parent opinion

"Is this my life?" Tired of the endless tasks, I wrote a 'job description' for our marriage.

If you’re a mum, you’ll know exactly what I mean about living with the mental load.

It’s the in-your-head to do list that never stops. More and more jobs are added daily, making it feel as though you’re trying to stuff a giant sleeping bag into a sack that’s too damn small.

What’s the sexiest thing in the world? Sharing the load, of course. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

The appointments, mufti days, library books, car servicing, excursion notes, childcare, presents, groceries, birth control, quotes, raffle tickets, home readers, hat parades, meal planning, cleaning, dog walking, bin day, nits, thank you notes, after school activities, canteen, bills, gardening, gold coin donations, play dates, holiday bookings, lunch boxes. You know, just, ALL THE THINGS.

It wasn’t until I listened to a podcast interviewing organisation and equality guru Eve Rodsky that I thought to myself, ‘When did I become the person in charge of all the things? And how do I give some of them back?’

Much of the time, us mums take on these tasks from the beginning. We get VERY GOOD at the tasks. Too good. So good that nobody else can do them ‘right’ so they don’t even try (and you don’t ask).

The Quicky discusses the solution for managing the neverending to-do list. Post continues after podcast.

You wouldn’t let your partner just ‘have a go’ at packing the nappy bag for you one day because (you are certain) you would end up at Target with a poo-covered baby and a nappy bag containing zero wipes or spare clothes.

So you just let the mental load rain down on your head. Until you find yourself driving around at 9pm looking for a red t-shirt that is PLAIN WITHOUT LOGOS for the school play and you just pull over and think, ‘Is this my life?’

Or you end up having an emotional meltdown when you see happy snaps on Facebook from a birthday party that your child was supposed to be at, but you missed it as you forgot to write it on the calendar (*raises hand*).

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Why won’t we just… share?

Discussing her new book, Fair Play: Share the Mental Load, Re-balance your Relationship and Transform your Life, Rodsky suggests that to share the load with our partners we write down everything (on separate cards) that needs to be done. Like, everything.

dividing the mental load
A selection of our job cards. Image: Supplied

From there, we can delegate different tasks to one of the two partners, giving clear ownership of a task from start to finish. Men tend to like this style of discussion, as there is a problem to solve and a clear resolution at the end.

Naturally, you have to make allowances for your own situation and your work commitments. There’s no point putting someone in charge of Saturday morning netball if that person has to work every Saturday morning. You’ve got to be realistic. There is a good chance that the cards won’t fall in a 50:50 split.

dividing the mental load
Dad decorates the birthday cakes around here. Image: Supplied
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Even Reese Witherspoon is a fan of Rodsky’s work. On the Motherkind podcast she is quoted describing Rodsky as ‘the Marie Kondo for sorting out your life, not your drawers.’

Well if Reese can do it, so can I. My husband and I sat down after the kids had gone to bed and wrote out the to-do list for our life. The results were interesting to say the least.

It made him realise just how much invisible labour I do each day (Rodsky calls this the daily grind). Even though he is at work for much of the day and couldn’t take these cards from me, it just felt good to be recognised for the things that I do to help keep our family running smoothly.

dividing the mental load
Mum will get to that pile of washing eventually. Image: Supplied

So now, if my son can’t find his guitar before his weekly lesson (yes for real, my son loses his guitar, it’s a special gift of his) that's on me, as I’m in charge of after school activities. I was happy to put my hand up for this one as my husband doesn’t get home until 5.30pm so – logistics!

If a friend or family member’s birthday is coming up, I don’t need to stress, as my husband is in charge of presents (he is a really thoughtful gift buyer and works right near a mall). He will ensure there is tape, gift-wrap and a card too.

Library borrowing and returns are one of my cards. Image: Supplied
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What does it mean for our relationship? Better communication, less resentment (because nobody can say they do ‘everything’ anymore), and more time for fun.

You can add some other, less formal task cards too. I take my ‘ice cream boss’ card very seriously and ensure the freezer is always well stocked.

Now I’ve just remembered that it’s garbage bin day tomorrow, but am I worried? Nope, not my card.

Been listening to That’s Incredible? Tell us what you think.

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