining our family schedule and calendar
birthday planning and prep
holiday planning and prep
gifting for other littles (i.e. birthday and holiday gifts for nieces, nephews, and children’s friends)
completing school + camp + extracurricular registrations/paperwork/forms
cleaning and organizing the house
laundry (doing it, folding it, ironing it, putting it away)
Of course, this is all on top of prioritizing everybody else’s needs above your own and teaching children morals, right from wrong, manners, life lessons, and how to be a good person.
Furthermore, this is all on top of work if you have a career as well.
Lastly, this is on top of actually carrying and growing children. If we have more than one child, then we are doing the above while pregnant for 40 weeks and everything that comes with that and the newborn phase shortly afterwards.
How to Manage the Invisible Workload of Motherhood
Open Communication with your Partner and Other Family Members
What helps me the most is having open communication with Edwin and trying to talk to him about it when I’m feeling underwater or under-appreciated before I get to a breaking point. Edwin can’t read my mind so this not only helps me massively but also helps him! The same holds true for my parents as they have been very helpful and involved since I became a mother. Open communication about the toll my workload is taking on me is everything and it allows me to more freely ask for help when I need it.
I also want to give my parents a little shout out here! Growing up, my dad always said he got to leave the house to work because of everything my mom did for us at home. I have distinct memories of growing up and my dad praising my mom out loud for all she did for us and our household. He had respect for her day-to-day mothering workload with us kids, openly said he couldn’t do the job she did (which is huge when we think about how society often undermines or downplays all of the items on the invisible workload lists of mothers), and always said her job was harder than his.
My mom was so incredible and so involved with us growing up (so was my dad!) so her mothering workload really was full! As a mother now, it is empowering to be recognized for all that I do in public or in the privacy of our own home. My dad set a wonderful example.
Sharing the Load with your Partner
There really is no greater help than sharing the load with your partner. Our parental roles are very much not an equal split but, when Edwin’s work allows, he makes himself readily available to share the load by doing things like taking Rowan to swim lessons, grocery shopping, taking Rowan to a playdate, or taking over meal time. Rowan and Edwin have special things they share too like bath time. That is one of their things and I just love how much fun they have together! He helps to lighten the load, which in turn helps me so much!
Asking for Help
Why is it so hard to ask for help? I tend to find that the initial ask is the hardest and then once you make it clear that you need help from your spouse or family, then it becomes a lot easier to ask for more or follow-up help. I find it challenging to feel like I want to accomplish certain things and to just be unable to get it all done. And I think that initial feeling makes asking for help harder because I do then have to admit that I couldn’t do it or balance it all myself. There is literally no shame in asking for help though and asking for help truly helps so much! We accepted a lot of help after Rowan was born and I’m sure we will do the same after the arrival of our second child next month.
Finding a Solid Support Group
I think the mental health of mothers suffers when we don’t have a solid support group around us. We are living shared experienced and can learn so much from each other so leaning on other women is so helpful. Sometimes all I find I need is someone to talk to about the load of motherhood who can relate and I feel better. The day to day challenges of motherhood, routines, and scheduling can be draining at times so finding your people is huge! Outside of your family, I think solid support groups can be found in other mothers, other girlfriends in general, and any type of women’s group weather that be a tennis team, a career-related group, or a church group.
Verbalizing your Workload
The reality of a mother’s workload is that it often really is an invisible workload. One tiny example of that is that our wipes dispenser is never ever out of wipes. I anticipate it when we are running low on wipes, order them, unpack them and break down the box they arrive in immediately, reload our wipes dispenser, and load up our back stock basket of wipes. I’m confident no one in my family and no one who comes into my house has ever wondered for a minute, “I wonder what would happen if there were no wipes?” or “I wonder where these wipes came from.” They are just always there because they are currently a necessity in our family life.
This is one itty bitty example of the invisible workload mothers do on a daily basis and we do this very thing with maintaining/ordering 100 other things in addition to wipes. Long story short, it can be helpful to verbalize my workload. It’s a balance – I wouldn’t say I am looking for praise but acknowledgement is helpful and something that isn’t always realized unless some of the little things are pointed out.
Learning to Let Go of Control
I’ve learned that the invisible labor of motherhood requires learning to let go of control. I wrote about this in my blog post on lessons I learned in 2021 with allowing dust bunnies to exist and it still rings true for me. Just like with asking for help, it is hard to relinquish control but not everything can take precedent. Between raising children, household chores and maintenance, work and careers, trying to maintain yourself as an individual and who you are outside of motherhood, and so much more some balls have to drop at certain times. Not everything will be done on time, not every room in the house will be clean, not everyone in the house will be dressed adorably, and so on but as long as everyone is happy, healthy, and fed, then that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.
Somewhere along the line, multitasking started to be praised. However, I think the pendulum is swinging back a little bit and we are realizing that multitasking isn’t always better. It distracts us from what is important, makes us rush through things, and often causes us to not do as good of a job. I like the emphasis I’m seeing now on slowing down, doing one thing well at a time, and being more conscious of what we are doing and when. I think minimizing multitasking helps me better focus on Rowan too because I’m not trying to play with him while cooking dinner, unloading the dishwashing, and scheduling a babysitter for next weekend all at the same time. That’s not fair to Rowan and I’m probably doing a sloppy job at everything else too.
Outsource and Hire Help
If you are financially able, outsourcing and hiring help can be extremely helpful and can really take a load off of the mental labor of balancing it all. Housekeepers are godsends and incredible babysitters and nannies are angels. I find that I can do everything better when I allow myself to have the help I need. Honestly, even people like handymen can be life-changing because they just take away all the pesky tasks I’m dreading and handle them quickly, efficiently, and safely. Never be afraid to hire help!
Prioritizing Self Care
Oh my gosh this is a huge one and one that goes under appreciated! Prioritizing self care makes me better in every area of my life. For me, I choose to make my self care time exercise time because I love the way it makes me feel and I’m stronger, more clear-headed, and generally happier when I prioritize it. The catch is that I have to put something else on the back burner to workout, which is why women have so much trouble prioritizing self care.
I have had conflicts before with getting an exercise in and, I will say that if my mom catches wind of that and she is able to help, she always watches Rowan for that hour so I can do my workout for me. I’ve snuck countless workouts in since becoming a mom, thanks to my mom, that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Thank you mom! Self care can look differently for everyone so do what makes you feel better in the rest of your life – a face mask, an extra long shower, a bath, a hobby, needlepoint, exercise, facials, you name it!
Saying Daily Affirmations
I’m not a huge daily affirmations person but sometimes I get in a little grove with it – usually when something specific is going on in my life and I am working my way through it. Saying daily affirmations or daily prayers can be instrumental in turning mindsets around.
Moms out there, what do you think about the invisible workload of motherhood? Is it something you feel you carry on your shoulders? I am so curious!
Terrific post full of such helpful and wise observations and suggestions! Thank you Jillian!!!
Yay I’m so glad you think so!!! Hugs!! xoxo
Motherhood – The single most important non-profit institution in the world.
I couldn’t agree more!! xoxo
As someone with order kids and being a parent now for almost 14 years , most of the invisible workload was my doing. I didn’t want to let go of the control . Also I think some moms want to be a martyr and be able to say “I do it all”. For me , i also work outside the home in healthcare and have a very demanding job mentally and physically . My husband is also gone every 3rd day for 24 hrs (fireman ) on top of his lawn care business. I was bitter for a lot of years until I finally had enough . Now all these “invisible ” tasks are shared . We moms have to do a better job of letting go and sharing these responsibilities.
I completely understand what you’re saying and think I fall victim to this sometimes too. I couldn’t agree more that everyone in the family is happier when these tasks are shared within the household – I know that holds true for us. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for reading!