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Raise your hand if you redecorated your Christmas tree this year.
Many mamas of littles seem to have a yearly Christmas ritual:
- We watch our little sweeties decorate the tree while cringing a little inside, worried they might break something important and irritated that things aren’t being put in the ‘right’ places.
- When they’re done, we shake our heads at the cluster of ornaments hanging on the front of the bottom three branches.
- We snap a cute photo of kiddo with ornament in hand for Grandma or Instagram. Then, we move everything into its proper place before taking the glorious “after” photo.
I was joking with some online friends about this phenomenon recently, and it became clear that this silly tree redecorating ritual was a symptom of something uglier.
As we shared our stories,
- one mom admitted that she turned down a teenage daughter’s offer to help fold laundry. After all, Mom knew she could do it better and faster herself.
- Another rejected her husband’s offer to go to the grocery store because she knew he’d forget something the family needed.
- A third said that she’d stopped asking her four-year-old to put her toys away because the little girl didn’t do it properly.
And then one mom brought up a buzzword.
As in, we moms sure carry an especially giant mental load during the holidays.
The Mental Load of Motherhood
In case you don’t know this term, the mental load, which pretty much everyone agrees is disproportionately carried by mothers, is all that extra invisible labor that we mamas often take on. Things like:
- Remembering that kid #1 decided he hated broccoli last week, so the broccoli-rice casserole we’ve been enjoying on the regular for years is going to have to be modified if we want there to be any chance that he’ll eat it.
- Noting that kid #2 needs new shoes, size 4, and there’s a coupon for Kohl’s in the stack of mail on the kitchen counter.
- Noticing that we only have 3 rolls of toilet paper left, which we’ll use in the next week based on everyone’s current rate of consumption.
Yeah. Mom mental load is real.
But you know what’s a little bit disingenuous and martyr-y to include as part of your mental load?
Shit you decide to do that doesn’t actually need to be done. (Or that needs to be done, but not by you.) And I hate to break it to you, but a lot of the stuff on your current to-do list probably falls into that category.
Why do we choose martyrdom?
Look, I know the line feels blurry sometimes between what is necessary and what is optional.
Our idea of what we must do as mothers gets wrapped up in the things we believe based on our life experiences, the real or imagined expectations of others, and the public face we want to present to the world.
And so we believe that because our own parents made Christmas magical, as good mothers, we must do the same.
And that one mom on Instagram had her Elf on the Shelf make a mess in the flour yesterday. The kids would get such a kick out of that...
And that’s how you find yourself willingly dumping perfectly good flour all over your kitchen counter. Flour that you’ll resent having to clean up later.