I’ve read one too many articles about the exhausting mental load of mothers. They catch my attention because I often feel like I could collapse under the weight of that mental load.
I get it. Filling out school forms, laundry, tracking who has outgrown what, planning and attending birthday parties, volunteering at school, meal planning, monitoring the grocery and Target lists, making doctor appointments, picking up meds, and so. Much. More.
And, IT HAS TO CHANGE. It is 2018, and if we ever want a shot at an egalitarian society where men and women really are equal, we have to help it change.
I understand that when one parent is at home with the kids, those “life” tasks tend to fall on their shoulders. If one parent works long hours or travels, then the tasks especially fall to the other. Totally understandable. But for those of us who have two working parents, or the stay at home parent just needs a break once in a while, we need to change. We need to set different expectations. It has to start in our own homes. I don’t want to read another one of these articles and nod along. I want to say “Well at least our house isn’t like that.”
My husband and I are making a conscious effort to share the mental load. It’s not easy. I am by nature a planner, and my husband is not. It will take months if not years, but we are trying hard because the demands of our work/life schedule are growing. Here are a few things we’re trying that might help you as well.
1 – Get shareable lists and calendars on your phones.
Since my husband and I use Gmail, our calendars are easily synced, and we use Google Keep to share lists. No more paper calendars or lost grocery lists. Our commitments and lists live in our phones (which are never more than a back pocket away) so that any time we are out of syrup, my husband just adds it to the grocery list. Any time I realize we need toilet paper, I add it to the list. Any time there is a kid’s activity or doctor’s appointment, we both know and can decide who is covering what. We also keep lists of “house projects,” “meal options” and this past holiday, “Christmas lists.”
With those lists on our phones, do you know who can stop at those stores any time, and buy what’s on the list?! EITHER OF YOU! My husband had to stop at the store the other day to grab something, and guess what? He bought whatever else was on the list. Sure, some of the brands were not what I would buy, but I got over it quickly when I realized it was one less place I had to go. I also sent him to the craft store to pick up some fabric. We had to Facetime so I could show him where to go, but it was another errand I didn’t run.
3 – Delegate.
This can be done in one of two ways. The first is to delegate tasks to your partner. This one is annoying because you are the “manager,” but swallow your pride and hand off a few things if this works for you. Examples include: calling the heating company, cleaning out the humidifier, scrubbing the shower, sorting through mail, filling out school forms, making an appointment, etc. Most of us don’t want to ask because we feel our partners should just see/know this stuff needs to get done. The second method is to pre-determine who is in charge of what. No check-in needed after that. If you decide you are each in charge of sending your own family’s birthday cards, it may mean your mother-in-law doesn’t get a card. And you have to be okay with that. Challenge your current roles and shake things up a bit, mutually agreeing upon which responsibilities should go to whom. Be willing to keep the conversation going regarding what is or is not working.
At our house, my husband is in charge of clipping nails, bathing children, trimming hair, cleaning out noses, and applying lotion. He is thorough, detail-oriented, and fully-capable. If your partner isn’t home at bedtime, this may not be possible. If they are, try to pass off bedtime routine at least twice a week, even if you’re home.
5 – Communicate and LISTEN.
Share your thoughts and feelings about the mental load, and ask for help. Set expectations and discuss, keeping an open mind. Listen to what your spouse/partner has to say about their own mental load too. There may be things weighing on them you’ve never thought of. This has to be an open, equal discussion. DO NOT bring this up in the middle of an argument. Wait for a calm moment, express your desired expectations and ask for theirs.
Change takes time, and perhaps the mental load will never truly be even in our house, but we’re willing to work towards a better balance. Who’s with me? What tips can you share?