The Whole View with Stacy Toth, Season 3, Episode 111: Invisible Labor and Reducing Mental Load w/ Lori Sugarman-Li

Children’s book author and coach Lori Sugarman-Li and Stacy discuss the invisible labor and emotional and mental load of running a household and family that often falls on women and mothers. Lori’s strategy relies on making the division of labor a family affair, determining priorities together, and ensuring everyone also has an equal amount of rest and time for things that bring them joy.

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Key Takeaways


  • Lori Sugarman-Li has had careers in marketing and communications, as well as a full-time caretaker of her family, community, and children’s charities worldwide. She is now a coach, speaker, and author based on those experiences.
  • Canadian-born, Lori, her husband, and their two sons now live in Chicago.
  • Her new children’s book (targeted at 5-8 year olds), Our Home: The Love, Work, and Heart of Family, tackles real-family issues in a fun and relatable manner, but this conversation can happen at any age!

Invisible Labor and Reducing Mental Load

What really critically needs to be at the heart of this is the difference between equity and equality – and this is not a 50-50 game or divide the pie equally game. It’s about understanding how each individual in your family can be a successful contributor and how your family dance can flow with everyone in tune and tandem. – Lori Sugarman-Li

  • This is a problem at a societal level, but the solution can be at a family level.
  • The work of home and family has to be done and so much of this care of work and family happens in the shadows. And a lot is executional, while the mental load is all that leads us to being able to execute and the emotional load of worrying and supporting. Often times this falls upon the women in the relationship, where others are “helping”; however, the concept of helping implies that the women is the manager, the owner.
  • The opportunity that we have with household systems is to shift tasks in their entirety, so package them up with a red ribbon from conception through planning through execution to someone who owns the whole deal. The invisible and mental load are the hardest to share.
  • So what we find actually is that there’s a reduction in stress, a reduction in duplication, a reduction in resentment, a reduction in nagging, and, actually in the end, and overall a reduction in the amount of time spent on household tasks, because they become so much more efficiently done.
  • It’s never too late to have these conversations. Women are learning to be better and stronger at creating boundaries as a vehicle for wellness.

What’s important to you and your family?

  • Families can be whatever they want to be. Reflect on those desire and the needs and capabilities of everyone involved.
  • The magic is going to be different for every family. It’s important to have not only a  division of labor but ensuring that every family member also has an equal amount of rest and an equal amount of things that bring them joy. B
  • Also, if you don’t ever want to make your beds, don’t do it. Who cares? This is not about getting your house to look perfect. This is about centering yourself and your own values and being true to them without any fear of anyone else’s expectations, anyone else’s judgement. It doesn’t matter. As long as you are safe and healthy. Whatever you do to please how your family wants to move through this world and how you agree to support each other, that’s what you do.
  • Lori thinks the word chore is the wrong for this work, as it refers to work that is repetitive and tedious and difficult and unappealing, and it’s not fair to the work of care, and she thinks there is an opportunity to change the energy.
  • When men are involved in care, their wellness improves. We see violence go down, we see men’s health improving, and, unsurprisingly, we see children thriving.

Why have kids involved?

  • It’s really all about setting kids up with work that is, at its core, safe and age appropriate, but that matches their skills, matching their passions, but also sometimes just matches a problem to solve.
  • Can do family “meetings”, some families have charts. But no matter how it’s done, the conversation needs to be had!
  • This is at its core not about pawning work off to kids, it’s about empowering them, it’s about looping them into important things. Kids want to feel trusted, they want to feel empowered, and, you said this beautifully, it’s an opportunity to allow us to release and let them do it in their own way where there’s safety around that.
  • Let them explore in a task they feel true ownership over, and what can be really helpful in getting them the stake in the work, it’s the “why”.
  • It can be bonding time and a source of connection. Stacy and Lori talk about preparing food and trusting them to prepare food as being a way of both bonding and trust and ownership.


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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes only. It is NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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