Do you find your mental load is greater or less during lockdown? How is it being shared out?
My husband offered to do the supermarket shop on Friday. I have been going on a Friday evening while our daughter is on a Scouts video call, but last weekend we were camping in the garden instead. That’s a post for another day. I have enjoyed being out of the house and seeing familiar Friday evening staff and shoppers, but as I was going to be in a tent at the time I usually went, I was delighted to get out of it this week.
The thing that gets me is that I can’t just send him out to buy the groceries. He needs a list. A pretty comprehensive one at that. Yes, an amount of carrots and not just “some” is required. So I feel like I might as well have done the shop myself. The mental load is still on my shoulders. Yes, it is for my benefit. As I work part-time I “run” the kitchen and am chief meal planner and chef, so if I don’t write a list, who knows what will happen? But it doesn’t stop that feeling that while my husband is truly trying to help, half of it is still my job.
(I’ve just asked him to approve the last two paragraphs. He has stomped upstairs, saying he was going to offer to go tomorrow but doesn’t think he’ll bother now :/ )
I’m not alone
I’ve heard some awesome stories from friends. My issues are nothing in comparison to their struggles. In fact, a colleague called my husband a “domestic god” last night. If he’s put the cheese grater back where he found it, I might be more tempted to agree with her. Anyway, whilst on lockdown many mums are still having to make sure their children are in the right place at the right time.
One friend is generously delivering grocery shopping to elderly people in her area. After the last few weeks they have come to know her well enough to show her the bruises on their bottoms from falling over, or hear about their ear wax. I’m with her on that. While she is on the opposite side of the city, she still needs to ring her husband to make sure their younger daughter is ready for her virtual clarinet lesson. The same goes for when she is at work – the house doesn’t run without her.
The most amusing story (for someone not living their lives) is one I heard last week. A friend and her husband are both trying frantically to get all of their work done whilst having three children at home. She realised last week that she could no longer sit with the youngest one while she does her school projects or the mum’s job will never be completed.
However, after putting the plan into action, the youngest child spilt a glass of water down the back of the eldest’s computer. Both parents were on a video call at the time. Who got called away to sort it out? And did the dad come and help when the gravity of the situation was explained? He did not. When I heard the story I was impressed that the mum didn’t switch off the router or the electricity in a rage. She said she would have done, had she thought of it.
Is it just the way our brains are wired? Or is it due to the person who looked after the children more during infancy and early childhood keeps that mental load stacked up? Perhaps you have a very different situation in your house. Perhaps the male has been furloughed and the female is still working. Does this mean that the mental load is switched?
I don’t have a solution to offer in this situation. I think the most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. Once a problem has died down, talk to each other about it in non-confrontational language. Can you laugh together? Can the pinch points be identified?
The mental load may still remain with one partner. However, hopefully a plan for sharing more of this will reduce stress a little.
I’d better go and find my own domestic god – the one who always remembers to put out the milk bottles and the green bins. And does the washing up. And does the secondary maths with our daughter on the days that he is home. Yes, I’d better go and grovel…
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