There is a job on the market that many are familiar with, but don't fully understand what it involves. It goes unnoticed because it doesn't have the regular 9 to 5 hours, it doesn't pay, and it definitely doesn't provide health benefits or a 401K plan. You're probably thinking that this doesn't sound like a job that anyone would want. The interesting part is that you probably have this job, and if not, you certainly know people that do; motherhood.
The joys of motherhood are quickly complicated with the physical and mental tasks of the job. This is not to say that being a mother is not the greatest feeling in the world, it most definitely is, but it also comes with a massive workload that is causing moms everywhere to be overtired and overworked.
Officially termed 'mental load' this consists of all the things moms have to remember along with all the worrying, planning ahead, and noticing that they do every minute of every day. Once a child is born your life does not just change, your brain changes. The development of the 'mom brain' is a wonderful experience; sometimes it is like having a super power, but it is also exhausting.
How many times do mothers answer the question “How are you?” with the one word tell-all answer of 'tired'? The human brain is a magical organ, responsible for so much. The work your brain does from the moment you wake up is remarkable. Throughout the day, people take breaks and so do their brains. While it still functions to keep us alive, it can rest cognitively speaking, unfortunately, for moms, this is not an option.
'Mom brain' works like this: 'What are the kids doing?', 'I need to remember to pay for that field trip', 'We need more toilet paper', 'What was that noise and what did they just break?', 'Dental appointment for me on Monday and for the kids on Friday', 'This house needs to be cleaned', 'Did I get all the new school registration forms completed?', 'Birthday party this weekend and we need to go buy a gift', 'What am I going to make for dinner tonight?', 'Baseball practice is at 4 and ballet is at 6', 'I miss them,' 'Can I finally get them to sleep at a reasonable time?' and that's just a 10-second snippet which this goes on all day, every day.
This is not to say that fathers do not think about their kids or worry, because they certainly do, but because women are globally considered to be the primary caregivers, we can see this phenomenon of 'mom brain' begin to develop as early as pregnancy. It starts with making sure you took your prenatal vitamins, keeping track of all the checkup visits, researching and choosing baby equipment and supplies, and baby proofing everything. People often joke about pregnancy making women forgetful and a little scatter-brained at times, but it's true, and it only accelerates once the baby gets here.
Moms take it upon themselves to be the glue that keeps the family together. They support their kid's every need as well as the needs of their spouse. After a long day at work, they like to help their spouse unwind and let them vent about their day or share stories. They listen to every one of the million tales their children bring home. They make sure everyone has dinner and is comfortable, also fitting in help with homework, laundry, and generally completely ignore their own mental health.
This is not to say that the men of the house do nothing, because that is absolutely not the truth. Most men have chores for the house too and this is always appreciated. Parenting is a team effort because even just having one child changes the game. The sole difference is that the mom brain never deactivates, whereas dad can get a little peace from time to time, mostly because they know mom has got it covered.
It is very much an invisible workload that moms carry around each day. Aside from the worry and thinking about the kids and their spouse and remembering, there is the important task of noticing. Noticing requires constant awareness, which means the brain is always working. Moms notice when the toilet paper and toothpaste is low, when food is running out, when cleaning supplies are needed, when laundry needs to be done, if the kids left with everything for school, and every other valuable thing required to keep the house running.
As stated, parenting is a joint effort, but recent studies of couples have shown that the labor divide, once kids are born, is clear. The men almost always go to a paying job each day while moms stay home, or work part time. Men help with chauffeur duties, but all the preparation leading up to the kids getting out the door on time, comes from mom.
Many men will help with cooking and cleaning too, which you might think is great because mom can have a small rest. Yet, even though they do not have to think about dishes or food, their brain just cycles into the next set of circumstances to think about. Picture a revolving door of thoughts filing in and never stopping.
The division of labor always brings up controversy because women work extremely hard. After a child is born, even if both parents are working full time, the majority of the household and childcare duties fall on the woman. With mothers carrying the brunt of household or invisible work, the pay gap in the job market continues to remain steady.
The pay gap appears as soon as both parents graduate from college and even exists if they enter the same field. The differences really kick in when the kids arrive. While there is no more rewarding job than being a mother, studies show that having children is damaging to a woman’s career. It goes beyond the kids though, women are reportedly more likely to also completely give up their jobs, to relocate in support of their husband's work. Again, they are the super glue that holds the family together.
Even though so many mothers are overtired, studies suggest none would change their role for anything. On the surface it is exhausting, but the simple reality of it is that women are nature's great nurturers, which is why they were biologically given the job to grow, carry, and develop their children.
Just because you don't see everything that a mother is doing, does not mean she is not continuously busy. Moms are open for business 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Mom brains never sleeps. Your mom is the one you can always count on at any time, any place, any day.
So, the next time you see a mom who looks a bit run down, or seems to be 'nagging', just think about all the work that you don't see. Like a superhero, there is more to them than meets the eye. And remember, a hug and a little appreciation goes a long way for a mom.