A mum has shared a moving and relatable post breaking down the meaning of the ‘invisible load of motherhood’ and describing the negative impact it is having on her life.
Turning to Reddit for support, Candise Miller, explained that in addition to facing impending seasonal affective disorder (SAD), she's been “slowly succumbing to the very real invisible load of motherhood.”
“I have effectively been battling this giant for almost 12 years, and it has finally caught up with me, now I feel like it’s killing me,” the post, which first featured on Miller’s blog, reads.
“If you are a mum and don’t immediately recognise the expression 'invisible load,' I can guarantee you are more familiar with it than you believe.”
She went on to explain that the invisible load includes all the things parents do that go unnoticed, but if you stop doing them would immediately be felt by the entire family.
“All those intricacies that keep everyone comfortable, aligned, balanced and organised,” she explains.
“The things that everyone thinks happen magically and are necessary but after you put that last kid in bed (for the third time) leaves you screaming in a pillow or sobbing uncontrollably in the closet because you are exhausted and overwhelmed.”
The storyteller and photographer goes on to list examples of ‘invisible work’ including “making sure your family is social, planning and attending get-togethers, knowing your kids’ friend’s names along with the names of their parents, remembering to send thank you cards, managing the family calendar while avoiding conflicts.”
Other examples include making doctors appointments and keeping up with vaccines, switching up children’s seasonal clothes and donating cleared wardrobes, planning snacks and meal times, liasing with teachers and assisting with school projects, as well as keeping up to date with knowing children’s friends and the class bully.
The list of invisible work continues to include “managing social media and balancing screen time, navigating trends (good, bad and ugly), worrying about and then explaining the latest and ongoing tragedies of the world.”
“This ladies and gentlemen is the invisible load of motherhood,” the mum continues. “Most people would be tired just reading this list very abridged list. If you are a mom, this is just a day in the life, nothing surprising here.
“You (mama) also understand this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you think about daily. Every mum carries it. Its weight can vary day to day but it never lets up.”
READ MORE: How to talk to children about sex
The mother goes on to point out that she hasn’t even delved into the psychological and emotional needs of a family.
“Am I disciplining enough? Am I disciplining too little? How much time have I spent with each of my children individually? How do I help my babies cope with anxieties and anger individually? Which of the kids needs extra support right now, who is thriving, who needs an extra push?!” she asks.
And all this invisible work can have a huge impact.
“[It’s] not just physical, it is mental and emotional and always exhausting,” she continues explaining that it can affect everything from your friendships, your marriage, your sex life, and ultimately your overall mental well-being to the point where many mums are ultimately risking burnout.
The mum explained that she wasn’t sharing her post to dig at men, she's a freelance designer and photographer who works from home, she has a “wonderful and supportive husband who works extra hard to provide for the family," and they have four children: daughters 3, 8, 10 and a son who is almost 12.
Nor was she hoping for an end goal, instead, she wanted to share, because she knows she's not alone.
“It is reassuring just to know that you are not the only one that isn’t in love with being mummy 24/7, who is struggling to make it through her day-to-day or that the people who look like they have everything together fall apart more often than we realise,” she wrote.
She acknowledged that some days are better than other, before concluding that “the trenches of motherhood are real and I imagine the struggle doesn’t get easier but just changes as your children get older, so for me, it’s all about staying vulnerable, introspective, and adjusting my approach to keep the load from crushing me.”
Since sharing the post has been flooded with comments from others sharing their own examples of feeling overwhelmed invisible work and offering suggestions of how to move forward.
“I had burnout with some similar issues, but at the base of them was perfectionism I didn't realise I had, and overcompensating for not feeling like I was 'enough',” one user shared.
“I've had a lot of sessions with a psychologist, and that helped me untangle myself a bit and also to realise that I just couldn't keep up with what I was trying to do.”
“Your words express exactly how I have been feeling for awhile,” another commented. “I am conflicted because this role was my choice to make, and yet I feel trapped in it. I love my family and want what is best for them, but it often feels like what is best for them is at my expense. I wish I had words of advice to give. Just know that you are not alone.”
“The simple truth is we train people how to treat us,” another poster wrote. “Stop training everyone that you'll take care of everything. How? Stop doing everything.”
Turns out parental burnout is an actual thing, with research published in Clinical Psychological Science, defining the condition as “an overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.”
And it seems the number of parents suffering is on the rise, with a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, revealing that something between 2 and 12% of parents are currently battling the burnout.