What’s on Your Plate: A mouth-watering look at maternal mental overload

Recently I was cleaning out some old files in my office and found an art therapy exercise I used to do back when I worked with kids. 

It was called, “What’s on your plate?” 

I’d bring in paper plates, a colorful stack of construction paper, and a glue stick. I’d ask kids to think about all the various roles, tasks, and responsibilities they had in their life and would instruct them to cut out a piece of food to represent each item, label it, and glue it on their plates. 

Their plates would end up a colorful representation of who they were & what they did: Daughter, sister, friend; student, soccer player, swimmer; clean up toys, walk the dog, clear my dishes, make my bed.

I now laugh thinking of how many pieces of paper-food the moms I work with would need to pile on in order to truly represent all they do.  The mental overload would require a Thanksgiving-sided platter, at least. 

Here’s the list (from an article I wrote in 2019) of just some of the tasks moms carry around in their mental load:

  • Manage school schedules and the “family calendar” (know when there are days off, field trips, teacher conferences, etc.)
  • Pack lunches and make sure the kids’ favorite snacks are well stocked
  • Pump, store, and manage milk supply if breastfeeding
  • Fill out school enrollment and registration forms and pay attention to deadlines
  • Manage correspondence with teachers, etc.
  • Plan for play dates
  • Organize extracurricular activities and plan for summer camps
  • Buy kids’ wardrobes every season and make sure they have shoes that fit
  • Make sure kids have attire for special occasions
  • Schedule and take kids to doctor and dentist appointments
  • Make sure Children’s Tylenol, Motrin, etc. are stocked, and know the proper dosing and intervals for each child by age/weight
  • Make sure the bathroom is stocked with shampoo, bubble bath, toothpaste the kids like, etc.
  • Plan for birthday parties and holidays, buy gifts
  • RSVP to birthday parties and buy the gifts
  • Remember to send gifts, cards, etc. to family members for various occasions
  • Write thank-you notes for gifts children receive
  • Schedule babysitters
  • Baby-proof the house
  • Keep the diaper bag stocked with diapers, wipes, cups, snacks, toys—and lug it around
  • Pack clothes, toothbrushes, toys, favorite stuffed animals, etc. for kids when traveling
  • Store and/or donate clothes the kids have outgrown
  • Make sure kids get their nails trimmed and hair cut
  • (What else would you add?)

It’s a lot on any given week. And feels especially overwhelming when the holidays roll around!

While the holidays are meant to include times of joy and relaxation, they can add stress and MORE tasks to a mom’s already overflowing to-do list. So much planning and coordinating. 

What’s on your plate this holiday season? Have you carved out time for self-care? If not, you run the risk of burning out. And nobody wants to spend the holidays feeling depleted and exhausted.

If your plate doesn’t include down-time or self-care, get in touch! I want to help you learn how to add stress-management tools into your day in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling over-served!