It seems as though the ‘mental load’ formerly talked about only by the most hardcore feminists has suddenly turned mainstream and is actually pretty topical these days (thank the lawd for that, TBH). If you’re lucky enough to be following me on Instagram or on Facebook, you may notice that I’ve been ranting about it now for weeks. #sorrynotsorry.
This comic describes the mental load of motherhood (in the context of working mothers) better than I ever could. I challenge you to read it and NOT get riled up about it.
Here’s an example from my own house just two days ago. Yes, I have a partner who, by today’s standards, is quite helpful around the home, but I bear the ‘mental load’ entirely on my own. It doesn’t help that I am, by nature, anxious and constantly “in my own head”, and that he is generally one of those people who can literally be thinking of nothing for extended periods of time. But still. It drives me crazy.
This is the after Christmas garbage strike/standoff of 2017. Our garbage collection day fell on Christmas day and so it was delayed by a week, sure, but the garbage piled higher. And higher. I busted my tail off putting away the Christmas gifts, sorting through toys and clothes our daughter no longer needed, etc. AND I went to work, whereas my spouse was off for the period between Christmas and New Years. And yet… the garbage remained. Piled up. I eventually – in true Amanda fashion – lost my sh*t and we had a huge argument. Over a pile of garbage. He was OFF WORK. All I wanted him to do was one thing around the house.
The mental load of motherhood is killing me. This week, it was:
– Is he buying presents for his parents, who do SO much for us?
– When was the last time she had her eyes checked?
– Did those medical expense reimbursements go through like they were supposed to?
– Have we paid the minimum payments on our debt this month?
– When am I going to get the results of the biopsy back I had last week?
– Is my Mom okay, and how do I navigate that this Christmas? What if Ellie asks for her? What will my response be?
– Will I be able to handle everything I need to handle when I’m articling and completing the bar course and writing the exam this year?
– What school are we going to register her in, and will she be in French or English?
– Etc. until INFINITY.
I often lay awake at night, completely bogged down by the mental load of life. And parenting. And adulthood in general. And my spouse, as helpful as he may be, will – for whatever reason – never understand it. We often joke that there’s a bee buzzing around in his head at all times.
Why are women given this extra cross to bear? I don’t understand it.
Although, Tyler did have a good response to it when we talked about it this week. He said, “I just don’t care about things.”
“What? How can you not care about things?” I gasped, totally horrified. “These things are important – we’re talking about my career, here.”
“Yeah”, he said, “but what about everything else you listed out? Maybe instead of focusing on everything at once and letting yourself become overwhelmed, you focus only on the major things.”
“Hmmph,” I thought. “Why couldn’t I have been born a man?”.
But, maybe he was onto something. Maybe men have it figured out in a way we don’t. Maybe being blissfully unaware or unable to multitask has its mental health benefits overall.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about our conversation a lot and trying to come up with tangible ways to reduce the mental load. In truth, the mental load is sucking all the joy out of my life. It’s making me miserable to deal with, too.
I’ve come up with a few tips that I’m going to try in the new year to combat the mental load. Here’s what I’m trying:
1. Schedule a monthly family meeting. Since my daughter is 4, it’ll be parents only for a while. At this meeting, I will list out 10 things that need to be done over the coming month. We’ll each pick 5 items. At the next meeting, we’ll have to report back on our progress. Boom. 5 less ‘things’ weighing on my mind. I will have to trust him, though, to accomplish the tasks HIS way. I won’t meddle or intervene. Once the tasks are assigned to him, they’re respectively out of mind. We’ll also use this meeting as a chance to check in on the divvying up of the standard household chores.
2. Schedule another monthly meeting to map and track our financial progress. The finances fall solely to me, and it’s extremely stressful. Most often I’m laying awake thinking about money issues, to be honest. Scheduling this monthly meeting will take some of the pressure off of me and get us on the same page.
3. Create a debt repayment chart. This will serve as a visual reminder of the debt we are paying off. Law school wasn’t cheap, and our living so frugally sometimes can get really depressing. I know it won’t always be this way, but it can feel like that sometimes.
4. UNI-TASKING. No more multi-tasking. It is horrid for my mental health. I will set a goal or two for the day and will focus on getting those things done. That’s IT. For example, today is ‘sort through and minimize clothing and do laundry’ and ‘catch up on the transcription course I’m taking’ in the evening.
5. Keep pursuing minimalism. Honestly, I’ve found minimalism to be the key to reducing the mental load for me. Fewer toys = less time to clean up. Fewer clothes = less laundry. Does it mean that my preschooler has nothing to do and no clothes to wear? Not in the slightest. She has fewer but more engaging toys and uses her imagination on a regular basis, and it’s so refreshing to see. I do have a long way to go in getting my spouse on the minimalism train, but I will keep plugging away and am dedicating the first month of 2018 to decluttering like crazy.
So, that’s that. Even devising this plan has been strangely freeing for me – just knowing that there are ways to tackle the mental load. I refuse to accept that this is a “woman’s problem” and I refuse to continue to allow it to be so. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where all tasks are shared truly equally between partners.
I’d be so interested to know what YOU do to tackle or reduce the mental load in your home. Please let me know in the comments and re-pin this post if you found it helpful in any way!