Hey, Guys: This is What Mental Load Means to Women

by | Jun 25, 2020 | Uncategorized | 11 comments

Husbands Understanding Mental Load and Emotional Labor

How can men and women work together to understand mental load–and deal with it well?

It’s the last Thursday of the month, which means our podcast today is aimed at men (although both men and women can listen!). 

And today we’re capping off our mental load/emotional labor series by focusing on what mental load means, and understanding why “just make a list and I’ll do it” isn’t what women actually want. 

Before we jump into that, though, let me introduce you to “Sheila’s Spotlight” item today. Your support of my affiliate suggestions helps me keep ads off of the blog! And here’s one of my favourite products for the guys: Grillmaster’s Club. If you’re staying away from restaurants during COVID, what better time to up your barbecue game? Your Grillmaster’s Club subscription gives you a new barbecue sauce, new rub, accessories, recipes, and more every month. And it’s super fun and  you’ll learn so much about grilling! Check it out

And now, I’d invite you to listen to the podcast!

It’s often hard for women to explain what mental load means to them–but it’s the #1 reason for women’s low libido.

When women feel as if they have to keep all the details of the household/kids in their head at all times, because otherwise things won’t get done, it can be exhausting. They can never switch “off”. And if you can’t switch off, then it’s hard to switch on with libido!

So many women have said something to me this week that echoes this woman on Instagram:

 

I’ve been having SUCH a hard time getting into words mental load and why I’m having such a hard time as a SAHM even though I don’t work at all. The past few episodes you have released have finally given me WORDS and reasons why I’m feeling overwhelmed, even though my husband does a few things for me such as grocery shopping etc.

We’ve been talking about this all month, and today in the podcast Keith and Connor discuss why guys need to get more engaged at home (and what that looks like), and Connor and Rebecca discuss when lists can actually work.

But the big picture is the same: women really need men to be present and invested in the household life.

You can’t just say, “I’ll do the paid work, and you be responsible for the house.” Not when the house includes everything to do with the kids, and remembering all the in-laws birthdays, and remembering that there’s potluck at church this Sunday and we need to cook something, and remembering all the different extracurricular activities, and remembering that it’s our turn to bring the snack for the kids’ hockey, etc. etc. etc. It’s too much.

And even if a guy has a stressful job, he can’t check out of the home. Kids need their dads to know what’s going on and being engaged!

 

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But how do you figure out how to divide mental load?

I’ve got tons of posts on it this month, and rather than reiterating them all, I’d invite you to read them:

If you’re going to read anything from that list, I’d suggest reading the first post on what emotional labor is, and the post on the “let’s go to the beach” conundrum. And then discuss them with your spouse. Often men and women have very different reactions to these posts, and so they’re great jumping off posts to talk about this stuff!

Rebecca and Connor also talked about when lists CAN work.

Yesterday on the blog Keith talked about why he kissed “just give me a list” goodbye. He realized that owning tasks was a much better way to do it!

But sometimes lists CAN work, and Rebecca and Connor talked through how they created chore lists for certain days, and then whoever is “on” the house that day has to do them all.

In my post on the “let’s go to the beach” saga, a number of commenters were also saying that they had lists for special events, like “what to pack when we go away for a week” or “what to pack when we go camping” or “what to pack to go to the beach”, and then they both chipped in and did what was on the list. 

So that’s it! I hope that this podcast helps guys better understand what we’ve been talking about all month. Again, the aim was not to man-bash. It was simply to explain, “this really burdens a lot of women and is hurting marriages, and it’s actually a relatively easy fix.”

 

So that’s it for today! What do you think? Can lists work? Do men and women just see this differently? 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

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11 Comments

  1. Nathan

    > > You can’t just say, “I’ll do the paid work, and you be responsible for the house.”
    Especially since (for most, but not all), the paid work often ends at 5PM and is only on weekdays. Housework is 24/7.
    So in a case like that, hubby gets home around 5 or 5:30 and relaxes for the rest of the night, but the wife still has to make dinner, give the younger kids baths, change diapers, get them ready for bed, etc.
    And yes, no matter how stressful your jobs is, both parents need to be engaged with the kids on some level. One comic used to say “Mom knows about birthdays, playdates, secret crushes and favorite foods. Dad is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house”. Funny, but we should do better than that.

    Reply
    • Julia Tinker

      Sheila – absolutely love your mental load series. This has been most especially relevant in our finances. For SO LONG we fought over finances and financial decisions and how I felt he wasn’t “partnering” enough. I absolutely love managing the finances, budget and savings – this is a strength of my personality. I kept saying to my husband I needed him to carry it with me when I felt overwhelmed or that we were struggling in some way and his response was always along the lines of “I’ll pay the bills then!”. Finally we discovered the problem wasn’t the bill pay off itself (how hard is it to login & click “pay bill”) but more the mental load of managing what gets paid off when & how paying that will affect leftover $ and what to do with it. Now we have weekly budget meetings where I show him all things “due” and present him my strategy and then we talk through priorities together and debt together, etc. I feel so much less alone and so much less like “mom” giving him “permission” to spend $

      Reply
  2. NL

    This is Sunday morning- I make breakfast, make sure I have lunch started, make sure all three kids are dressed, hair done, teeth brushed, make sure I’m dressed, remind my husband to grab his Bible and tithe, and 5 minutes before it’s time to go he gets dressed and complains that we are going to be late again. Then we go to church (preCOVID) and I teach Sunday School. Thankfully, for the last year I have not translated the sermon for my husband, or substituted for the pianist. We come home, have lunch, and I get the youngest in bed for a nap. At this point I’m shattered. But my husband thinks this is the perfect moment for some couple time….

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, NL. That really is difficult! One thing that can help is to declare that one Sunday is “Mom’s Day Off”, and he has the kids to get ready and the meals to get ready, so he understands what it’s like. I think we all need to do that every now and then.

      Reply
  3. Nathan

    NL, I’m sorry that this happens. Have you talked to him about what the mental load means and how it affects you?

    Reply
  4. Lindsey

    Excellent podcast today! Loved all of it!

    Reply
  5. AspenP

    This has been such a great series Sheila! I’ve talked to all of my girlfriends about it and they all relate. Most of them have been having this conversation with their husbands and these posts have articulated the struggle so well. Thanks for the vocabulary to address this problem and share the load.

    Reply
  6. Rachel

    Thanks for identifying this problem of the exhaustion of carrying the mental load for the family and home. Another thing I’ve noticed as a pastor’s wife is early on I tried to carry the emotional load of church, too, because I was afraid he would forget something there and I did remind him of big things there he might of forgotten. But I’ve loosened that over the years because it’s just too heavy of a load to carry. It’s for the elders to carry, not me. But I’ve had to work on leaving the emotional load of church on the elders and ultimately the Lord. My job is to pray and participate in my areas and not reach beyond that.

    Reply

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