March 29, 2021
It was attempting to divide 'the mental load' that ultimately ended my marriage. My ex husband and I embarked on our shared life with full knowledge and understanding that we both wanted a big family, in fact if anything he was the greater advocate for multiple kids. Don't get me wrong, I love them to bits and wouldn't change my world but I bore the load, the whole load, always! I was the 'stay-at-home Mum'.
I baked, cooked everything from scratch (as he liked), I cleaned, tidied, washed and ironed. I managed the finances, paid all the bills, serviced the cars, mowed the lawns. I sewed costumes, booked appointments, bought all the clothes (his included), created every birthday, Christmas, holiday, always responsible for every aspect. I also completed a uni degree so I could 'contribute' when the kids reached school age and I worked part-time.
When I returned to work (and financially I needed to) he told me that with what childcare cost it wasn't worth it because it caused him so much extra stress. Every time I asked him to do something it was like dealing with an angry teen or he would delegate the task to one of our kids. Eventually I asked him to take over the washing, all the washing, he was incredibly reluctant, "I don't have time for this". He worked flex time in a public service role and rarely did more than his scheduled hours. So he'd walk out the door at 6:45am leaving me to organise 6 kids and manage school/childcare drop off and he would finish at 4:00pm and call me to ask "Do you want me to pick the kids up for you?". He began to criticise everything, the meals I cooked were too elaborate, the house was too clean, getting up early to exercise wasn't worth it etc etc.
We started having endless conversations about things he could do to 'help' but he just said he couldn't. Eventually I said I couldn't keep doing everything and he needed to step up, so he cried. He cried and said he just couldn't do more. I worried, I got him to get a mental health plan, to see a psychologist, to take medication but then he would say the psychologist was a waste of time, he didn't like how the medication made him feel so he would randomly stop taking it. In the end I delivered an ultimatum, "if something didn't change we weren't going to survive". He said "but I'm happy"!! I tried to explain that I wasn't and he just said I did too much and I needed to cut back.
In the end, after a light bulb moment on a family holiday, I sat down with him (when we were home) and said I just couldn't do it anymore, that maybe our life was too much for "us" and I said that I couldn't keep going. I told him to take some time to address his mental health but he didn't, he blamed me for his mental health and then told his family (and anyone who would listen) that I cheated on him (like I had time). After we split he refused to have time with the kids and fought me for every cent. It took two years before he started to have proper regular time with the kids.
Three years on, while I still bear the load, I am happier and lighter and I feel like a nice person again, free of the guilt that came from him shaming me for everything I did to be a good Mum, wife or person. Not for a second am I saying that the writer in this story should leave their relationship (we all have different dynamics, some better or worse than others) but I can relate so distinctly to the challenge of asking your partner, the 'equal person in your relationship' to please help with a load that should be shared without question.
Before The Bump
Work & Money