Love is…sharing the mental load

Jessica Chivers explores what love means in terms of parenting.


Love is....

This being St Valentine’s Day I’ve been thinking about the acts of love that make a working mother feel particularly cherished. For me it comes down to a partner demonstrating they truly understand what it takes to keep family life feeling good and them taking equal responsibility for proactively working towards it.

Because let’s face it, the mental load we carry as working mothers can be really really draining. You know what I mean: being responsible for organising childcare logistics – and communicating/negotiating any changes to them; taking responsibility for fulfilling last minute nursery/playgroup/school requests; keeping a mental tab on when you last ticked the sex box; shuffling diaries to accommodate broken domestic appliance repair appointments; conjuring up present ideas for upcoming birthdays and so on. Not to mention the extra layer of stress – and e-mails, meetings, reading,
record-keeping, money, anguish and tears – that comes with having a child with S.E.N. Oh yes, I know that one.

No, that mental load needs divvying between more than one head and I think it’s best started at conception. You might like to suggest your partner buys the next pregnancy test kit because it’s these small actions that create a move toward equal parenthood where women and men’s careers have the best chance to flourish equally. Bouncing around the bathroom with a positive result in your hands is a great time to kick-off discussions about Shared Parental Leave [SPL]: “We’ve got a while to decide how we’ll split parental leave but let’s start thinking about it now because it’s important to me that we’re both actively involved from the get-go…”

Confidence boost

As a business we see a marked difference in the confidence, focus and wellbeing of women who return from maternity leave with their partner at home full time on SPL for at least six weeks (but preferably much more) compared to those who come back lugging the triple burden of working motherhood [work and the main burden of childcare and housework].

I believe putting your partner in charge of the domestic load – both physically and mentally – is the very best thing you can do for your career when you first return to work.

We know that the take-up of Shared Parental Leave is way lower than it needs to be to get to a more equal experience of working parenthood between men and women and that there are several reasons for this. However, I believe that if more employers were talking to expectant fathers early on about SPL the take-up would be higher.

That’s why I’ve started the #DADB1 petition which asks the Government to introduce a form for midwives to give to both parents to hand to their employer to kickstart discussions about, and preparation for, Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

We need 10,000 signatures to get a debate in Parliament. Please sign it here:

*Jessica Chivers is the CEO of The Talent Keeper Specialists and developer of Comeback Community, a new platform designed to equip employees – and their line managers – with resources to support their exit and return to work when taking maternity, SPL, adoption, sabbatical and sick leave. Find Jessica on Twitter @jesschivers and The Talent Keeper Specialists on LinkedIn, FBInstagram and Twitter. She is also author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House, £16.99).

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