The Parenting Playoffs: Mental Load Reigns Supreme

When we set out to collect data on the challenges facing working parents, our goal was to learn from the real superstars out there kicking butt every day: you. The response we received was overwhelming. Y’all shared your stories, struggles, and secrets about being working parents. Since it is March, it seemed appropriate that we create our own working parent – and admittedly corny – bracket, the “Josie Parenting Playoffs”, based on what our survey respondents identified as their top challenge.

Like the NCAA basketball tournament, there is a lot to manage. And the pressure to choose between competing priorities, like legendary college teams in the bracket, there is no clear right or wrong answer. While mental load dominated the game, it’s important to give a shout-out to the other challenges we navigate across career and parenting (see Josie playoff bracket). From finding bomb childcare to navigating career plays, these issues matter big time and doesn’t diminish the importance of the others – they all play crucial roles in our parenting and professional journeys.

But while this exercise is light hearted (and totally cheesy), at Josie, we know that working parenthood is as crazy as it is serious business.  So we can’t just leave you with a cheeky graphic…  Like any good playoff, good coaches are involved – guiding, directing, and sharing lessons from their own experiences.  Here are some of our best tips from our team of amazing coaches on how to managing the most frequently cited challenge in our survey: managing mental load and preventing burnout.

The Mental Load Lowdown

The “mental load” refers to the invisible burden of planning, organizing, and anticipating family needs, often carried disproportionately by parents. Mental load can include things like scheduling appointments, coordinating childcare, supporting a struggling team member, and planning for the unexpected.

Burnout occurs when chronic stress leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. Left unchecked, burnout can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Therefore, it is crucial to address and manage the factors contributing to our mental load to prevent burnout.  How?  See if any of the below 4 tips might work for you.

All-Star Strategies to Combat Mental Load and Burnout:

  1. Divide and Conquer: Channel your inner coach to prioritize tasks like a champ, focusing on high-impact activities. Just like a great basketball team, the best ones know how to work together, allowing each member to take on a role and prioritize to get the best outcomes. Delegating household responsibilities and key work activities can be hard – but instead of seeing it as “it’s easier if I do it myself,” or, “I don’t want to burden other people,” – try saying, “this is a team effort, and all will benefit from me not taking it all on.”
  2. Self-Care Timeout: Take time to recharge and rejuvenate like a champ. Sure, this could include exercise, relaxation techniques, or engaging in activities that bring you joy. And it can also be quick, 30 seconds of deep breathing, or turning on your favorite tune and dancing for 2 minutes. Hey, even hiding in the bathroom for a minute counts! And we know what you’re thinking – easier said that done, but remember that self-care is NOT selfish. You can’t be your best parent or employee if you are not your best you.
  3. Know Your Boundaries: Establish healthy boundaries in both personal and professional life, then stay accountable to them so you don’t go out-of-bounds. These ground rules may involve setting limits on the amount of time you devote to specific tasks or limiting your availability outside of work hours. Time blocking your schedule also allows you to own your downtime and be effective when you’re in the game.
  4. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Great basketball teams know how to communicate and “read” each others’ cues. Share your struggles and concerns with your fam, friends, or coworkers. Being honest about struggles also invites others to do the same – the makings of a great team, able to support and be vulnerable to one another!

The Parenting Playoffs MVPs (Most Vexing Predicaments)

While managing the mental load and avoiding burnout emerged as the top challenge among the working parents we surveyed, it’s important to recognize the significance of all the issues addressed in this bracket. From finding reliable childcare to navigating career decisions, and taking care of yourself to feeling guilty, each of these challenges plays a significant role in the lives of working parents. You are all doing so much, and we see you.

As we continue to navigate the challenges of being professionals and parents, let’s remember the power of community, self-care, and support in overcoming these obstacles. Together, we can celebrate our victories, learn from our setbacks, and ultimately, dominate the game (okay, okay we’ve taken it too far – time to wrap this up!)

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