The term “mental load” has become more and more common, especially among mothers. If you haven’t heard of this term before, “mental load” refers to all of the invisible tasks associated with the management of a household. It’s constant laundry, meal planning and prep, dishes, and baths. It’s keeping track of the family calendar, school permission slips and money, book fair volunteering, and the grocery list, as well as planning birthday parties, doctor appointments, and what will go in the kids’ Easter baskets.
It’s planning a play date and keeping track of which kids invited are allergic to certain foods and being sure to bake those gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free muffins (and remembering to put all those special ingredients on the grocery list before visiting the store). While she’s trying to bake the everything-free muffins to keep little Johnny safe, play date mom is also reminding herself to ask Susan how her mother-in-law is feeling after that nasty fall they talked about last week. And did Mary’s husband land that job he interviewed for? Better send a quick text.
It’s constantly being aware of, and making adjustments for, the physical, social, and emotional health of each (very different!) person in her family, and being needed virtually 24/7.
It’s no wonder moms are exhausted from the mental gymnastics they perform every day to keep their households and relationships running smoothly. But what does this have to do with Mother’s Day? As long as we have flowers and brunch, Mother’s Day is covered, right?
The sad reality is that while the card companies and retail marketers paint pictures of moms receiving cards and jewelry with happy, light hearts, for mothers still raising children, Mother’s Day often feels more like a “working holiday”. Think about it: Who usually cleans up the kitchen if the kids make mom breakfast in bed? Who plans and executes the Mother’s Day brunch? Who (usually) makes sure the kids are bathed and dressed a little extra nice for a special Mother’s Day picture? Brunch is nice, but who’s the one thinking about what to have for dinner later that evening, and then preparing the backpacks and lunches for the following day of school?
And for Pastors’ wives? A friend of mine describes it as feeling like a single parent getting the kids ready for church on a regular Sunday, but on Mother’s Day, that stings. Pastors’ wives and other women in ministry often wear many hats themselves on Sundays in addition to their role of Mom.
So how can we honor and serve moms better on Mother’s Day in light of this knowledge? What are some practical ways we can show them our appreciation to make Mother’s Day feel more like a real holiday that celebrates them?
Cancel Other Activities
On my first Mother’s Day, our church still played their regularly scheduled Sunday evening men’s softball games, and my husband was among many fathers on the team. I’ll spare you the details, but the memory of how that day ended still hurts my heart. If at all possible, any other church activities or classes aside from morning services or those specifically in honor of Mother’s Day should be cancelled. Let’s allow our staff, volunteers, and families to celebrate Mother’s Day free from extra church obligations and scheduling conflicts.
This concept ought to be applied to our family schedule as well. Kids’ ball games? Community class or activity? The usual weekend grocery shopping? Skip them all and make Mom the priority.
Take Care of the Kids
What would it take to let every mom who volunteers in the nursery off the hook for nursery duty on Mother’s Day? Or to send some help to Pastor’s wife to get the kids ready in the morning so she can start her day with a little less chaos? (Pro tip: Don’t send Judgy McJudgerson over there. Choose this helper wisely.)
In our own homes, caring for the kids could look like Dad making AND cleaning up breakfast that morning, or making a rule that mom doesn’t change any diapers on Mother’s Day. How about arranging for the kids to be busy with Dad for an hour or two in the afternoon, allowing Mom a pocket of time to herself? There are many ways to be creative with this, but the idea here is to give moms a break from the routine care of the children so that she can just enjoy them.
No matter which route you choose, be sure to execute it well and thoroughly. New nursery workers at church? Be sure they know the expectations and clean the room when they’re done. Dad’s on breakfast duty at home? Run the dishwasher if it’s full. No diaper changing for Mom this day? Empty the diaper pail at the end of the day and put a fresh liner in for the morning. You get the idea.
Plan the Day
Why are mothers organizing the Mother’s Day church events? Switch it up and have the men or youth plan and serve the brunch or the tea. Have the food catered if needed and pay attention to the details. It may look a little different than in years gone by, and that’s ok. It’s been documented time and again that change is good, and fosters growth.
In our homes, this looks like planning the day’s activities so Mom doesn’t have to. If you really need her input, get it way in advance. Research and schedule an activity she’d like to do, either alone or with the children based on her preference (or maybe both, if time allows). Make taking pictures of her with the kids a priority and have the setting already picked out. Decide on dinner plans (it’s a popular day for restaurants, so make reservations if you plan to eat out). Start observing her Sunday night routine now so that you can take over those tasks of preparing for the next week. Send her to bed early after a great celebration for a good night’s sleep.
Let Her Know You SEE Her
Many moms I know feel like their families don’t see even half of what they do and the ways they care for their families. Make sure to let the moms in your church and in your life know how much you appreciate them. You don’t have to know all the details of their mental load to know that there are countless ways, visible and invisible, that they add priceless value to your days. Acknowledge the seen and the unseen work of these moms, and they will feel so known, loved, and appreciated.
These are just a few of many ideas you can use to plan a day that celebrates Mom and helps that mental load she’s carrying feel so much lighter.
How will you celebrate moms this year? Share your plans in the comments!