The motherload – the invisible workload of motherhood

Noun. motherload (plural motherloads) A very large amount of something, especially something valuable.

Mums’ motherloads are made up from the relentless, necessary things we do for our families – most of which are invisible.  Mothers do a seemingly endless list of tasks which would only be noticed if they weren’t done.  As the children grow up, the motherload changes, but it never eases up.  ‘Me time’ is history and all the while the mental strain of doing everything, remembering everything, feeling every emotion in your family, being in several places at the same time whilst worrying, well, it chips away at your sanity.

It’s not just feeding everyone — it’s knowing who likes what, (Sam’s just turned veggie, Charlie’s coming for a sleepover and will need to go to hospital if there are nuts in the house).  It’s about trying to balance old favourites with new things (‘Mum! not sausages again!’) whilst maintaining a mental inventory of what you’ve got in the kitchen (is it basmati or long grain we’ve run out of?) and knowing who’s eating late or early because of football or Brownies after school.  And what about the leftovers?  You can eat them yourself (+++calories), tip them into the recycling, or save them and try to remember their existence before they grow a film of mould. Oh, and the tomato sauce has leaked at the back of the fridge, so that needs cleaning up.  Hey, how long has this manky pasta been in there? 

The invisible workload of motherhood carries over to the pile of school consent forms for after school clubs, trips and sports.  There are emails to answer, online lunch payments to make and mislaid sports kit to track down. Then there’s birthday party invitations (with presents and cards to buy, wrap and write), haircuts to book, sweaty sports or slimy swim bags to clear out, and new school shoes to buy (but not right now).  Emily will just have to squeeze into them for a few more weeks.  And there’s the guilt.  Bad mother.  I’m always such a bad mother.  Why are we so hard on ourselves?

The motherload seamlessly switches winter clothes to the stored summer clothes (which no longer fit) to her children’s wardrobes and drawers, whilst putting away toys and changing the duvet.  Then there’s the packaging up of old clothes and the sneaky removal of no-longer loved toys for friends or to be donated to charity shops – decluttering just a bit. 

Every motherload task list is similar, but unique to the mother.  It simply never ends.  Sometimes, it’s mundane drudgery about buying loo roll, shampoo, batteries and tissues.  Other times, it’s how a new kettle miraculously appears when the old one breaks, or a babysitter shows up on time for a rare night out. And it’s how every holiday happens, tickets are booked for the panto and costumes are created for Halloween and school plays.

Meanwhile, the mother’s motherload continues to do the visible things.  But when?  Seriously, when?  How does one person do all this, all day, every day for years?

Whether a mother’s day is spent at work or at home with a young family, it’s likely that she’s manically busy from the moment she gets up.  Mornings are, noisy, chaotic and always up against the clock.  9-5 is either spent at a workplace or with lovable, yet incredibly demanding offspring. Then there’s dinner to make and clear, maybe homework, bath time, bedtime routine and finally, a small window of ‘me time’, when Mum can fall asleep on the sofa half way through the first episode of a bingeworthy new drama on Netflix.  But there’s also the feeling of being exhausted, having achieved nothing, FOMO and of suffering from parent imposter syndrome (The parent imposter syndrome can impede your ability to enjoy being a parent to the fullest). 

Who hasn’t nodded off on a small bed next to a sleeping little one, with a copy of Where the Wild Things Are discarded on the floor below?  Who has wanted – needed –  to kiss their sweet child on the head, slip out of their room and dive into her own bed for a long, deep, uninterrupted sleep?

Why does this never happen?

With my motherload, instead I stumble out of my child’s warm bed and look frantically for my phone to check the time. Leaving my football-mad hubby shouting at the ref on the TV, I climb into the car with my bags for life and head to Tesco to get a set of underpants for my son and a new water bottle for my daughter (the third one this term).  Since I’m there, I grab some new razors for my husband, a copy of the bestseller for my book group, and I spend £35 on random groceries and a scented candle for Emily’s teaching assistant who’s leaving.  I don’t forget the Calpol and sticking plasters (which I want to stick over my whole life). I fill up with petrol and take the opportunity to vacuum the inside using the coins I reserve for parking.   It’s only when I’m driving home that I remember we have no milk.  And my house is still a mess, so I set to work cleaning the kitchen, putting on yet another load of washing and dragging the bins out in the rain.

While there are others just like me, there are our morning counterparts as well. This isn’t about staying up all night to do things—it’s about squeezing your entire adult life into a few hours when your kids are in bed. We all do it to an extent. For some, this means getting up at 5 or 6 am to work out, enjoy a cup of tea in silence or get organised for the day. For me, it means staying up at all hours because I hate mornings more than a five-year-old hates wearing a coat.

Whatever the time of day, you’re hammering through your list of visible and invisible responsibilities.  It’s like a dream where you are trying to finish a task or fill a box, but it never ends. 

You aren’t alone with your motherload.  There are millions of mums out there, all the time.  They’re sticking on name tags, clearing up mess, shopping for felt for a school project and ferrying small people to wherever they need to be – on time and with all their accessories and food requirements catered.  We love our kids to bits, but my god, we’re exhausted.  We offer a knowing look and a supportive smile as we pass other stressed mums juggling their individual motherloads.  They may not notice, but the solidarity is there and that’s usually enough. 

Onwards …

GoMunkee is sympathetic to the burdens of parenting and navigating the work-life balance whilst trying to please everyone all the time.  So we’ve made it easier to find things to see and do near you for your kids and as a family.  We hope you like it.

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