“The Invisible Workload”

January 15, 2017 | 33 Comments

I’m sorry I’ve been so scarce. I have been wanting to blog almost every day – as there is so much to say! But I’ve been very busy these last few weeks with something I’ve been struggling to put a name to. Until fellow blogger Kathryn from Becoming You shared this article and a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew I HAD to blog about it.

What is the invisible workload? Read the piece, but in summary, it’s a workload that no one talks about. No one acknowledges it. It doesn’t get any glory. It’s not big stuff, like who is bringing home the bacon. It’s the small things, like noticing that your kid’s toenails are far too long, looking for the nail scissors, not being able to find them, writing down in your diary “BUY NEW NAIL CLIPPERS” and then remembering on Monday to go out and buy a pair and then sit down one evening and actually trim their nails. Sound petty and insignificant? Maybe it is. But take the mental space that one tiny task involves, and multiply it by 10s or 100s of tiny tasks per week, and you can see how quickly this workload would add up.

“I am the person who notices that we are running low on toilet paper”, the one who knows what brand of toothpaste or juice everyone likes, when to change the towels because they’re starting to smell, the chief “worrier, organizer, rememberer, and attention-payer”, says blogger Ellen Seidman. And aren’t most of us that too?

What I found interesting in the piece is that although the split of housework/childcare between genders has got a lot more equal over the years, it’s still often the women who are doing most of the thinking. We are the delegators, the keepers of schedules, the ones who remind people to pack tuckshop money on a Friday, or take swimming bags on a Monday morning, or decide what the kids are eating each evening (chicken pie? pasta? fish fingers?).

We nag people because we run the house like a tight ship and we’re juggling so many balls that sometimes this can drag us down. We feel “stressed” when our lives are just ordinary (privileged) lives, and then we may feel guilty for feeling stretched.

We get home from our jobs (if we work), and then our second job starts, and more often than not, it’s even more demanding. I walked through the door on Thursday and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic daughter who wanted all 18 books covered in plastic right now, a son who was hungry and a husband who was out of the door like a shot to go paddling.

While I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who does more than his fair share of lifts, chores and childcare, it is still me who is doing a lot of the thinking and the worrying. This little superpower is performed world over, but gets no recognition – unlike earning a salary does.

And although every family set up is different, it is more often the women who get the raw deal. The amount of times I’ve heard women say, in conversation with other women, “Well, I don’t work/earn much, so I can’t really justify that new dress/yoga session/lunch with friends/holiday”. Listen, your workload is JUST as important, even though it’s invisible, and that’s what I’m trying to articulate here.

I see you. The one ironing on name tags. Exchanging school shoes that are the wrong size. Covering books. Remembering to fill out the extramural form by the deadline. Going out and buying vitamins for your kids because you know it’s the start of the school year and there are lots of germs about. I see you and your work is INVALUABLE. So the next time someone tries to tell you that’s it’s not, introduce them to the concept of the “invisible workload”, delegate some tasks and then skip off for a pedicure. You deserve it.

Happy Sundays.






  • Reply Chris January 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Try being a farmer … just kidding. My wife absolutely loved that article. Hope you well otherwise

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Haha Chris – very impressed this farmer is on here commenting! Great your wife loved it.

  • Reply Caley January 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    AMEN. Oh friend, I couldn’t have said this any better myself!!
    My hubs and I laugh about this invisible workload almost every day – he sometimes thinks that the rooibos tea grows on a tree in the pantry and the toilet paper just multiplies itself… LOVE this post more than anything x

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Ditto on the miraculous multiplying toilet paper! Haha.

  • Reply Wendy January 15, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for this post Belinda, it’s great. Also, thanks for the reminder that I need to go and buy vitamins (!)

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Haha thats 4 people now who said they had forgotten to buy vitamins;)

  • Reply Lauren January 15, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Love this piece Belinda .. so very true! Will be sure to share it 🙂 x

  • Reply Laura January 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Yes yes yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. YES!!!

  • Reply Bev January 15, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Totally, totally resonate with this B. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve said the following “I’m so stressed, but I have nothing to be stressed about.” And it really gets me down, because I can’t quite work out why it feels just so darn hard and like I’m juggling a million balls at once.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      I know – we all feel a bit pathetic for “feeling stressed” and then that makes us feel even worse! Hopefully this helps explains it a little bit more.

  • Reply Barbara January 15, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Spot on and loved reading it!

  • Reply Chereen January 15, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Omiword, YES! Thank you for putting into words something that I didn’t quite know how to articulate! The comment about noticing musty towels is SPOT ON! Beautifully written x

  • Reply Andrea January 15, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    Ah man, so many of these thoughts have been flowing around my braind for days (weeks, months, years!?) lately and Ive never been able to organise them so eloquently – THANK YOU – I shared this on FB hoping my husband will see, read and take notes 😉 I dont necessarily expect things to change but some acknowledgement would be nice! Love love love this, thanks B x

  • Reply Nicki Dadic January 16, 2017 at 2:01 am

    *Adds “buy vitamins for the kids” to invisible workload list*

    Great read 🙂 x

  • Reply Nicky D January 16, 2017 at 8:24 am

    So so true B!! Can so relate.

  • Reply Cath January 16, 2017 at 8:41 am

    This is so true! For me, one of the side effects of trying to remember so many small things every day is that I’ll have moments where my brain literally goes blank and I can’t remember ANYTHING I am supposed to be doing. Like, nothing. Tumbleweeds.

  • Reply claire de Bruin January 17, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    an excellent read. I get so frustrated when people ask what do I do all day for home or for church and sometimes I cant even explain it because so called simple task took so long, but like you say that is because it had 10+ steps to get to it! well written!

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      thanks Claire! Yes it’s all the steps we are mentally planning in our heads that cause us stress.

  • Reply Stacey Venter January 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I read somewhere that the reason women are more stressed than men is that we carry a mental checklist of all these tiny tasks in our heads, divided into subtasks and more subtasks. “Make dinner. Task one: chop onions. Task two: brown meat.” And it weighs us down. Men don’t carry these checklists. They just know that at some point in the evening dinner needs to happen.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain January 17, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      This is sooo interesting and on point. So men see their evening task of making dinner as singular and finite, whereas we see it as 10 different tasks. No wonder we are stressed!

  • Reply Yolandi North January 18, 2017 at 1:03 am

    So true. Thanx for sharing. I love love love this post. x

  • Reply Caroline McCarthy January 18, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Yes.Just yes.

  • Reply Karin van den Berg January 18, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    So true! I’ve been making lists the whole morning in my diary and on outlook about everything that needs to be done. I’ve divided my diary into all the relevant aspects of my life: My children (I get load’s and loads of correspondence from the school on D6 School Communicator), diarizing all the sporting events, birthday invites. Whilst busy with this my (actual) work is coming in and my e-mails gets fuller and fuller. I can see many clients are back from leave and start sending their projects through. On the other hand I am busy with the accounts, you known the telephone needs to be paid, SARS, Bank accounts, the website. I need to send my invoices to my clients. In between I have growing children – I need to see to it that there are always food ready (as they are ALWAYS hungry). Yesterday I just stood up from my office and decided now this is it, I need to go and get my script at the Pharmacy and go and buy groceries. Otherwise I just keep on working and never make time to go to the shop’s oh and I forgot to add that I recycle most of the items in the house and had to take that in also. Glad to hear that I am not the only one that sits late every evening covering books, and to me it also feel’s as if I am always just buying toilet paper. Last year I’ve ordered like 10 packets on online shopping and keep it in the house. I thought something is wrong with me for feeling so overwhelmed!! And yes, I have little time to get everything done as the schools are coming out from 13:40 and I pick my kids up at different schools. At 16:00 we need to be at the Netball, do homework in between, unpack the car, eat and get ready to leave again. At 19:30 my last trip for the day is to the school as the children are practicing revue oh and don’t forget that I need to be at the school for an information evening tonight at 18:20. I wish all the mom’s and bloggers and everyone that is reading here more time and may you get strength and courage for all the tasks a women needs to do each day. Thanks so much for sharing. Karin van den Berg, 41 years old, Business Owner and mother of High-School and Primary school kids, Centurion.

  • Reply Ché Dyer January 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Love this post! I’m not a mother so I can’t fully understand it but so far I think I’m very lucky to have married someone who also thinks about the towels getting dirty and the toilet paper running low. Although I think it will be very interesting to revisit this post if we ever do decide to have children! xx

  • Reply Saralee January 20, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    “I see you.” By this point I was practically in tears, that’s how much this piece hit home.

  • Reply Charlene January 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    “Well, I don’t work…, so I can’t really justify that new…” This is me, so often. And the funny thing is I have a good man who does help, and who never makes me feel like I can’t buy this or do that, but I still fall into that mental trap at times. Thank you for this beautiful post!

  • Reply Megan Keith January 22, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Wow I loved this post! You’ve said everything I feel on a daily basis! Thanks for sharing x

  • Reply Theresa May 10, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Loved this post – but didn’t leave a comment when I read it the first time. We’ve recently moved and I have the formal job; my husband has a flexible one, from home, and as a result he’s in charge of domestic affairs – during office hours 😉 What’s been interesting is that I’ve had to let go, and he’s picked up the slack without blinking – arranging play dates, buying those vitamins, doing doctor visits etc, which are all things I would typically have taken on as my “jobs”. I think we – women – are also to blame for the indivisible workload falling onto our shoulders – we lead the way, set the precedent and fall into these roles. I still battle to take time out (which is more necessary than retail therapy for me!) for myself on weekends – perhaps working mum’s guilt? I think we’ve both enjoyed the disruption to the roles we’d fallen into over the last seven or so years. And so have our children.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain May 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Yip Theresa I do think this is true too – although every relationship is different and some partners are not as willing as yours. But we do need to learn to let go and pass some of that workload on.

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