Recognising and Redistributing the Parental Mental Load

Parenting is an experience like no other. But, for all the amazing times shared with your child, being a mum or dad can be physically and emotionally demanding. Many parents carry a mental load, which refers to the “invisible” tasks that contribute to the smooth running of daily life. Examples include but are not limited to, meal prepping for the family, arranging dentist and doctor appointments, and worrying about your child’s progress at school. In this article, we’ll uncover how to spot the parental mental load you’re carrying and tips to help you and your partner share the “worry work”.

The Mental Load and Motherhood

In heterosexual relationships, women are reported to be disproportionately affected by the mental load. The Bright Horizons Modern Families Index 2024 highlights this, with three-quarters (74%) of women reporting that they carry the mental load of parenting, compared to 48% of men. But, by recognising its impact on your life, you can begin to redistribute the parental mental load and find a solution to best suit your family.

5 Strategies to Help You Share the Parental Mental Load


  1. Recognise Your Feelings

You might find it helpful to make a list of the “invisible” tasks you do day to day. This won’t look the same for everyone, but you might want to consider jotting down what your typical day looks like. This could include details such as taking your child to a birthday party, buying gifts, walking the dog, or organising a playdate. By doing so, you’re recognising the pivotal role you play in raising your family as well as acknowledging how it’s making you feel.

Carrying the mental load can start to take its toll. Not only can it mean having less time for taking care of yourself but can make it difficult to focus on your job, even when you’re not at home. The emotional demand can also be detrimental to your mental health, potentially leading to anxiety, sleep deprivation and burnout.

  1. Acknowledge Contributions

The stress caused by carrying most of the mental load can cause a strain on your relationship. However, it may also be worth considering that your partner may not fully comprehend how much of the mental load you’re carrying, or how it is making you feel.

Before suggesting what change you’d like, it can be a good idea to recognise what your partner is already doing. By acknowledging that your partner is already making some contribution, this can be to everyone’s advantage. They might be great at managing finances for example, and this could be a transferable skill that would make them excellent at something else you’d like handed over to them.

  1. Establish Expectations

If you’re being affected most by the parental mental load, you may already feel resentment towards your partner. But balancing parenthood with a career can be a challenge for anyone, and your conversation does not have to come from an accusatory place. Ultimately, without clear communication, change can be difficult.

To establish expectations, you may find it useful to show your partner the list you previously made, outlining what you’re currently doing. From there, you can point out which of these tasks you’d like some help with, and how often. Together, you can decide on a new way to distribute the workload that works for you both.

  1. Be Realistic

By addressing the imbalance of your current situation, change can begin. However, it’s also important to understand that change won’t necessarily happen overnight. If both you and your partner have been used to doing things a certain way, it may take you both time to adjust to your new responsibilities.

Be considerate of each other as you go through this transition. Over time, you can get a better idea of what both your strengths and weaknesses are, which will also allow you to swap duties if necessary.

  1. Practise Self-Care

Now that you have redistributed the parental mental load, you might be able to free up some time for self-care. While you may not have hours to spare as you did pre-parenthood, taking a few quiet moments for yourself can help you replenish your energy and help to create boundaries. For you, this might look like journaling or listening to music. For another parent, this could be scheduling time to meet a friend or treating yourself to a coffee. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated and however you practise, the end goal is to avoid neglecting your own needs.

Small steps can lead to big change, so be patient with the process as you’re likely shifting a long-standing dynamic. Alternatively, it may be your partner who is taking the burden of the parental mental load. Communication works both ways, so you might also want to consider asking them if they feel particularly overwhelmed and suggest how you can do more.