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 Shelves of dried goods in a supermarket. Mental load: how is it shared during lockdown?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 Two children reading a book. Mental load: how is it shared during lockdown?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.

Which parent?

The most amusing story (for someone not living their lives) is one I heard last week.  A friend and her Child playing Times Table Rock Stars on a laptop. Mental load: how is it shared during lockdown?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.

Mental load

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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13 comments

  1. I think people who are with a partner are still really lucky because they can share with someone, even if it’s uneven. I wonder what single parents do in these times

    1. Oh my goodness – it doesn’t bear thinking about. You are right! Those with partners are indeed really lucky

  2. I really can’t complain about my hubby at all. He does most of the cooking and DIY. I think it’s very easy to fall into what used to be traditional gender roles when it comes to housework and parenting. There are those who also say it is the way we raise our sons which increases this problem so I make sure that Ieuan does his bit. I don’t think the mental load is shared equally in many households but I do think that the mental health issues being created by lockdown should be factored in – and we know that men are generally more reluctant to discuss their feelings.

    1. That’s great. You are right about mental health – I think many women will be discussing their anxieties with friends, even if they can’t actually meet up, but for men it will be harder. There’s a lot to think about.

  3. We’ve carried on with pretty much the same division of labour as before lockdown. I’m just glad that my sons are all 16 and older – I’d have found it all a lot more stressful if they were younger!

  4. It’s a really difficult juggling act isn’t it. I work part time and my husband does long hours and is called out for emergencies, so I am taking the majority of the schooling work – but he does help out when he can and then I try to catch up over the weekend.

  5. It is a difficult and challenging time for many…especially parents who find themselves on their own. I am sure many people who read this will feel the same xx

  6. Really thought provoking post and it got me thinking I think our mental load responsibilities as such have changed but they are still the same if that makes sense? For instance my husband is usually at work all day in the week and so I would have to deal with the kids alone, however now he is home (furloughed) its great that he is hear to help but sometimes he struggles to understand that whilst I am home too, I am still working and so I am having to worry about everyone else and still work. I know that once he goes back to work the full load will land on me (despite the fact I have been working the whole time!) and if truth be told I am not looking forward to the stress and anxiety all the work, schools, clubs etc bring with them when they restart! But I know in turn that will make everyone a bit happier and we will be able to find a routine again which will probably help us all!

  7. Oh bless him with his list. My partner is good with sharing and doing the shopping but I think the school work and times for zoom calls still fall onto me to remember

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