parent opinion

"It's easier to do it myself". The sentence that's adding to every woman's mental load.


Did you get home tonight and dinner was made but the kitchen looked like an explosion at a pie factory?

Did someone proudly tell you that they’d “done all the washing” and now there are mountains of subtly pink clothes blocking all doorways, silently begging you to fold them?

Is the baby bathed and dressed but apparently wearing a pyjama top, a tutu and a ski-mask for a morning at the shops?

Yes? Well, breathe through it. There’s a lot going on. There always is.

LISTEN: Gemma Hartley explains the concept of emotional labour to Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast…

It feels like your plate is always full. So full the pad Thai’s leaked over the sides and is all over your skirt and filling up your sandals.

Maybe you tried to get up to exercise this morning – because exercise is good for body and mind, everyone says so – but your shift started early because your work-wife was taking her mum to radiation and you said you’d cover for her. But Tuesdays is also before-school band practice, so you had to arrange for your next-door neighbour to pick up your oldest and drop them off so your partner wouldn’t be late for work.

Their boss gets very cranky if they’re late for work. So does yours, but apparently we can all live with that.

Maybe you also packed lunches this morning for all the people who live in your house because the kids will eat it if you do it because you know exactly the right butter-to-Vegemite ratio they’ll accept on an edible sandwich.


Maybe you also remembered that the dog needed his flea collar changed. And that the car was flashing at you about petrol last night on the way back from soccer, so you’d better text to remind your partner to fill-up before they get on the highway. Disaster averted.

Then there’s dinner for tonight and it can’t be spaghetti again because your oldest has decided she’s vegetarian this week and you want to support her individuality but really it is quite the pain, and there’s that house inspection on Saturday morning and you’ve got to do something about that stain on the carpet in the back room and it’s choir tonight and dentist tomorrow and your friend Sally’s birthday on Sunday and you said you’d be the one to buy the present this time. Oh shit, and book the lunch place.

And all you’d like is to sit down in a nice clean house and have a glass of wine/cup of tea/cheese plate/chocolate bar/some green smoothie shit but although dinner got made, the dishes were only half-done. And there’s a lone blue cloth sitting in the centre of the bottom of the kitchen sink and it might just be the dishcloth of your undoing because what kind of world is this if it’s too hard to squeeze out a dishcloth.

For f**k’s sake, do you have to do EVERYTHING YOURSELF?

Yes. Well.

Welcome to emotional labour. The mental load. Also known as business as usual in the majority of homes around Australia where, even in 2019, women with children in heterosexual relationships do 50 per cent more domestic work than their male partners, even if they also work outside the home. And that statistic covers only physical work, never mind all that remembering and organising and calling around for a quote and booking the babysitter and knowing that you’d better vacuum first, because cat hair really sets her off.


It’s the stuff that keeps women awake at night and charging through their day at a frazzling pace all day long.

women mental load
UK author Gemma Hartley wrote a bestselling book about trying to share emotional labour with her partner. 

Women - and particularly working mothers - are 40 per cent more stressed than the rest of the population. It's women whose mental health is unravelling under the weight of anxiety.


And it's women who are looking at soggy cloths next to sinks everywhere and saying, "Fine. I'll do it myself."

Well, my friends, I have something to tell you, and you're not going to like it.

I'm going to to suggest that some of the blame here lies with us. The womens.

I'm going to suggest that we can just. Say. No.

I'm going to suggest a broad strike. Because we can't go on like this.

Just say NO, you don't have to grudgingly accept that you will spend the rest of your life picking up another grown human's shoes, reminding them to call their mother on her birthday and leaving lists of how to look after their own baby while you escape to yoga for a precious 50 minutes.

Think about it. What would happen if you just stopped doing everything? If the Vegemite wasn't spread perfectly evenly on the bread, would everyone starve?

What would happen if you gave the school your partner's number and asked them to call that one instead of yours every time Timmy lost his bassoon/forgot his lunch/had a sniffle, what would happen?

What if you asked your partner to organise the birthday party, and just lived with the fact that there might not be party bags and vegan options for all?

If the blue cloth stays in the bottom of the sink, will the world really end?

WATCH: Here's my explanation of parental equality. Post continues after.


Of course, I'm making broad generalisations, and every single family - all of whom look different - have their reasons for why responsibilities are divided the way that they are. But when the statistics show that gender is the defining element in how much domestic labour a person performs, it's clear there's a whole lot of room for improvement.

And some of that improvement has to come from us kicking the emotional labour and domestic drudgery off our plates and on to theirs, and then getting the hell out of the way.

Lowering standards to save our sanity. Knocking the bar down a couple of notches to scratch some things off our endlessly spooling To Do list.

Because how many times have you said - or heard someone else say - "It's easier if I do myself".

Yes, it will. It will be easier for them. You will stay trapped under the weight of resentment and stress.

And that blue cloth at the bottom of the sink? It's just a cloth.

You can follow Holly on Facebook here. And you can buy her novels, here