It started with a twinge. A tiny crimp in my neck that felt off. It was so minor I hardly noticed it. Just enough to cause me to stretch out my neck.
And then it grew. Two days later, I physically felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, crushing me, causing me to cave inward. It was the physical ramifications of what I felt inwardly: overburdened like I was carrying a too-heavy load all by myself.
I tried everything to ease the physical pain. I got a massage. I went to the chiropractor. I purchased a new heating pad that wrapped around my neck and shoulders like a warm hug. I took some ibuprofen. I tried stretching and yoga. I bought a new pillow designed specifically for neck and shoulder pain. Nothing helped. It was like a force field was pushing my shoulders forward and weighing me down so heavy nothing could help me escape from the pain.
My problem didn’t stem from the physical.
It was my mental load that was weighing on me.
All those things that go on behind the scenes that I am solely responsible for. Things that, while my husband tries to take from me, he can’t fully commit to the point I can relinquish them, so there they sit, squarely on my shoulders and my shoulders alone.
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My mental load consists of things like making sure the kids have blankets on Monday mornings for nap time at preschool or making sure the estimated taxes get paid on time or picking the kids up early enough to run to gymnastics class. It’s the meal planning, the Christmas magic, the birthday parties, and making projects for school—all those little daily things that, but for my remembering them, wouldn’t happen.
I visualize my mental load like a backpack full of rocks. Each rock symbolizes a task I must complete to ensure our lives run smoothly. They’re everyday things that, when taken alone, seem innocuous enough. But combined, their weight becomes too much for one person to carry.
Some days, I get to take some of the rocks out of my backpack.
But more often, I find myself adding many, many more. Enough that I find myself here, struggling to move forward with that heavy pack on my shoulders.
I’ve tried to explain to my husband the nature of my mental load, but no matter what I try he can’t seem to quite grasp its significance. He knows it exists, and he sees how it impacts me, but he doesn’t fully get it because he doesn’t have to carry it.
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I love my family and I am happy to do all of the things that will make my children’s childhoods magical and steady. I am the stability that holds our busy family together, and I am responsible for planning all the fun parts of my kids’ lives. I am the glue, and I am the glitter. But sometimes it gets to be too much.
My load gets too heavy and I can’t carry it on my own anymore.
When I get to that point, no amount of physical healing will remedy the situation. I have to unload some of the rocks, or the backpack will remain too heavy. I have to ask for help. I have to lean on others to help me stumble up the hill with my heavy, heavy load. It’s challenging and humbling being a working mom. I struggle to rely on others. Allowing someone else to take a piece of my heavy burden and letting it go is hard.
But it is necessary.