Natalie Gross 0:05
As moms were often the first booboo kissers, the first teachers and storytellers our child's first true love. But so much of what moms do behind the scenes as the default parent to keep their children happy and healthy goes unnoticed, like the amount of time it takes to research, daycares, or even pack the diaper bag to get the kids out the door. And it can really take a toll on our physical and mental state. But here on Newbies, you'll find you are not alone. Today I'm talking with experienced mamas on the mental load of motherhood including how one Tik-Tokers comedic videos are bringing awareness to this issue. This is Newbies.
Natalie Gross 0:38
Welcome to Newbies. Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new moms through their baby's first year. I'm your host Natalie Gross. I have a four year old boy and a baby girl and we've got such a great show for you today talking about the invisible mental load of motherhood. But before we start our discussion, I wanted to let you know about our membership club called Mighty moms. And that's where we chat more about the topics we discuss here on the show. And it's an easy way to learn about our upcoming recordings in advance so that maybe you can join us live to share your own motherhood experiences. The best part is it's totally free to join the membership club and you can find out more information on our website, new mommy media.com. And while you're there, you can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter that will keep you updated on all of the podcast episodes we release each week. And of course to get notified whenever we drop a new episode of newbies Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast app. Our featured guests for today's episode is Rene Reina, you may know her as a content creator on Tiktok and Instagram. And as the host of the mom room podcast. We'll be meeting her in a few minutes. But first I want to introduce our lovely panel of mamas here who will be joining us for today's conversation. So mamas, please tell us a little bit about you and your families. So Britt, do you want to kick us off?
Britt Nicole 0:38
Sure, thank you for having me. I am Britt. I am a single mom of two girls. I have a 13 and nine year old now.
Britt Nicole 1:53
Great, thanks so much for being here. Candace, what about you?
Candace Gunter 2:48
I am a mom of four. I'm a military spouse. We actually took custody of my cousin who has Down Syndrome and she's 13. We've had her for about five, six years now. And that's my family.
Natalie Gross 3:03
Awesome. And how old are your kids? Candace?
Candace Gunter 3:05
My kids are 14, 13, 11 and nine.
Natalie Gross 3:11
Okay, great. And Jaimie?
Jaimie Flack 3:15
Um, so I am a mom to four. Also, I have an eight year old daughter, and then three boys. Let's see. ages five, to know 353 And one. It all blends together after a while five, three and one. Yeah. So far. We're busy around here the mental load is is there for sure.
Natalie Gross 3:37
Well, let's start talking about that. So rapid fire, we're gonna take a quick break. But first, I want to know from all of you really quickly when I say you know, mental load of motherhood, what immediately comes to mind and Jaimie, why don't you go first?
Jaimie Flack 3:49
Alright, just the the gamut of all the things in my brain all the time to keep things rolling. From the To Do lists to Where did you leave your shoes to? What are we going to have for dinner? It's just all the things that I'm thinking about all the time. And maybe, maybe others aren't? It's just keep it keeping us going.
Natalie Gross 4:13
That Where did you leave your shoes is such a big one. Like, I found a pair of shoes in the car today. And I'm like, Okay, gotta file this away for later.
Jaimie Flack 4:21
Yeah, no, I'm wearing my shoes. I don't know.
Natalie Gross 4:25
Exactly. Alright, Candace or Britt, any thoughts? What comes to mind?
Britt Nicole 4:29
Oh, a mental load of just life trying to keep us all alive. Really? You know, I mean, I actually just on the way to school this morning had an argument with my daughter because she forgot her backpack and I'm like, that's not my responsibility, but it also is right.
Candace Gunter 4:49
Well, I guess for me, it would be balancing absolutely everything my running a business, keeping my home, you know, feeding my relationship with my spouse, almost all of it, you know, and then I have teens and preteens. So that is a lot in itself and try to keep everybody, you know, on track trying to keep my teens responsible and teach them responsibility. It's a lot, you know, and a lot falls on me as the one who's home.
Natalie Gross 5:21
Yeah. 100%. Well, thank you so much for sharing. I'm excited to chat a little later on in the show. But stay tuned, everyone, I'm going to be talking with Renee in just a moment.
Natalie Gross 5:35
Today on Newbies, we're digging into what it's like to be the default parent and all the invisible mental load that comes with that responsibility. This is a topic that our featured guests Renee Reina talks about a lot on her platform, the mom room before Renee was a content creator, though she was an academic and has a doctorate in psychology. So I'm very excited to pick her brain today. Renee, it is an honor to have you on Newbies. Welcome.
Renee Reina 5:57
Thank you. Thanks for having me. This is exciting. I've never been on a podcast that has this kind of format. It's super neat. I like it.
Natalie Gross 6:03
Oh, awesome. Well, we are grateful to have you and get your perspective. You talked about being the default parent a lot. So can you kind of talk about what that has meant in your life, and what initially got you interested in bringing awareness to this on your platform.
Renee Reina 6:18
The first time I like when I started to think about being the default parent, it was quarantine. So I had never experienced those feelings. It wasn't something that I thought about or it just was never an issue until quarantine happened because my husband is a physician. So he was working his regular job while I was at home with our then 18 month old. And that's when it really started to hit me what it must feel like for so many stay at home moms who do feel like the default parent day in and day out. So I just started to pick up on little things that would really irritate me and things that I found odd that I would do that maybe my husband wouldn't do, you know, like, announcing when I had to go to the bathroom like Yes. He, like I had to make eye contact with him and be like, Okay, I'm gonna go to the washroom like, you're good, you're gonna watch my low. And then he never would do that. And so I started to pick up on all these little things. And that's kind of when I started talking about it online. Now that life is kind of back to normal, my lows in kindergarten. I don't necessarily consider myself the default parent. Now I consider myself the flexible parent, which is also comes with its own struggles, because I have a flexible job. And my husband's job is very much not flexible. But yeah, I really think back to those quarantine days and how I felt and it just makes me feel for stay at home parents who feel like I felt day in and day out with really no end in sight.
Natalie Gross 8:13
Well, and even moms who work outside the home can feel like the default parent, you know, like when when everybody's home? It's still on them sometimes in some relationships, in some situations, obviously not. Yeah, making generalities. But yeah, I mean, as moms we are the ones that are kids tend to come to when they need something.
Renee Reina 8:31
And it's interesting, because everybody's family dynamic and situation is going to be so different. So one person is going to be the default parent for completely different reasons than somebody else. And so I always say like, it's not necessarily your partner's fault. It's like, it can be a bunch of different things that come into play to make one parent, the default parent. Because oftentimes, I think people get defensive, well, especially, you know, in heterosexual relationships, I think for the most part, it's moms who are the default parent. And then when I create content around this topic, you get a bunch of angry men in the comment section. But it's not that I'm blaming them. It's really about bringing awareness to how the default parents are feeling and how the dynamic of your family can maybe change a little bit like little things that the partner can do to alleviate some of the stresses of being the default parent because I think a lot of times, families fall into this dynamic without even understanding like that it's happening and then you are too deep into that dynamic and then it's harder to change things to make it better.
Natalie Gross 9:58
Well, that's something I definitely want to talk about a little bit later with our moms on like how we've sort of started to delegate things to our spouse or partner when that's relevant. But what did the mental load of motherhood look like for you when your son was a baby? You know, the majority of our listeners have new babies or new moms. So what did that look like for you and your son was a baby? And what does it look like on a daily basis for you now? How has it changed? How is it kind of stayed the same
Renee Reina 10:21
As a baby? It's interesting, because I'm in Canada. So a lot of us take, you know, a 12 to 18 month maternity leave with our babies, which is incredible. Like, it is unbelievable, obviously, everybody should be given that opportunity. But when I started to think back on that time, like I had my low on a Friday, and my husband was back at work on Monday, because he just he doesn't get a paternity leave. That's also a thing in Canada, like, nowadays, it's a lot more common for people's husbands to take a paternity leave as well, which is great, and is something that could really help with the default parents situation. But when I think back to my maternity leave, I was at home for all day by myself with Milo. So naturally, things like, you know, keeping track of how much he was eating, how much he was peeing and pooping, how much he was sleeping, like the nap schedules, all of that stuff falls on to the mom, which is usually the parent that is home with the baby. So it starts from day one, like you're taking on these things that your partner doesn't necessarily have to be involved in. And then it just snowballs from there, because you're so used to taking on and thinking about these things. And then as your child grows and gets older, and now they're eating solids, and now it's like, you're thinking about potty training, and then it's like, it just snowballs into all these different things. And the person that from day one has taken initiative, or has been the one to worry about these things like eating and sleeping, and they just take on more and more and more, and it just snowballs.
Natalie Gross 12:25
Yeah, I think it was you who talked about on your platform, right about how the default parent things we don't see the motherhood, things we don't see behind the scenes like you're researching the daycares. you're researching the potty training methods, you're researching the parenting methods. I mean, my husband is about as supportive as it gets. I mean, he's really such a hands on dad. But I'm the one who's like researching all the things to you know, we're like, I know what diaper size our daughter's and he knows how to put it on and change the diaper, of course, but like, I'm gonna be the one like, knowing what size she wears, right? Or what, what size she was at nighttime versus daytime, and all those little things.
Renee Reina 13:01
Yeah, I made a Tik Tok about like the mental load of motherhood that, like the invisible part of it that people don't necessarily think about or talk about. And it was all with regard to the researching stuff. For example, if Milo has a period of time where he's having issues with bedtime, and we're really struggling, I'm the one, especially because of what I do for a job. You know, I talk to like experts on all these different areas. So I have people at my fingertips that I can bother for information. But usually, I think it's the mom that's like, okay, we're facing this issue right now. I'm going to try and gather all the information I can about you know how to navigate bedtime struggles with my four year old, I'm going to like compile all this data, see what would work best for our situation. And now you're having to basically teach your partner, everything that you just learned independently. So that can also be a frustrating situation, especially if your partner then questions you on what you are suggesting that you guys do, because it's like, Excuse me, like I just did all this research, like, what have you done like, so it can bring up a little bit of tension in a relationship, I think, especially with products. Before Milo was even born, like who do you think was the one that was researching everything there was to know about like strollers and you know, it was me and then I would go to my husband and be like, okay, like, this is what I want to add to the registry or like want to have this stroller or this product. And then he would question it like, Well, what about this one? And I'm like, Don't even ask me. What about that one? I've already looked at that one like three months ago, and I looked at all the positives, all the negatives like I've done all the research. So it's a lot.
Natalie Gross 15:00
Yeah, that totally resonates with me. Psychology is your field, how can all of this mental load of default parenthood really impact somebody?
Renee Reina 15:10
Oh my gosh, I think it leads honestly to moms feeling burnt out, which is not a good place to be. If you think about it, like, like you were saying, a lot of moms who would consider themselves the default parent are also working outside of the home. So you're trying to be the best possible mom and do all the mom things you're trying to improve your marriage, because I think it's very common that people's romantic relationships, take a hit after you have a baby or bring kids into the family. So you're also trying to navigate that, then you're trying to be the best at work. And the fact that you're the one that's carrying all the like some of the moms that spoke earlier, were saying, you know, just just like having to figure out what we're going to have for dinner today can feel overwhelming when you are already in a place of feeling burnt out. It's like that one extra thing that you have to think about that you like a decision that you have to make on your own. It's overwhelming. And so when you add up all these little things, like I made a reel the other day about remembering library day, every single week, making sure the book is in Milo's backpack, making lunches like trying to, you know, come up with like, unique frickin lunch ideas every day. Like, what are we going to have for dinner? Like being mindful of, you know what he's eaten in the last week? Like, should we be cutting back on sugar a little bit? Or is he a little bit constipated right now, like, I need to make sure he's drinking enough water, like the the amount of thoughts that run through mom's heads. I think it's to our detriment, because sometimes I wish, I just didn't have those thoughts. And I could just go about the days like my husband does, because it seems much more enjoyable. And like, I think a huge part of the mental load in motherhood is mom guilt and thinking about all these things. And it sucks the enjoyment out of situations that should be enjoyable. So like, I wish I could just solve this problem for all the moms out there. And we can just like live our best lives and enjoy, you know, every day with our kids. But it's difficult, but I think the first step is to be mindful of it and catch yourself in those situations.
Natalie Gross 17:52
I know you've said that, you know, when you've posted about this topic, you get some angry comments from men, and maybe some negativity, but overall, do you feel like moms who follow you have really been grateful that you brought attention to this, like, what is the response been?
Renee Reina 18:06
Yeah, the best DM or message or comment that I get is, I never understood why I was so frustrated in you know, XYZ situations, but just you explaining it makes sense now, so something as simple as like, you know, during quarantine, I used to look forward to my husband coming home from work, and then he would get home and I would be pissed off. And I was like, okay, like something's not adding up here. Like I've been waiting for him all day to get home. Then he comes home, and now I'm irritated. And like, I want to like shove him, you know. So I had to sit and think like, what is it? Like? What are my expectations of him coming home from work? And how are those expectations not being met? Because that's why I'm irritated. And so just after like, thinking about it for a few days, I realized that what I really wanted was for him to come home and like, instantly be engaging with us and like, sit down with us and be like, Oh, what do you guys do today and like, you know, spending time directly with us, whereas he would come home and start like doing the dishes in the sink or getting dinner ready. And those things look good on paper. But that was not what I needed in that moment and what my expectations were. So it's little things like that where it's like, I could spend the rest of my days being irritated when he gets home from work or I can really sit and think about what it is that's making me irritated and then have a conversation with him and really he he's just like he has no idea so when I brought that to his attention, he was just like, okay, like, I had no idea like I thought doing the dishes was a good thing and like on paper it is but That's not what I needed.
Natalie Gross 20:01
Yeah. Oh, that's so important. I can't wait to dig into this a little bit more. So thank you so much for sharing all of this information. We're going to take another quick break and then bring back our Mama's into the conversation. So stay tuned, everyone.
Natalie Gross 20:20
Alright, welcome back. Britt, Candace and, Jaimie, any thoughts on all of this great info we've just heard from Renee? Does that resonate with any of you?
Jaimie Flack 20:29
Oh my goodness, I was shaking my head the whole time. Like, yes, that. So that, and also that, the biggest thing is, I had a discussion with my husband about it last night in preparation for this and just that expectation piece. And for me, he said, Your expectations are so much higher than mine are for you. And I think just that I can breathe, you don't expect me to have a perfect house when you come home? Or, or whatever, in that release some of that, that irritation? Yeah, for sure.
Candace Gunter 21:00
I think that's important is that we put a lot of that pressure on ourselves. And we don't communicate our needs with our spouse, which is an issue I had in the very beginning. And I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt like because I was the one who was home, it was my responsibility to take care of everything at home. And it just got to the point where I've got these three toddlers, you know, it was too much. One day he came home and all of us were crying. And he's like, what is happening. So I think it's important that we focus on communicating with our spouse, and listening to them. Because when my children were babies, it was all baby, all baby. And I was neglecting him, you know, so we have to pay attention to everything around us, which also makes us feel even more overwhelmed. But if I can take anything from this, it's communicate your needs, regardless of how you think your spouse is going to receive it.
Candace Gunter 21:59
Mm hmm. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I kept thinking, you know, I remember when the kids were little feeling all of that. But I still go through that I'm still like, I have to have my kids have the best things and do all the things for them. And they'll even tell me now like, Mom, we don't need that. We don't need to do all of this. And I'm like, but you need it, you know, because I'm putting those expectations on myself.
Natalie Gross 22:24
Yeah, we had a guest on recently who was talking about Halloween costumes, right? Like her daughter wanted to be a princess. And she like, went through this whole thing and got the best costume the best. And her daughter would have just been happy with like a paper crown, you know. And so it is kind of thinking through those situations and those expectations. Renee, we started talking about having these conversations with our partners. How do you recommend that moms talk to their partners about this? And what are some tips for initiating that conversation and really delegating some of those responsibilities.
Renee Reina 22:55
So one of the moms here was saying, you know, it's so important to communicate with our partners, and I totally agree. But before we do that, we have to communicate with ourselves, which a lot of people, especially moms, when you're, you know, burnt out, you're the default parent like mental overload. We just kind of go through the motions, and we feel our feelings, but we don't understand why we feel that way. Like I'm guilty of it, too. I'm the most like self aware, self reflective person. And I still, for the longest time during quarantine was like pissed off when my husband came home from work for no real reason. It's like, okay, he came home, he's doing the dishes like, everything's good. Why am I so irritated right now, so I really had to communicate with myself before I could go to him with something that made sense for why I was irritated. So oftentimes, I think people just react in the moment. So okay, I'm irritated. I'm going to like, give him the silent treatment or you know, like, be short with my answers, or like slammed the cupboard door because it feels good to do those things when we're pissed off. But before you react in the moment like that, like talk to yourself, like sit for 30 minutes and be like, Okay, what time of day, am I irritable? Like, why why might that be the case? Like what what is happening? What do I wish would happen during that moment? Does my partner know what I want to happen in that moment? And really, before you go to your partner to have a conversation, first of all you guys want to be not in the middle of an argument or anything because that's not gonna be productive. But like, you know, after the kids go to bed, like it's quiet in the house, just be like, You know what, like, I've been feeling it irritated. I'll just use the example that I had like feeling irritated when you come home from work. And I was thinking about it. And, you know, I think I'm expecting you to come home and you know, like, this is gonna happen, but this is what's happening. And you really want to give specifics, instead of just being like, I do everything. You know, like, yeah, you're not doing enough, because people can't do anything with very general, vague statements. You have to be like, for example, oh my god, I almost broke the internet. When I, in one of my solo episodes, I was talking about how I asked my husband to not make pancakes on Saturday morning. And like, people lost their damn mind. But it was one of those very specific situations where I was like, Okay, why am I upset on Saturday morning, like, it's finally the weekend, he's home. And it's because I was still doing child care on Saturday morning, because he would get up and start making this big pancake breakfast for us, which again, on paper looks awesome. But I just wanted to frickin have my coffee, and like, talk to my husband, and not be the sole person that's watching an 18 month old, you know, making sure that they're not going to harm themselves, because I've been doing that all week. So it was a very simple request. On Saturday mornings, can you just not make a big pancake breakfast like Milo can have toast with peanut butter. And that's going to be fine. And again, it's like really being specific and asking them to meet a need that's not being met in some way. But if you talk about it and put it on the internet, people will lose their minds.
Natalie Gross 26:50
Well, you're verbalizing things that I have felt. And I'm like, oh, that's what's going on.
Renee Reina 26:56
Exactly. And it takes a while to figure it out. Because we're so busy. We don't have time to be like, ooh, like, let me think like, why am I feeling this way. But it's so important, especially if you want to bring it to your partner and make changes. And again, my husband was like, what? Like, you don't want me to make pancakes on Saturday? I'm like, no, like, don't touch the frying pan like, no. So it's really about talking to yourself first and making sense of what's going on. So you can be specific with your partner,
Natalie Gross 27:38
Candace or Jaimie, have you had successful conversations with your spouses, about delegating some of those responsibilities, taking off some of that mental burden, some of that mental load and things that they need to be in charge of any success stories or tips there? And then Britt, I would also love to hear your perspective as a single mom here as well.
Candace Gunter 27:59
Yes, I'm actually had great success with that. It's just like, what she was just saying is, he wasn't fully aware of how I was feeling. He wasn't fully aware of everything that was on my plate. So we literally sat down and we hashed it all out. This is what I do. From the minute I get up until the minute I go to sleep. I used to say to him all the time, it's like, you come home from work, so you're off, but me, I'm constantly on, because even after you come home, I'm still doing everything. And he verbalized that he didn't want me to feel like that. He's like, you're not in this alone, you know, and which I did feel like I was in it alone. And we just worked it out. And now he comes home and it's second nature. He'll even asked me like, hey, anything you need me to do? I'm like, yeah, no, sure. Whatever, you know. So that's kind of how we did things. Literally like having a business meeting.
Jaimie Flack 28:59
Yeah, I'd say two things. I think I've had success and I've also not had success and that's I think on me I'm very much a verbal processor and so I haven't done as well of doing that like thinking about it before and like what is it that I actually need help with? And so then I'm kind of just like, what is telling him all this stuff and he just looks at me with like, deer in headlights look like what do you need? What is wrong? Like I don't even know how to process through what you just said. So I think that was a really helpful tip there and I will try to do better of thinking about what it is. Although I can say that sometimes that does he does pick up on like, okay habit if I do this, or like last night or he was like I think your expectations are just off or too high. But I will say in the past he has like kind of taken on bedtime in a lot of ways and some of that has been not like officially discussed I have nursed all my babies. And so I've, there comes a point where I can't put them to bed because they will just smell me and just want to nurse the night away. And so when we figured that out, I would say as far as like putting the babies to bed and like, I know that that's on his plate. That's just one small thing that kind of like from our first baby, even early on, the sleep training thing is his piece. And I am very thankful for that, that at least being taken off my plate.
Natalie Gross 30:32
Oh, my gosh, Nursing is a whole other part of default parenthood that we haven't even discussed. But
Jaimie Flack 30:38
Oh, my goodness. Oh my goodness.
Natalie Gross 30:40
So yeah. Britt, how have you been able to take some stuff off your plate as a mom?
Candace Gunter 30:46
You know, I mean, when I first became a single mom, you know, there's a whole different mental load that comes with being a single parent. And I remember feeling like it all had to be on me, everything was on me, I had to do everything. And through time, I had to learn how to start asking for help and relying on other people for help, because otherwise, I start going crazy, right. So that's a lot of it is building your village. And I think even you know, when you do have the other parents, you need to build the village to be able to do life.
Natalie Gross 31:29
Absolutely. 100%. Any last thoughts from anyone before we close?
Jaimie Flack 31:35
I think some of it too, is like knowing the personality of your of your partner. And there are just certain things that aren't his thing. Like, I'm very much the one that's just a planner, and I want to think about how can we improve? How can we get better, and he's not that way in personality at all. And just his, I don't think I know, his work, his mental load from work could because he doesn't tend to come home and like just tell me a whole bunch about his day because of his personality. And so I think that's where like the communication and just recognizing that our personalities are different. And so he's not going to take on things or tell me that it's something that he needs that I need to take or he needs to take. And so just knowing like, Okay, I can't take charge in this, because that's my personality. And it's okay, that that's not his.
Candace Gunter 32:30
Hmm, I agree with both of those ways. We move a lot. I was very personable before when I was younger, but I found that it's a lot harder as an adult to make friends. And a lot of the friendships I've made when my kids were younger, it was easier, because there's playdates, but the older they get, it's not playdates anymore, it's other things that you have to kind of put yourself out there for. So definitely, the building of a village is super important. Even if you're a military spouse, every single word, every single place that you go to, that's super important. That saved us a lot. And I agree with what she said, play to your strengths and understand what his strengths are, you know, we both have strengths and weaknesses. And when you play to that, that makes for such a successful smoothly running home. You know, and also your kids like, in our home, our kids do chores, like the youngest age, I would say is two, they took the trash bag, the little bathroom trash bag and put it in the trash. That helps take a lot off your load as well. And it also teaches your children responsibility. At some point your children are going to become adults. And we want to prepare them for that. And that's where all these little chores and things like that are for. So once I realized, like you know what, let me start helping them and helping me. It helped take even more off my plate.
Natalie Gross 33:55
What a great idea, Candace. I hadn't even thought about that. It's a great perspective. All right, Renee, any last thoughts as we wrap?
Renee Reina 34:02
Oh, geez, just touching on the village thing. I think you know, so many of us now are living away from family away from friends we becoming a mom can be so isolating. So I just wanted to say like building a village 100% And also that nowadays, a village is going to look much different than what it used to look like. It's not extended family helping people out it. It might be sending your child to daycare. Your daycare teachers can be part of your village like coaches, music teachers, kindergarten teachers. I used to joke and say like the Uber Eats guy was a part of our village. You know, like Blippi is a part of our village you know, like our, our village looks different nowadays. And that's okay. It's like the modern day village.
Natalie Gross 35:01
Yeah, that's funny. Well, thank you so much, Renee for being here and to our panel of moms, Brett, Candace and Jaimie for joining me today, listeners. You can find out more about Renee at the mom room.com. Also check out new mommy media.com where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.
Natalie Gross 35:28
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, the Boob Group for moms who get breast milk to their babies and twin talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies, your go to source for new moms and new babies.
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