Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE
Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE

April 1, 2024

March 27, 2024

Breaking Away from the Invisible Load of Motherhood: How to Chart a New Path for Your Family

E:
218
with
Carly Watters
Literary Agent

What You'll Learn

  • What the Invisible Load of Motherhood Is
  • Why the Invisible Load Falls to Moms
  • Why the Deep Work Matters
  • The First Step Toward Sharing the Invisible Load of Motherhood
  • How to Continue Releasing the Invisible Load of Motherhood

I never thought that I would write a book—let alone one about the invisible load of motherhood. (For that matter, I never thought I would host a podcast or launch my own mental health platform!) For most of my career, I was solely focused on supporting my clients. 

But when I started my original Instagram page, I realized how much moms needed validation, connection, and awareness that they were not alone in their struggles. That path paved the way for Momwell—and it also paved the way for my book, Releasing the Mother Load: How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More

Of all the topics I have covered, the invisible load of motherhood has been one that moms connect with again and again—especially at the onset of the pandemic when moms everywhere were feeling the weight of it more than ever before. 

One of the many moms who found comfort in the invisible load posts was Carly Watters—a literary agent who reached out to me. 

When Carly asked me what I would write about if I could leave moms with just one message, it made me stop and reflect. There are so many areas where moms need support. But I believe the invisible load of motherhood is where the bulk of it comes together. 

Carly and I set off on a long journey (longer than I ever suspected it took, through ups and downs and publishers and edits and changes in direction). But the result is a book that I hope will help moms see, understand, explain, and let go of the weight of mental and emotional labor. 

Today, Carly joins me to discuss the invisible load that moms carry and unpack the journey we took to write and publish Releasing the Mother Load

What the Invisible Load of Motherhood Is

Most moms know the feeling of the invisible load—they feel the weight of it before they understand it. 

They might feel exhausted at the end of every day, but also wonder why they didn’t “get anything done.” They sit down to rest, and their minds fill with things they need to research, plan, or remember. 

They experience overwhelm at all of the to-dos and needs for their family, but feel as if this is just how motherhood is. They might confront their partner about doing more, only to hear, “I’m happy to help—just tell me what to do,” leaving them more frustrated and resentful. 

And it isn’t until they understand what the invisible load of motherhood truly is that they can begin to relieve that weight. 

In the book, I share my personal “Aha Mom-ent,” the time I finally realized what the invisible load was and why it was exhausting me. Mine came during my third postpartum phase in the form of a simple pile of laundry—one that I just couldn’t bring myself to fold. As my husband washed more and more clothes and the pile grew, I couldn’t understand why I just didn’t fold it. 

When I broke the pattern of blame and looked at it with curiosity, the lightbulb finally clicked on. 

I blamed myself and shamed myself, like so many of us do. But when I broke that pattern and looked at it with curiosity, the lightbulb finally clicked on. 

It wasn’t just the folding I was putting off—it was organizing clothes and changing them out for the next season, remembering which sizes we needed of everything, evaluating what new items we would need to purchase in which sizes, shopping and purchasing, clearing out old clothes, figuring out what to do with the things we no longer needed, planning where to store the clothes that didn’t match the season…hours and hours of mental labor that fell to me by default (even though my partner and I had attempted to share the physical tasks fairly). 

The invisible load of motherhood is the mental and emotional tasks involved in household labor—tasks that are often overlooked, unacknowledged, and undervalued. The planning, organizing, decision-making, and ongoing managing of all the moving pieces that keep the household functioning. 

Research confirms that in different-sex couples, this weight overwhelmingly falls to moms—even when both partners work full-time jobs in addition to the work of parenting. And this is the weight that so many moms are struggling with. 

Why the Invisible Load Falls to Moms

But why does this happen? Why, in 2024, are moms still carrying this mental and emotional labor—even if they are the primary breadwinners for their family? 

There are many, many reasons (so many I dedicate a large chunk of the book to picking them apart). But one of the simplest reasons is that we don’t intentionally plan how to share this labor—and we end up falling into traditional gender norms without even realizing it.  

It’s easy to assume that this is the fault of our partners—that they simply aren’t pulling their weight. But the truth is that all of us are unintentionally conditioned by societal gender norms from a young age. 

It’s no wonder that moms often are often defaulted into nurturing and soothing.

It’s no wonder that moms often are often defaulted into nurturing and soothing. We might even believe that we are biologically better at this labor—though research doesn’t support this idea. 

And to add another complicated layer, we’re also parenting in the era of intensive mothering—an ideology that tells us that “good moms” are self-sacrificers that should devote every ounce of energy and time to their children, finding fulfillment only in their motherhood role. We are pressured to be and do more, all the time—and we feel guilty if we don’t. 

This is often where it becomes difficult to share the invisible load of motherhood, even once we have that “Aha Mom-ent.” If we believe that this labor is part of the condition for being “good moms,” then we are unlikely to let it go. 

That’s why Releasing the Mother Load isn’t just about a chore chart or a single system for sharing labor. It takes a deeper approach—one that involves self-work around the beliefs that create the load, tuning into your values instead of external pressures and expectations, and making the invisible visible so that it can be shared. 

Why the Deep Work Matters

I truly wish that sharing the invisible load of motherhood was as easy as just explaining mental labor to our partners or support members in our lives. But the truth is that until we address those internal beliefs that tell us we need to carry all the weight to be “good moms,” we’re going to run into some major hurdles. 

If we believe that we must prepare every meal from scratch, cut it into cute shapes, plan activities for our child every day to facilitate their development, be “on” and engaged with them at all times, and keep the home spotless in the process, trying to redistribute labor to our partner might be difficult. 

We might not be willing to let go of control, and our partner might not be willing to fulfill those same standards in every area. 

Perhaps the real goal should be to break away from the beliefs that we have to do it all.

But perhaps the goal should not be to have a partner share the labor that’s leaving us feeling like we’re drowning. Perhaps it should be to break away from the beliefs that we have to do it all—and to carve out a path that reduces that labor in the first place, then share it in a way that works for our family. 

The deep work can’t be taught in one blog post or handled in a day. But one great place to start is by practicing curiosity and questioning. 

When you find yourself feeling pressured to do it all, you can take a step back and think, “where is this coming from? Why do I feel like we have to do it this way? And is there an easier way that reduces the mental load altogether?” 

The First Step Toward Sharing the Invisible Load of Motherhood

While the deep work matters, it also can feel like more to add to an already full plate. But there are simple ways to start letting go of and sharing the invisible load of motherhood in the meantime. 

The first step is to start making the invisible visible.

The first step is to start making the invisible visible. Often our partners don’t see or value this labor because they have never had to see it or been expected to do it. This can be frustrating—it feels obvious and apparent to us. 

But we have been conditioned to do these things. Our partners often haven’t. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for one partner not to share the mental load—it just means that we need a way to shine a light on it. 

One way to do this is by breaking down household tasks to include the mental labor involved in them. This example shows just some of the hidden emotional and mental labor in the home:

[can we embed three examples here….maybe drop-offs, bedtime, vacation?]

Discuss some of these household tasks with your partner, encompassing all of the planning, researching, and decision-making involved. Then, decide which tasks you can each take ownership of. 

This will help you both start seeing, valuing, and communicating about the invisible load—and give your partner an opportunity to start owning tasks from beginning to end. 

There might be some hiccups and discomfort along the way for both of you—but remember that patterns aren’t broken overnight! The more that you practice discussing tasks as a whole, and the more that your partner understands the full picture of the invisible load, the easier it becomes. 

How to Continue Releasing the Invisible Load of Motherhood

The first step often opens up the lines of communication—and that alone can be a game-changer in your home. (After my “Aha Mom-ent,” my husband and I started sharing tasks in a different way—focusing more on the mental labor than the physical task itself). 

But releasing and sharing the invisible load of motherhood isn’t always a straightforward process. There will be a lot of checking in and determining what feels right to both of you. Try to stay flexible and open to different solutions. 

For example, maybe one of you handles the mental work of meal planning and preparing a grocery list while the other handles the physical tasks of shopping and cooking. Or perhaps you use a shared grocery list and each of you takes ownership of different days, adding anything needed to the list and handling all of the meal prep and decision-making within that day. 

Maybe you incorporate take-out days or chicken nuggets on your busiest days to reduce some of the labor altogether! 

The most important thing is valuing the mental and emotional work involved in “The Mother Load,” and being deliberate in how that work is shared. 

And if you don’t have a partner, or if your partner is unwilling to communicate about the load, you can focus on the pieces you can let go of and where you can reduce mental labor. 

As you continue the journey, my book can give you practical tips and strategies for communication, boundary-setting, and creating practices to minimize mental labor, as well as therapy practices for the deeper work involved. 

What I want most for moms everywhere is for them to know that this labor, this invisible load of motherhood, doesn’t have to consume you. There is a path forward that looks different—one with more freedom, more presence, and more enjoyment! 

Order your copy of Releasing the Mother Load: How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More today!

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Tags:

Mental load, Sharing labor

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Carly Watters
Literary Agent

Carly Watters is a Senior Literary Agent at P.S. Literary and VP of PACLA (Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents). She’s been an agent for 13 years and represents award-winners and bestsellers in a variety of categories. She has a MA in Publishing Studies from City University London. Clients have been translated into 40 languages, optioned for TV, and have been on every bestseller list including the New York Times, USA Today and Globe and Mail. Carly co-hosts the popular writing podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.

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