Mental Load & the Holidays

This month, on my video blog Living & Learning, I'm talking about the mental and emotional loads we carry in life, and especially during the holidays. If you don't know what mental load is, you should check out this really cool graphic description.

This weekend I picked up the shoes at the bottom of the stairs, the legos on the floor and gathered the dishes that were scattered around the house. I threw a couple of loads into the laundry, hung up a bunch of jackets and replaced the hand towel in the bathroom. No one else thought to do any of these tasks until I assigned them the opportunity to take care of it. This is mental load in action. It's not to say no one will help, but I have to be the one to ask for that help.

While I clearly hold the mental load of cleaning the house, my husband holds the mental load of cooking. This means I rarely have to think about grocery shopping or timing of meals. When it's dinnertime, the food is there. I have not considered how to cook a chicken or what kind of grain or veggie should be served. A lot of women are impressed when they find out my husband does all the cooking. Besides the amazing meals, I think they are mostly impressed that someone helps carry that mental load. They often hold the loads of both cooking and cleaning, if not more.

Other daily mental loads include yard work, finances and child wrangling, including feeding, napping, transporting and clothing said child. The holidays up the ante on what (typically) women carry. Buying presents, meal planning, taking pictures, meal shopping, holiday cards, event planning, decorating and baking adds to the list of mental loads.

And we haven't even begun to talk about emotional loads.

Emotional loads are when one carries the burden of making sure everyone in the family is happy, peaceful and harmonious: children, spouses, in-laws, friends, parents. But that's another story.

Carrying these loads tend to happen unconsciously. We may be holding a lot and not even realize it. No wonder we get so stressed and burned out around the holidays. If you're working a full-time job on top of managing the mental and emotional "projects" at home, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Add on existing family tension and a general lack of knowhow around boundaries, and it is no surprise why so many Thanksgiving-themed movies are around dysfunctional families exploding into chaos.

If your family prefers to stuff their feelings with the turkey and gravy instead of letting it all hang out, that doesn't mean it makes things any better. Yes, emotions can be delicious, but a life with healthy boundaries is truly la dolce vita.

There's seven days left to sign up for Boundaries for the Holidays. If you struggle with carrying all of the mental and emotional loads for the household or if your family drives you nuts, there's a better way.