8 Ways to Ease the Mental Load

I am weary of being The Knower of All the Things.

I’ve been reading lately about the Mental Load women carry (not to mention the emotional load, but that’s another blog post). One article I read said that for women/mothers (and I’ll add homeschoolers), the mental load of being The Knower of All the Things can be really exhausting.

Mom is typically the one who knows when everyone is due for the dentist/orthodontist/optometrist/doctor/sports physical. She knows when the household is low on milk/toilet paper/batteries/staples/tape/notebook paper. She knows when the bills are due, where we keep the records, how the insurance works, when the cat and dog are due at the vet, and the status of all the kids’ schooling. She is in charge of family scheduling, birthday/Christmas/baby shower/wedding gifts, family celebrations, school photos, and more. And Mom is supposed to magically know where every missing object in the house is located.

While God is the true Knower of All the Things, and I believe he wired moms for this capability, it can truly feel debilitating and exhausting at times. Now that I have two sons done with college and a daughter part-way through college with just the caboose under my fulltime homeschooling, I finally have the mental capacity to fully evaluate my last 19 years of homeschooling. My goal is to assess and adjust for the final kidlet in the homeschool pipeline. I encourage you to join me.

Moms’ brains aren’t typically good at resting. And even when we try, there are the never-ending queries and our own brains keeping us busy.

From the kids:

“Where are my swim trunks?”
“Mom, can you remind me to bring an article to co op?”
“Mom, where are the AAA batteries?”
“Why do I have to take swimming lessons?”

From husband:

“Remember I need a ride to the airport Tuesday.”
“Where is the spare key to the car?”
“We’re out of coffee creamer.”

And constantly from my own brain:

“We need to replace the furnace filter.”
“I wonder if I should have Maddie take the PSAT this fall or wait.”
“I should take Stephanie flowers since her surgery.”
“I need to pay the water bill today.”
“I never called that lady back about speech class.”
“I need to get my fall co op classes in order.”
“My printer is out of ink but it’s so old even Costco doesn’t sell my ink anymore.”

Insert about another 7347 items here.

As homeschool moms, the feeling of responsibility for your kids’ education and well-being can, at times, be overwhelming, particularly during times of extra stress like moving, illness, and family emergencies, and this year the ever-popular pandemic. Here are a few practical suggestions to ease some of your mental load this coming school year. You can do this, homeschool mama!

1. Remove at least one activity from your life or your kids’ lives. 

Often when we add something, we forget to remove something else. You can also do activities seasonally so you can try different things without being perpetually exhausted. Whenever possible, combine activities (all kids take swim lessons at the same time, for example). The pandemic has more than taken care of this for most of us, but it is still worth consideration.

2. Get rid of at least one object in your house that is creating mental clutter. 

A few years ago we had a metal bunkbed frame in the garage that had been there for SIX years. I finally found all the parts, reassembled it, posted it on Facebook, and sold it for $30. I just did some research and found out where I can donate a mattress and box spring that have been in the garage for a year. The money from the bunkbed went into the college textbook fund for child #2. I made a list of other things I want to remove from my house and brain space. Facebook has many Buy Nothing or local sales sites to help with this. Varage Sale is another option if it is available in your area. Or call and see where you can donate items.

3. Put someone else in charge of at least one of your ‘mom’ tasks. 

Even littles can do simple things like putting their laundry away, helping unload dishes, or putting toilet paper in the bathrooms. Moms don’t have to be The Doer of All the Things. Surely I’m not the only one who can take the trash cans to the curb! Allow some natural consequences if the tasks don’t get done. “Your clothes didn’t make it to the laundry room on time, so it’s not my emergency to do a load at 11 p.m.”

4. Organize your kids’ school records in one place. 

I keep a brown manila envelope for each kid for each year, but we’ve moved several times, and they ended up in a huge box in the garage. Their school record books and cum files were in different locations, and I had files scattered around for college applications, driver’s ed, SAT, theater workshops, piano, etc. After 16 years of homeschooling, I finally put all these various records in order in a $15 garage-sale four-drawer filing cabinet. One drawer per child. 

5. Abdicate from preparing one meal per day.

When baby #4 arrived, I was 41 and tired, working halftime and homeschooling three with a baby in tow. I told the kids they were fully capable of making their own breakfasts. I figured my job was to have food in the house and the rest was up to them for breakfast and some lunches. They have done an admirable job of feeding themselves since then, and it was one less thing on my to-do list. You may also assign your kids dinner duty on a rotating basis. After all, they are going to be adults one day, and need to learn this stuff.

6. Require advance notice of events/activities from your family. 

Someone else’s failure to communicate does not create an emergency on your part.  A weekly family meeting goes a LONG way toward preventing these types of crises, and children should learn early that it’s good manners and good for mom’s sanity to give advance notice of activities and needs. Having everyone’s schedules sorted allows more margin for emergencies, figuring out alternative transportation if necessary, and last-minute opportunities, etc. My kids joke that we need two weeks’ notice to be spontaneous!

7. Share the load. 

I guarantee other homeschool moms feel your pain. Find a like-minded friend to encourage and help to simplify your life. Maybe you can watch each other’s kids when you need to run errands or plan. Or do a minimalizing challenge together. Ask your husband to take on one or more aspects of schooling or activities. My husband manages most of the boys’ golf-related activities and associated travel. I still help, but this way I can watch and cheer for my children instead of managing all the logistics.

8. Try a bullet journal or a planner. 

I recently coveted a dear friend’s beautifully organized bullet journal and aspire to create one for myself. The thing I love most about it is that all your planning/scheduling/mental load lists are in one place. I’ll be writing more on this later.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format on www.homeschool411.com. It has been updated.


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