The Mental Load of Motherhood is Real And It’s Exhausting


She looked at me and asked, “Why are you so mad?”


I turned to her, ready to snap back, THE ANGER welling inside of me. I saw my daughter through the rage. Still so small. She didn’t deserve the backlash of all that I was feeling. The anger, the frustration, the sense of inadequacy, the guilt, the disappointment in myself, the exhaustion.

I snapped at my kids this morning. It wasn’t pretty. I’m not proud. It’s possible I had an ugly cry in a random parking lot after school drop-off.

This morning wasn’t any different from any other morning. It was filled with the usual chaos. Waking kids who have no problem getting up at the crack of dawn on weekends but can’t seem to rise and shine during the week. Putting snacks and lunches together. Filling water bottles. Collecting random items for a forgotten science project which was due, because how is it already Thursday? Signing reading logs and school agendas. Grabbing swimsuits and barely dry towels for after school lessons…But blame it on hormones, blame it on a crappy sleep, blame it on not having time to eat breakfast (AGAIN), this morning it was all just too much.

The reality is, I was flooded. Not just from doing all the things. I was drowning under the weight of THINKING ALL THE THINGS. Struggling with not only keeping myself afloat but these three little people who still rely so heavily on me.

It’s not physical exhaustion. Not like when my kids were babies and I was walking into walls, drunk tired. It’s more than just keeping on top of endless piles of laundry and constantly clearing off counters. It’s more than making meals and scrubbing toilets. It’s more than grocery shopping and running errands. It’s more than helping with homework and remembering schedules. It doesn’t seem to matter how many hours of sleep I get. My mind is tired.

“You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders,” the hubs will often tell me.

But I do. Not the whole world. Just three little people’s worlds. Three little humans who still need me so much. Who are still learning the fine art of living, of taking care of themselves, of bearing responsibility for their actions. Who are not yet ready to take on their worlds. Who have this crazy notion that I am Wonder Mom and am capable of pulling a piece of poster board, or a golf ball, or a pair of runners in the right size, out of my butt on the very day they are needed for school.

I’m not Wonder Mom, by the way.

I’m just a mom. We are the nurturers, the organizers, the planners, and researchers. We are the worriers, the schedulers, the gatekeepers, the confidantes. We are the chauffeurs, the social directors, the coaches, the cheerleaders. We are the referees, the peace makers, the memory makers. We hold the big emotions, the hearts, the spirits of our littles.

Our work is daunting and oftentimes, overwhelming.

mental load

I try to stay on top of things. To be organized. I’m constantly reminding, and prodding, and pushing. I delegate. I make lists upon lists. I set reminders on my phone. But there is always something that falls through the cracks. Something that gets pushed aside amongst the crazy that is the everyday, the homework, and the extra curricular activities. Something that gets lost in the birthday party planning, the dentist appointments, the school projects, the visits to the dog groomer, the concerts and recitals and play dates.

MY HUSBAND is not a deadbeat. He is my partner in this crazy life we’ve built. He contributes to the running of the house and the family and is always willing to take on more when I ask. But he can’t crawl into my brain and take away part of my load. The load that I willingly put onto myself for the ones I love so much. He carries his own mental load. It just looks different from mine.

He can’t take away my 3 AM worry. Those thoughts that haunt me in the middle of the night. The ones that skitter through my brain, playing tag inside my mind, KEEPING ME AWAKE.

Are the kids okay? Are they happy? Are they healthy? Do they have friends? Are they being kind? Are they getting enough physical activity? Should we have made her stay in dance? Should we have signed him up for soccer? Are they playing the iPad too much? Did I double check that new game I downloaded? Whose library day is it tomorrow? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Did I hug them today, tell them “I love you”? Am I spending enough time with them? Did I answer his question the right way?

He can’t take away my midnight fears. Fear that I am FAILING AT MOTHERHOOD. Fear that I will let my kids down. Fear that I am not doing enough to prepare them for what the world has in store for them.

The mental load is real. And heavy. And some days it pulls you under and you fear that you may drown. But it is a load borne of love. A love that I wouldn’t trade for anything, no matter how heavy the load becomes.

Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife, and mom of twin boys with the alter egos of the Hulk and SpiderMan and their older sister, who is in training to rule a small (or large) country someday. She has been published on Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, Sammiches & Psych Meds, and Her View From Home, among others. You can also find her on Facebook.


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