The mental load of parenting

I was reading an article the other day by an Australian dad who had asked for his name to be put at the top of the school and nursery contact list and had suddenly noticed the load of school and other admin stuff that needs to be remembered on a daily basis.

Stressed Mum


He wrote: “Somewhere in the process of empowering mums to return to meaningful careers after having children, we forgot to reduce her burden of the mental load…The mental burden of remembering all the shit that needs to get done is infinitely more tiring and mentally taxing than doing the stuff you’re battling to remember.”

He spoke of writing lists that included remembering to make the next list, of checking hair for nits, putting toys in schoolbags for show and tell, doing school projects on time, etc, etc. And this is just the small-fry daily stuff. Wait till he hits the Christmas countdown or the teenage years. Strewth.

In theory teenagers should be easier to manage than their younger counterparts and there has to be some sense of gradually letting go, but I’m not entirely sure where that begins or ends. Daughter one was planning on going to Paris this weekend. Not the best of times to be making that trip. She had been planning to use her earnings to go with friends and to ‘couch surf’ through an internet app. Hmm. I showed her the newspaper with photos of latest events.

The problem is that she feels under pressure to do something, anything, to make the most of the gap year she has taken so she can have some time off the studying treadmill. But the world is falling apart – and fast – just as she is ready to venture into it – and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon or possibly ever [my partner has been listening in to the fall-out from the Andalusian election results this week and the ongoing Catalan crisis which appears to be stuck in a Brexit-like holding pattern as we wait for whatever bad thing happens next].

In the meantime, teenagers are trying to live normal teenage lives – because what else can they do? Daughter three is devoted to I’m a celebrity. Daughter two is revising for GCSE mocks [at least I think she is] as if the world is going to continue as normal and algebra will save us all. Not that I have anything against algebra. For all I know it could be vital for whatever climate-changing last resort techno fix we are going to need.

Daughter three and only son have been coming to blows of late and, surprisingly, he has formed an alliance with daughter two. “She will protect me,” I heard him saying the other night. Not words I ever anticipated hearing, given only son still refers to her as “that maniac”. It is just that he has been very irked by daughter three, particularly when it comes to I’m a celebrity.

A case in point was the other evening. He was doing Just Dance 2016 and she switched it over to I’m a celebrity catch-up. Only son was very miffed. “She is treating me as if I were a pin cushion,” he said, exasperated. I never know where he gets this stuff, but he is very good at expressing his emotions in a vivid way. He told his friend’s dad that his friend had “stabbed himself with the dagger of humiliation” the other week. He got told to get out the pool in swimming lessons for fighting with his friend. “I was just defending my honour,” he told me. Too much Diary of a Wimpy Kid perhaps?

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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