Invisible Load

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, writing about, and making changes in my life around emotional labor and the mental load of motherhood.

But I saw a video a few weeks ago about the unseen or physical invisible load that I haven’t stopped thinking about ever since. Not just the thinking and planning but the actual doing.

Before I get into what I want to say on the topic I have to give a shoutout to Libby from @diaryofanhonest mom who creates really powerful content about motherhood and mental health on TikTok and Instagram. She is the one who made the original video that sparked a lot of thinking and conversations for me.

The example she gave is how she took everything out of her kids arts and crafts drawers before the school year, organized them, refilled them with what they needed, cleaned them up, and put them back. So while it’s something that had to be done for her family and household to run smoothly, if you walked into the room before and after the project, you wouldn’t see a difference.

The next day as I was doing my weekly round of changing the sheets on all the beds in our house I realized that was the same idea. My kids and Anel rarely (if ever?) notice that they have clean sheets on their beds every week or that someone washes, folds, and puts the old ones away.

The same goes for grocery shopping. The fridge is always full with their favorite foods, favorite drinks, and ingredients for meals. Like magic! 😉 As any grocery-shopper knows, that involves making a list, going to the store, unpacking groceries, and timing it so the least amount of produce goes bad each week. A lot of work for something that sometimes goes unnoticed.

Some other examples of this are organizing drawers and cabinets, doing the laundry, folding, and putting away clothes, keeping school forms up-to-date, paying bills, and so much more.

These examples showcase not only a mental load (the fact that one person has to remember to and be responsible for doing the task) but a the invisible physical load of actually doing this work that doesn’t usually get a lot of praise because it’s unseen.

A lot of the tasks that fall under Anel’s responsibility have very visual outcomes: mowing the lawn, leaf blowing, creating the most beautiful garden since Eden, etc. When he finishes those tasks, it’s easy to see his hard work!

I genuinely get excited when he does these things. I appreciate the work and tell him that. And it’s important to me as human to hear that appreciation reciprocated once in a while.

Obviously this division of labor  isn’t the same in every house but it is not uncommon in a hetero partnership.

This concept and this information is nothing new but thinking of it with a new term and realizing how much of motherhood goes literally unseen, it sparked something in me to re-up our Fair Play and make some more changes in our house.

It also sparked a conversation in my house about noticing this invisible work (for both of us, not just him) and expressing gratitude to the other partner for that work. It makes us both feel good to have someone notice the effort we’re putting in!