It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE
It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

November 29, 2023

Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor

E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc

What You'll Learn

  • Why We’re Carrying the Invisible Load of Motherhood
  • The First Steps Toward Prioritizing the Invisible Load
  • The Importance of Seeing Ourselves and Our Time as Worthy
  • The Extra Invisible Load of Mothering Neurodivergent Children
  • Prioritizing the Invisible Load and Mental Clutter
  • Setting Boundaries with Our Children
  • The Importance of Mindful Self-Compassion

The invisible load of motherhood can feel overwhelming and boundaryless. It feels like we have to do it all, to carry everything on our shoulders. 

Everything feels important. Everything feels make or break. The idea of letting go and doing less might seem appealing, but how do we start? 

We often have to learn how to see our own worth and value our time, something that society doesn’t encourage moms to do. But we can learn to look at our time differently and let go of some of the invisible load. 

Today, I’m joined by pediatrician Dr. Whitney Caseres, founder of Modern Mommy Doc. In her practice, she has seen the weight of the invisible load for moms, especially in the wake of the pandemic. And as a mom of two daughters, one of whom is neurodivergent, she has also experienced that weight herself. 

When she found herself in patterns of resentment, irritability, and impatience, she realized that she needed to make some changes and let go of some of the load. Along her journey, she knew that other moms needed help doing the same. 

She wrote the book Doing it All:Stop Over-Functioning, and Become the Mom and Person You’re Meant to Be to help moms understand why they are carrying so much of the weight and how they can prioritize and share the load. 

I couldn’t wait to welcome Dr. Whitney back to the show to chat about the invisible load of motherhood and how we can learn to prioritze, set boundaries, and value our own time. 

Why We’re Carrying the Invisible Load of Motherhood

Motherhood has changed a lot over time. We’re living in a time when moms are coping with more pressure than ever—expected to do more, be more, and constantly be “on” for their children (often while juggling full-time jobs in addition to motherhood.)

Dr. Whitney said she once read a quote that pointed out women of this generation are raised to believe they can do anything, but are also raised with the expectations of a 1950s housewife. 

We want to excel in our careers, we want to show up for our children and be present, and we want to fulfill the ideals that society has of “good moms.” We feel pressured to keep a spotless house or juggle all of the load in the home—but it’s unrealistic. 

Dr. Whitney said when we reach for that ideal, we’re going to self-sabotage. We have to adjust our expectations and change our goal in motherhood if we want to carry less. 

But that isn’t easy. It often starts with questioning the default parent role. When we find ourselves carrying more than our fair share, it’s important to question why. Why are we the default for all the household labor? Why is this falling on our shoulders? And how can we become intentional about how the labor is divided and what responsibilities we are going to carry? 

Dr. Whitney said that the answer runs much deeper than simply trying to re-divide the labor. It often takes challenging norms, pushing back on beliefs, and working with our partner through difficult conversations. 

But she pointed out that we’re putting in the work, not just for ourselves, but for future generations. It’s okay to feel discomfort in the process—but hopefully our children and grandchildren will have an easier time on the journey because of it. 

The First Steps Toward Prioritizing the Invisible Load

As moms, we often don’t realize that we aren’t valuing our own time or understanding our own worth. We give of ourselves so freely, often sacrificing our own needs in the process. But that isn’t sustainable. 

Dr. Whitney experienced that when she was learning to be a mom to a daughter with autism. Her needs were often greater than those of other kids and demanded a lot of her attention. And yet, she had another daughter who also needed her devotion and attention. And on top of everything, she was also dedicated to her career. 

Even with all the knowledge and experience in maternal and children’s health, even with all the pieces of the puzzle that she thought would have made things easier, she struggled so much. Eventually, she realized that she was pushing herself too hard in too many directions, leading to a breaking point. 

Dr. Whitney said she realized if she kept going, she would look back and regret the way she had lived her life. 

She said that the ultimate change came from deciding that she was worthy of just as much time and energy and peace as everybody else in her world—and that when she prioritized her own needs, she could serve others in her life more effectively, both at home and work. 

She started practicing real self-care in deep meaningful ways, including the way she talked to herself, the way she thought about her strengths and weaknesses, and the boundaries she set with her time. 

The more she listened to herself, the more things became easier. She was able to look at the invisible load of motherhood in a different way, prioritizing, letting go of what was less important, and living in a way that aligned with her values. 

The Importance of Seeing Ourselves and Our Time as Worthy

Valuing our own worth is a cornerstone of learning to reduce our labor, stop overfunctioning, and finding a path in motherhood that feels right. But knowing we should value ourselves and actually being able to do it are two different things. 

It’s hard to truly value ourselves in a society that doesn’t value care work and that tells us our time is not valued unless we’re being paid for it. There are so many messages that pressure us into feeling like our time is not worth anything. 

It takes time and practice to put our own needs on an equal playing field with everyone else’s. But this is the step that becomes an important cornerstone to sharing the load, putting an end to being the default parent, and breaking away from resentment and overwhelm. 

It’s hard to truly value ourselves in a society that doesn’t value care work.

Dr. Whitney said that it’s important to start by thinking about where we want to spend our time and energy, what things bring us the most joy in life, and what truly matters to us. Then, we can more easily advocate for ourselves and say yes to the things that matter most (and no to those that don’t). 

Without the internal work, sharing the invisible load of motherhood becomes much harder. We might find ourselves falling back into old patterns or taking more on or protecting our partner’s time above our own again. 

We have to truly value our own worth if we want to change the load we are carrying. 

The Extra Invisible Load of Mothering Neurodivergent Children

The invisible load of motherhood can feel even harder to cope with when our children are neurodivergent or medically fragile or have more spirited temperaments. In these situations, the cookie cutter advice often doesn’t work. 

The invisible load of motherhood can feel even harder to cope with neurodivergent children.

This often leads moms to feel ashamed or question if they’re doing a good job because they can’t keep up with the ideal image of motherhood. They’re coping with extra layers of complexity and needs. 

Dr. Whitney said that while so much of the advice or ideals out there might not apply, we can take solace in the real evidence-based best practices that matter when it comes to raising our kids—things that we can do even as moms of neurodivergent kids. 

For example, being sensitive and responsive to our children, promoting resilience and problem-solving, or having boundaries in place for us and our child. These things might look very different based on your child’s individual needs—but the actual practice is applicable no matter what type of child you have. 

Dr. Whitney also pointed out that boundaries don’t always have to be firm or rigid. For example, she might lean on screen time more heavily when she needs to devote extra one-on-one attention to one of her children. She can still have time boundaries in place and embrace everybody’s needs. (And sometimes, those boundaries slip, because we are all humans and life happens). 

Resilience and problem-solving might also look entirely different for neurodivergent children or different temperaments. Where some children might benefit from joining extracurricular activities or engaging in new activities, other children might need resilience on a much smaller level—like going to sit with their friends rather than staying by you or maintaining a small morning task. 

We can cater these important ideas to our children on an individual level, meeting their needs and supporting them where they are. 

Prioritizing the Invisible Load and Mental Clutter

When we feel like we’re drowning in the to-do list or our minds are cluttered with everything we need to do, it can feel impossible to start to prioritize and parse out what needs to be done. But Dr. Whitney thinks that separating out the mental clutter helps. 

She breaks mental clutter into 4 categories:

  • Non-negotiables—the things that absolutely have to get done and that only you can do. They require the most efficiency and productivity possible. 
  • Swapables—things that someone else in your life could be doing, whether that means asking for help, hiring someone if financially feasible, or incorporating into household chores for your children. 
  • Contaminators—the things that we feel like we should do, but that we really don't need to do at all (like signing up for additional extracurricular activities, volunteering at the school when you don’t really have the bandwidth, or having a spotless, Pinterest-worthy home). 
  • Heartstrings—things that you really do want to do because they are important to you but can become draining without boundaries. (For example, physical touch with your kids—this is something you might crave but become touched out with too much).  

Dr. Whitney pointed out that society often has us thinking that everything is a non-negotiable and that if we just manage our time better or push ourselves harder we can get it all done. But realistically, we can’t—and we need to spend time intentionally thinking about what really falls in these other buckets. 

Society often has us thinking that everything is a non-negotiable.

She recommends taking five minutes each morning to think of the three biggest non-negotiables for the day and time blocking out every step involved. This can help us see the big picture and ensure that we’re not setting unrealistic expectations for how much we will get done in the day. 

If we plan to get 20 things done in an hour but only have time for one, we’re going to feel like we failed. But if we were realistic from the beginning about what we could accomplish, we might feel much more productive and positive about that one task. 

Setting Boundaries with Our Children

Dr. Whitney said that it’s also vital to center ourselves back in our own worth. It might feel uncomfortable as people-pleasers to say no to contaminators or set boundaries with heartstrings. And when people ask us to add more stuff to our calendar, it can be tempting to give in. 

We need a strong core of understanding our own worth and reminding ourselves that we are worthy of time, space, and freedom to meet our needs. 

This can become especially hard when it comes to the heartstrings or setting boundaries with our children. We often want to give so much—and because these moments with our children feel so important it’s hard to let them go. 

But if something that you normally love is draining you, a boundary might be exactly what you need. Maybe you want to play with your children but you don’t enjoy the play or you have other important to-dos. 

You could set a timer for a set amount of time with no phone and no distractions, and then work after that amount of time. Or perhaps you can offer an alternative way to play that feels more doable in the moment. 

We often feel pressure to accept every invitation to play or to be “on” all the time—and that can feel overwhelming. But putting structure or reasonable boundaries in place can help us find a medium that works for us and still allows us to show up for our kids. 

Dr. Whitney said that frontloading expectations with kids can be very valuable. Talk to them about what to expect and let them know that they are a priority too. This can prepare them for the times that you are not going to be able to give them that focused attention.

The Importance of Mindful Self-Compassion

Ultimately, Dr. Whitney said that self-compassion and self-acceptance are some of the most important aspects of this work. 

It is so hard to break patterns when we feel shame about not measuring up to unrealistic expectations. We blame ourselves—which makes it impossible to problem-solve. 

It is so hard to break patterns when we feel shame about not measuring up to unrealistic expectations.

But if we can move past the blame and offer ourselves some compassion, we can take steps to reducing the invisible load, prioritizing tasks, and making room in our lives for our own needs. 

Dr. Whitney recommends a practice called mindful self-compassion, a practice popularized by Kristen Neff and Christopher Garner. 

When you catch yourself having a critical moment, perhaps telling yourself you should be able to keep the house clean or balance everything better, stop and say to yourself, “Okay, what am I feeling? Am I irritated? Am I frustrated?” 

Then validate that feeling. “Oh, that makes sense. I really want to keep a clean kitchen, and now the dishes are piled up again.” 

Next, give yourself a sense of common humanity. “I bet there are tons of moms out there in the world who are having this exact same experience I am.” 

This pause brings us out of the high-stress state that accompanies shame into a place of calm, reminding our bodies that there isn’t a threat and allowing us to access our logical decision-making part of the brain. 

We can then see the problem and work toward solutions. “Of course I’m irritated. I’m the only one doing the dishes and I have a lot going on this week—it actually makes so much sense that I couldn’t get to this. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me—I just can’t get everything done by myself in one day. I need more help or to have less dishes.”

We often have more compassion toward others than ourselves. We don’t shame or blame our children for becoming emotional or getting stressed—we help them through it. But we need to do the same thing for ourselves. 

That might mean choosing to do less or keep things slow and simple. It might mean extra screen time or a plan that went out the window for the day. But that doesn’t mean that we’re doing anything wrong. We have to have compassion for ourselves. 

If you’re struggling with prioritizing tasks, carrying the invisible load of motherhood, or setting boundaries, a mom therapist can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult with us today.

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

Prioritizing, Mental load, Default parent

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc

Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, is the Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc, where she coaches overwhelmed, career-focused women to jump off the hamster-wheel of life and organize their stress so they can integrate work and life successfully. Her new book is Doing it All:Stop Over-Functioning, and Become the Mom and Person You’re Meant to Be.

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.
RELATED ARTICLES
February 20, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 20, 2024
January 31, 2024
Postpartum Rage vs. Parental Anger: How Social Expectations Create Overwhelmed Moms
E:
210
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder and CEO of Psyched Mommy, licensed clinical psychologist
February 20, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’re Not an Angry Mom: Why We Experience Mom Rage (and What We Can Learn From It)
E:
209
with
Minna Dubin
Author of Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood
February 20, 2024
January 17, 2024
What Causes Mommy Brain? The Role of the Invisible Load on Forgetfulness and Brain Fog
E:
208
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
neuroscientist, psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
January 3, 2024
How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making
E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 29, 2023
Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor
E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 8, 2023
Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Perfectionism? Reframing the Concept of “Perfect” in Motherhood
E:
198
with
Katherine Morgan Schafler
Psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
October 11, 2023
Embracing the 7 Types of Rest: Why Moms Are Exhausted and What Actually Helps
E:
194
with
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
Board-Certified internal medicine physician and award-winning author
February 20, 2024
October 4, 2023
Interpreting Newborn Hunger Cues and Sleepy Signs: How to Learn Your Baby’s Needs
E:
193
with
Sharon Mazel
Author of Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
September 20, 2023
Managing Mom Anxiety: Why Millennial Moms Are So Anxious and How to Overcome Our Fears
E:
191
with
Dr. Lauren Cook
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 13, 2023
Embracing Power as Moms: Reshaping Dynamics In and Out of the Home
E:
190
with
Claire Shipman
NYT Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
September 6, 2023
How to Raise Confident Kids: Breaking Cycles of Negative Self-Esteem
E:
189
with
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Founder of The North Star Developmental Clinic
February 20, 2024
August 23, 2023
Understanding Sensory Self-Care: How Overstimulated Moms Can Regulate and Regain Calm
E:
187
with
Holly Peretz
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
August 16, 2023
Navigating Matrescence: The Roller Coaster of Becoming a Mom
E:
186
with
Dr. Catherine Birndorf
Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
June 21, 2023
Myths About Toddler Behavior: How to Reclaim the "Terrible Twos"
E:
178
with
Dr. Cathryn Tobin
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
June 14, 2023
The Invisible Load of Fatherhood: How Dads Can Challenge Gender Norms and Become More Involved
E:
177
with
Dr. Singley
Psychologist and Director of The Center for Men’s Excellence
February 20, 2024
March 29, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 2: Facing Pregnancy After a Traumatic Birth
E:
166
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 22, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 1: How Birth Trauma Impacts Our Family Decision Making
E:
165
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
February 22, 2023
Navigating Working Mom Struggles: How to Let Go of Norms, Expectations, and Guilt
E:
161
with
Mary Beth Somich
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
February 8, 2023
Overcoming Mom Guilt: Rewriting the Motherhood Contract and Charting Your Own Path
E:
159
with
Libby Ward
Founder of Diary of an Honest Mom
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
December 14, 2022
Navigating Career and Motherhood: Approaching Maternity Leave with Confidence
E:
151
with
Allison Venditti
Founder of Moms at Work
February 20, 2024
November 23, 2022
The Mental Load of Motherhood: How to Address the Imbalance of Household Labour
E:
148
with
Gemma Hartley
Journalist and Author
February 20, 2024
November 16, 2022
Surviving the Baby Witching Hour: How to Cope With Colicky and Fussy Babies
E:
147
with
Dr. Whitney Casares
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 19, 2022
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Navigating the Emotions, Difficulties, and Challenges
E:
143
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 12, 2022
How to Know if You Have Postpartum Anxiety: Red Flags to Watch for in Pregnancy, Birth, and After Baby
E:
142
with
Dr. Sarah Oreck
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
October 5, 2022
Protecting Maternal Sleep: The Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
E:
141
with
Dr. Nicole Leistikow
Reproductive Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
September 21, 2022
Encouraging Independent Play: Why Unstructured Play Matters and How to Foster It
E:
139
with
Susie Allison
Founder of Busy Toddler
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
February 20, 2024
August 31, 2022
Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning
E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care
February 20, 2024
August 3, 2022
Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Why Support Matters and How to Find Resources to Help
E:
132
with
Dr. Wendy Davis
Executive Director of PSI
February 20, 2024
July 27, 2022
Overcoming Working Mom Guilt: Why Moms Should Never Be Ashamed to Be Ambitious
E:
131
with
Lara Bazelon
Law Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
February 16, 2022
What is Matrescence? The Transition into Motherhood (And Why Being a New Mom is Hard)
E:
108
with
Dr. Katayune Kaeni
Perinatal Psychologist
February 20, 2024
February 9, 2022
How to Prepare Your Dog for a New Baby: Planning, Introducing, and Keeping Everyone Safe
E:
107
with
Dominika Knossalla
Certified Dog Trainer
February 20, 2024
February 2, 2022
Discover Your Personal Core Values
E:
106
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
January 26, 2022
When Mommy Rage Strikes: How to Prevent and Control the Anger
E:
105
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
January 5, 2022
Sleep Training Doesn't Have To Be Scary
E:
102
with
Dr. Aubrie DeBear
Founder of Baby Sleep Dr.
February 20, 2024
January 19, 2022
Carrying the Mental Load: How to Redistribute the Burden and Give Moms More Freedom
E:
104
with
Eve Rodsky
New York Times Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
January 12, 2022
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Spot the Signs So You Can Seek Support
E:
103
with
Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
December 29, 2021
Decluttering: The Secret of an Easy to Tidy Home
E:
101
with
Katy Wells
Declutter Expert
February 20, 2024
December 22, 2021
100th Episode: Erica’s Husband Tells All
E:
100
with
Frenel Djossa
February 20, 2024
December 15, 2021
The Pressure to Get It Right
E:
99
with
Dr. Jen Douglas
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 8, 2021
Learning to Fight Fair
E:
98
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
December 1, 2021
The One and Done Family
E:
97
with
Renee Reina, Ph.D.
Founder of The Mom Room
February 20, 2024
November 24, 2021
Overcoming Gender Disappointment
E:
96
with
Dr. Renée Miller
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 17, 2021
Adding a Sibling to Your Family
E:
95
with
Bryana Kappadakunnel
Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 10, 2021
Regulating Your Nervous System
E:
94
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
October 20, 2021
Social Justice Parenting
E:
91
with
Dr. Traci Baxley
Author
February 20, 2024
October 13, 2021
Momming With ADHD
E:
90
with
Dr. Melissa Shepard
Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
October 6, 2021
Supporting NICU Moms
E:
89
with
Kristin Reinhart
Registered Social Worker
February 20, 2024
September 22, 2021
Working As A Mother
E:
87
with
Dr. Courtney Tracy
Founder of The Truth Doctor
February 20, 2024
September 8, 2021
Caring for the Postpartum Brain
E:
85
with
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Neuroanatomist