marriage monday: the mental load

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This article resonated with me. Specifically:

“The mental load is … permanent and exhausting work. And it’s invisible.”

How do I discuss this without sounding like I’m just complaining? I mean, I am complaining, but for good reason (IMO). I’m not saying that this article is the be-all, end-all. I’m just saying that it puts into words a lot of what I tend to feel when it comes to my day-to-day lifestyle, aka wifehood and motherhood.

Firstly, I take exception that the piece kind of whitewashes men as a group that doesn’t prioritize home or family; that couldn’t be more untrue in my case. And when it comes to things I ask him to do, Mike pretty much does all of it without complaint.

But being the person who has to do the asking and who has to know and remember and anticipate everything for my entire household is mentally taxing. It’s actually very overwhelming.

That’s probably where Mike and I differ the most. He thinks that by doing basically everything I ask (sometimes when I ask, but sometimes later, on his own schedule), he’s in the clear. That I should have no complaints. And he’s actually quite indignant when I do complain. But he doesn’t understand that always having to ask, and the sheer volume of requests I have to make, is draining. I asked him to do that … he seemed annoyed at me … he put it off … did he do it yet? … do I need to remember to ask him again later? … should I ask him again? … will he just be more annoyed at me? … maybe I should just do it myself. It’s a legit internal dialogue for almost everything.

My husband (and I wouldn’t write something here that I wouldn’t say to his face) doesn’t tend to remember a lot of details about our life — what time the birthday party is on the weekend, where it is taking place, whether we’ve purchased a gift, checking if J has the clean outfit he wants to wear — and defaults to asking me the answer rather than making an effort to remember it himself. Like the day we still joke about when he called me at work, from home, to ask where the homemade turkey soup was in the fridge. (And lord help me, my sons have developed his keen ability to “look” for things).

I admit, I do take care of all of these aspects of our life (read: control freak) so he’s not overly wrong in his assumption that I’ll take care of it. But he also doesn’t see it as a priority to remember all of the details, to which I retort that he doesn’t need to remember because he takes for granted the fact that I will remember for him and that he can and will ask me. What he doesn’t get is that having to keep him in the know ends up being a task on my list. It adds to my mental load. Like when he says, we need coffee cream or we should pick up a card to send to our niece or we should … and once he’s said it out loud, the royal we becomes me.

Putting a name to it — the mental load — somehow makes me feel like it’s more legitimate. I’ve always felt that my feelings have been entirely justified, but very hard to explain without feeling like I’m just bitching. Can I just say that feeling like a bitch is a mental load in and of itself?

And you know what? I acknowledge that I might sound unreasonable by times. That it’s not the end of the world (my husband’s favourite way to phrase it) if dishes are on the counter and not in the dishwasher or if the floor hasn’t been swept today or if the lawn is mowed in a few days instead of today-right-now-this-minute. When things hang on the to-do list, they hang in the realm of the mental load. So maybe it’s the things. All the things. that are making me difficult/cranky/tired/unreasonable.

And now I’d like to share that post and this post with my husband, at just the right time, to help relay my point. I’ll want to choose a good time so he’ll see my perspective and not see it as a complaint. This is something else I’ll add to my mental to-do list.

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4 thoughts on “marriage monday: the mental load

  1. LOVE THIS! I, too, feel the weight of the mental load. My husband never remembers about birthday parties — when/where/who/gift — or appointments or other minutia, and it’s certainly frustrating when everything falls on you to do or remember or nag about.

    Like

  2. That article resonated with me, too. It gave a name to something I’d always felt but couldn’t describe. I think carrying the lion’s share of the mental load lead to my divorce in many ways. It’s real. It’s exhsusting. Now… can we find some ways to mitigate it? Or is that just adding to the load? Sigh…

    Like

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