Release the Mental Load
One thing I knew I'd be good at as I entered motherhood two short months ago, was soaking in the small moments. You see, I'm a person deeply driven by emotions, and I understand the importance of being present. I couldn't wait to savor the tiny toes and newborn smell every second I could. But in those still small seconds, something else invaded, the mental load of motherhood.
I had seen plenty of moms with older kids running amuck. The wheels in their heads are constantly turning. You'd be in a conversation together but know they were planning dinners for the week, driving schedule, and their 5-year-old's 16th birthday, all while taking a single sip of that watered-down iced coffee.
I just never expected it to come so soon.
As I watched her eyelids flutter to sleep, in my head, I was counting how many clean diapers we had, checking our food inventory, wondering when I showered last and how I could plan my day to do so. When I returned to the moment, she was dead asleep. I missed the sweet coos, and the precious moment she shifted to dead weight feeling safe in my arms. I was heartbroken and full of guilt. I took note of this and quickly realized how often it was happening. But even more, that being a mom wasn't the trigger. My mental load had taken away moments in my marriage, adulthood, and school years, for as far back as I could look, the intrusive list I had to balance made minutes of joy turn into spaced out attacks of anxiety.
So why is that?
Let's first step back and look at what metal load is. An article by Better Up describes mental load as "the cognitive effort involved in managing your work, relationships, a family, and a household. Mental load is the whole bundle of details you manage throughout the day." The whole bundle. Picture yourself carrying a physical basket. Each detail you carry is a pebble. Details such as meals, chores, schedules, work, birthdays, events, bills, and the list goes on. The more pebbles you add to that basket, the heavier it gets.
Look at the famous story in the Bible of Mary and Martha.
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
Mary chooses presence with Jesus, while Martha gives in to her mental load and misses moments with Him. Every time my mind has checked out to think about dinner or what I would do in between feedings, I miss one more moment with my daughter. the invisible load of motherhood is the piece that binds me away from presence.
Jesus even tells Martha in Luke 10:41-42 that "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Martha was not only giving in to her mental load but suffering from it. Jesus called her worried and upset. He sees me stuck in my intrusive thought cycles, worried and upset because mental load for me is not just a pretty checklist; my cognitive load makes me anxious. My anxiety over this ongoing list doesn't take away one second while the thought passes but instead, hours of obsession over the idea.
Let me share how I have released the mental load and allowed myself to be fully present in my motherhood.
Look at the basket we filled earlier. It wouldn't be hard to carry with just one pebble, but instead, you have hundreds making the basket heavy, and honestly, I'm sure many of us have the bottom falling out. But the terrifying part is that this basket and pebbles aren't something we can see. In fact, this load in your head is invisible. For me, the invisible load of motherhood is the piece that binds me away from presence. It's a weight I constantly carry that no one can see, but I can feel.
The anxiety of mental load has a grip on so many of us that we can't be fully present in the moments that matter. We must learn how to release our mental load so that we will not be robbed of the beautiful simplicity in each second. We have to dump the pebbles out of the basket. This, my friend, is where I introduce to you the brain dump.
Think of a brain dump as a pretty little riverbed where your pebbles can stay until you have the time to pick them up; meanwhile, you're able to sit and look at the glistening water being present in the moment.
Here's how to put a brain dump into action.
Pick a place for it to live. I'm typically a pen-and-paper girl, and when I've used this method in the past, it has been in notebook form. However, right now, as most of my thoughts come in the middle of nursing, I utilize the notes app on my phone.
When a thought comes, please place it in the dump. Write it down to get it out of your head and make space for the moment you are in. This is the easiest and most challenging part. It won't be easy at first to not fixate or go down a rabbit hole, but you will get the hang of it!
Pick a time to come back. Whether it be once a day, once a week, or even multiple times a day, set a time to allow yourself to return to your thoughts. I look back in the evenings unless I know I had written something time-restricted.