The Mom Brain Drain: How to Avoid Being Dragged Down by Invisible Work


Ever wonder why you feel so tired at the end of the day when it was just an average, seemingly normal day? Why despite adhering to your resolution to take it easy and take time out for yourself that you still feel overworked and overwhelmed? Perhaps it was the extra mental work we do as women, the mom brain drain, that consists of a litany of tasks that fall on us by default.

Things like remembering to buy toothpaste (but not the kind with microbeads because those ones are bad for the environment), booking a dentist appointment for the youngest (but not one that conflicts with the soccer practice or the days when her favorite friend is available for a playdate), making healthy school lunches (that comply with the classroom allergy requirements and child preferences).

A recent article in Time magazine described this “invisible work” as the mental labor that women take on to keep the household running smoothly. Women, it seems, unwittingly take on the role of worrier, organizer, rememberer, and attention-payer. It’s the reason why we feel drained at the end of the day when not much really happened (other than all the mental organizational stuff that we do without realizing it).

So that toilet paper roll that automatically refills itself does so because a somewhere a mom has checking the toilet paper levels in her mental task list. The thrill grandma got from seeing the dress she bought her favorite 5-year-old last Christmas worn at her birthday celebration is because a mom made a mental note to match the dress to the giver for this very occasion.

Obviously, adding this workload to the ready monumental task of building and growing a business is enough to drag any mompreneur down. So what’s a busy working mom to do? Say forget it and ditch all these extra mental tasks and risk being stranded without TP? Here are a few ways to lighten the mental load:

Negotiate Shared Responsibility – Ask your spouse to take on some mental tasks. Not in a nag-him-to-do-it-but-you-still-have-to-remember-it way, but in an entirely responsible, completely hands-off way. For example, give your spouse the entire task of managing sport schedule. Thanks to apps like Team Snap it’s relatively easy for you to hand over the job of staying on top of practice and game schedules and important updates.

Use Technology Tools – Use technology to unburden your mind. For example, set calendar reminders for important family events, like grandma’s birthday, and have it flag you in enough time to buy a thoughtful card and get it in the mail or use the wish list feature on your favorite e-commerce sites to flag potential gift ideas for upcoming occasions.

Create No-Fail Systems – Don’t have everything default to you! Build no-fail systems that enable other people to  step up and get the job done without you! For example, switch to a toilet paper dispenser that holds 2 or 3 spare rolls so you won’t get stranded if no one remembers to refill it.

Standardize, Standardize, Standardize – Simplify your life by making your regular tasks standard! Need to pack a lunch for school? Check the lunch menu. Wondering where to find little Tommy’s baseball uniform? Check the bin where it goes immediately after being washed. Need to pick-up groceries? Print out the list or order from your standard weekly list in your grocery ordering app.

Lower Your Expectations – Give up on maintaining impossible standards. Yes, it would be nice if you dressed your kids in the gifts given to them by grandma, but maybe settle for sending her a photo of the child in the item on the day you receive it.


About Author

Carla Young, Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


  1. Pingback: The Mom Brain Drain: How to Avoid Being Dragged Down by Invisible Work | mmmann87

  2. Oy, the term “invisible work” makes so much sense. This is where so much of our time (and energy) goes! I certainly think we have too many high expectations in our culture; lowering those is my favorite advice, and helps us, I think, live a bit more in the calm.

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