What You'll Learn
- Why Moms End Up Carrying the Mental Load
- How the Myth of “Time is Money” Impacts Moms
- Shifting to an Ownership Mindset as a Mom
- The Toxic Messages We Tell Ourselves About Time and Labor
- The Way Intensive Parenting Plays Into the Gender Divide
- How to Start Shifting to a Fair Play Method
The mental load of motherhood is a common vicious cycle for families. One parent (often the mom) becomes the default parent. That default parent takes on a disproportionate amount of labor in the home. They find themselves drowning in unpaid and unappreciated labor.
The resentment and overwhelming load lead to mom rage, resentment, and even marital problems. New York Times Bestselling Author Eve Rodsky sheds light on why this happens and the system she’s created to put an end to the cycle and redistribute the invisible work of moms.
The Breaking Point of the Mental Load
How did you go from being a lawyer to working in the parenting space?
That’s a question I couldn’t wait to ask Eve Rodsky. When I started talking on Instagram about the mental load of motherhood and how so many of my mom clients take on an unfair burden in the household, her name kept coming up in comments and DMs.
So I bought and read her book, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live). I loved it—the work she was doing around rearranging family dynamics aligned closely with what I advocate for with my clients.
She told me a story similar to my own, and similar to stories I have heard before. One day, after finding herself drowning in trying to do every single thing as a mom, a text message from her husband asking why she didn’t buy blueberries set her on a downward spiral.
She realized she was suffocating and couldn’t go on like this. Either her marriage was going to end, or something had to change. At that moment, an idea was born that eventually led to the creation of Fair Play and to her activism.
Either her marriage was going to end, or something had to change.
It mirrored my own experience—taking on more and more and more as a mom until I realized I had lost myself. Eve, myself, and countless other moms have found ourselves in a similar situation. But so many moms don’t know how to break the patterns and bring a fair labor distribution into their families.
Eve explained to me how and why it happens, and the changes, both big and small, you can make to free yourself from that load.
Why Moms End Up Carrying the Mental Load
From grocery shopping to signing permission slips to packing bags to making lunches to flossing and brushing teeth—kids come with a whole lot of invisible labor. Moms bear the brunt of it. In heterosexual relationships, this almost always falls to the female-identifying parent.
The problem has only increased during the pandemic. 63% of women report that they are heading up online schooling and at-home childcare during school closures. Just 29% of men say the same.
Eve wanted to discover whether there was a reason for this—are we biologically programmed to be “better” at running the household?
She even consulted a neuroscientist about it. He pointed out that there is no biological reason why moms are expected to carry so much of the load. The problem is that we have been programmed culturally and societally to think that it’s normal.
And, as he told Eve, if moms are told they are better at multitasking and better at chores, they all too often are happy, and even prideful, about taking those tasks on.
How the Myth of “Time is Money” Impacts Moms
That’s not to say the fault rests solely on mom of course. We’re programmed from birth to think that moms should run the household.
A big part of the problem centers around myths we tell ourselves about money. It starts with the idea that “time is money.” (How many times have you heard that, or said that?)
But if time is money a dangerous belief starts to form—if I’m not exchanging my time for money, then what I do is not as valuable as what my partner does.
We start to believe that we should and must take on more and more of the load, because our time is not as valued as much as our partner’s time.
As Eve puts it, “we’re conditioned to think that men’s time is finite, like diamonds, and women’s time is infinite like sand.”
Shifting to an Ownership Mindset as a Mom
All too often, we are complicit in our own oppression. We take on too much because of those internal beliefs. Overcoming those beliefs that we hold about our time and our value as moms is the crux of Eve’s work. She created Fair Play, as a system for redistributing the labor in the household.
But according to her, it isn’t the actual redistribution that’s the hard part. Anybody can sit and divvy out responsibilities. The problem is that moms will never get there if they don’t believe that they deserve it—if they can’t shift their mindset to realize that their time is diamonds too.
Moms need to shift their mindset to realize that their time is diamonds too.
Eve says that the system itself needs to be sandwiched between two important permissions—the permission to be unavailable from roles and the permission to ask for what you need.
When you can do that, when you can take ownership and believe that you are worthy of a full and fair life, then “fair play” in your family is actually possible.
The Toxic Messages We Tell Ourselves About Time and Labor
Eve and I have both seen moms repeatedly guard their partners’ time and respect it above their own. She calls these “toxic time messages.”
Some of these sound like:
I do more in the household because I don’t make as much money as my partner.
I do more in the household because I’m a better multi-tasker.
I do more in the household because it’s easier than taking the time to tell my partner how to do it.
But these messages are based on lies and a problematic family structure. Eve illustrates it by asking the question, “How does mustard get in the fridge?”
Most of the time, the answer is that one partner sees that the other partner or one of the kids likes it, so they buy it. That’s the equivalent of seeing, recognizing, and solving a problem. In the business world, that’s called conceptual work, and it earns the big bucks.
That same partner is also the one who pays attention to when the mustard is low and makes sure it gets replaced. In the business world, that’s called planning, and it also earns the big bucks.
What happens when one partner is responsible for the conceptual and the planning? They can’t trust the other partner to execute it the right way. (“My husband won’t get the right kind of mustard anyway!”)
The Way Intensive Parenting Plays Into the Gender Divide
In addition to our beliefs about time and our tendency to guard men’s time as more valuable, there’s another big factor that contributes to the mental load of motherhood—intensive parenting.
We live in a time when we believe that to be a good mom we must be everything to our kids. We should be at every bedtime, put the bandaid on every scratch, comfort and respond to every need. In our quest for perfection in motherhood, we’ve convinced ourselves that if we don’t do it all, we aren’t good moms.
We’ve convinced ourselves that if we don’t do it all, we aren’t good moms.
But the truth is that if we take on the load that intensely, if we never allow ourselves to put up boundaries, we are going to suffocate.
Eve is quick to point out that those boundaries go beyond taking a walk by yourself or meeting friends for coffee. We have to find a life that we love. She believes that this often comes from embracing creativity, or finding something beyond motherhood that lights you up.
How to Start Shifting to a Fair Play Method
That’s what Fair Play is ultimately set up to do—help you recognize and redistribute labor more fairly, so that you get the chance as a mom to discover something within yourself that you love.
It comes through having tough conversations, delving into why we believe what we believe about family, motherhood, and relationships, and creating a system for sharing the labor in a manageable way so that both partners find freedom.
Along with the book, Eve also created a checklist, with cards that help you walk through the responsibilities in the house (even the invisible or underappreciated ones) and determine who will take them on.
I encourage everyone to read Eve’s books, explore the cards, and work with your partner to shift away from the way things have always been to create a sustainable plan that frees you from perfection, resentment, and rage.
The work is not about nagging or absolute equality or keeping score…as Eve says, it’s about inviting your partner to step into their full power in the home so that we can step into the full power of the world.
If you’re struggling with resentment and mom rage, be sure to check out our Free Masterclass on the Three-Step Method for Repairing With You Child After You Lose Your Cool.