“Sharing the mental load of parenting isn’t straightforward or easy, but it is necessary for the entire family to thrive.”

What You’ll Learn
  • What is mental load?
  • How does mental load affect my parenting?
  • How can I successfully balance the mental load of parenting?
  • What additional support is available?

Parenting provides individuals with a sense of purpose, identity, and social connection, yet it also requires a lot (and I cannot stress this enough—a lot!) of physical, cognitive and emotional labor. The sheer volume of things parents have to do and think about is overwhelming and leaves a lot of parents feeling stressed. Thankfully, you are not alone and there are ways to help lighten the load associated with parenting.


Mental Load

In addition to all of the physical demands parents take on to manage a family and household, there is also the invisible, boundaryless, and enduring work known as the mental load. The mental load is an “inherent cognitive component” of daily routines (Reich-Stiebert et al., 2023), including planning, organizing, decision-making, remembering, worrying, anticipating needs, and delegating. Take, for example, a playdate. The mental load of a playdate is all the little things a parent must remember for this event to be successful—talking with other parents and scheduling, coordinating, buying snacks, planning activities, worrying about your child’s behavior and interactions, and so much more. While each of these tasks can seem small, they quickly build up and can become overwhelming.

Often within families, one person can be overburdened by the mental load. This can negatively affect their mental health and lead to resentment and conflict within a relationship. Sharing the mental load of parenting isn’t straightforward or easy, but it is necessary for the entire family to thrive. Moreover, sharing the mental load of parenting doesn’t just have to be between two parents—build a “parenting team” of people you trust—grandparents, friends, parent support groups, educators—and don’t be afraid to ask for help.


Balancing the Mental Load of Parenting

Balancing the mental load of parenting requires at least two people to take on the responsibility of an actual task while thinking and knowing about the task. This process aims to improve cooperation, cohesiveness, and collaboration in parenting and family life.

Offsetting the mental load with a partner or parenting team is possible, but requires continual practice. Try out the following strategies to balance the mental load and see what works best for you and your family.


1. Discuss the mental load and recognize the value of such contributions. This conversation will help set the tone for your partnership. Parenting is a collaborative effort and supportive relationships will influence your child’s development. 

2. Collaborate on decision-making. This will help your child develop a secure attachment and decrease stress for you and your child.

3. Delegate specific tasks or responsibilities (both visible and invisible). We all have strengths and weaknesses. Redistribute the load and use your strengths to accomplish your respective responsibilities. Just remember not to avoid tasks because you think your partner or a member of your parenting team is better at it than you—this creates an extra mental load! *Recognize that you will probably do things in slightly different ways.

4. Be flexible. You are going to experience seasons of life where you will have to carry more of the load because of personal or professional circumstances. You will also experience the opposite where your partner or a member of your parenting team may need to carry more of the load. It won’t always be 50/50, and that’s okay.

5. Take time to reflect individually. Ask yourself, am I doing enough? Is my partner or a member of my parenting team taking on too much? What can I help with to share the mental load? 

6. Schedule time to reflect together. Use this time to discuss logistics and make adjustments as needed to ensure the family responsibilities are being taken care of amongst all members of the parenting team. Use this time to also discuss your feelings and needs—remember to be honest and respectful, and listen without getting defensive.

7. Be kind and patient. This might go without saying, but remember to be kind to yourself and your partner/team. Parenting is challenging and you’re all learning. Keep going!

8. Express appreciation. While you shouldn’t have to praise your partner or members of your parenting team for doing simple tasks, we are human, and simple acknowledgment and appreciation do motivate us.

9. Seek additional support when needed. There will be times when you may need help navigating and carrying the mental load of parenting. This is okay—people are willing to support you as a parent, including us at SolBe! Your child needs a happy and healthy parent, not a perfect one.


Regardless of how you decide to balance the mental load of parenting, know that one thing should remain true: a shared responsibility to raise a healthy, resilient, and happy child.


Additional Support 

Massachusetts Parental Stress Line: 1-800-632-8188

This hotline is a project of Parents Helping Parents of Massachusetts. The hotline is available 24/7 and is staffed by volunteer counselors.

Parent List App: https://parentlist.app/ 

This app is designed to help individuals manage the mental load of parenting while helping them find joy in daily parenting.

“Fair Play” Method: https://www.fairplaylife.com/ 

This method was created by Eve Rodsky to help parents allocate household tasks equally through a process where they begin to understand why they are important to one or both of them.


Empowering Takeaways

  • The mental load of parents is often invisible, boundary-less, and enduring
  • There are strategies, resources, and people to help lighten the mental load of parenting
  • Balancing the mental load is essential for thriving parents and children

Be vibrant and keep thriving!

This article was last reviewed or updated on January 5, 2024.

About the author: Rebecca is the Head of Family Empowerment and Student Success at SolBe Learning. Rebecca has worked in the field of early education for over six years, with a passion for supporting the optimal development of young children and families. Rebecca holds a B.A. in early childhood education and sociology as well as an M.A. and license in school counseling.



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