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HUMP DAY HACKS: 'I'm an organisation expert. Here's how I got my husband and kids to actually share the mental load.'

In Mamamia’s Parenting Hacks series, real women share their tips and tricks on everything from meal prep to organisation to nailing the morning routine.

This week, organisation expert Bridget Johns shares her tips for delegating the mental load.

Women shouldering the mental load have been on my mind the past few weeks. 

I don't need to describe the mental load to you. It's the never-ending to-do list of tasks that keeps everything running and we know it disproportionately falls to women.

But it doesn't have to. And it doesn't in my house.

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I can't remember the exact moment my family started to share the mental load, but through daily practices and open communication, I've been able to take some of the weight off my shoulders and share it with them, giving the kids independence and my husband more time with the family along the way.

How did I remove some of the never-ending slog from my to-do list and actually get my husband (a farmer) and kids to share it? Because you’re a busy woman, I’ll cut straight to the chase.

No jobs for the girls and jobs for the boys.

I want my son and daughter to grow up in a household where both parents do things around the home and so in my house there aren't 'men and women' jobs. The only way they are going to learn that is by us modeling that behaviour and living by that rule.

Stop.

This is the first step of one of my favourite mantras. We've got to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. 

Stop getting grumpy if something isn't happening how you want it to. Instead, break the cycle and decide to address it. That pile of clothes on the chair that keeps getting bigger and no one ever gets around to sorting out? The bills that are piling up? The first step to reducing your mental load is deciding to do something about it.

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Focus.

Right there and then (not later because that magical pocket of time you hope to find later doesn't exist!) take the time to focus on what the issue or task is and then communicate with whoever is involved. 

The biggest thing that adds to the mental load is not talking to others about things that are annoying you or adding to your mental load. My family aren't mind readers! They may not even realise it’s an issue until I raise it with them. 

Discuss what you want the task to look like in future and agree whose responsibility it is. Once a decision is made, stick to it.

Notice.

Notice what some other options might be. Consider compromising. Remember, your way of doing something might not be the only way. Kids and partners can bring fresh eyes to problems and can come up with great solutions if you ask them. Make them part of the decision-making team and decide to try one option. Pass over ownership of the planning and doing.

Let go.

Let them do it their way - don't micromanage or "save them" if things go awry. Sometimes they need to fail to realise how often you save them. Yes, the clothes on the clothesline might look like they've been hung up by a 10-year old (because they have!) or the kitchen becomes a bomb site but at least you didn't have to cook.

Set up your home for your family, not your visitors.

Our home is set up and organised for the people that live here, not our visitors. I've put in place systems and structures so that when the kids come home from school, they know exactly what they need to do - rather than trying to maintain a 'perfect' home for visitors. 

For example, we got rid of the excess platters I used to keep for when visitors came and turned our kitchen buffet into a school bag and homework station.

Now when the kids come home from school, they empty their school bags out and their bags are hidden behind a beautiful buffet. We even have a drawer in the buffet which stores equipment to turn our dining room table into a table tennis table. Systems can be fun too!

But on a more serious note, emptying out school bags is a non-negotiable. I won’t save them if they don’t do it and if they don't do it, it'll be their problem in the morning.

Image: Supplied. 

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Steal my lunch box formula.

Speaking of the morning, who makes school lunches in your home? Mr 10 and Miss 8 make their own lunch boxes in our home. This is one way I save time each day. We actually find they eat more of their food if they make it themselves. 

It's not a free-for-all, we have a lunchbox formula they follow. They must have two fruit, two veggies, a sandwich (or some substantial item like leftovers) and a snack. I find this works really well and lots of my clients have implemented this with a lot of success.

Share the cooking.

A few months ago, I shared on Instagram that my husband, who I affectionately call Mr Farmer on my socials, had baked a tuna mornay without me asking him. My DMs blew up. I couldn't believe the response. What year is it again?

Cooking is a great example of how we can share the mental load. Mr Farmer is the baker of our family. I don't enjoy baking and he does. Bananas going off in the fruit bowl? He'll turn them into banana bread or banana muffins using the 1988 Alford Primary School Cookbook. 

If he starts baking he'll make the most of a hot oven and throw in some sausage rolls too. 

It wasn't always like this but the more he has baked, the more confident he is in the kitchen so the more he does it. He's now making his own meat pies and preserving peaches and I'm not complaining.

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So if you're the head chef in your house and it's adding to the mental load, please know you don't have to do it all. Many of us do because we always have. But we have the power to change things! Traditionally in farming households, the farmers do the outside work and the farmer's wife or partner does the inside work. Not on my watch and not in this house. We both work and we both share the "home" work.

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Talk and communicate calmly with your partner (not when you're hangry or mid-fight about something else) about why from now on you're going to share the load.

Delegate nights or come up with a plan that suits you and your family. Get the kids involved! Normalise that everyone in the family can and is capable of cooking. It's not just a "mum job".

Agree on a washing schedule as a family.

I'm writing this on Wednesday, which means it’s "Wash the master bedroom sheets" day (I'm not kidding). I have a washing schedule Monday to Friday so I don’t have to do washing on the weekends. I choose to break our washing and cleaning jobs into bite-sized tasks that we (e.g. the whole family, not just me) do Monday to Friday morning so we can have Friday afternoon to Sunday to do things we enjoy as a family.

Finally, are you carrying glass or rubber balls?

Glass balls are things in our lives that we need and want to keep juggling. They shatter if we drop them. Rubber balls are things in our lives that we can temporarily drop. They will bounce and we can drop them in this moment of time and pick them up again in a few days, weeks, or months.

Children are more than capable of managing age-appropriate rubber balls (same goes for partners). So use this question to make a list of which balls you can communicate and delegate to others? Because you are a glass ball. Don't drop yourself because you'll shatter and you’re too damn precious for that.

And finally, don't forget to praise your family - everyone likes to be appreciated, even if thanking them for sorting out their crap or the mess they created in the first place makes you want to roll your eyes!

You can catch up on our previous Parenting Hacks articles here:

Do you know any great parenting hacks? Let us know in the comments below.

Bridget Johns is a Life Organisation Expert and the founder of Be Simply Free. Bridget works with women 1:1 or through her #ClearClutterFindTime course to reduce their mental load and declutter their homes, phones, and calendars. You can follow Bridget here.

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia.

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