After a week on my own with the kids I have been thinking a lot about ‘mental load’ because my head has been swirling with all the things that need to be done for the kids. Mental load is something research shows women tend to carry a lot more of in their heads when it comes to children, if you haven’t seen it already, check out this Mental Load comic by French cartoonist Emma which explains it well I think.
I’ve found it is often not that the rest of the family don’t want to help, it’s that it is all so tied up in my head they don’t or can’t see it. So I’ve been thinking of practical ways to get the mental load out of my head and into the family view, so we can all share it. Mental load needs to be visible, not invisible where it pummels one person’s head and zaps their potential to achieve other things.
We had this pretty nailed before we moved house. Part the problem was that the ‘last box’ of moving house stuff in the garage was surprisingly full of the stuff that keeps family life together (and plenty of stuff that doesn’t). So I emptied it, and I thought I would share my well-honed no fail* system. *Any failure is completely down to losing the will to engage with organisation systems and not the organisation systems themselves.
Parents don’t always get organised before the kids go back to school, sometimes the best organisation happens once the kids are back to school and there is time to experience the joy of that back to school feeling yourself.
Ways to make the family admin mental load more visible…
Set up a shared to do list
It’s easy to fling insults around or to get grumpy with your partner when one of you feels saddled with more of the family admin. Nine times out of ten I know our discussions about such matters end in resentment. The concept of mental load is powerful way to explore that feeling of overwhelm though, and to start to talk about and understand each other’s mental loads. Sometimes, though, practical solutions can create change much more quickly. Take time to share a list for the month, so you can both add things to your own to do lists, and own them. There are even apps for this, Wunderlist is great for shared to do lists.
Fridge Magnet Clips
These are genius, the kids have one each for certificates from school or art. It means we keep stuff together without crowding the whole fridge. The side of our fridge is perfect for school admin as it is right next to the door. We also have one for school letters so they don’t float around the kitchen work surfaces. Ours look boring now, but I love these bulldog clip magnets.
I spend a lot of time on my phone but I am old fashioned when it comes to diary and calendar. I find it calming to be able to all see things rather than have to look at my phone. It also means the kids can learn to use a calendar, (without needing tech) and no one has to ask me what is happening. Also technically things can’t get double booked as whatever was on the calendar first, rules. A family calendar with space for everyone, is a great way to encourage everyone to take responsibility and appreciate the juggling that goes into family organisation.
Clipboard and pen
I haven’t actually got round to this yet, but I read about it and loved it; have a clipboard and pen out in the kitchen so kids can take responsibility for leaving out letters parents need to sign. Paperchase do some lovely magnetic clipboards with a pen if you want to keep it stuck down, plus it has notepaper for notes for teachers too.
Weekly White Board
Ours is installed next to the back door which means we can check as we leave the house for the things we need to remember on set days each week and also one off reminders too. It makes swapping between the two of us taking the kids easy too, we don’t have to have to have stressful conversations about remembering things over the dog barking for breakfast and the kids bickering. Ours doesn’t have a ‘next week’ section, which is why I love this magnetic white board planner.
Meal Planner and Shopping List
We also have a space on the fridge for meal planning – it doesn’t always happen but it makes such a difference to my mental load when it does. We’ve always had an old fashioned magnetic shopping list pad too, but given the number of shopping lists I have lost before I get to the shop, I am thinking I might get a meal planner with a shopping list, and then take a photo of the shopping list bit when we need it. This strategy also makes it easy to send shopping lists to each other, depending on who is passing the shops that day.
I have added a small column each day in my own trusty Moleskine Weekly Diary, for kids’ stuff I need to do or remember in the day, and I highlight a lot of it too, as it is easy to forget when I am thinking about work. I have always loved that this diary has a page for the week and a lined page opposite for notes, so I can have a work, a personal and a family to do list each week if I need to. My diary is strictly the family stuff I have said I will take responsibility for, the whiteboard is for day to day stuff.
School run time alarms
I have an alarm set on my phone to make sure I stop work in plenty of time to breathe, grab some snacks, get the dog in the car, park on the way to school, have a little walk and pick up the kids. Ten extra minutes to myself to get in the zone makes a massive difference, especially if they come out of school grumpy.
Have you got any great tips to share? We would LOVE to hear how you share the mental load of school admin.
Disclosure – I have linked to some products of which I am an affiliate, which really wasn’t my intention when I started writing this, I just wanted to share my love of things that ease the mental load and then I saw that adding links made sense…maybe I will buy the new whiteboard I have my eye on with the proceeds.
Photo by Shutterstock, Symbol Scale