When Motherhood Feels Unfair


“Sometimes motherhood feels unfair.” The words tumbled out of my mouth and landed on what seemed like deaf ears. I felt unseen and undervalued. The weight of the mental load was crushing.

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving. I had been in parent mode 24/7 for several days straight. There was no break, no time for self-care. On top of that, Christmas was quickly approaching, and the holiday preparations combined with the everyday tasks of running a household were adding up. I was feeling alone in all of it. And all of it felt unfair.  

One evening, I opened the Hulu app to find something to watch while tackling the pile of dishes in the kitchen sink that demanded my attention. I came across a documentary called “Fair Play.”

The trailer immediately caught my eye, specifically the words “invisible work,” so I decided to watch. 

“Fair Play” is a film inspired by the book of the same name written by Eve Rodsky. The film “makes the invisible care work historically held by women visible, inspiring a more balanced future for all.” In it, Eve talks about her journey to changing the unfair work dynamic in her home, creating a more equitable environment for all. The documentary also follows three families on the path to doing the same and features experts discussing the systemic issues contributing to the invisible load many American women carry. 

As I watched the opening scene of the film, I felt seen. I understood Eve, and I felt like she understood me. Too many times, I had felt the weight of the invisible (mental) load. A simple definition of the mental load is the invisible running list of responsibilities, tasks, and concerns that occur in a person’s mind. In mom groups everywhere, the mental load of motherhood has always been and likely always will be a topic of discussion. And now, the conversation around the mental load of motherhood has made its way into mainstream media, especially as we grapple with the impact of women leaving the workforce to care for their families during the pandemic. 

The mental load is invisible until we make it visible. That’s one thing I appreciated about “Fair Play.” It shined a light on the imbalances that often exist within our households. I also viewed the documentary as a call for men to join the discussion and participate in the solution. After I watched the film, I asked my husband to watch it with me. The conversation around the division of labor in our home has been ongoing, but “Fair Play” gave us more to talk about. We discussed how we currently divide household work, the percentage of chores we are both responsible for and what the mental load looks like for each of us (yes, men also carry a mental load too).

Those conversations have led to more intentional action from both of us, such as asking for help, communicating before reaching overwhelm, and swapping taskings when necessary. One example is bath time. I realized I was often physically and emotionally drained after a full afternoon with the kids and preparing dinner. Bath time was one task I needed to relinquish, so my husband has taken this on for the past few months. It’s made the evenings go much smoother for all of us. On the flip side, I have taken on categorizing our expenses at the end of every month since I make most of our family purchases which helps my husband with his monthly budget process. 

I’m grateful I stumbled across “Fair Play” when I did. It gave me the nudge to shift my perspective and have some much-needed hard conversations. While motherhood may often feel unfair, feelings don’t tell the entire story. I’m realizing that for my family and me, the ultimate goal isn’t fairness; it’s partnership and unity in our home. That can only be accomplished when we value and show appreciation for our partners and what each brings to the table.