The French comic artist Emma and her depiction of “mental load” has 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.
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.