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Men, Chip In With The Household Chores Instead Of Just Saying ‘You Should’ve Asked’!

Posted: April 6, 2020

Why should women always bear the ‘mental load’ of planning and dealing with and doing household chores? Men, it’s your home too. Take some over.

In 2018, French comic artist Emma published a ‘Feminist Comic’ titled ‘The Mental Load.’ Her simple drawings highlighted the ‘mental load’ or the ‘emotional labour’ a woman (more so, a mother) goes through every single day.

The author very effectively illustrates how the simple task of cleaning a table leads to a two-hour circling around the house. This includes finishing up other jobs which only she can see while the man is oblivious to it all.

It is the little things that only women seem to see

It starts with clearing away a toy on the way, coming across a dirty towel and putting it in the laundry basket, which is full. Thus, switching on the washing machine. Noticing that vegetables on the kitchen counter will rot and storing them in the refrigerator, where a condiment is out of stock so adding that to a shopping list… and on it goes!

Emma writes that the mental load is almost completely borne by women. Not only that, it is permanent and exhausting work and it’s invisible!

And when a woman complains, the man gets away by saying, “You should have asked!” Emma points out that when a man expects his partner to ‘ask him to do things’ he views himself as the ‘manager’ of household chores.

He thinks of himself as household management project leader. And contrarily, views her as an ‘underling’ – a subordinate – who is supposed and expected to do the actual chores.

It’s the ‘worry work’ that only women seem to have

So mental load is essentially having lot many things on your mind – all the time. It means having to remember the groceries to be bought, the last dates of the bills to be paid, the homework to be completed. And the vacations to be planned, bags to be packed, the tests children need to prepare for, the schedule of their classes.

It means having to remember social functions that need to be attended, gifts to be bought, packed given, vaccination schedules, and doctor’s appointment. The list is practically endless. No wonder that sociologists often refer to these duties as ‘worry work’ – very aptly so.

This definitely applies to women who don’t work – either by choice or forced by circumstances, work from home or work part-time. And it is unfortunately also applicable to those who work full-time regular hours, like their partners.

The how and why of mental load

How did we get here? We can keep arguing the reason, but the short and sad truth is that we got here because of a patriarchal mindset of the society.

What’s the effect? Higher divorce rates, increasing bitterness and friction in partners, setting of wrong examples in children. It also leads to an increase in stress and anxiety in women, burnout and midlife crisis, among others.

The debate on mental load has been on for quite some time now – more in the Western countries than in ours. Now as we are busy teaching the next generation arithmetic and English literature, it’s only prudent that we make them aware of the mental load women face.

It becomes important to do so because girls are studying (and have been for quite some time now) as much as boys. And despite the dismal number staying in the workforce post motherhood, most will have regular jobs in the future. Equal sharing of mental load will be one of the most important aspects that will make or break families. So, it is vital to act on this issue today.

What to do about it? Some simple strategies

I am talking about a traditional family here for the sake of convenience (it’s definitely different for single parents, and same-sex marriages)

  • We teach cooking to boys but not to girls – just like so many other life skills. Remember, cooking is a life skill – completely non-negotiable and everyone must know how to cook basic meals. This applies to making the bed in the morning, cleaning/ rinsing one’s plate after eating, and washing one’s own undergarments.
  • No cars are not only for boys and dolls and kitchen sets are not only for girls – they can and should be played by children of both genders. Categorising genders into pinks and blues only enhances the gender stereotypes.
  • Divide chores fairly. While they may not be equally divided, the division should ‘feel’ fair to both partners.
  • Learn to communicate in a healthy pattern – without finger pointing. A blame game only leads to a downward spiral in communication.
  • Celebrate or rather normalise the exceptions wherever they exist – for instance, welcome fathers to school WhatsApp groups. Celebrate women who earn more and men who work from home or don’t work and a woman who pays the bills.
  • Women — stop carrying the mental load for while and see what happens. Stop feeling responsible for everything. Most often, these jobs are taken on ourselves during the start of marriage and we end up doing them lifelong. Although easier said than done, maybe that’s the best way.
  • Use technology and tools and do away with mental load all together – to whatever extent possible.

With women facing so many issues, this is one we can definitely work upon and eliminate – one chore at a time. And enable a gender-neutral world for generations to come.

Picture credits: YouTube

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In no particular order she is a mental health evangelist, founder of www.weqip.com -

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