I’m the person sometimes lovingly referred to as the “mom” of the friend group. I’m the one who initiates dinners, arranges carpools, plans the whole girls’ trip, and follows up to get everyone to RSVP. Honestly, it’s a lot of effort compared to being the friend who asks how much to Venmo and simply shows up.
To be clear, I don’t want to be the friend who just shows up. At least not all the time. I enjoy the planning process, and I get a deep sense of fulfillment from bringing people together. This is community-building work, and it matters deeply to me.
However, even as someone who often loves being the “group mom,” it can wear me thin if I feel like I’m pulling more than my fair share in the friend group. It can sometimes feel like my work goes unappreciated – and yes, friendship is work.
In my less generous moments, I gripe to myself that if I weren’t in charge of the planning, delegating, and executing of group activities, then we would simply never see each other again (or at least we’d get together far less frequently).
Lasting friendships require give and take, and most importantly communication. If I feel taken advantage of because I’m always the group planner, it’s often because I’m not properly expressing my needs and asking for support. How are my friends supposed to know I’m burnt out and need them to step in or step up if I don’t tell them to?
Balancing the mental load is something we talk about often in romantic relationships — but there’s plenty of it involved in friendship too. So whether you’re the type-A-planner friend or the go-with-the-flow friend who shows up when and where you’re told to, you need to be aware of how to intentionally foster that balance in your friendships as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to better manage the mental load in your friendships:
If you’re the “group parent” planner friend
- Ask for help when you need it. Even if you enjoy planning. Even if it feels like a burden to pass it on to someone else. Send a simple text that says “Hey, I know I usually plan our monthly dinner get-together, but I’m feeling a little burnt out right now. Can someone else throw out a date and place for us this time?” Your friends will likely jump at the chance to support you in return.
- Own the things you love. Delegate the things you don’t. If you enjoy researching the best VRBO rental for your annual girls’ trip, do it! If you hate making dinner reservations, pass it on to someone else. If you love planning meals for camping, go all out! Then let someone else handle figuring out how to split the costs. Teamwork makes the dream work.
- Set up a system to make decision-making easier. Pick a consistent date for monthly dinners (like the third Thursday of the month), and rotate who picks the place and makes the reservation. Decision fatigue is a big part of mental load burnout, so automate it!
If you’re the “tell me when, where, and what to Venmo” friend
- Ask your “group parent” friend how you can support them. They might tell you to just show up and Venmo, and hey, that’s fine! But if you feel like there may be some burnout happening, make a specific offer like “I’ll take care of the dinner reservation this time!” or “Let me know what time I can come over to help you set up for book club!”
- Show your appreciation. A little hostess gift, a thank you note, or even just a text to say that you see the effort your “mom group” friend puts in will go a long way in making that work feel worthwhile.
- Take the reins and make a plan every now and again. It doesn’t need to be as big as planning a huge annual event. Throw out a date and time for a get-together over coffee. Invite friends along on a hike. Fostering connections doesn’t require grand gestures. It simply requires intention and repetition.
Hopefully, your friendships always feel worth the effort you put into them, but if it still feels like things are rocky, have a heart-to-heart with your friend(s). Holding onto resentment is far worse for a relationship than having a hard conversation. If you’re open and honest, you can work together to find a balance that feels more sustainable, so you have a better balance of give and take.