The Mental Load
Have you ever found yourself feeling like the manager of your family, rather than part of it?
That you have many hats on at once, the mum, the wife, the taxi, the chef, the planner, the organizer & more?
That its your aunt in laws dog or someone or others birthday & no cards been sorted? That the swimming fees are due, and it’s been forgotten about? That one of the children has a party to go to tomorrow and the gift and card have been forgotten about, so it will be a hasty run to a shop on the way with £5 put inside.
Then you are not alone, I’ve felt like that the last few weeks and I have to say Mr Calming Moments Aromatherapy (Mr CMA) really does try his best. In fact, since I got sick, he’s been an amazing PA! However, I have noticed, without trying to create gender differences here, we think differently. After speaking with several female friends, we all came to the same conclusion- we DO think and SEE things differently in our relationships. Especially when one of us is not working and on maternity leave rather than sick leave. Now Mr CMA is used to me working shifts, so he can do half the planning but since I’ve been sick & then on maternity leave, I’ve found myself wearing the many different hats again.
He can come home & relax when the children have come to bed; then do some chores. I cannot. If the bin needs emptying, I can’t relax until it is done, once the tasks are done, I am a ‘free elf’. Therefore, by the time he comes to do it, I have already done it. He jokes and calls me a 1950’s housewife & does attempt to address it but he’s partly right.
However, I am set in my ways I watched my parents behave in a similar way when I was younger; as did many of us. My dads dinner was always on the table, his packed lunch done & the house spotless. This really also doesn’t help me in an Instagram world full of interior design with grey abundance everywhere, white walls, pristine skirting boards & floors so polished I could eat my dinner off them- it neither helps my anxiety but if you are offering to let me move in then yes please! Then alas, they probably don’t have 2 feral children, a baby & even more feral dog.
I also was a single parent for many years, so I was used to wearing many hats & getting stuff done alone. Then when I met Mr CMA it was almost too hard to relinquish control of that… so what happens now is resentment can breed unconsciously. I think he can be lazy; he thinks I’m a whirlwind who will end up back in hospital. Both quotes are probably true, but fundamentally we are different in our values & beliefs. I love him & he loves me, so why you ask does this ‘Mental Load’ occur and breed resentment, when we are both aware of it.
Answer: I’m not sure, I’ve read many years about the mental load & research has informed me I am not alone in the way I feel.
Check out this infographic of statistics I’ve put together, they say a picture paints a thousand words!
In fact The Mental Load is a subject French Comic artist, Emma has regularly illustrated about, it has become part of joke memes with the quote ‘You Should have asked’. Now nothing frustrates me more than when Mr CMA says this- I could literally scream. Yet it’s true isn’t it, I don’t ask, but he doesn’t see therefore the communication gets missed. The signs are all there from us, but Mr CMA misses it until I blow & often I brew on it until I blow.
This in turn when speaking with our other halves about it descending into a conversation that ‘I am nagging’ (urm no that is me asking, getting frustrated!) and can often lead to arguments. Research has also suggested when one partner is feeling the burden of ‘the mental load’ our sex life is often down the pan too as we are tired, stuck in routine, becoming isolated and quite often depressed or anxious as research has yet again proved the mental load has a knock on to our mental health.
So why we ask in this century do we find this happening? In a world where women & men are equal and anyone can achieve anything, and I’ve written an article concerning that very quote for x-forces, does this occur?
Let’s start at the beginning, we are still of a generation whereas youngsters gender roles were still assigned. Often our mothers were responsible for domestic chores & parenting duties whilst our fathers worked and did the ‘manly’ jobs. This is where the unconscious mind comes in, although we are aware we now have interchangeable roles our childhood has still given us an unconscious feel for gender stereotypes & gender roles. So, whilst we do challenge this, unconsciously we still see roles such as ‘women’s work’ & ‘men’s work’. Something evidenced when Mr CMA first saw a lady on ‘Trucking Hell’ he was wondering why the lovely lady wanted to that job & I was thinking how awesome it was- see unconscious gender roles assigned but challenged. Although I did always want to work for Eddie Stobart as a child.; I still think my father is a little disappointed its me in a nursing uniform on his mantlepiece rather than at the helm of one of Eddie’s trucks!
Yet, I am bringing my children up in a different way- my son has a prink hoover and he hoovers with me, and my daughter can often be found mending things with Grandpa & Grandad and knew the difference between a Phillips and flathead screwdriver by the age of 2 (cheers Grandad!) and is also aware of how to jack a car up, and I probably shouldn’t go on as my dad was an engineer & it probably breaks some kind of health and safety rules. Yet, she also is a whizz at baking cakes but not so much tidying her room. My son- he will be exposed to the same, yet cars seem to be inbuilt in him. (Just why, they hurt when trod on in the dark!)
So therefore, I question is the mental load a generational thing, in years to come will this be a non-issue- I’m not so sure considering the following infographic on what research has found UK residents find to be deemed ‘women’s work’& ‘men’s work’. However, in 50 years’ time I can see if the research were to be conducted again it would be totally different.
BUT, I find myself asking why do I do it, why do I not challenge it more, because although I am teaching my children differently I am not practising what I am preaching.
Take the working world for instance, leadership is huge, team working is huge, team building is huge, mediation and conflict resolution are huge. A colleague not pulling their weight is often moaned about, until senior management get a whiff and come in with their leadership style to level the playing field again.
Therefore, before a standoff normally occurs the: I’m stopping everything I do, so you all see what I do and appreciate me more attitude to be met with the ‘well I’m stopping everything I do until you appreciate me’ approach where the whole house descends into chaos, this is after the resentment has been brewing and the ‘IM FINE’ hints haven’t been read I decided to STOP! And think- rare for me.
Everyone of every gender, by proof, can work together in harmony in a working environment- through leadership. So why can’t we at home? Mr CMA says ‘I should have said’ so I will. I’m here most of the time, I’m going to steer this ship. Gosh, that module of leadership I did for my nursing degree really is coming in handy! Along with the Mindset Mastery and CBT therapy!
STOP.FOCUS.REFRAME. That is exactly what I did.
I didn’t pick a leadership style as such, I think that would be a step too far but I tell you my ship has set sail I’m at the helm and everyone is on board. First step was to speak with Mr CMA, who just totally got it, and finally agreed if I stopped my amazon prime spending, I can have a cleaner (Jurys still out on that one but its in print now!).
So now in this house it’s a case of visualizing, understanding, vocalising, discussing, delegating in order to reduce the workload, before evaluating how its working- as a team (general consensus is its much better & I have to agree) before we see if we can maintain and sustain it.
Phew there was no need for the marriage counselling, conflict resolution or divorce ‘just a little bit more conversation & a little more action please’ to bring this house back into harmony. Now I’m sure the mental load will reveal itself again at some point but I’m armed with my post it notes & my voice as is everyone else to get stuff done and give mummy a break- after all she’s working too!
Its just a shame my ‘Mummy’s cross stare’ doesn’t work at all!
Id love to know your thoughts, and as always feel free to share.
Love Lucy Xx