If you’ve spent more than five minutes on TikTok this month, you’ll find that you can throw the word “girl” in front of just about anything, and go viral. Lately, it’s been “girl math,” which is basically just justifying shopping expenses. Well, now, it’s time for “mom math” and the mental load that goes along with it.
In one particular video, an Instagram mom on the account “chaoswithcara” explains the process of leaving the house, mathematically of course, every day with her 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 2-month-old. The video has over 80,000 likes. Here’s the formula for the complicated equation that equals simply running an errand, or leaving the house for any task at all.
She says, “Let’s say we need to be somewhere at 9 a.m.,” here’s how it all adds up to equal that mental load for moms, or any parents helping their kids get out of the house:
“If we are pulling out of the driveway at 8:40 we may be loading up at 8:30, if we are loading up at 8:30 that means we need to have shoes on by 8:20. If we’re getting shoes on at 8:20, my kids take forever to eat, so we should be eating breakfast by 7:15, and getting dressed. So if we are getting shoes on at 8:20, that means she will need to be fed sometime before (motioning to her baby) so I should probably be feeding her around 7:45 so she’s happy for the drive. That means breakfast is at 7:15 and while they’re eating breakfast and playing they can feed her at 7:45.”
There were barely any breaks in her sentence as she rattled off this math equation, let alone breakfast breaks for mom, a shower, a cup of coffee, or really anything that wasn’t about a kid.
Related: The ‘mental load’ falls squarely on mothers’ shoulders—and it’s making us very tired
“It’s this mental backwards math you have to do any single time you want to go someplace — counting naps, counting snacks, counting parties, getting ready. Mom Math.”
Moms chimed in with validation that hers is far from an isolated experience: “You didn’t calculate the meltdowns, the insisting on doing everything themselves (like buckling their own seat belts), the baby pooping RIGHT before you need to walk out the door, etc.” one writes. “You can see her anxiety building as she runs through the routine in her mind because she knows all that math is not even accounting for all the variables,” another says. Another joked they’d probably just cancel if they had to be somewhere at 9 A.M.
It’s a bit less fun than Girl Math. In girl math, we learn logical equations like: “If something is on sale and I don’t buy it, I’m losing money. If I don’t buy a beverage today, I’m making money…anything in my Venmo or Apple Wallet is free money.”
While Girl Math is all about splurging and justifying spending and prioritizing what you want to do, Mom Math, like all those parenting sacrifices, is basically the opposite—giving up the ability to just leave the house to, you know, raise the next generation.
However, Mom Math is one small example of what has been getting much more attention lately, though it hasn’t for centuries prior — the mental load moms, and some other parents who don’t identify as mom, do on a daily basis.
Related: Motherly’s 2023 State of Motherhood Survey Report
Eve Rodsky, the mastermind behind the concept of “Fair Play,” which is a documentary, movie, card game, and movement, has been gaining steam, working to gain attention for research showing moms tend to (unfairly) carry household and parenting tasks still. For example, they cite research from Oxford University that found full-time working moms with two kids have six fewer leisure hours than comparable fathers.
But many of the statistics aren’t as visible, such as Mom Math. The more parents speak up, the more everyone understands the inequities that still exist.