Women and the Mental Load
I went away this weekend for the first time in a year. (To the Rocky Mountain Retreat which was awesome and you should totally go next year but that’s a post for another day). As I was walking out the door to head up to the mountains I reminded my husband that one of our children had a birthday party on Saturday and he would need to stop by the store to pick up a present. I had not had time to fit that in between my full time job, church commitments, end of school responsibilities, Kindergarten graduation, and taking care of our home and children. As soon as the words left my mouth I saw a look of horror cross his face. I get it, I hate going to Target with four kids too. So instead of telling him to suck it up I went to my closet and picked out one of the toys that I have stashed in case of a situation like this. I quickly wrapped the gift, called my son up to make a card and the whole thing was taken care of within 10 minutes. No big deal.
Except it is a big deal. Think of the mental space I dedicated to this birthday gift for a child that was not my own. Several months ago I was at the store and saw a toy on clearance, picked it up thinking it would be good to have on hand in case one of my kids was invited to a party last minute. Then on Friday I reminded mr. mraynes about the party and that a gift would need to be acquired. When it was obvious that doing so would be a problem for him I went to my closet, picked out the previously thought about toy and took care of it myself. While this is a relatively minor thing it was taking up space in my brain that probably should have been devoted to what I needed to take up to my retreat (I forgot several things), or to the big reports that are due to my employer this week that I’m still trying to finish, or even to thinking about what I wanted to write about for my post today.
I’m not interested in throwing my husband under the bus–I will be the first to acknowledge that there are times that mr. mraynes picks up more than his fair share of the domestic and care responsibilities. And more generally we get about as close to Equally Shared Parenting as you can. But I still carry more of the mental load than he does. I don’t think that’s unique to our relationship, though perhaps it’s more depressing because we do make an active effort to split things evenly. The reality is, I’m the one who thinks about the future birthday gifts. I’m the one who knows where the underwear is for our youngest. I’m the one who knows who is going to need new summer clothes. I’m the one who thinks about the babysitter we’re going to need in two weeks.
I don’t really have an answer to any of this and honestly, I’m not sure I’m willing to devote the energy to distributing the mental load more evenly. But I’m interested, did you read the comic? Did you relate to it? Do you agree the women carry more of the mental load in families? What does your mental load look like?