A mental load is having lots of things on your mind. It’s having to remember to go to the grocery store and even make dinners for the week or on a daily basis. Go to school meetings, help kids with homework, after school activities, and the list goes on. It’s basically family management. And when it’s at work, that’s what we call it. Management! It’s a whole job by itself. Still when it’s at home, we don’t really have a word for it. Why is that?
When you live with your spouse or significant other and or kids and they say to you "I don’t know why you’re upset that you had to clean up the up the house. You should have asked for help", guess what? You’re the one who has to ask. You’re the manager. You’re the one carrying the mental load.
This is not just about women doing more work in the home which is so true. This is about a particular kind of work that women do in the home which is invisible. It’s about how, even when the same amount of physical work is done, one person is actually doing more work overall. This is even when the woman earns more in her actual paid job.
Society is finally beginning to notice the issue of a mental load, and the very gendered nature of it. Over the past couple of years people have been actually talking about it. But there’s less out there in terms of practical advice. So I’m having a go. Here are ten practical things that we—parents, government, companies can do.
Let's do more to make the invisible mental load more visible.
Management is a job.
Women who might want to have kids one day: get yourself a partner who is going to understand and help and who’ll be willing to job-share the management job. Even more fitting get a partner who will call you out on doing it all yourself.
Talk to your partner about it. List the things you do physically on a everyday basis, and also the things you’re responsible for: menu planning, presents for family, researching holidays. Divide up the responsibilities, not just the tasks.
It’s possible to both be in the room with the kids but have only one parent consistently able to concentrate on anything substantial. Be precise about who’s in charge of the kids at any one time. This makes sure both parents get real chunks of time.
Work on eliminating the mental load altogether. Everyone within the household should have chores to do and not depend on mother to do everything. It is a give and take kind of situation to where if you keep on taking and not giving back mother might just go away.