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The Invisible Workload

Last week’s Working Mom Wednesday discussion was SO good that I wanted to round up some of the advice, tips and tricks that were mentioned in a post. The topic was on balancing the invisible workload — the crucial, detail-oriented, and never-ending mental work that keeps the home and family running. It’s the endless checklist of family needs that would only ever draw attention if they didn’t happen, like knowing when it’s pajama or spirit day at school, replacing shoes the kids have outgrown, bringing an item to the class party, birthday party gifts, noticing when household items need to be replenished, scheduling appointments, play dates and summer camps, meal planning and more.

I asked you all to share how you balance the load, tips on how you divide and conquer, Do you trim the stuff that doesn’t matter? Tricks for streamlining tasks? Here’s what you shared:

Printed Lists. Shared Lists. Phone Lists. 

  • So many lists, y’all. My family personally uses the Cozi app (recommended by many of you from a previous WMW discussion) and it’s been great for keeping a shared list with Matt for Target items, Amazon items, grocery items, household to-dos and more. It may take some training to get your partner used to using the app for everything, but every time I hear that last squirt of the ketchup from across the room I’ll remind Matt “hey, when you’re done, can you add ketchup to the cozi grocery list?”…and now he sometimes surprises me and adds things on his own! We also keep a list of topics we want or need to discuss during our next date night. — Carolina Charm 
  • Amazon Alexa to manage the grocery list (even my four year old knows how to tell her to add things to the list!) — Lauren & Megan
  • Shared lists on iPhone, personal list on iPhone for things I take care of (gifts, meal planning, purchases school, etc) — Lo
  • I’ve had to up my organization game since I became a working mom so I can keep track of it all. Everything either goes on my google calendar or Evernote todo lists. I even use Asana for projects that require more than 1-2 steps. — Gina

Calendars, Appointments, Planners & Reminders

  • I’ve started adding reminders in my calendar for when I should do something next year (and every year going forward). Especially when it’s something that sneaks up on me like Valentine’s day. So I added a reoccurring reminder for January 10th every year to try to get ahead of it. — Meredith 
  • Everything from errands to bill paying to bathing the dog has an assigned day in the week or month. If I don’t get it done that time, it will come around again. Appointments are always scheduled for same day & time of week when possible. — Rebecca 
  • I keep a planner with me at ALL times. Like I feel lost without it. We have a list of spirit days at beginning of year. It is in my calendar and have reminder in phone. My daughter has a busier schedule than I do . She is in 6th grade and plays soccer and basketball. Between practices, games and other things we are constantly on the go each week.
  • For me, set schedules for what to do each week (like evaluating kids closets) keep me sane. Some weeks I will need to do full clean outs and others are just passing glances, but it works. — Lauren
  • Shared Google calendars, morning conversations just to follow up with spouses schedule to have an idea of when he will be home. — Lo
  • We have a written calendar in our kitchen and I have everything in my phone. I try to meal plan well so that I can get away with only going to the store 2 times a month. Appointments I make for myself during lunch hour and my children I make on a certain day of the week at the first appointment of the day. Keeping a paper on the fridge helps us write down items that are out or almost out, I also run through the pantry quickly before any grocery shopping. — Ashley 
  • Four calendars, including a shared Google calendar with my husband with appointments, work trips, spirit days, birthday parties, etc. It’s always set at “month view” so there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s on the horizon, and it integrates with my Outlook calendar on my phone so I see everything in one place. — Erin
  • I add all sportsball practices and games to my work calendar as private and sync to my phone. I put reminders for birthdays, family events, spirit days, etc on the home planner we keep open on the kitchen counter at all times. My husband counts on this because he does school pickup while I’m still at work. I keep my Instacart app open and add grocery items as soon as they come up. I add all sportsball practices and games to my work calendar as private and sync to my phone. I put reminders for birthdays, family events, spirit days, etc on the home planner we keep open on the kitchen counter at all times. My husband counts on this because he does school pickup while I’m still at work. Many methods, and it mostly works. I have to remind myself that this season of life is short and try to embrace the craziness of active families! — Mere

Time Saver Hacks, Stocking The Home & Meal Planning

  • Target pick up, Harris Teeter drive up, and Amazon Prime. — Megan
  • I ship stuff straight to the school from amazon and address it to the teachers attention. Need juice boxes for valentines party? Prime them. Ornaments to decorate for Christmas? Shipped. I just shipped my sons teacher a case or paper. — Crina
  • For household items, I buy two & when the 2nd one is opened, it goes on the list to be replaced. Routine is everything! — Rebecca
  • I buy 12 pairs of sweatpants from old navy in either black or navy and only buy shirts that will match. All socks are white — easier to match. — Cait
  • I have someone come clean once a week. I just don’t have the time. I buy an extra pair of shoes at beginning of school year a half size up. — Tracey
  • When school shopping, I usually buy tennis shoes that fit and one size up, because we all know by Christmas the ones you just bought are too small. — Ashley 
  • I keep my 6 yr old gift closet stocked for all the class party’s — full of legos and art kits that are good for any child. I add things I like to my amazon cart and watch for them to drop in price — when they do I stock up. I also keep generic birthday cards and gift bags. When we have a party I always have a present ready. It makes it so much easier than running to target! — Arrows
  • I’ve been referring back to my 2019 planner to see what I meal planned last year! Eliminates the thought process that goes into dinner. — Am
  • We meal plan once a week (usually on Saturdays) based on what we have in our freezer. I try to rotate beef/chicken/pork/seafood and we have easy go-to’s on hand for busy nights (Sam’s pulled pork on King’s Hawaiian bread is a fave!) plus we freeze leftover spaghetti sauce, gumbo, cooked chopped chicken, etc for days we need it. — Lauren

Other Tips

  • I need to do better about sharing the load and release control and trust my husband to do it his way. — Mandy 
  • We also practice saying, “no” to stuff. — Brooke
  • Letting my husband do things his way so I can let it go (dishwasher, folding of clothes, etc) — Lauren

Examples of Successful Load Sharing & Giving Yourself Grace

  • Husband does his laundry and the baby’s — I do mine. If it’s someone on my husbands side — he has to rsvp to the party and buy the gift. If he wants us to go to a movie or his brothers he has to get the babysitter. Super Bowl at your parents 2 hours away- no problem but you have to call the dog sitter. Kid is sick? I’ll stay home but you have to call the doc, pick up prescriptions and supplies. We switch bedtime every night. Kid can’t sleep? He does the 7-12 shift I do midnight to 6am. — Cait
  • My hubs generally does sports signups, car maintenance, and yard maintenance and I handle the inside the house stuff. I have cleaners come once a month for deep cleaning and buy prepared meals for our lunches etc so I don’t have to think about it! I still do get resentful about the load sometime I do admit as I do all laundry, dishes, cooking etc. however I do travel too so my hubs can do it when I’m gone. — Lesley
  • My husband and I have a HARD divide…emails about condo association: delete so hard. School conferences: I respond. Also I do meal planning but I plan for my husband to grill or make meals that he’s good at and then I just give him options of which nights he wants to do. Small things we are always looking for like scissors, paper towels, 409 bottles, etc. are in just about every room in the house. And not to be annoying but a positive mental attitude is key. It’s exhausting but it’s a privilege. There are countless other people out there who wish their lives were so full with these nice things that don’t actually matter for the most part. And someday my life will be quiet and I will miss these crazy times. — Sid
  • I have to remind myself that this season of life is short and try to embrace the craziness of active families! — Mere
  • I had to come to the conclusion that at this phase in my life, I don’t have the time to be the room mom or making the pinterest food for the class party, I send in paper products and let the moms that excel in that area volunteer for those things. I also had to let go of the pressure I put on myself to do all the things. — Candace 
  • Meal planning has been a big burden for us so I asked my husband to plan out the meals for the month and he did it! It’s been great! I know for us, I definitely carry more of the mental load but when I’ve asked my husband to take on more, he does it happily (like with the meal plan). For me, I just need to get better about communicating what more I need from HIM and he’s happy to step up! But it definitely doesn’t come naturally to him like it does for me. — Jenny 

 Book Recommendations

  • I’m reading a GREAT book about this called Fair Play. It specifically focuses on making these domestic tasks that are typically she-faulted (defaulted to the woman) can become more shared with your partner. So far it’s amazing! — Meg
  • The book ‘Drop the Ball’ has some really interesting stuff on this topic and talks about how the author tried to rebalance the responsibility for the mental load with her husband. In straight couples this work typically falls to women and society frequently has different expectations/judgements of mums and dads on this. — Jo
  • I recently read 168 hours by Laura Vanderkam. While I don’t have kids yet, she talked about how women tend to do a lot more of the “mental” work which results in feeling burnt out. Her book is full of how to make the most of your time (even for people who think they’re already good time management like me) and has some really good tips. There are pieces that definitely won’t apply to everyone, but I recommend it! — Chelsea 

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Paula Bothwell

Friday 24th of January 2020

This was very informative—thank you for sharing such great ideas. I’ve learned a lot and will definitely be forwarding this article. I’m over 30 years into this mom/marriage thing and I have a four recommendations that have been absolute life-changers for me.

First, I adore the site I’ve used it for years. It has a great way to organize the house into zones so “divide and conquer” works great.

Second, we planned each day of the week for a family focus (5 kids): Monday, family night; Tuesday, each kid had a date with Dad in the rotation; Wednesday, church activity night; Thursday, Mom’s night out; Friday, parents’ date night; Saturday, family work/activity; and Sunday, church.

Third, each kid could do music lessons plus one other activity/sport/lesson.

Fourth, Santa’s Bag app. We use it for all gifts, we just type in Easter-name or birthday-name and put last names for the married ones. I don’t know how I managed all those years without this one!

Items one through three shared the mental load not just between me and my husband, but our children knew the routine and we were reminded if something went by the wayside.

Emily Obrovac

Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

I read from another blogger to meal plan for the month. I have been doing this since September, and it has been a GAME CHANGER for my family of 7! It just makes my life to much easier to look at the month, see where we have after school committments, and then plan. It doesn't mean meals don't ever get switched, but it means we are not in a "food rut" and I am not freaking out about planning meals each week!


Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

This is amazingly helpful! I'm a stay at home mom to our 3 year old with baby #2 due in March but I also run the daily operations for our family's small business, so while I don't work out of the home, it can still be crazy busy when you start adding in weekend events, my husband's work/travel schedule, and my toddler's activities - so many helpful tips to take away from this!

And seriously - moms could run the world :)