Dropping My Mental Load

The French comic artist Emma and her depiction of “mental load” ┬áhas gone viral for illustrating the burden many women take on as family project manager.

In my marriage, I am the one who:

  • Knows when we’re about to run out of toilet paper.
  • Remembers to buy an end-of-year card and presents for our kids’ teachers.
  • Hunts down the contractors and makes doctors appointments.
  • Makes hotel reservations for hotels.
  • Pays most of the bills.

In the past, my husband has said to me, “Just tell me what you need.” During my more rational moments, I tell myself, “He’s right. Just speak up and tell him to change the dentist appointment. Let him initiate the what-are-we-having-for-dinner? conversation. Let him respond to that text from our daughter’s friend’s dad for a playdate.”

But I’m not always rationale or calm. Sometimes I am just plain fed up. “Why do I have to tell you?!” I want to shriek. “Can’t you just see that there is no creamy peanut butter in the house? Didn’t you notice that our 9-year-old daughter has been wearing the same pair of shoes for a year and a half and might need new shoes? Do you even know where toilet paper comes from?”

So. If I lose my shit, it’s my fault for not speaking up.

If I “take over” the task, I’m not giving my partner the chance to take care of things.

But. If I tell him what needs to be done, I’m still doing a share of work that all those lovely surveys that say women still do more housework don’t and can’t possibly measure.

This: What our partners are really saying when they ask us to tell them what needs to be done is that they refuse to take on their share of the mental load.

So this month, I am dropping my mental load. In the immortal words of Crush the sea turtle: Let us see what happens when Squirt flys solo.

To be sure, there are certain chores and tasks that we’ve discussed and divvied up:

  • I shop for the groceries and cook. He does most of the dishes.
  • I get the kids up and out the door in the morning. He picks them up from the bus.

But everything else, I’m letting go. I’ll let you know what happens.

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