The “Let’s Go to the Beach!” Saga: Is Your Wife Really No Fun?

by | Jun 19, 2020 | Uncategorized | 95 comments

How Mental Load Affects Women: The Let's Go to the Beach Example

When a husband has a great idea for a family outing, why does the wife often get defensive, upset, or touchy about it?

We’ve been talking about emotional labor and mental load all month in June, and many women have said that their husbands just don’t understand the problem when they try to explain it to them. Yesterday on the podcast, Rebecca and I talked about how sometimes women are accused of “man-bashing” if we point out that many women feel overwhelmed because their husbands don’t understand the idea of mental load.

Today I want to offer a real-life example of how the different spouses may view the issue of mental load, in the hopes that I can help you all have productive conversations with each other about this. 

And remember–on Tuesday I’ll be sending out an email to everyone who is signed up to my list with ideas of how to have these conversations, so if you’re not signed up, do it now and join 42,000 other people!

Before I get to that, though, I just want to do a shout-out for my “Sheila’s Spotlight” affiliate item, Passion4Dancing. I know we’ve been having some heavy conversations this month about things that many people are resentful about. So if you want to get more romance back in your marriage, and just have fun (especially when we’re still trying to social distance), why not learn how to ballroom dance from home using the same videos that Keith and I use? We’ve learned the chacha, swing, and rhumba, and it’s super fun. Check it out!

Your support of my affiliate items helps keeps ads off of this blog!

Now let’s move on to our story:

“Let’s go to the beach!”

It’s a lovely Friday afternoon, and the weather looks great for tomorrow. Donny knows the kids are sick of being stuck inside, and the beaches are beginning to open up again after COVID. So he says to Marcia, “Hey, honey, let’s take the kids to the beach tomorrow!”

Marcia puts a smile on her face, and says, “Sure, sounds great.” But she looks perplexed. And for the rest of the evening she’s pulling things out of drawers, rummaging in the fridge, and basically snapping at everybody. Donny goes and gets the bathing suits and towels and puts them into a backpack, and is bothered that Marcia is still running around after everything.

Donny says, “Hon, I just wanted to have fun with the family, and you’re turning this into a big production. Calm down. We’re going to have FUN! It doesn’t need to be a huge deal. Just relax with us. Come and watch a movie instead.”

Marcia says, “I’m not making it into a big production, Donny! But we can’t just “go to the beach.” It’s not that easy. If you want to go the beach, then why aren’t you helping?”

“I’d be glad to help! Just tell me what to do.” Donny says.

“That’s the problem! You make all these plans, and you never think about how it’s going to affect me, because you never consider how much work goes into this. You just sit back and let me figure it all out!” And she’s close to tears.

What happened to Marcia? Why is having fun with the kids such a big deal, Donny wonders? Why is his wife no fun anymore?

That’s a question that many men have: Why is my wife no fun anymore? She’s always making lists. She’s always worrying about stuff. She can’t just relax.

But let’s figure out what’s actually going on Marcia’s head:

What goes into “going to the beach”, for Marcia:

  • She has to pack snacks and lunches for everybody to eat.
  • She has to pack diapers and changes of clothes for the baby
  • She has to find all the sand pails, shovels, and noodles. She thinks they’re in the bottom of the basement closet in a Rubbermaid container, but she’s not sure, and she has to move the Christmas decorations to find them.
  • They have that water mattress thing in the garage that the kids love, but she’s worried it may have a hole in it. They also have a bunch of water rings. She wants to find the tape that can repair them in case they take them and then they don’t work.
  • Janie, their middle child, burns easily and needs SPF 60 for her body and SPF 100 for her face. She also needs a rash shirt and pants. Marcia isn’t sure they have enough sunscreen, and she may have to run to the drugstore to get it.
  • The baby will need to nap in the early afternoon, and will have to keep shaded. They have a little baby beach tent, but she lent it to her friend Emily two weeks ago. She has to phone Emily to see if she can pick it up.
  • The picnic, water toys, and everything will take up a lot of space in the trunk, but right now, the trunk is filled with donations to the thrift store. Marcia has spent this week cleaning out the kids’ closets and weeding down their toys, figuring out which ones she wants to keep for the baby, and before they can fit everything in the trunk, they have to go drop off the donations. She’s trying to figure out if the place is open in the evening so she can go after dinner, or if someone really needs to go right now.
  • They just had a new tree planted in the front yard a few days ago, and the nursery told them that every morning for the next two weeks the tree has to be watered. She’s wondering who is going to get up and do that tomorrow morning if they’re rushing off to the beach.
  • Marcia’s period started today, which means tomorrow will be her heaviest day. She’s wondering if there are good bathrooms to change tampons in, and with COVID, she actually doesn’t want to use the bathrooms that much. She’s thinking about Lysol wipes, and wondering how many she has. She’s also wondering if she still has a bathing suit wrap she can wear so she doesn’t have to be so self-conscious.
  • Her maternity bathing suit won’t fit anymore, but she’s worried about fitting into her pre-pregnancy bathing suits. Her bust has gotten a lot bigger with nursing the baby, and she’s worried too much may “hang out” and there may be a LOT of cleavage in her old bathing suits. Does she have to run out to get another one? And will breastfeeding work? She’s wondering if she can find the beach umbrella and tilt it properly, and she realizes she’ll definitely need to wear a wrap if she doesn’t make it to the store tonight.
  • She would absolutely LOVE to read a book on the beach and just relax. She’s hoping she may have time. So she wants to pick out a novel for her kindle and take it with her.

When Donny announces he wants to “go to the beach”, then, these are all the things that start going through Marcia’s head.

It is a luxury to be able to just have fun.

Donny’s reaction is that Marcia is getting upset and worried and frazzled because she is making too big a production out of this.

However, if you look at that list, is there anything that shouldn’t be on there?

Yes, they could go to the beach without sand pails and shovels, but would the kids have as much fun? They could go without the baby tent, but then where would the baby nap? In Marcia’s arms? In the car seat? And what protects the baby from the sun and sand while napping? They could just empty the trunk of all the donations and leave it all in the front hall, and then fill up the trunk again when they get back from the beach, but that just doubles up on work.

They could just buy food at the beach, but that gets really expensive.

In order to “go to the beach”, Marcia has to think of all of these things. It’s not that Marcia doesn’t want to go to the beach–she does!

But Marcia would have a much easier time “going to the beach” if it were Donny’s job to think about all the toys and beach accessories they were going to need, locate them, and set them out, so that Marcia could just concentrate on the food and clothing.

Asking for a list, too, means that all of these details are in Marcia’s head. And she has to make sure she’s not forgetting anything. 

And that’s what’s so important to understand:

What Marcia is upset about is not having to unload the trunk or go to the donation site; it’s not having to locate the pails and shovels; it’s not having to pack lunches and clothes and all of that.

It’s that she’s the one who has to think of all of these things and remember all of these things.

Not just that, but Marcia is often the one to bear the consequences if things go wrong.

If something is forgotten, everyone will ask Mom why it isn’t there. Even if Marcia makes a list, if she forgets something on it, then that, too, is her fault. Or if she doesn’t communicate properly to Donny what she needs, then it is her fault for writing it down wrong. By having to be the one to remember all of this, she bears the blame if the day goes badly.

And she also bears the brunt of the negative consequences. If they don’t have sunscreen and Janie gets burned, then Marcia will be the one who has to deal with a toddler who has a hard time sleeping for the next few nights because she’s sore.

If the baby doesn’t nap and his schedule is thrown off, then Marcia will be the one who is up in the middle of the night with him, and will have to deal with a very cranky baby for the next few days.

That is why Marcia can’t just “let this go” and “not make a big production” out of it. She is ALSO thinking of all the things that can go wrong if she doesn’t manage all of this right, and she wants to save herself (and her kids) stress and problems later. 

Marcia wants to be a fun wife, too.

Marcia doesn’t want to act like a Tasmanian devil, running around with all of these details every time they want to go anywhere, “making a big production” out of it. Marcia wants to  have fun, too. Marcia would love to just pick up and go to the beach! Marcia doesn’t want to be a spoilsport. But Marcia resents the fact that her husband blames her for being a party pooper and assumes that her motives are somehow bad, when really, she’s just trying to do this right, and he’s not bothering to even think about what work needs to be done. She knows that he is busy at work and stressed at work, and she’s glad that he wants to spend time with the family.

But why is it that every time he wants to spend time with the family to relax, it makes more work for her? It just doesn’t seem fair, even though she wants to have fun and spend time altogether, too.

Why Marcia’s work becomes invisible

Why is it that does Donny not recognize what needs to be done?

Because in the past, when they’ve gone to the beach, the kids have had fun. The picnic has been great. The pails and shovels have magically appeared. And because everything has gone off without a hitch in the past, Donny thinks “going to the beach is easy.” If he hasn’t carried the mental load of “going to the beach”, then he doesn’t realize how big a production this actually is.

And that’s the problem. When one spouse has carried most of the mental load of the household, the other spouse rarely realizes how big a load this is, because everything seems to “go off without a hitch”. If life is that easy, why is she always so stressed? But what may not be obvious is that life is only easy because she’s carrying the mental load of it. She’s making sure things don’t go wrong and things are prepared.

Could mental load be an issue in your marriage?

Maybe in your marriage, if he were to suggest going to the beach, he’d also go get shovels and pails and water rings and start packing lunches. This example may not resonate with  you.

But it’s worth asking the question of each other: Do you feel overburdened by all the details of the household that you have to remember and keep track of? Do you feel mentally exhausted by the family life?

And if so, the answer isn’t always to just “say no” and “you’re doing too much.”  The answer may be that she (or he) is simply doing what needs to be done, but she (or he) is carrying too much of it.

If you’re playing the role of Donny in your marriage, can you listen to what your spouse is telling you? Can you be open to more balance in your relationship, so that your spouse can feel supported, and feel as if they are not carrying the load of the household alone?

If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend the book Fair Play, and the Fair Play card system that goes along with it. It’s a great way to work through these issues so you each feel supported–and you each can have fun!

 

 

What do you think? Can you relate to Donny and Marcia’s story? How can we fix this situation? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

The Math of Love and Respect

Has anyone noticed that the math in Love & Respect for how many people the book applies to...

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

You Don’t Have to Say Yes to Selfish Sex

God does not ask us to consent to selfish sex. In fact, one-sided intercourse is not sex. I can summarize The Great Sex Rescue by saying that sex is supposed to be MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH. That's what God intended. Sex is not merely intercourse...

Pastor’s Wives Tell All–And More Podcasts!

I've had some amazing podcasts drop recently, and I wanted to make sure I shared them with you. After getting our manuscript for our mothers of daughters book in last Friday, I'm taking a little bit of down week, getting some things done I've been putting off (I got...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

95 Comments

  1. T

    Yes, this! I teared up reading this post.
    To be clear, I have a great husband; he works hard for us everyday. I am a SAHM homeschooling mom, and I view running the household as my responsibility; just to clarify that I don’t want him to take on cleaning, etc. I just want him to understand what’s going on in my brain.
    He wants me to relax more, to not worry so much, because he genuinely wants me to be happy and not harried all the time. I know he has my well-being at heart.
    And I try to do that, but then things don’t get done. No one remembered to bring water on the hike, and so no one has much fun. No one remembered to bring jackets, and everyone shivered through the activity. I forgot to fill water pitchers early enough, and no one had ice water for supper.
    I am often trying to think ahead to what might happen, to be prepared so I don’t drop the ball. Will we go for a drive? For a hike? Will he be working from home, because that affects my ability to stick to the cleaning/laundry schedule? Will supper be early, or late, or needed right after we’ve been out all afternoon?
    When something falls through the cracks, he tells me to just have the kids help more. I actually think the kids do a lot already (mostly teens), but even acknowledging that I could do more/better training of kids to help – that’s still all on my plate. It’s a catch-22. I’m just tired.
    (And, can I add – my ability to and energy level for carrying the mental load varies greatly depending on my hormones and where I’m at in my cycle. But that feels like a cop out, to say that my hormones are literally interfering with my brain power. My husband doesn’t get any excuses. Why should I?)
    Thanks for letting me vent, lol.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad it spoke to you and put words to what you were feeling. Maybe you could have your husband read it with you?
      But, yes, I totally understand trying to anticipate everything that may happen and be prepared for it. It is the big reason that women often feel overwhelmed. That’s what I’ve been trying to hammer home all month. It’s not the housework per se. It’s having to remember everything else!

      Reply
      • T

        Thank you for responding, Sheila! I’m pretty sure reading it together isn’t going to happen. I thought about it, but I’m afraid it would come across as man-bashing to him. *I* don’t think it is, so I don’t mean that as a critique, at all!
        But the culture today is very biased against men, and I go to great lengths to try and counter that in my own family. I’m trying to live up to biblical standards for women, to raise my children, to be a helpmeet to my husband, to be a literal home-maker. I really do find great fulfillment in this role, but it’s hard. Hard to fight upstream against the culture, and hard to balance/manage my own sinful nature.
        I really appreciate this series of posts, Sheila, because it has helped me think through the issue more clearly. And it helps sometimes just to see that others struggle in similar ways, so it’s not just me feeling this in isolation.

        Reply
      • Meghan

        My hormones even affect my anxiety! I’m more prone to attacks during PMS week. I have to be super careful to stay away from my triggers and be extra vigilant about self care. It’s amazing how interconnected our bodies are.

        Reply
    • Anon

      T,
      I relate with you so much. Nearly every word you said I could have written. And the hormones, I get that too. They interfere with my energy, libido and mood.
      I’ve been getting help but no answers that work yet.
      I hope you find encouragement in these areas of your life Sheila has mentioned and what you responded. I’ve been encouraged already just knowing I’m not the only one.

      Reply
    • Bek

      This comment! I felt all of this in my soul! Really, our hormones are physical. You don’t expect someone to work when they’re sick. Why are we expected to keep going full speed when we aren’t at peak physically?

      Reply
      • Anon

        Totally! I’m mid 40s and going through the menopause – when my hormones plummet, no amount of rest will make me feel refreshed and I can literally fall asleep anywhere. It’s not a matter of having a strong cup of coffee or ‘keeping going’ – my brain and body just say ‘nope, not doing this’!

        Reply
    • Maria B

      Hey, something about hormone cycles. Men have them, too. Androgens fluctuate daily. So a man’s energy really peaks every afternoon and wanes in the evening (presuming balanced hormones).
      With balanced hormones, a woman has peak energy for an entire week every month, not a few hours every day. And has low energy for an entire week. Yet she is expected to wear herself out by shouldering the same workload as she would any other day of the month.
      And you can’t just take a break. Who will drive the kids to soccer practice? Do the dishes? Maybe you can arrange things so that downtime happens when you are on your period. But you have to be intentional about it. And women are sometimes shamed for trying to organize their life around the fact that estrogens fluctuate on a monthly basis. But men are never shamed for acting like androgens fluctuate daily. We just take it for granted that when they are tired in the evening, they should be allowed to rest.

      Reply
      • Maria B

        *meant that women are expected to wear themselves out during their period by keeping up with the same work load as if it were the week they had lots of energy.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Interesting, Maria! And it is true. Women are expected to hide the fact that they are on their period and not consider it at all.

        Reply
  2. Kkireinaa

    This totally is true for us. My husband calls me “the no fun zone”. And that makes me so frustrated and hurt. Since we’ve had kids it’s been me carrying majority of the load and working and at one time homeschooling (for 4 years – so glad I let that go!). It’s so true that when anything comes as a result of the fun day, it’s my fault or I’m the one dealing with the consequence alone. I don’t know what to do…

    Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      I think the problem is that HE does not bear the brunt of the consequences. If the babies in the story get burned because of no sunscreen, let HIM deal with them and so on and so forth. Youre trying to treat the Man like another child and save Him from having to deal with consequences of his actions or lack thereof.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        The problem is that sometimes that’s not an option. If the baby gets a sunburn on Sunday and then dad is at work while mom’s home with a cranky baby who won’t nap, how does Dad bear the consequences of his inaction? He can’t. It’s not that the wife is trying to treat her husband like a child or actively saving him from the consequences, sometimes it’s just that in relationships our actions affect the other and there’s no way we can make it up. That’s why mutual understanding of the other’s jobs is SO important–because dads who understand that burnt babies are cranky babies and all that entails are going to lather up the sunscreen!!

        Reply
        • Angela Laverdi

          They wont understand until they have to actually deal with it though. You can explain how a cranky baby is nerve wrenching but a person cannot understand what that feels like until THEY are dealing with the screaming baby for 8 whole hours long BY THEMSELVES.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Yes, I absolutely agree, Angela. But in many families, that’s just not the way things are unfortunately. Unless mom MAKES baby cranky on the weekend, and that just seems cruel to the kid!
            In all, this is just all a call for empathy in marriages, really. Connor doesn’t understand the physical and emotional drain that I experienced during the postpartum phase/early breastfeeding, and he didn’t need to experience it to understand it and go above and WAY beyond to lift my burdens so I could just get used to this new “normal.” Does that make sense? That’s obviously different than crying babies, and I agree with what you’re saying that husbands need to just understand what being a parent is about. But even if they never personally experience it (which is a whole other issue), they still need to have empathy!
            And if moms are “rescuing” dads from their parenting duties or just the not-fun parts of parenting (I see it all the time as I’m sure you do, too) they are contributing to the problem. We as moms need to be willing to let our husbands actually be dads so that when stuff like this comes up they don’t need it explained–they’re just parents! And so they get it!

  3. Wishing

    Yup, been there. Husband suggested first trip since covid and all I could think of was all the necessary details. I’m the critical, spoilsport for going “hey how does baby’s nap fit in that plan”.
    And yes to the hormones. Struggling so much to not use them as an excuse but to give myself grace at same time.

    Reply
  4. Arwen

    Just popping in here to remind the ladies that sometimes adopting the minimalist lifestyle can ease the mental loads you have. “A cluttered life is a cluttered mind.”
    To be honest the only legitimate worry on Marcie’s list above is the Sunscreen, because actual damage to human life will be done if forgotten. But the rest is a matter of individuals choosing to burden themselves with it. Like the kids will be fine without the toys, children have been playing without toys for centuries using their brilliant and creative minds.
    I think the other contributing fact to women’s unnecessary mental load has to do with the fact that women have a harder time allowing people to suffer the consequences of their actions. We want to be the rescuers, the super woman, the mother Teresa’s, coming to everybody’s aid, defense, which doesn’t allow the “reaping and sowing” to go into effect. You have written about this before Sheila. People learn when their a consequences attached to actions.
    I come from a large family, there were 10 of us kids, i was the 2nd oldest. I pretty much raised my siblings and i don’t remember being this stressed out, like the women who have 2-4 kids. Maybe it’s because i had a village around me to help raising up a child. And perhaps that’s what so many Western mothers lack. Hyper individualism is causing stressed out parents, stressed out marriages, stressed out friendships, stressed out pastors, etc. Your community series is very helpful in this area.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Arwen
      I feel this too. I try to minimize our life so that spontaneity is possible. Just like people who have pool bags ready I would have a beach bag. With the bare necessities. I do think having conversations with your husband periodically is needed. Reminding them that you want to have fun but you don’t want all the work of his ideas. I also would add, the older the kids get the easier. My oldest is 10 and my youngest is 5 with two in between. They can gather their own things and don’t need many of the above mentioned items. So the only things that is a must is food and sunscreen. But 4 years ago it would be more stressful. I think people’s personalities play into how much this affects them. I’m a enneagram 2 so I want to take care of everything, as if my life depends on it, working on that!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Arwen, I hear what you’re saying. I would agree that the sandpails and shovels and water mattress are unnecessary. I’m not sure anything else is, though. She does need to consider her own bathing suit issue, and the baby napping is a HUGE issue. The food does need to be packed. The fact that the tree needs to be watered in the morning is just a reminder that often there is more going on in the household than just the outing, and we can’t forget the broader context. The fact that the trunk is already full is also an issue, and it does need to be dealt with (even if it’s just to unload the trunk and load it back up again). It’s not even about minimalism; it’s just about life. We actually get rid of a lot of stuff (and you could argue that’s why Marcia was donating so much stuff away). But there still are basic things that you need, like proper places to nap, food, clothing that properly covers you, safe and clean places to change tampons during COVID, etc.

      Reply
    • Galadriel

      I was the oldest of a large family and I totally get what you are saying about raising your siblings. I practically raised the two youngest in our family. However, when I had kids of my own, I realized that it was completely different than raising my siblings. I think it was because all the responsibilities were now mine. Before, my mom still had the final responsibility, even though I felt like I was doing all the work. I didn’t lay awake at night wondering if I was raising them right or meeting their needs because that wasn’t what I was focused on. I was just focusing on handling all their physical needs. The ball game completely changed when I had my own kids. Now, I’m focusing on everything they need as a person and the tools I need to equip them with before they leave home and it’s a different mind-set. Also, I feel the pressure of their well-being resting solely on me and my husband – something I never even thought about as a child/teen.

      Reply
  5. Dana

    My kids are grown, but this brought back a lot of memories, right down to “Why don’t you ever want to have fun?” And “Just tell me what needs to be done, and I’ll help!”
    I especially resonated with the crushing feeling that if something doesn’t go right on the outing or vacation, it’s my fault. If everyone or anyone isn’t happy, it’s my fault. I was so tense about this that it was hard to ever let go and have fun myself.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly. I don’t know how to stop this, and I do think that women take on more than they should of the blame for this. IF kids don’t have fun, that’s also partly on them. But it is a stress.

      Reply
  6. Bek

    My husband will often try to share the mental load of an outing, but if things don’t go perfectly, I’m the one stuck with fussy kids and an angry baby for a week. He thinks I’m lying to him, because I enjoy an outing, but later regret the aftermath. It’s so frustrating that he doesn’t understand that because he made the baby wait for a feeding or nap, or because the 5 year-old didn’t get enough breaks while hiking, or the sun screen! We have 3 that burn like little lobsters! He goes to work the next day, and my life is misery for days while I undo the damage….

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Yeah, the “aftermath” issue is often just as big as the “prep work issue”. Kind of like in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, when dad threw his kid a huge birthday bash. He had a great time, then Mom had to clean up, deal with sick kids who ate too much cake, etc.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a huge problem. I get it. Our kids had to be on a strict nap schedule or life was pretty miserable. But if they slept well, at the right time, they were such happy kids. So throwing off naps was a big deal.

      Reply
      • Meghan

        OMG someone else gets it!!! Can you explain this to our parents please? I swear if I hear “oh she can just nap at our place, it’ll be fine!” or “can you just push back her bedtime a bit?” ONE MORE TIME…

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I always planned outings around naps. IF we had to drive really far, we always timed it for the naps. It was difficult for a few years, but absolutely necessary!

          Reply
  7. Nathan

    While I try to help balance the load as much as I can, I have to admit that sometimes I act like Donny now and then.
    My guess is that for the most part it’s not deliberate, it’s just ignorance that our spouse is doing all of the under the hood work that we never see.

    Reply
    • Lois

      Ok, CREEPY!!! Have you been spying on our family?!! Lol
      We have had EXACTLY this senario for YEARS. I’m weary of being the one who is blamed for “saying no to fun outings.” So last summer, I started saying “Sure! I’m up for going if you do all the prep work!” I gladly made a list for him and answered any questions. We have only 1 kid and she’s older now and the river’s only 20 minutes away so if something is forgotten it’s not the end of the world. My husband is great at flying by the seat of his pants and improvising solutions.
      The result of this was he quickly learned the amount of work that goes into it. Suddenly *I* was the one suggesting a river outing and *he* was the one saying “no, it’s too much work.” 😂 It was lovely for me to have him truly understand all the work that goes into a fun day.
      Now we often split the work. I’ll make the lunches & grab clothes and towels and he collects all the fun stuff. Or I’ll pack and he UNPACKS at the end of the day.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        On this board, honesty is the best way to go, since we’re all trying to help each other.

        Reply
  8. Jonathan

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
    Somehow, me as Dad, was able to take my two twin daughters who were still in swim diapers to the beach by myself. This involved a 40-minute city bus trip each way, since my wife was of town with our only car. Everything we needed was in my backpack, towels, sun blocker, swimsuits, lunch and drinks and even a few water toys. Somehow we still managed to have a good time and not go hungry or get sun burned.
    Though it is interesting hearing about rich people and their problems. Do rich people ever wonder how poor people can go to the beach without 500 lbs of kit and still have fun?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s great, Jonathan! But again, it seems like everyone is focusing on the sand pails and toys, when those were only two items on the list. The others still matter, too. It sounds like you totally did it (and I used to take my girls to the zoo for the day on a city bus/subway commute that took an hour and 15 minutes, with a stroller, so I get it). But I don’t think this list is unreasonable. They do need food, sunscreen, a baby needs to nap, the mom is right to worry about a place to change tampons. And there may also be things going on at the home that need to be remembered–packages arriving, people dropping things off, or, in their case, the tree being watered. I’m just saying that SOMEBODY has to keep these details straight, that’s all.
      Those things would be true whether you were rich or poor. Do you know what I mean?

      Reply
    • Maria B

      It’s great that you and your children had fun at the beach. And you found a system that works for you. Just because someone else does things differently, though, that doesn’t make them wrong. This woman was packing for multiple children of different age ranges. It’s bound to look a little different.
      Considering taking the shovels was very reasonable. And deciding not to bother, after realizing it meant a scavenger hunt in the basement would also be reasonable.

      Reply
  9. Nathan

    Question for Sheila…
    Can you expand on a comment you made in an earlier topic? It’s still part of the “Mental Load” series, so it’s okay to post here.
    This was in the “call your moms” thread, about the value of relationships outside the marriage. Most of it was family based (mainly parents and in-laws), but a few people posted about friendships outside the family.
    One guy said that he had a good group of friends, but their wives wouldn’t allow them to spend any time together. According to him, they all had “to do” lists for their husbands, and a general rule was no socializing until all items on the list were done. But, according to him, items kept getting added to the list faster than he could complete them. So no matter how hard he worked, no matter how much he did, the list was NEVER complete.
    In some way, that’s understandable. In any typical family, there’s ALWAYS something to do. Always dishes to wash, laundry to clean and put away, trash to take out, gardening to do, floors to sweep, carpets to vacuum, bathrooms to clean, meals to prepare, and so on.
    You said that perhaps if he took equal ownership in defining the list, then the list might shrink. I must confess I don’t get that. If his wife wants something done, she’s unlikely to agree that it no longer needs to be done just because hubby is now working on the list with her.
    In fact, my guess is that if he joined her in making the list, the list might get even bigger!
    Can you explain that a bit more? Because I just can’t see it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that’s the value of something like the Fair Play system–or at least talking about the issues. The first thing is that everybody gets free time and everybody gets time to pursue passions/callings. It may only be a few hours a week, but they each do get that. So you can’t keep filling up lists indefinitely.
      But the other thing is that you do each “own” things. Now, you also have conversations about what “owning” things looks like, and what “minimum community standards” are. If the husband thinks he can clean the bathroom monthly and the wife thinks it should be weekly, you need to talk about what’s normal, acceptable, and healthy.
      But I think the reason many women keep making lists is because we’re overwhelmed, and we resent the fact that he keeps wanting to get out of work when our work is never done. So if you can have these conversations, and balance the load, focusing first on how to ensure you each have downtime, that’s the goal.
      And if, when you try that, she still takes control of everything, then the issue really isn’t the distribution of labour, but rather a relationship/communication problem where you may need a licensed therapist to talk with. But usually, if you do something like try to the Fair Play system and look at all the cards, or just talk it through yourself, you’ll both see how much needs to get done, and you can divvy it up well.

      Reply
  10. Angela England

    Here’s what works super well for me – “OK honey….in order to make this happen here’s what need to happen. ** deep breath ** Got it? Which things do you want to tackle and which ones shall I tackle? ” And then we make a plan. No one is party pooping and no one is getting sun burned.
    I find the uber fast Italian dramatic Momma word vomits to be extremely effective and helpful – they last five minutes and save days worth of potential resentment and mis-understandings.

    Reply
    • Angela England

      A good example is our kids going to church camp next week – I printed off the list on Tuesday and handed it to him and said – What do the kids need that’s on the “please pack it” list but we don’t have? HE went to the store to secure the items and I went to the thrift store to try to get the clothes needed. He handled all the shopping and I never stepped foot in a Walmart. lol

      Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Haha the “uber fast Italian dramatic Momma word vomit” sounds INCREDIBLY effective!! xD

      Reply
  11. Elsie

    Sorry if this is a little off topic but I was thinking that this issue should be emphasized more in premarital counseling and marriage retreats. Sheila, you are still involved in Family Life Canada, right? Do you think they would consider making this part of their curriculum?
    When my husband and I were doing our premarital counseling with our pastor, there was a lesson on chores but we ran out of time to do it with our pastor. My husband and I had a short discussion (that I initiated) about who would do which major chores but it was a pretty short and superficial discussion and we’ve never talked about it since. And our premarital counseling certainly didn’t cover things like mental/emotional load or kin keeping.
    I’ve now been married for almost three years and this is the number 1 issue causing frustration and dissatisfaction in my marriage. I’ve realized that I need to communicate better with my husband about these things – but wouldn’t it have been better if we had discussed this at the start of our marriage rather than now having to change our ingrained habits and expectations?
    Just some food for thought- if this were emphasized more in premarital counseling, a lot of marriages would be happier and healthier, and that’s good for both partners

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very good point, Elsie. I’ve been thinking about that a lot–how can we talk about this more in premarital counseling? And I also think it comes down to how we parent, especially our boys. Are we teaching them to take initiative in the home? This is a huge issue for so many (really the #1 issue women feel exhausted and have no libido), and so it does need to be addressed.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      One thing I noticed right off the bat is that we both came into the marriage with expectations, but we didn’t always know or couldn’t articulate what those were. Most of them just had to do with how we were brought up and how we thought a household was supposed to run. For example, my in-laws leave (rinsed) dishes piled up in the sink pretty much all the time, whereas my mom always rinsed and loaded the dishwasher immediately so there were never dirty dishes in the sink waiting to be loaded. This was never something we discussed before our wedding and wasn’t even close to being on our radar when we talked about our future roles and responsibilities…because when he said “I’ll do dishes since you’re going to cook” we were both thinking that he meant do dishes the way our parents did them…without consciously thinking that. As you can imagine, there was some friction until we figured out that was the root issue.
      I’m really not sure how you’d go about discussing that before actually living with your spouse though, since it’s so hard to really identify your own expectations until they meet resistance. That would be an interesting thought experiment!

      Reply
      • Maria B

        Before marriage you could do some life together. Not cohabitation. But things like cooking meals together and cleaning up afterwards.

        Reply
        • Anon

          My fiance and I have been on two holidays where I stayed in self-catering and he stayed in a B&B nearby, and it’s been really helpful in seeing how we both are around the house because we cook meals together and also clean up the places together when we leave.
          I’d really recommend this to any couples who are at the serious dating/engaged stage. We did need to focus on accommodation rather than location (there were a couple of areas we’d have liked to visit that either didn’t have 2 places near enough or were too expensive to book 2 places) but it wasn’t too hard to find somewhere suitable in a nice area. And as a bonus, it opened up some great conversations about our faith with accommodation owners who were fascinated by an engaged couple who wouldn’t sleep under the same roof!!!

          Reply
  12. Seth Kepner

    I just saw your writing for the first time on Facebook. I am a man, husband, and father, and Grandpa. We have 5 kids and 13 grandkids. I was a teacher for 37 years and am now retired. I am 67 years old and love your thoughts.
    Only comment – because of my wife’s medical conditions, I am the one doing most of the things in the main section of the writing. There are those of us out here that may play that role in our marriage. Very important info and I am glad to find you. I will begin to follow you. Please don’t forget those of us out in my role. THX

    Reply
  13. Nathan

    I think I got it. If both partners take an equal share of owning and working “the list”, then it may be that some items can just be removed as not necessary. And if the wife lessens her mental load, she may see that all of the tasks that she had listed at first might not really need to be taken care of, or at least not as often as she thinks.
    It’s important that free time, mental load, physical labor and child engagement time be as evenly distributed as possible.
    In the specific case of the poster who caught my eye, though, I’d also say that the attitude of “no free time until EVERYTHING is completely done” has to go, since in a typical family, the work is NEVER 100% done, even if load balanced. Maybe if it’s just a husband and wife in a small apartment with no yard, no kids and no pets. But if you add a home, yard, kids, a dog, etc. there will ALWAYS be something on the list.

    Reply
    • Maria B

      Plus having to work when exhausted and burnt out means working slower.

      Reply
  14. Euni

    This post and the podcast resonated with me, and also made me so grateful for how my husband and I have moved towards each other during our 5 years of marriage. I’ve learned to not be as obsessive over every detail, and he’s learned how to help out with my mental load. This year, for the second time, we’re spending the summer out of state for his job. As I was stressing over the last minute packing, he told me I was making too big a deal of it. I snapped,
    “If I don’t get this right, it all blows back on me. If the kids don’t have enough toys or snacks for the trip, I’m the one that suffers. Last year you said we didn’t need to take much, and the day after we moved you got annoyed because I forgot your favorite frying pan. And when I spent an hour at Walmart getting the essentials I hadn’t brought with, you sent impatient texts because it was taking too long and the baby was crying. So I’m trying to get this right because I’m the one who suffers if I don’t.”
    I can’t say the words were delivered graciously, but it got the point across, and he was very kind about it.
    Thank you for giving couples a way to better understand and communicate about this tension.

    Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      Unfortunately soemetimes we have to break to get results…and if that means being “not nice” in ONE moment in our lives, well…sometimes it has to happen. Even Jesus threw a temper tantrum.

      Reply
      • Isadora

        There is no reason for any of us to lose our tempers and yell at her husband’s, unless you caught him molesting a child or something. I think that is a case of Jesus would have freaked out. it really annoys me that people use jesus’s anger about how the temple was used as a justification for yelling at people in their life. often times when we yell we are out of control and therefore are out of line. Jesus was very intentional with what he was doing.

        Reply
        • Angela Laverdi

          First of all, we are all HUMAN and it happens. I didnt say it was RIGHT to yell or ok to lose our tempers. Im,just saying sometimes you are pushed to that point and sometimes when that happens you actually get listened to for once. People who act like they have never lost control or cried or yelled are so FAKE. And its not healthy.

          Reply
          • Isadora

            It may not have been your intention to say that losing your temper is okay, but when you use Jesus as an example of someone losing their temper, that’s the message you give because he never sinned,otherwise he would not have been a perfect sacrifice that fulfilled all the prophecies.
            And may I humbly submit to you that you have never met someone in real life who doesn’t lose their temper (Or at least not often)? In the age of social media it’s easy for people to act like all is well and jolly, but behind closed doors it’s not what it seems. My husband is an example of someone who truly never loses their temper. The only time he has ever yelled at the kids (and we have four!) was when our two-year-old turned on the band saw and he screamed “stop!” so she wouldn’t get hurt.
            I grew up being screamed at my whole life and know how destructive it is. Even if the words were never actually verbalized, I always felt stupid, like a piece of trash. Losing your temper is never the answer. And I don’t see it as being justified except in an extreme case like my before example of molestation. if you’re having a hard time communicating with your husband and he doesn’t seem to listen unless you scream, then you need to get creative.

      • AspenP

        I understand what you’re saying. Unfortunately there have been times my husband literally didn’t understand the extent of my frustration until I snapped. We had even talked about the same thing multiple times, but the sudden snap got his attention. I’m not a yeller by any stretch…but his mom WAS a major yeller.
        Sometimes I wonder if there is a sort of volume filter he has where only the most passionate delivery gets through. 🤣 I hate that. Communication has continued to be a struggle.
        No judgment here!

        Reply
  15. Drew

    This is the topic that started me reading this blog. Once you said, “We’re not control freaks; we’re just scaredy cats!” Then you described how the woman did everything because she was afraid it would not turn out right. I see that same topic in this post.
    I think the solution goes to a different definition of submit. Submit also means to “not bear the burden” or to let someone else be responsible. So when I read how women feel they need to get everything ready, and then it is her fault if it isn’t. Part of the solution is that she could just submit, and let her husband bear the responsibility.
    Part of sharing mental load is submitting, and letting the husband bear the responsibility. Trusting that he will take care of the family. When he fails, forgive him. He will do better next time.
    This doesn’t take away from each spouse having responsibilities, or input, but it does relieve the wife of the burden of responsibility, so she is free to have fun!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Drew, I’m not sure what that would look like. So if he doesnt’ bother to pack the sunscreen, they should just go even if the toddler gets burned? Or they should just go to the beach even if there’s no place for the baby to nap, even if that means the baby is cranky for the next few days? And is the husband going to be the one up with the baby?
      I don’t think that’s really the issue here, Drew. I think it’s that the couple hasn’t figured out how to divide mental load. It really isn’t about submission. It’s that there is a lot to remember, and the husband isn’t bothering to think of any of those things.

      Reply
  16. Kya

    That story sounds exactly like the house I grew up in–Dad was always the “fun” parent who would come up with random spontaneous things to do, and mom would then panic and run around the house snapping at everyone. I am ashamed to admit that I thought my mom actually didn’t like to do fun things. Now, as a parent myself, I can see exactly why she was so stressed, because Dad would come up with these grand ideas and then do nothing to help shoulder the load. (I love my Dad, and he’s amazing in so many ways, but this series has really opened my eyes to just how much my mom did for us, and how much she sacrificed to do it.) Everything was always ready and right at hand when we needed it on an outing, only because my mom remembered to bring it, and I never really appreciated that until now.
    Thankfully my own husband is wonderful about sharing the mental load with me. I mentioned our tactic for outings in another comment somewhere on here, but basically we built lists in Excel for any type of outing–camping, day in the park, astronomy night, road trip, etc., plus a list of things that need to be done in the house before we leave for longer than a weekend. Whenever we decide we want to do anything we pull up the relevant list and both start crossing things off. So if my husband decides we are going camping for the weekend, he goes home after work and just starts getting ready, and when I get home I see where he’s at on the list and chip in. Things like the full trunk, tree watering, and swimsuit shopping are discussed as needed and divvied out, but the stress of dealing with them is gone when we are already focused on sharing tasks to get us out the door.

    Reply
  17. Nathan

    > > Then you described how the woman did everything because she
    > > was afraid it would not turn out right. I see that same topic in this post.
    The way I read it, the wife does everything because it needs to be done, and she’s the only one who will do it.
    > > Part of the solution is that she could just submit, and let her husband bear the responsibility.
    Fair enough, although you’re assuming that he understands the mental load and is willing to share it in the first place

    Reply
  18. Drew

    I get dividing the mental load, I don’t think a father is purposefully going to let his child get sunburned. not do I think a father is going to purposefully try to keep his child from napping. I think he will be kept awake also if the baby does get sunburned.
    I think that the worry about all those things going wrong, keeps a lot of fun things from happening. There always seems to be a bigger list of things that could go wrong, than any hope that something could go right.
    So the problem is husbands/fathers are irresponsible people that just want to have fun. Wives/mothers are responsible people that just want to make sure everything they could possibly think of is accounted for.
    But if a husband cares for his wife, and a wife trusts her husband, they can work together in all of it, and when THEY have forgotten the sunscreen, THEY can find a solution. And the husband can bear the responsibility.

    Reply
    • sunny-dee

      Drew, no one said he would purposefully make a toddler get sunburned. The whole point is that he’s not thinking about it at all. Saying, “well, I guess I bear the responsibility,” is a stupid cop out since he does not, in fact, bear the consequences of those actions.

      Reply
  19. Boone

    Hey folks, we’re going to the beach here, not landing at Normandy. Everybody take a deep breath.
    Organization and delegation is the key. Back when our three were young we worked out a system. Living at the foot of the Smoky (yes, it’s spelled right) Mtns. We spent a lot of time outdoors. Everything had a place. Lanterns, stove, cookware, fuel, etc. in one or more totes. Next to that tent, sleeping bags, etc. in another tote. Fishing gear, rods, waders, vests, tackle boxes, etc. in another. Hunting gear, vests boots, coveralls, etc. in another. Misc. gear, first aid, sunscreen, flashlights, batteries, etc. in another. Each April first all perishable medicines, sunscreen and batteries are replaced. We also had some heavy duty lockable (bears) boxes for for food.
    If the kids wore it Mom was in charge. If you ate it, slept in it, floated in it or used it to get food it was my job. It worked and still worked for the wife and I last week.
    Boone

    Reply
  20. Anon

    I’ve been mulling over these posts a fair amount lately. I am that overwhelmed Mom and wife you and many others have described.
    So after amen-ing a bunch of what I’ve read and saying to myself “This is so me!” Why do I still feel unresolved within me? Why do I feel like it will be impossible for my already involved husband to take enough of the load so that I’m not overwhelmed anymore? Why do I hesitate to bring it up with my husband who works so hard too?
    I can and will take a lot of the suggestions given. I think one important theme in all this is partnership. The marriage and home should be done together, right? It’s not a partnership if one spouse is getting burnt out because the majority of running the home falls on them. You’ve gone over that and given many examples of what it looks like.
    The concerns expressed are valid. The mental load is real. The hormones are a genuine beast, (guarantee if i looked back on this response on a bad day I would believe a different person wrote it) And yes, men have mental loads too that us wives don’t always get.
    But I will still get my period on a beach day and my husband can’t take that away. I might not be able to unwind my brain even though my husband is rubbing my back to help me relax. Some days I will feel crippled with immense grief over the recent loss of my sibling and my husband won’t be able leave work to let me sit out the day’s necessary tasks. Our spouse just might not be able to do enough for us to feel unburdened with our mental load.
    We will each sometimes fail to partner the load, whether its because we neglect to or simply physically can’t. We will each sometimes take the other for granted. So I think that is a part of my unresolve and some despair actually, that after this series and conversations are done, I might still get mental overload.
    I think what I will walk away with from all of this is that, even after I have an awesome conversation with my husband and he gets me, and I get him-whatever it looks like for us to partner more cohesively- after all that, we still live in a broken world. I don’t think I will ever come to a satisfactory mental space this side of Heaven. And Sheila I don’t think you ever suggested perfection is possible.
    It’s a broken world, and that’s not a pat answer. Aside from practical suggestions and improvement for mental loads, another thing I have room for improvement is my heart. Maybe I can take this to God. There’s things my husband cannot fully take off my shoulders, but maybe I bring it to God. I ask Him for wisdom with priorities, I ask Him for patience, I ask Him to help me meet the day with much gratitude and joy. Maybe then I arrive in a better space to see if the tasks at hand are actually ways to serve, not perform duties; or if the tasks at hand need to be shared and resentment released if they’re done differently or done only when asked.
    I want to know that at the end of my life I made the best with what I had. I want to remember that I faced the hard days with God’s grace. I want my children to remember what Mom’s laugh sounded like. There’s lots of room for practical, down to earth resolutions, but there’s a big picture resolution that is contributing to a mental shift for me and I’m actually looking forward to that camping trip I was dreading a few days ago.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anon, that’s really well put, and very insightful. No one, no matter how great a spouse, can take on all of the stress that someone is feeling. No one can make the other feel whole. It just doesn’t work that way. The most we can do is invest in each other and the family, be there for each other, and listen and engage. The rest is ultimately up to us, and taking stress to God, and remembering the bigger picture.

      Reply
  21. Jane Eyre

    Many thoughts:
    If it’s Marcia’s fault when things go wrong, she should also be thanked (by everyone) when things go well. “Thanks, Mom, for packing all our toys.” (My husband is great and does a LOT; I try to be cognizant of that and thank him. If he can think of it and do it, I can remember to thank him.)
    In web design and event planning, the more smoothly things work on the “front end,” the more work went into the back end.
    Some people genuinely like to complicate matters. (This is not an excuse to treat sunscreen like an optional item!) I used to host Christmas parties for my friends. Time was 8 pm to midnight, billed as a dessert party, would bake all these chocolately and delicious desserts, beer, wine, eggnog. Made chili and baked ziti, too, for anyone who wanted a break from sweets. I was in my early 30s, didn’t want to do complete dinner, figured 8 pm and dessert party was reasonable. My father’s then-wife heard about this and insisted that I also needed a vegetable platter, fruit platter, side dishes, and then tried to give me the frozen chicken skewers in her freezer to me, insisting I needed them too. Finally I’m like, it’s an (expletive) dessert party. Why are you trying to get me to feed people a 3-course meal??
    There are numerous examples of this, so when she would later talk about how my father “didn’t understand” how much work went into stuff, all I can think is, even if you’re right on this one, you make so, so much extra work with everything else that he rightly tunes you out. She can’t go to the beach without five toys for each kid. She once didn’t let me walk out the door with diamond studs for earrings because she had earrings that better matched my dress and made me 15 minutes late for a date. (I literally had to tell her that I was going to call the guy and cancel if it was that big of a deal – and that’s when she finally let me go.) “Your father doesn’t understand how hard it is to do X.” No, sweetheart, he understands; you just make life hard on yourself and everyone around you.
    That’s not an excuse to ignore your wife who wants to bring a toy for the kids and a book for her, but those things do happen.

    Reply
  22. Nathan

    Examples of load issues from TV, etc.
    The Simpsons. They get a chance to go on a vacation, and Homer tells Marge “This will be a chance for you to cook and clean up after us in a whole new state!”
    Other episode. Homer says “I have to go to work. You kids have to go to school. The only one here who has it easy is Marge”. (As Marge is on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor).
    Roseanne. Another vacation. Dan says “This place has rustic cabins, and each cabin has its own washing machine and stove!”. Roseanne: “Oh, boy! I get to go on vacation and do all the same **** I do now!”
    Family Circus:
    Family is also on vaction. In the hotel room, mom is running ragged, trying to get the kids, washed, dressed, ready to go, etc. Dad is lying on the bed watching TV and says “Could you hurry up, sweetheart? We’re supposed to be on vacation”.
    Unknown Comic: A “vacation” is when mom does all of her same housework in a different house”.

    Reply
  23. Nathan

    One more observation about Marcia and Donny going to the beach.
    It’s not just the stuff beforehand that Marcia has to set up. It’s not just the aftermath, cleaning up, putting things away, taking care of kinds who are hungry, sick, hurt or sunburned, etc.
    Even once they get to beach, Marcia may still not get to relax and enjoy herself, because Donny will likely race off with the older kids to play in the sand and water, leaving Marcia to watch the baby the whole time.

    Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      Nathan,
      Or Donny will close his eyes and nap because isn’t going to the beach so relaxing?!!
      Then Marcia will have to keep an eye on all the kids.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johnson

        The napping scenario has happened to me at the beach I forgot to add. Not theoretical.

        Reply
    • sunny-dee

      This is exactly my thought. My husband wants to go on vacation. We have a 15 year old (stepson for me), a 2 year old, and a 5 month old. He and my stepson want to go ride jetskis, go to the beach, go parasailing. And all I can think is, how am I going to make sure that the toddler can take a nap and not throw tantrums for a week, is it safe to take him to the beach because I’ll have to juggle him and the baby, and how to handle his bedtimes when we’re all in a hotel room.
      I’m thinking of just staying home with the babies and sending my stepson and husband off to Florida.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Sometimes, honestly, that’s the better solution. It’s very hard to find a vacation that can be fun and relaxing for everyone when there is such a big age range, and then you end up feeling badly because you paid a lot of money for some people to go who don’t even enjoy it.

        Reply
  24. Nathan

    A similar vein: A youth pastor once talked to us about the “magic laundry hamper”. When you’re a kid, you wear you favorite shirt, then put in the laundry hamper. Then, a few days later, it comes back washed, dried, ironed and folded, with no effort at all!
    Then you move out, and get your own place, only to find that the laundry hamper is no longer magic! How did that happen?

    Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      Nathan,
      The magic laundry basket and magic coffee table often miraculously reappear when you marry!
      Check out this funny (but sad since it’s so many women’s lives) video if you haven’t seen it yet.
      https://youtu.be/SqQgDwA0BNU

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        We’ve used that clip (with the swearing dubbed out) at marriage conferences! It is quite funny.

        Reply
      • E

        How did I know that was going to be Australian before even clicking the link??? 😜
        Still…better than the joke about the ride on dishwasher… 🙄

        Reply
    • Angela England

      And this is one of many reasons why ALL my children do chores. Regardless of gender every one of my kids can work a wash machine, do dishes, tend to animals, tend a garden, and the oldest two who are teens can also pay bills, compose an email and letter, paint and do basic household decorating tasks, change oil, change a tire, butcher a chicken, shoot a gun, and drive even though they aren’t 16 yet because #countryliferulesaredifferent No one will be at the mercy of another person for basic life survival

      Reply
  25. Daniela

    I just have a question about Fair Play. We love the idea of the cards as a visual way to divide up responsibility but they are not available until December (so amazon tells me) so are they contained within the book somewhere as well or will we have to wait until the cards are released?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      They are in the book, and I think you can also see them on her website as well!

      Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      The cards are available as a free download on her website, actually!

      Reply
      • Daniela

        That’s wonderful, thank you!

        Reply
  26. Rebekah

    I’ve gone to the ‘what needs to happen so that thing can happen’ verbal avalanche, so that I know it has been considered, and leave it to him. We’ve had a lot of conversations, especially regarding date night stuff. Just saying ‘Hey, date night sounds good!’ does nothing but add half a dozen things to my mental list (coordinating schedules, are we seeing an event that needs tickets, are we eating out before/after, who is watching the kids…and do I need to go through 2nd/3rd options if THAT person’s schedule doesn’t mesh, etc.). Finding the balance between letting him arrange everything and making sure everything that NEEDS arranging gets taken care of is not always an easy thing. Our youngest is 3, so relatively impromptu plans are much easier now as we have moved away from naps being necessary in order to not lose sanity later.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is hard, isn’t it? And, yes, when naps aren’t an issue life opens up again!

      Reply
  27. Lisa

    The scenario is excellent. I’d add something else– what about dinner after coming home from the beach? Are there ingredients to throw into the slow cooker in the morning so that dinner will be ready when they get home? Or will the husband collapse on the couch when they get home while the wife empties the car, handles the tired and crabby kids, cooks dinner, cleans up the kitchen, and gets everyone in bed? That’s how it used to go with us. My husband would suggest getting carry-out on the way home but we simply couldn’t afford it. I would plan our family outings but I had to plan for all the time needed for these things, including getting home several hours before dinner so that I could sit down for a bit, settling the tired and cranky kids, before getting back on my feet for hours cooking and doing dishes. We had our first four kids in just under six years and every outing felt like a marathon back then.
    Oh, and don’t forget breastfeeding at the beach, trying to keep sun out of the baby’s eyes and sand out of her mouth. Extra pain if your husband is staring at other women who didn’t just have a baby.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YES! Great point, Lisa. I forgot dinner afterwards. It is unrelenting, and I think many husbands don’t understand that.

      Reply
  28. Shannon

    My husband and I do Fair Play! It was helpful us to simply assign the cards so my husband could visually see all that I do. The book tends to be addressed more to working parents rather than SAHM’s like myself but we figured out a great work around. We selected task cards from the deck that would be reasonable for me to complete in a normal 40 hour work week, then we split the rest of the tasks 50/50. This way the work load doesn’t default to me in the evenings and on the weekends.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I like that idea of taking the 40 hour ones first. That makes a lot of sense!

      Reply
  29. Sam

    What do you do when the spouse is constantly asking you what to do or to make a list for them and it’s just more work to sit down and make the list? I’ve tried telling him what needs to be done and it seems like every time, he needs to be reminded which doesn’t help at all with the mental load. What actually changes that mentality of the other spouse thinking that things went off without a hitch last time so why do I need to do anything different? I feel like he just doesn’t want to be responsible for keeping up with things. It’s so frustrating! And what makes it worse is that I am currently the one working outside the home and yet, I still do almost everything I did when he was working. How do I explain this to him in a way he will understand?!

    Reply
  30. Carol Kendall

    I LOVE how you react the topic of “Mental Load.”
    I first discovered it almost 30 yrs ago, thanks to the book “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” Thanks to that book, I learned to scale back Christmas and only do the things that mattered most. But we still didn’t do well at sharing the load.
    Now that we are retired, we are sharing the load more evenly, but it’s still not right. Thanks to you, we at least have the vocabulary to talk about it and make adjustments.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.