We’re finishing up our mental load series at To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

I’ve got one more important thing to cover on Monday–why we all need time to ourselves–but we’ve covered a lot of ground this month. And I’ve had so many people write in and tell me: “I finally have words for what I’m feeling!” Which is a great feeling for me!

I originally planned this series to run in April, but then COVID hit, and I thought that doing a series on housework wasn’t really a good thing to do when everyone’s lives were upside down. But when it looked like this was going to last a while, I thought I may as well jump in anyway. And the more I think about it, the more applicable I think it is for what we’re going through right now.

So here are 5 reasons why COVID makes mental load worse.

1. Big life events are now much more complicated

Life goes on, even in a pandemic. People still move, babies are born, people die and need to be buried. But given the pandemic, all of those major life events, which are full of additional mental load and stress at the best of times, become much more stressful in a pandemic.

The TLHV team has had a bit of a baby boom in the last year. Three millennials on staff with the blog have had babies in the last year (two in the last month) and another is currently 31 weeks pregnant. As for the Gen Xers? Well, we’ve all become grandparents for the first time in the last year. Every birth except Alexander’s last October has been complicated by COVID-19. And all the new babies make decision-making about self-isolation that much more challenging. Baby showers are cancelled, it’s harder to get things you need, and on and on.

Trips to see extended family have been cut. We are helping to plan a wedding and the pandemic just adds layers and layers of additional complication and difficult decisions.

Keith’s great-aunt died of COVID last week, just a few weeks shy of her 90th birthday. It’s very sad that we won’t be able to have the funeral we would have liked and that the card caravan that was planned by family for her big birthday was obviously no longer possible. Mourning during the pandemic is difficult and I’m sure many of you are going through that.

Rebecca and Connor bought their new home just before the cases exploded in Ontario and they moved up their closing so they could be in their new home before the stay at home order. They had to move by themselves and haven’t been able to get “plugged in” to their new community because it’s not yet safe to do so.

Joanna’s husband Josiah lost his job as a lawyer due to COVID 19, and while they were fortunate that he got a great new position, it’s located in the Canadian arctic (seriously). They’re planning an extremely complicated move to Iqaluit, Nunavut scheduled to begin when the little girl they are expecting is less than a month old. Selling a house, quarantining, getting as much family to visit without risking the baby’s health and while dealing with border closures (Joanna’s parents live in the U.S.)… it’s a lot.

The military families on staff are on high alert and are in a state of uncertainty while they wait for new trajectories and orders. They’ve had to give up their expectations and plans for the next year and are now unsure of how things will move forward. That’s just the news from my small team… and I’m already exhausted just reading it! (Side note – check out the new staff photos on the home page). I don’t know what “big things” are happening in your family right now, but I’m sure there are big things. There always are. And whatever added layers of complexity you’re dealing with, I just want to say that I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s not fair.

2. Everyone is home, so there’s more to do

The mental load is simply bigger because the house is being used for more than it used to be. Kids who were in school are home now, and they understandably make more of a mess since they’re in the house more. Plus, everyone has been cooped up for so long and spaces need to be used in new ways. That means new chore charts, figuring out new routines, and troubleshooting what isn’t working. That’s a lot more mental load! 

And if everything is opening up where you live, there’s the added dimension of figuring out your new normal.

3. Formerly mundane tasks are now uber complicated

Take grocery shopping. Never the most fun of tasks, now you’ve got so many extra things to keep in your mind. Avoid touching produce, follow the flow of the store, stay 6 feet from people, and on and on. Doctors appointments need to be figured out – do you need to sort out an online system? Are you going in because you have to and therefore need to deal with all sorts of new regulations? Or are things being rescheduled indefinitely? All three of those scenarios add to the mental load associated with them. Whatever errands you need to run, they are ALL more complicated due to the virus. Bank hours are different, there are now people at the doors making sure it’s safe to go in, and on and on. No wonder we feel exhausted after a quick errand run.

I bought a new computer (online) a few weeks ago, and the wifi is doing something wonky. It won’t detect any networks unless I run network diagnostics, in which case it immediately detects them and will go online. But every time I try to go online I have to go through this rigamarole. Now, it’s just a hassle. It’s not terrible. But to get it fixed, I have to stand in line at Best Buy, 6 feet apart from everyone else. We keep going by, and the line is too long to stand in the sun like that. So I don’t know when I’ll get it fixed.

4. Job loss is very common, and always horrible

Many of you have had jobs disappear due to the pandemic. And with job loss comes a crushing mental load of a to-do list. Calling insurance providers to figure out coverage, dealing with applications for unemployment or other government benefits, job hunting, adjusting the budget to hopefully stay afloat until work returns. And after job loss, purchasing decisions become more complex and difficult, too. Where can you cut back? What is truly necessary? And on and on it goes. If you’re dealing with reduced work or job loss, please know that we are praying for you and we wish we could do more.

5. Kin-keeping is harder

We talked recently about kinkeeping and how vitally important it is. But, as with everything else, COVID makes it harder. How do you see family members who live abroad when borders are shut? Are you getting groceries for elderly relatives? How do you manage visits to see a new baby – who self-isolates when? Here’s Joanna sharing the added layers of complication they’re facing,

I’m expecting a new baby in August and we’re moving to the arctic in September. We won’t return south for awhile, six months minimum. It’s a lot to navigate at the best of times. If it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d have a revolving door of people coming to help with the baby and meet her before we head north, but that just isn’t possible. Plus, we have to trust family members to self-isolate before visiting to an extent that we feel comfortable with, which is hard. Everything is way more complicated and I frequently feel like the “bad cop” and that’s tricky, even when I know I’m doing the right thing by my baby and myself. There are so many more decisions to make, so many more difficult conversations to have, and so many unknowns to navigate.

Joanna Sawatsky

All of this is to say–give yourself a break if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

So many of you have said that the term “mental load” encapsulates what you’re feeling. So just recognize that it’s a real thing, and that it’s worse right now than it’s been in a long time. And that’s okay.

But maybe also take this time when we are home more, and when there is a more obvious problem, to talk to your spouse about it! Work through the first two posts in the emotional labor series, and read about the Fair Play solution. Listen to some of the podcasts. And I hope that this series has given you words for what  you’re feeling!

So there you have it, 5 ways that COVID makes mental load more challenging. I’d love to hear what your experiences with mental load and the coronavirus pandemic have been. Let me know in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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