How this mama killed her mental load before it killed her.
* Did you know there are plenty of benefits of making your own dehydrated food?
Hello friends! Let's talk about mental load, or emotional load. Some also call it mental labor or emotional labor. We all have it, just some have it more than others. Mental load is always having to first remember, make a mental list, and then having to either execute or delegate a task. Mental load often refers to household chores and tasks of everyday living, and this load is exhausting and invisible. It can also be disproportionate, especially when one partner (usually the wife) bears the brunt of it. It becomes worst when both partners work, and one partner still carries the majority of the mental load. At home, one doesn't get paid for all the work one does relating to mental load. Mental load may lead to burn out, physical and mental fatigue, depression, and even marital affairs. (1, 2)
An artist, Emma, has published a viral comic that finely explains mental load:
My mom often remarks how she remembers every birthday, shops for all the gifts, wraps them, and remembers when the parties and family reunions are. She was the one who made all of our doctor appointments, cleaned the house, did the laundry, cook, and made sure her daughters did their homework. Even when she started working outside the house, she prepared all the meals in advance, did most of her chores, and delegated some to us. She nagged a lot, and complained about her life at work. She didn't call it mental load then, but it sure sounded like it. Mom experienced mental load in her personal and work life. Dad worked very hard, Monday to Friday, and would help wash the dishes, mow the lawn, take care of the finances, and do other miscellaneous things around the house. His mental load at home, true as it was, was lower than my mom's. He never complained about his housework or chores. His mental load at work, conversely, was terrible, and he voiced his displeasure over the stresses of work, a lot. Over the years, both my parents developed multiple health issues.
Mental load is real, and it's terrifying because we rarely address or acknowledge it. There's barely any mention about this condition in research literature. I'm sure that will change soon. Regarding my own experiences relating to mental load, I've definitely experienced its negative effects and the results of it. Mental load can easily defeat the strongest person.
Like the viral comic above, this article, "Women aren't nags- we're just fed up" resonated loudly between a friend (also a working mama) and me. My friend and I talked about our experiences at home. We talked about packing for a trip, taking care of the kids, doing house chores (laundry, dishwashing, folding clothes), cooking, planning vacations, shopping for groceries, and delegating chores... all of that was our responsibility. Although I only work Saturday and Sundays now, my Monday through Fridays with Phil and our house full of chores are laborious, and I'm unpaid. I went from having help from my parents back in NYC, to having very little help at home, now that we're in Seattle.
At first, I felt angry and depressed. I held in harsh words. My husband is an amazing father and daddy. Sometimes, he will leave dishes out. Sometimes he doesn't take out the trash unless I remind him. Because I have such a heavy mental load at home, I neglect to see that the hubby is dealing with his own mental load, only better. He works from home, Monday through Fridays. On the weekends, he's with Phil when I'm at work. The hubby fixes up the house, works his magic, picks all the furnishings, and does things that I can't. He just doesn't do the little "menial" things I do, like remember birthdays, buy all the gifts, plan our outings, plan all our meals, budget for vacation, take Phil to the doctor, pick out the right pre-school, fold the cloths, organize our cabinets KonMari style...
I multi-task. He's focused. I worry about everything. He's able to step back and look for a simpler solution. And he doesn't nag or complain.
I began to realize that I was not appreciating all the things my husband does and takes care of. I was letting my mental load get the better of me. So I had to nip it at the bud. Start to relax. Know that the world continues to spin even when I don't fold the clothes the moment the dryer stops. I can leave some dishes in the sink over night. Rats aren't going to flood our home. I don't have to bake sweets every time we visit someone's house. And it's okay if we forget a birthday or two, so many people forget our birthdays!
It's okay if I don't shower one day, I don't smell! It's okay if we eat fast food every now and then, as long as it's not every day! It's okay if Phil sleeps an hour past his bedtime. He'll just nap the next day to make it up! It's okay if the hubby doesn't take out the trash the very moment I ask him to. It's okay if we forgot to buy toilet paper on our shopping trip! Fred Meyer is close by!
We've found that dividing chores also helps, and teaching our child to help out in the house lowers our mental labor. And if we have the means, outsource the labor! (3)
Mental load is worse for someone who is a perfectionist and high-achiever. Those who experience high mental load at home may want things done a certain way. For instance, I only want our clothes to be folded KonMari style. I want my dishes sorted a certain way in the cabinets. I want my steak prepared a certain way. I need to know where everything is in our house. Adopting a more relaxed attitude toward life, knowing that the world doesn't end when things don't go our away... we can defeat our mental loads and live happier, simpler lives. I'm not discounting the mental load we face on a daily basis. I'm offering a way of addressing it and combating it. It's all about our perspective! And to all the husbands out there, there's one simple truth: Happy wife, happy life!
My friends, how are you dealing with your mental load? How do you work things out at home?