Episode 11: Handling the mental load as a solo parent with Dr. Brooke Weinstein

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This is our third podcast interview on the topic of the “mental load.” Dr. Brooke Weinstein joined Dr. John and Dr. Morgan to share how she has successfully learned to carry her mental load while keeping her own self-care a high priority. Her story is inspiring with many diverse and challenging chapters: a wife with a husband struggling with depression; a mother of two boys (now 8 and 5); a working mom with a thriving practice; an almost divorced and later, widowed solo-parent. And yet, through all these experiences she has been resilient to continue to deepen her joy and love of life.

Some takeaways from the episode include:

mental load as a single parent

1. Most of the content on the mental load is for couples and not parents without partners

As we stated in previous podcast blogs, the mental load is the invisible running list of responsibilities, tasks, and concerns that occurs in a person’s mind. Although this is a universal experience, most printed and video/audio resources about the mental load are focused on a wife within a marriage, and how couples can work together to be supportive of each other with their mental loads. Further, the body of research about marriage relationships has found that a general benefit many couples experience is that they advocate for each other.

However, the challenge of balancing a mental load with self-care is much greater when solo-parenting.

Here is the reason why: parenting without a partner means that you must be your own advocate, with the hard reality that often there is nobody advocating for you. But then, when you take the time and energy to search out the resources on the mental load, everything seems to be written for couples.

This leaves the solo-parent with one of two choices… reject or inspect!

Too many times our knee-jerk reaction is to reject content about married couples because it doesn’t apply to parents without partners.

However, if you closely inspect the mental load content then you can extract that which you can use in your own situation. In addition, with a little searching, you can find articles and resources about single parenting and the mental load.

Here is a simple plan to dig up some practical ideas and resources that can help you better manage your own mental load:

Set a goal of thirty minutes to just conduct a search on the topic of the mental load. Open any article or podcast that looks beneficial. Save them in a folder so you can go back and peruse them more deeply. Repeat several times. Afterwards, look through your findings. Create a document for your copied and pasted key points and ideas, and maybe even write some of your own. Finally, take your doc, organize it, add specific action steps, and then print to use as a reminder.

Here are a few articles to get you started.

https://www.mamamia.com.au/mental-load-single-parent

https://www.parents.com/parenting/dynamics/single-parenting/shouldering-the-mental-load-on-your-own

https://theriveter.co/voice/the-mental-load-of-single-working-parenthood

2.Too much of “a good thing for others” can be bad for yourself

Many of the items in a single mother’s mental load are good things: covering every little detail for the care of each of her kids; laundry; housework; work; bills; extended family; friends; and so much more.

There is no doubt that loving your kids, being responsible at work, maintaining an orderly home, and keeping up with your family and friends are all good things, but they demand more hours than are in a day and leave no room for the necessary acts of self-care.

In fact, for many who struggle with the tyranny of too much of a good thing, they feel selfish and guilty when they consider postponing a good thing for others to do a good thing for self.

Their prerequisite for self-care is the completion of all their other-care. But the reality of parenting solo is that you will always have to sacrifice some act of other-care to fit in self-care. This is a daily transaction that you need to face, accept, and learn to master.

Here are three acts of self-care that require little sacrifice of other-care, but when practiced regularly, can shift your perspective, refill your tank of patience, and keep you emotionally level.

  1. Take brief but frequent resets. Too many of us go hard until we are right at our breaking point, and then, and only then, do we take a bit of time to reset. We have trained ourselves to ignore all the small warning signs frustration, impatience, and fatigue. However, most self-care techniques are best practiced during lower levels of stress, and with great frequency. Here is an article to get you started: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/self-care-activities-5-minutes_l_613fa550e4b0dda4cbd269c4
  2. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” This may sound simple, but many of us have too great of a threshold for pain. We get frustrated, irritated, stressed, or worried, but we have mastered, “sucking it up and driving on” so we don’t even acknowledge those upset feelings, let alone, do anything to reset them. But if we would just do frequent check-ins to identify those “low-level” emotional states, then we could learn and practice techniques to move ourselves back to a better emotional frame of mind. It can help to ask this question to your body (e.g., what is my body feeling right now, and what is that telling me?) and your brain (e.g., what is my brain feeling right now, and what has it been focusing on?). Here are a couple of articles to get you started.

https://www.uchealth.org/today/how-to-practice-emotional-self-care

https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/22-ways-practice-emotional-self-care-letting-go

  1. Look around your environment and revisit the good times of your life. Most of us decorate our homes and places of work with pictures, nick-nacks, and other items that represent people we love or experiences that we have cherished. But in the rush of life, we don’t even see those reminders anymore. So make a habit of putting on the brakes for 30-60 seconds and zeroing your focus on the details of just one of your memorabilia and let it transport you into the best of life and love.

3.Many habits that were formed within a relationship can be reconstructed by you taking ownership of your part and making intentional changes.

In this podcast, Dr. Brooke relayed that previously, when she was married, that she often went overboard to take care of everything possible just to protect her husband from becoming overly stressed or more depressed.

But then, she would feel resentful that she was taking on so much more than what she felt was her fair share.

In time, she came to a point of self-awareness it dawned on her that he never asked her to do this, and that she was able to alter the entire pattern just by changing her part of the equation. That realization freed her from resentment and empowered her to become much more balanced.

We all need to periodically review our roles within relationships and simply ask, “What adjustments can I make to improve how I feel, love, and handle life situations?”

About Dr. Brooke Weinstein

Dr. Brooke is an occupational therapist specializes in emotional and sensory regulation for children and parents and she provides you with real actionable steps into making life and motherhood easier. She helps Mama’s listen and trust the deepest part of themselves, live from a place of confidence, and build the emotional connection with themselves and their family they’ve always longed for.

She offers services for parents, who want to find balance, embrace the journey of self-discovery, and release the Mama shame which is sabotaging their happiness in motherhood.

You can learn more about Dr. B here or follow her on Instagram here. 

What else is there?

To learn more, and hear about what may be necessary to maintain a relationship with someone you “agree to disagree” with make sure to listen to the full episode.

We hope you listen, subscribe, and review the podcast.  If you want to apply to be a guest on the podcast, we’d love to hear from you.

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