Have you heard of ‘the mental load’ (also known as emotional labour)?
The term is bouncing about everywhere right now. Google it if you like, but this is my understanding of it:
The mental load is carried (predominantly) by women. It comprises the things that (they believe) are essential to the welfare of their relationship or family, for example meal planning, remembering relatives’ birthdays, or buying toothpaste before it runs out. The carrier of the mental load often feels overwhelmed or resentful because their partners don’t share it.
Now, I am all for the equitable distribution of work, including paid employment, childcare, chores, and general life admin. However, my sympathy for people who complain about their ‘mental load’ nose dives when I hear or read this:
‘My partner should know what to do without me having to ask them. Me having to ask adds to my mental load.’
In other words:
‘I expect my partner to mind-read or interpret my passive aggressive clues, while I continue to do everything myself because no one else’s efforts meet my standards.’
These are not the actions of an empowered person. These are the actions of a pouting child. And they feed offensive stereotypes. Specifically, the stereotype of the inept, man who doesn’t know how to dress or feed his children, while his wife snorts derisively, does it all herself, and then complains to her friends about her useless husband.
If you feel you are married to (or in a relationship with) a child who seems incapable of sharing your load, you have choices: You can have a conversation (with your partner) about it. If that does nothing, you can enlist the help of a psychologist. If that does nothing, you can separate and make better choices in your next partner.