Turning Up to the Mental Load We Carry

Over a pot of steaming pasta sitting in a strainer, my phone rang. Oddly enough, it was a Perth number I thought I knew.

As I stirred in the butter to make mac & cheese, an offer for totally unexpected casual full-time work was laid on the table. The answer needed to be quick…. 

I said yes.

I won’t even pretend that the transition to full-time work was glorious, sanctified, or kind. There were many (sometimes heated) discussions about how both my husband and I were turning up in our marriage. The convenience of me not working evaporated pretty much overnight. The house was a tip; we were eating toast for dinner, my festering feminism was seeping with disdain. I felt I was double helixing my mental load with the pre-existing management of task-allocating and compounding it with work demands and time constraints.

How do we as women turn up to the tension of holding the often inequitable mental, logistical, and emotional load of living and working within our families?

There is tension in the balance many mothers and women navigate regarding holding and managing the emotional, spiritual, and task allocation for ourselves and those we care for. As ‘old fashioned’ as that sounds, the anecdotal and empirical research back up what so many of us know — we carry the load. This load is often in making sure there’s milk in the fridge, a birthday present for the party this weekend, and clean netball shorts for this weekend’s game. 

After lamenting this to my dear friend Diana, I have to accept the reality of where we are right now in this season. It isn’t due to my husband showering me with oppressive gender roles. Instead, it’s the compounding reality of living in a regional town, zero Au pair availability and having no family to backfill the gaps for support. Part of this is choice, part of this is Covid, part of this is being an immigrant, part of this is modern-day two parents working full-time.

It’s a larger conversation about how we turn up to the tension of gender roles within our identity, relationships/marriages, workforce, and conversations with our children. The underlying tension for me is that we are cognitively aware of the load that many women carry, and the systems and structures supporting this imbalance are hard to change quickly.

Firstly, if this feels like you today — I see you. I honor the load you are carrying and want to give you permission to release it in a compassionate space so that you allow yourself to sift through. To heal the festering and unresolved tension that it may be overwhelming you with. I get it, I do.

And lastly, let us continue to sit with and navigate this tension, not only for ourselves but also for our children.

About Mish Pope

Mish is a seeker of knowledge, liberation and compassion. Deep down, Mish has made it a one of her life's missions to give women permission to 'come home' to their beautiful selves.