“Let’s Go to The Beach” Revisited–Plus More Mental Load!

by | Jun 16, 2021 | Family, Life | 61 comments

Let's Go to the Beach: On Mental load and motherhood
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What happens when women carry the mental load for the whole family?

It can be exhausting!

Last June, my series on the blog was on mental load and emotional labor, and how draining it is for women to have to remember everything and keep all details straight, and how coming up with creative ways to divide mental load can enhance marriage.

The post with the most comments that month was on the “let’s go to the beach” saga, where I tried to give an example of what this may look like in a typical family with young kids. I talked about this again on Facebook recently, and, predictably, the comments blew up again!

I know so many of  you are new at the blog since The Great Sex Rescue was published, and so I thought it may be a great time to revisit that post, and point again to some solutions. Plus there was an interesting discussion on Facebook I want to highlight.

Here, then, was the scenario I gave in last year’s post:

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

From The "Let's Go To the Beach" Saga!

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?

I then went on to explain why she was so stressed–and why “just going to the beach” isn’t as easy as it sounds. 

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

From The "Let's Go To the Beach" Saga!

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.

And, in the comments, other people mentioned one last bit that I forgot to put in the list: What are we going to have for dinner when we get home after a long day out? And do we need to get something in the crockpot before we leave? Do we need to get something out of the freezer?

It’s easy to look at that list and think that Marcia is doing too much.

No, she may not need the water mattress.

And perhaps watering the tree seems silly. But watering the tree was meant to represent that there is always something else going on in the family–something that needs to be remembered, whether it’s a friend coming by to drop something off, or an errand you were supposed to run, or a repairman coming by. And someone has to remember those things. There’s always something that has to be taken care of if you decide to take off for a day unexpectedly, and she tends to be the one to remember.

When I shared this on Facebook, many men (and some women) suggested that the solution was simply for her to give him a list

The problem is that if she has to make a list, she still carries all of the mental load for this. The task of getting the pails and the shovels and the sunscreen together is not that difficult; it’s remembering that you need the pails and the shovels and the sunscreen, and remembering where it is.

As Keith wrote on the blog last June, he’s kissed “just give me a list” goodbye, and now we divide up areas of responsibility so that we each bear some mental load–and we each bear NO mental load for some things because the other carries it. It’s much less exhausting that way!

If you’re struggling with mental load, I highly recommend taking a look at the mental load and emotional labor series from last June. Some great podcasts are linked there that you can listen to with your spouse and figure this out!

Other people suggested that she just calm down and let him make mistakes, because then he will learn.

This sounds good in theory, but the probem is: Who bears the consequences if things go badly? Likely Marcia! If the kids have a terrible time and whine and cry and are hungry, then Marcia is going to have a terrible time, too. If the baby misses her nap and her schedule is thrown off, who is going to be up at night with her or missing those naps over the next few days? Marcia. If the kids get sunburned and don’t sleep well for the next little while, who is going to be dealing with cranky kids during the day? Likely Marcia.

So it’s fine to say, “let the chips fall and he’ll learn,” but she’s the one who likely will have to deal it. And most moms don’t want their kids to be sunburned or miss naps or be hungry or cranky, anyway.

One man complained that the reason men don’t help is that if they try to, the wife micromanages everything.

He wrote:

Here is an example of things that regularly happen in a marriage.

  • The dishwasher. The husband loads the dishwasher. And the wife typically comes behind and reorganizes it.
  • Folding laundry same thing.
  • Making the bed
  • Cooking
  • Packing

The list goes on. Men learn very early in marriage that there are jobs that are just not worth doing because we do it “wrong”.

If you have to have things done a certain way do it yourself. Or let your husband do it his way. Don’t micromanage.

Male Commenter

Facebook

I do admit that this plays a role in some marriages. But I also think that this is a very easy cop out that many spouses use to get out of having to help. They do something half-heartedly once, they’re told it’s not good enough, and then they say, “see, there’s no pleasing you!”

We dealt with this in the series last year, too, with the idea of minimum community standards. 

One women, though, left a great comment on Facebook that inspired me to put this post up!

Do Women Micromanage? Or Is Something Else Going On?

*cracks knuckles* okay, let’s break this down, shall we?…

Firstly, you have equated (in other comments) the home as a woman’s place of work. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the situation is one in which the woman DOESN’T work outside the home. Ergo, her “workplace” would be the home.

In this instance, women are generally very good about asking for things to be done in such a manner that makes things more efficient, or more aesthetically pleasing. Would you appreciate someone else coming into your office and rearranging your family photos, artwork, or organizational system? Absolutely not because it’s your workspace, and you ALREADY went to the trouble to set it up in a way that is pleasing, calming and organized. So if the home is her workspace, she’s already set things up in a manner that makes things most efficient. I cannot think of one couple, in which this exact situation has occurred, in which the wife DID NOT EXPLAIN WHY she wants things done in a specific manner.

The dishwasher: perhaps one side does not clean as efficiently, so if she doesn’t want to run it twice, she has to put more dirty things in one place. Or maybe the dishes he placed on the bottom will melt due to the hearing element, or maybe it’s so disorganized that he turned one load of dishes into 2. So she changes it.

Folding laundry is important because how you fold clothes LITERALLY changes whether or not a the towels or clothes will fit appropriately in storage, and how many wrinkles will be in the clothes once they are pulled out to wear. So if he slaps the clothes or towels in a haphazard way, they might not fit, or cause extra ironing work. So she changes it. Packing is similar, although when packing for children, there’s additional items that an adult wouldn’t need. Like diapers, wipes, cream, extra clothes, pacifiers, calming toys, etc

When the hypothetical husband is not considerate enough to learn these simple things, his “help” only duplicates her work. And let’s just remind everyone that this isn’t just HER home, it’s HIS too. Would your coworker find it acceptable if they had to give you a new task (to cover for higher volumes of sales, or vacation, etc), showed you how they wanted it done, and you blatantly disregarded instructions to get the job done faster, and then your coworker had to redo the work anyway? Absolutely not!

No wife would be either. And yet, you treat her as if she’s nagging and nitpicking just…because she wants to be critical? I know there are the occasional perfectionists out there, but the largest portion of the bell curve is not represented by that assumption.

Let’s take cooking, shall we? Sure this SAH wife/mom will be more efficient in the kitchen, but a father should know the basics of his kid’s preferences, and be able to function in the kitchen enough to put together a simple meal for his family if required – AND clean up afterwords. Maybe you do, but many men WON’T.

Making the bed. If it’s a kid’s bed, did the mattress protector go on? Are the sheets on properly? Why can’t it be viewed as an act of love to set up ONE kid free zone where his wife can feel like she’s entering an adult, relaxing space? But he’s too lazy to make the bed properly? Or help change the sheets so they can both be comfortable and relaxed when they enter? (Now, realistically, I don’t actually make my bed that often. But this is a hypothetical.)


TLDR:

Refusing to learn to complete a household task in such a manner as to RELIEVE a spouse of extra work vs CREATING extra work is a sign of immaturity and pettiness that would be a terminating offense in any work/life area other than the home. And yet, many men treat these tasks with exactly that kind of dismissive attitude. Women have GOOD & VALID reasons for why they want things done a certain way, just like businesses do. Your comment treats them as if that’s not the case.

And the cherry on top? Many women work outside the home, and are still expected to “manage” the home (IE: MENTAL LABOR) as if they were Stay At Home. Men have not changed their expectations, refuse to acknowledge the reasons for organization, and then use that excuse to refuse to be responsible for their own homes and families. THAT is the largest representation of the mental labor bell curve.

Facebook Commenter

Unfortunately, I think that commenter is on to something!

Now, i also believe that a lot of this “micromanaging” conflict would be dealt with more easily if each spouse simply “owned” different areas of the family responsibilities, as we talked about in the emotional labor series. But this is a dynamic that I’ve seen quite a bit!

I know so many of you can relate to the mental load burden, so I wanted to rerun this so we could talk about it again!

Let's Go To the Beach: On mental load and motherhood

What do you think? Can you relate to the mental load of having to remember all the details? 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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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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61 Comments

  1. K

    We travel some distance to our congregation and because of how we are involved + afternoon classes, packing for services is almost as bad as packing for the beach. I have to make sure all 4 kids bathe the night before. I pack lunches for everyone and snacks. Baby bottles, water bottles, diaper bag. A backpack of kid activities for the days we are there late. We bring the stroller so I can get my 1yo twins to nap.
    Here’s the thing though. While the mental load is mostly mine, it’s shared. My husband doesn’t need a list. He knows what to pack in the morning. He knows where to find stuff. He makes baths happen on his own, etc. We work together and make it happen as a team because this area of life is vitally important to both of us. And that’s how it should be.

    Reply
  2. Em

    I’m so glad you are rerunning this post. I might have cried the first time I read it. This series was excellent. But all of your series’ last year were excellent!! Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Bethany#2

    I have recommended this Soo often to frazzled mom’s on my mom app! And I look forward to having this conversation with my husband, when he’s not working quite so much. Because he’s working full-time+overtime and doing 2 semesters of college yearly, I’m waiting for his load to lessen before I divy some of the house stuff to him.

    Reply
  4. Jane Eyre

    Re-reading this, one of the problems is that Bill *should* have an idea of what goes into the beach trips. He doesn’t have to remember everything. He should, however, have it in his mind that he sees the kids playing with toys and his daughter gets terrible sunburns. If his wife is on a business trip or visiting a sick relative, are the kids not going to be able to go to the beach? Some awareness of how to run the house in your spouse’s absence is a basic necessity.
    He should have some basic awareness that if it’s the first beach trip of the season, they may have run out of things since the previous year. “Target is open until 10. Why don’t we make a list of anything we need and after the kids are in bed, I will get them?” Then don’t make a face when your wife adds super tampons to the list.
    I also get very squeamish when one parent is the “fun” parent and the other is the drag. It can be Dad suggesting a trip to the ball field and Mom is in the position of having to lay down the law on homework, or Dad being the disciplinarian and Mom being the parent who undermines it. Not cool.

    Reply
  5. Elsie

    I wanted to share a happy update. I read the mental load series last July and it helped me realize that I needed to do something about the imbalance in household work. I was doing a lot more than my husband and it was causing me to feel a lot of resentment and frustration towards him. I read Fair Play and my husband and I used the fair play system to redistribute chores and mental responsibility. It’s helped our marriage so much! My husband and I are much happier now.
    Before I felt like I was drowning under the weight of everything I had to do but now I feel like I can breathe. I wish I had known this at the beginning of my marriage but it’s also never too late to make this positive change.
    I would say that this blogs mental load series and Fair Play have helped my marriage more than any other resource. Every couple should be taught this in premarital counseling

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YAY!!!! Honestly, this is what I keep saying too. Mental load is THE issue in so many marriages. We teach at marriage conferences and they’re updating the curriculum right now and I told them we need to include mental load!

      Reply
  6. Kya

    Wow, that commenter was spot on. I never considered it that way before, but it’s true! I am a bit of a perfectionist, but I do things the way I do because it works best. (And I am blessed with an amazing husband who knows and respects that and definitely splits the mental load with me.)
    This made me think of a story a mentor couple told me about their early marriage. Both were working outside the home, but every day when they got home the husband grabbed a newspaper, sat down, and chilled for the rest of the evening while the wife ran around like the proverbial headless chicken trying to get dinner made and catch up on housework. One day she snapped and said, “I can’t keep doing this by myself. I work all day, too, and I’m also tired when I get home. But I am carrying ALL the burden of running the household.” Her husband said a light bulb went on. He had grown up in a household with a stay-at-home mom who handled everything and had entered his marriage with that expectation, failing to account for the fact that his new wife had a full-time job. He immediately started pitching in and learning the household ropes, and several decades later they were still both working and splitting the load. His humility and willingness to quickly change what wasn’t working for his wife is something even I hope to aspire to.

    Reply
  7. Katydid

    I almost started crying when, during a road trip with all of us, my husband asked me how I was doing/holding up. Even just recognizing the mental load, acknowledging it, and appreciating the one who carries it means so much. I was so touched that part of his own mental load including checking in on me.

    Reply
  8. Nathan

    This was one of my favorite posts. Dividing things up into areas of responsibility is good, and in cases like going to the beach, I would suggest that BOTH partners put together a “to-do” list TOGETHER. Then divide and conquer for the trip. The list can be altered as necessary.

    Reply
  9. Anon

    As well as parents taking equal shares, it’s important to teach kids to take responsibility as soon as possible. When I was 7 or 8, I was responsible for getting stuff together for a day trip. By the time I was 10, I was packing my own things for holidays. Yet I have friends who are still packing and running errands for their mid-teen kids. One of my friends regularly (maybe 2-3 times a month) has to make an hour round trip to her 15-year-old’s school to drop off his sports kit because he forgot to take it in the morning. When I asked her why she was doing this, she said ‘if I don’t, he’ll have to miss sports and that would upset him.’ But maybe missing his favourite lesson would help him remember to take his kit next time.
    Sure, I forgot stuff when I was a kid. I either had to do without or, if it were really important, I had to pay for the replacement out of my own money. Guaranteed to make sure I only forgot once!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s exactly what we did with our girls, too! They got pretty good at packing.

      Reply
  10. Dorthea

    I can understand both commenters perspectives on this issue. I love how the woman commenter compared the house for the SAH wife/mom to the office/workplace for the husband- so true! But I can also see how it can be discouraging for the spouse who is sincerely trying to help but doesn’t know what the other spouse needs and if there is no communication about those needs then the one left in the dark can end up giving up on trying to help. People can’t read our minds and if we’re not verbalizing our needs then we can’t blame our spouse for not knowing.
    I also think personality differences comes into play as well. Some people are more planners and some are more go with the flow. Myself I’m a planner and to a point so is my husband but there are times when I need to let go of my plans/ let go of trying to control something and just go with the flow. It’s very hard! But it can also be very rewarding. My husband may not do things exactly the way I do or would prefer but as long as it gets done and I’m not left with more work I’m grateful for his help. His heart is in the right place and that’s what matters most to me. And when I try to help him and don’t do things the way he wants it is very discouraging when I’m met with criticism. I end up giving up and we stop working together in unity. And that is what is at the heart of this- unity. Two working together to become one.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, very true! I really like the solution to this that Fair Play talked about, and which I was advocating last June. You divide up areas of “ownership”, and whoever owns that area does it and carries the mental load for it, including conception & planning. Then they get to decide how it’s done–as long as you agree on minimum community standards before hand. I think that’s a really good way of handling it. So he always does the dishes, for instance, while she always does the laundry. Then he figures out how the dishwasher needs to be loaded, and she figures out how the clothes need to be folded.

      Reply
    • Purplecandy

      I think that comment is spot on. In my mind criticizing women for their “micromanagement” made me think of how people consider women as “frigid” when it comes to sex.
      I don’t mean to bring everything back to sex but TGSR is to me way beyond a sex book. It is a book that put truth in its place and really debunks “the lies we’ve been told”. It has really opened my eyes to the lies I am being told daily just because I am a woman.
      And this topic of mental load is very similar. I was unable to articulate what was hurting before, but now I feel I am getting equiped to say “This is not fair, things shouldn’t be that way”.
      I have to say last year this serie was very hard on me. It even made me consider divorce. Many things are still not great but since I read TGSR I am able to draw a healthy line and simply say things. I wouldn’t say we are arrived, but I am feeling way more peaceful. I don’t have to ask for a lot, but I can ask for what is right and for good reasons (ultimately the good of both of us and the unity of our marriage).
      I really wanted to thank you for this shift which allowed me to quit the man vs woman fight and enter a more Jesus centered marriage.

      Reply
  11. Michael

    One of the key challenges in this story is communication – right at the beginning.
    Let’s take a look at this exchange first:
    Husband proposes: “Hey, honey, let’s take the kids to the beach tomorrow!”
    Wife responds: “Sure, sounds great.”
    In this exchange, the following has happened:
    1. The husband has proposed something fun to do with the family. He is initiating. He is spontaneous. It’s not fleshed out, but there it is. The details are up for negotiation.
    2. The wife immediately signals her approval and agreement to the proposal. In his mind, she agreed to it; the plan is settled.
    What has NOT happened:
    1. The wife did not negotiate, ask questions, or express concerns.
    2. The wife did not advocate for herself.
    3. The wife did not come back to express concerns until her emotions had escalated to the breaking point.
    Let’s also look at non-verbal communication:
    1. The wife puts a smile on her face (brave face?)
    2. After signaling her approval, she looks perplexed. But did he notice this? We don’t know.
    3. Her non-verbal communications are mixed signals: Putting on a smile and wanting to be agreeable, but not sure that this will work.
    Unfortunately, it is dangerous to rely on non-verbal communication in a relationship. Clear verbal communication typically overrides the non-verbal, and even the most emotionally aware people often fail to pick up on non-verbal queues.
    The situation at this point:
    1. The husband believes he has received a strong affirmative signal via verbal communication.
    2. The husband does not believe there to be any problems – none were verbally signaled or communicated.
    3. Maybe the husband is insensitive or inconsiderate. Maybe he’s bad at picking up queues. But what’s the point of blaming him or fault-finding? What matters is that he didn’t get the memo that there is a problem until it escalated later.
    There are a lot of things to talk about here, but these are key points:
    1. While the wife wants to be agreeable, she needs to be intentional about negotiating before signaling an agreement to his plan.
    2. Asking questions and getting clarity is important. Even asking a simple question like “How long do you want to stay?” might have taken a burden of stress off her – “Oh, just an hour tops, we don’t need to stay all afternoon.”
    3. The wife needs to advocate for herself. She has many legitimate concerns to address, but if she doesn’t speak up for her needs, even the most well-intended husband will make decisions that adversely affect her.
    Now at this point, we can choose to talk about the husband’s role in this. There are legitimate concerns to address and plenty of dysfunctional communication. At the same time, a wife that can advocate for herself and negotiate for her needs would help prevent the problems before they escalate.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true, Michael, she can. Absolutely. And my series last June was all about how to communicate about this–multiple posts on how to talk to your husbands about this. So I’ve got it covered–and there are lots of links within this article back to that.
      But there’s still a bigger problem which is what I’m trying to address here, and it’s this: All too often men don’t think of the details that go into the family. Yes, it’s because she doesn’t communicate them. But why is it that she thinks of these details? Why does she know the kids need sunscreen and he doesn’t think of it?
      We simply MUST, MUST, MUST, MUST teach our boys to be responsible too so that this pattern doesn’t keep recurring. Yes, she can learn to communicate. But imagine how much easier all of this would be if, when the husband suggested something, he simultaneously realized that this would take some work on his part? And he assumed that it would?
      Yes, she could communicate. But WHY do women have to advocate for things that are really quite obvious? I agree she should talk to him. I agree she has bad communication patterns. But I also think there’s a bigger picture of women having to be responsible for teaching men to do basic things, and that, quite frankly, can be exhausting. It would be nice if men started telling other men, “hey, guys, they’re your kids, too. If you’re going to go somewhere, it’s also your job to figure out snacks and sunscreen and what they’re going to need. Don’t sit back and wait for your wife to think about it.”
      You’re still putting the whole solution here on her shoulders, as if she’s the one who caused the problem. But let me tell you–when my husband said, “let’s to go the beach!”, he also went looking for the sunscreen, because he’s an involved dad and he doesn’t want Katie to burn. My son-in-law Connor is just as capable of getting a bag together for their baby as my daughter is, because he’s an involved dad. I don’t think the problem is all women’s lack of communication. I think that there is not enough of a cultural expectation that men will actually do this stuff.

      Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        Plus, a lot of Christian women have been conditioned to believe that they no right to disagree with their husbands. Not all, but enough that it’s concerning.
        And a lot of men have been conditioned to believe that when he doesn’t share a woman’s opinion, it means she’s crazy. (Though some men overcome that training)
        Does that factor into every situation? No. But it does factor into some, and maybe into this (hypothetical) conversation about a beach trip.

        Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        Though to be more fair minded, there are times when the situation is exactly how Michael seems to be describing it.

        Reply
      • Lisa

        Why does the wife have to study books and websites to learn about safety at the beach but not the father? How does the wife know that forgetting sunscreen means a bad sunburn and a toddler waking up multiple times at crying, but not a husband? Why does the wife have to teach her husband that dinner doesn’t magically appear on the table, and plans need to made, possibly something put into the slow cooker before they leave, so they don’t blow their budget by getting carryout? Why can’t a husband Google a family beach prep list? Why does a husband need to be told that the toddler needs to take his nap on time because, if he instead falls asleep in the car on the way home, he’ll be up until 2 am that night? If the husband has been paying any attention at all and being actively involved in parenting his children, not just playing with the children while his wife cooks and cleans, he would know these things.
        That’s the point.
        Being a parent is different than being a fun uncle. Being a parent is a lot of grunt work, preparation, and being proactive. If you want to sleep, you need to keep the toddlers nap schedule sacred. Moms learn this very early on because they are parenting. I know when I tried to tell my husband this when we had toddlers, he thought I was exaggerating. He would just go to bed at his normal time while I was up with a toddler who missed his nap time and fell asleep during dinner, instead. He seemed to have deaf ears if it didn’t directly impact his comfort.
        What if wives told their husbands they simply couldn’t be expected to understand and follow a budget, that the husband should just lighten up and be spontaneous, “you were much more fun when we were dating, you didn’t worry about the budget all the time.
        You’ve brought this all on yourself but being so controlling and fastidious. I’m going shopping and I’m going to buy things that make life fun. A new inground pool would help you relax after work so I’ll get the contracts signed for that, too. Just relax, your financial standards are too high. What’s the big deal with some extra debt.”

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I know, Lisa. It is frustrating for so many wives! I think it’s really important to raise the next generation of boys to notice things and consider them their responsibility as well. One of the most telling things is huge family dinners. When you have extended family dinners, who cooks? And when dinner is over, who gets up to clear and do dishes? In so many families, all the men and boys sit while the women and girls get up. What message is that sending? Many men think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as relaxing days, while many women have panic attacks. In our family, we’ve really divided chores and it’s lovely. But it’s so important that with our kids we don’t do the same gender dichotomies when it comes to tasks. If a daughter is working, a son should be too. Then he’s more likely to notice what needs to be done later.

          Reply
    • Jo

      The first time, and possibly the second, that a couple takes the first baby out for a multi-hour away-from-home trip, every dad should be aware of just what is involved, both to achieve the trip itself and what the ramifications will be once you finally get home.
      In the example story, there are at least two kids, the youngest a baby, so why doesn’t the dad already know everything that is absolutely needed as well as those things that will make the day easier and more fun, not just for him and the kids but for his wife as well?
      In a phrase, because men have not been trained since they were boys to NOTICE. They typically don’t notice anything until and unless it causes them pain, inconvenience, or even just discomfort (physical or mental). And if the wife doesn’t insist on all those “optional” things like sunscreen and snacks, then yes, guess who’s going to bear the brunt? The kids and the wife, because the husband is likely going to go to work the next week. The time to schedule such an “impromptu” preparation-optional trip is right before the husband is going to take a week off from work while the wife spends that week away with her friends. Then Hubby gets to deal with sunburned children and babies who spend several days getting their sleep schedule back on track.

      Reply
  12. Wild Honey

    As a recovering perfectionist, comments like those from the gentleman Facebook commenter can sometimes hit close to home. BUT they can also sometimes be a smokescreen for laziness, let’s be blunt.
    I found the whole “community standards” concept from the Fair Play book to be key when trying to offload some of my mental load. I think it also helped that I used to train new employees at my workplace. When I took the attitude of “you’re a perfectly capable adult who is just learning a new skill” as opposed to “I’m having to train my husband just like my children,” that helped ME, at least.
    And I TOTALLY second the lady commenter about explaining the WHY of why we do things, because women are just as capable of logic as men. We don’t like creating meaningless extra work for ourselves any more than men do.
    Won’t lie, implementing “Fair Play” is still a process of unlearning old (bad) habits, on both sides. And not without its speed bumps! (Like the two times we-shall-never-speak-of-again when my husband left me two squares of toilet paper. On my period.) But it’s improved our relationship AND his relationship with our children, as he is becoming more involved in more of their care, too. It’s work, but totally worth it.

    Reply
  13. Nathan

    I can easily see both sides, too. When the husband really wants to help and tries, the wife isn’t helping by second guess and micromanaging. On the other hand, there are sometimes valid reasons for this. There are often best ways of doing things, like how and where to place dishes in the dishwasher, or not mixing whites and darks in the washing machine. The two should examine each task and figure out the best way and then do that.
    On the other other hand, sometimes it’s just a difference of style, and if the wife wants the husband to help, she needs to realize that sometimes there is no single best way to do things, and that the husband will sometimes do things a different way. Not better, not worse, just different.
    Finally, to use the beach example, why is it that women just inherently “know” all of the details? I have no idea. My guess is that Donny never had to know all of the little details. Maybe when he was a kid, his mother just did everything while dad sat around. Then when he got his own family, he just continued the pattern.
    Sharing the mental load is important, although in a case like this, Marcia (at least at first) will need to take the lead and show Donny all that needs to be done. For example, they should work together to compile a job list for going to the beach. Initially, Marcia will be doing most of the work, but as time goes by, they can become equal partners in the list and maybe even dividing it into two groups, each one tackles one part. Then they can edit the list as needed in the future.
    It takes time, patience and communication. And, at least for the first few times, one spouse (usually the wife) will need to shoulder more of the mental load until hubby gets up to speed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I agree, Nathan.
      Although, as I said in this post and the comments, I really believe in the Fair Play solution which is to simply assign certain areas of the household labor to different people. So if she “owns” family outings, he legitimately doesn’t have to worry about this stuff, because he’s taking care of other things. But if he “owns” this, then he does need to figure this all out. I do think when couples divide things up, it can get so much easier because then she doesn’t feel like she’s always supervising (which honestly is a terrible feeling).

      Reply
    • Lisa M

      Google can teach a parent how to plan for a trip to the beach. I didn’t have anyone teach me. I figured it out. My husband is brilliant. He had to get over the default mindset that the kids were my domain and he “helped.”
      I used YouTube to figure out how to pluck and process the wild turkeys we shot. I fixed my lawn mower using YouTube. I learned tweaks for sourdough bread. I’ve learned countless things by taking initiative and finding a book, website, or video to teach me.
      Taking the kids to beach is not rocket science. I just did a search and find countless results. He can find a parenting site to teach him how to pack for a successful family beach day. He can also find a site that explains how to efficiently and effectively clean a bathroom.
      The hurdle was him accepting that this is part of life, this is part of being an adult. The hurdle was not that he didn’t know how. It took a LONG time but we’re there. I do not teach him how to do things. He is 100% capable of figuring out how to do things that he accepts as his to do.

      Reply
  14. Wild Honey

    Food for thought (caveat: I’m not a psychologist). Mental load has the potential to be even more stressful for someone on the autism spectrum or with ADD/ADHD, because of possible issues with executive function. While these diagnoses have historically been given more to boys than girls, more recent research is showing that girls and women are under-diagnosed. One of the (probably many) reasons? More culturally/socially is expected of women/girls, so they work harder to mask/compensate for their symptoms.
    What does this tell me? Two things. First, don’t assume the wife is naturally better at carrying the mental load of the family. She may not be. Second, if autistic and ADD/ADHD women can do it, so can the typical man.
    https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-girls-women/
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/14/thousands-of-autistic-girls-and-women-going-undiagnosed-due-to-gender-bias

    Reply
    • Lisa

      That is very true. Thank you for the information and the links.

      Reply
  15. Michael

    To be clear, I’m not putting the whole situation on her shoulders – I could write a whole book about this scenario 😉 Sacrifice for brevity.
    As far as the cultural expectations of men’s roles, I can’t speak to that. The mainstream programming does a great job of reinforcing the idea that men are clueless bumbling idiots. I prefer to ignore what the culture thinks.
    There have been seasons where I was too busy to be engaged in the family the way I wanted. For example, one year, I had a lot of business travel and overtime that kept me from home – that was stressful for everyone, and we had a lot of poor communication no matter what we did. In addition, my wife had a newborn and three children at home. But we were committed and got through it.
    More recently, we planned to travel for a wedding. I wanted to take a few days and visit my family after the wedding. Unfortunately, my wife had many expectations of visiting with family before the wedding, and we had a tough time sorting through the complications. As it turned out, everyone in her family was traveling too, and there were so many moving pieces we couldn’t get a plan nailed down. Where could we stay, and would we have to book hotel rooms at the last minute? We were both stressed and couldn’t see eye to eye talking it through.
    I finally made an executive decision to cut out the last leg of the trip to visit my brother – even though it wasn’t much extra, it took some of the pressure off my wife. Then I reached out to some of her family to talk about what they were expecting. It was clear that much of her family felt like they were too busy with the wedding and other obstacles to have a leisurely visit. By bringing down the expectations, we were able to take some of the pressure off and make a more sensible plan.
    …trim a few paragraphs…
    We don’t know much about the dad in the scenario and what’s going on in his head. It’s easy to make assumptions and blame him for things. But he needs to recognize that his home life isn’t his downtime. His home life needs to become his dominion, the area of responsibility that he needs to be in command in. Not in control exactly; that’s a recipe for problems. But in command, knowing what his resources are and being in command of them to maximize outcomes. He’s thinking about swimming on a beach riding a blow-up toy, not about being Captain of the Ship. It’s a mindset shift that he’s probably not been prepared to realize. As the ship’s captain, he must be invested in situational awareness and situational understanding of his family’s needs. Only then, with sound observation, can he orient properly, make wise decisions, and act decisively.
    Our culture does not teach men to be strong, take responsibility, or that their whole life (not just his work) is an act of sacrifice to achieve greater ends. The only way to bring about that change is to be intentional about changing the conversation with men and for men to step up in the responsibility of manhood, not extended adolescence.

    Reply
    • Maria Bernadette

      The only thing that would if he believed that he was her (figurative) commander, would be that instead of suggesting a trip he would command it.
      Second, being in command does not grant situational awareness.
      Third, being a partner to his wife instead of her commander does not preclude situational awareness.

      Reply
    • Lisa

      Change that to co-captain and I agree with you.

      Reply
      • Anonymous mom

        Thank you for posting about this again, I want to share it with my husband. But, I tried to talk about the mental load series with him last year and he basically said he had so much of his own stuff with work to think about that he couldn’t take on any of my mental load. I’m a mom of two young kids (and now pregnant again) and it feels like I’m in a state of mental, emotional, and physical burnout. I’ve pretty much lost all joy in life and feel very down. Do you have any advice of how to approach this topic again that might be more effective?

        Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        This reply is for Anonymous mom. Hope it nests correctly.
        If he went to his boss and said “I can’t fulfill my workplace responsibilities because I have too many responsibilities at home.” Would that fly?
        If the mental load at work prevents him from handling his fair share of the mental load at home then he needs to try and do something about that.
        And “fair share” has two facets to it.
        One is that it’s not fair for him to be 10x as mentally exhausted as you (pulled that number out of thin air). So do continue to offer grace.
        Two is that they are his kids, too, not just yours. He needs to try to arrange things so that the kids can count on him to take care of them.
        Try being the key part. This is where grace comes in. Demanding that he succeed at reducing his mental workload would be out of line. Expecting him to try is perfectly reasonable.
        Since you can’t dump your kids (whose needs are causing you mental load) but he has every right to try and get a better job so he can quit this one, the solution has to come from his end.
        Or instead of quitting maybe his boss will reduce his mental workload. But you can’t negotiate with your children and ask them to need less from you.
        So I’m sympathizing that he has a mental burden from work. But you are dealing with the fall out. If the mental load at work is harming his family he should try to do something about it.

        Reply
  16. Nathan

    From Sheila
    > > I really believe in the Fair Play solution which is to simply assign certain areas of the household labor to different people.
    True enough. Something are one person jobs, others are two person jobs.

    Reply
  17. Lisa

    Great update from our home, also. This used to be a HUGE issue is our home. The biggest fights we ever had started because I told him I needed him to be involved and not act like a nice house guest who does what he wants and plays with the kids a bit. House guests don’t take on any managerial roles nor do they execute household or parenting tasks. They take care of themselves, are polite, and show up once they’re told the schedule.
    I read “Fair Play” without realizing Shelia covered it. We had already covered a lot of ground but that book gave me the words to finally pull it all together. So good! Highly recommend that book.

    Reply
  18. Bethany#2

    I think I’ll put it on my short list to get the book. Recently when I went away for 3 days, leaving toddler with dad, it revealed issues. I left the tiny apartment fairly messy, and assumed that a bored husband would at least do some cleaning or dishes. I was also starting a new job that he knew was going to be stressful, and first day back too.
    He actually went to some effort to avoid the dishes and used more dishes! And nothing else was cleaned in any way. He was all, “you should’ve mentioned that you wanted me to clean”, but I didn’t think it was necessary. It was obvious! ……. Anway I’ve been trying to hold off on this, because he’s got health issues and stress. But maybe I need to stop babying him.

    Reply
  19. Anon

    I think for a lot of guys who aren’t used to doing anything around the house, they don’t see all these things as ‘work’. So it’s a whole mindset shift for them – and they have generations of men behind them who felt the same way, so they can’t even look back and see that other folk did it differently.
    I used to work on a farm. We would all start work at the same time, but about 15 minutes before our lunchbreak, the farmer’s daughter and I would leave the field or the yard and head back to the farmhouse to prepare lunch for everyone. We were still preparing when the guys arrived. They sat down straight away and we brought their lunch to them. By the time we’d finished serving and getting drinks for them all, they were asking for more. During the whole of this time, we were running around making food & drinks in between clearing up. After 30 minutes of sitting around doing nothing but eat, the guys got up to go back to work. We then spent another 15 minutes washing up & prepping for tea, in between bolting mouthfuls of food ourselves, before racing back out onto the farm to continue work, not having had one single minute to sit and rest. And the guys would comment on how ‘lucky’ we were to get an hour’s lunch break when they only had 30 minutes!!! Because of course, what we’d been doing for that hour wasn’t ‘work’, because it was in the house…
    So it is going to take a LOT of reeducation for some guys to realise that yes, washing, ironing, meal prepping, packing IS work.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, my goodness, I’m just getting angry thinking about that!
      But I think one thing that goes into this is that there’s an expectation that women “like” doing this stuff; that because we’re women, we’re different species and actually enjoy this, and so it shouldn’t be seen as work.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Hold on here a minute. So in this example the presumably two women were leaving farm work to go to food prep work. What kind of farm work were they doing? This is a critical detail. If they were fixing a tractor I’d say fine those two kinds of work are equal. If they were bent over with a short handled hoe weeding lettuce rows……..uh no. Not equal. Lunch prep is a vacation compared to that. Sorry, those just can’t be compared as equal “work”. They just can’t. It is what it is. And if you have ever had to do that kind of back breaking work for a 10 hour shift, you would understand.
        As to emotional load in general. Women have more of it for a reason. I figured out why a long time ago. It took me years of having women bosses, subordinates, teachers, etc. to figure out why they had this load. The reason I finally figured out has never been mentioned on this blog. Sadly, i cannot share it. Because rather than the readers here simply reading it and thinking about it using logical and sequential thinking skills thus giving it the attention it deserves, it will be reacted to emotionally and then proceed to break the internet. Maybe over a glass of wine someday.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Chris, they didn’t get an hour for lunch. They were still working. They got no time off at all. That’s the issue. It’s never having down time.

          Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        Exactly, Sheila. And at least the girls are not dismissive of the workload that the boys.
        Besides, even if the boys were doing strenuous physical labor the whole time, that doesn’t mean the girls had it better. We can’t actually know which side had it worse. Because people are individuals.
        One person would be better off with fewer hours of strenuous labor but a 12 hour work day (did you think that the boys would be making dinner? And doing laundry? And sweeping the floors?).And another person would be better off with 8 hours of strenuous labor interspersed with / followed by downtime for the rest of the day.

        Reply
      • Anon

        Chris, it’s so interesting that you assume we were doing different jobs and that the women were doing easier work 9 times out of 10, we would be doing the SAME work. And yes, I know what it’s like to do backbreaking work for 10-12 hours a day.
        That was my point. If I’d been sitting in the farm office doing paperwork all morning and then got up to make lunch, then obviously I wouldn’t be needing a break as much as guys who had spent a morning drafting cattle, mucking out pens or hoeing carrots. But we were doing the same work. Yes, they did 30 minutes more than we did, but they also got 30 minutes of total rest.

        Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        And I just realized something. In the scenario mentioned above, the boys refer to the girls reduced work load as a vacation. But not their actual break. Where they are being waited on. By the girls.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, there is an assumption that girls really enjoy waiting on boys. That it’s not work; that it’s something that women find fun. My husband is always the first with helping to clear up after big extended family dinners and do the dishes. But he’s often the only man in the kitchen (although my sons-in-law help too!) And my nephews. But that’s the next generation, and they’re better .

          Reply
      • Lisa

        Chris, you compare 30 minutes of sitting at a table eating and relaxing to over an hour of cooking, serving, & cleaning while you shoved food into your mouth without a break? After that had all been working on the fields? I suggest you volunteer to cook, serve, and cleanup after the next large function at your church or large family gathering. Don’t let anyone else lift a finger to help.

        Reply
  20. Dorthea

    I have a hard time with this scenario- I get what Sheila is trying to say about mental load and that it shouldn’t be all on the wife to take care of the family but this is feeling like a “let’s beat up on men for being clueless” discussion which is not at all how Sheila’s post usually go, I’m a little surprised and sad.
    Yes there are husbands who are clueless when it comes to their families and homes and yes it is a cultural thing that goes back to gender roles.
    But there are A LOT of men who do get it!
    And I’m married to one who does. We have certain areas where we take responsibility but we also work together as a TEAM. Fact is we like being together. We like doing stuff, even household chores together. And that is healthy.
    I also understand the point of one spouse taking full responsibility for certain tasks but there is a problem there: what happens when that spouse can’t do their chores because they’re sick, they’re away or worst of all they die. Let’s face it life happens and I’ve known too many people, men and women, who were left totally bewildered on what to do when it came to basic things like cleaning, or auto maintenance or even finances because their spouse did all of that and they never worried about it.
    We do our spouses and ourselves a disservice when we do that. We all need to know the basics when it comes to life. Women need to know how to change a tire just as men need to know how to run a vacuum. So let’s stop with all the blaming and man bashing. We’re better than that!
    We all need to be functioning, mature adults.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I get you. I’m honestly not meaning to man bash.
      But what so many women told me after the Fair Play/emotional load series last June was that that series was the one thing that changed their marriage. Even in these comments people have said it. They didn’t have words to explain it to their husbands, but that series changed everything.
      They could finally sit down and explain it.
      And when it comes to sex, mental load, over and over again, is the #1 problem. It makes women unable to relax; it feeds a relationship dynamic where she feels like his mother, which isn’t sexy; it breeds resentment where she feels taken for granted.
      So it is absolutely vital that this is addressed if this is an issue in marriage, and that means both women and men understanding that this is really taking a toll on a woman.
      Does it affect every marriage? No, it really doesn’t. Some men naturally take on mental load. Some men don’t feel like their wife is responsible for everything in the house and with the kids. But studies show that MOST men don’t take on mental load, and only do stuff around the house when they’re asked (which is part of the problem; she still carries the mental load if she has to ask, even if he actually does it).
      So studies have shown that for more than 50% of couples, this is THE issue. The #1 issue. Even bigger than how much foreplay he does. So that’s why I’m so adamant about it. When couples solve this piece, everything else often falls into place. So I want to give women words to describe what’s happening. I really think in most marriages this is something that can be solved.
      I know it feels like I’m beating up on men, but honestly, this is a HUGE deal for so many couples. This is the thing that needs to be solved. If I soft pedal it, I don’t think that helps. But I keep sending people back to the series last June where I covered it in detail, and was very solutions-based, so I hope people go there and work through that again. Many people on the blog didn’t see that series, and I can’t write the whole thing again, but I can send people there!

      Reply
      • Dorthea

        I do understand what you’re saying and that there is a need for dynamics in marriages to change. I just think there are many other factors coming into play. And this topic in particular requires a more nuanced conversation than what this one post is representing.
        Personally I’m very sensitive to criticism when I’m trying to help out. I can’t read other peoples minds, like my husbands, so if he wants something done in a particular way but doesn’t clearly verbalize his expectations and then criticizes me for not living up to those unspoken and often unrealistic expectations then I’m hurt, I’m discouraged and it ends up hurting our marriage instead of helping and I feel like that is an issue in this post. Nobody can read minds and expecting someone to just know what you think is obvious is harmful. And destructive criticism is actually a form of verbal abuse. Something my marriage is still healing from. Hence the need for communication and yes unfortunately that will add to the mental load for a time but it can get better through hard work. There are no shortcuts. Your spouse isn’t going to wake up one day with the ability to read your mind.
        So to the perfectionist out there, male or female: stop criticizing! You’re killing your marriage.
        I also have some issues with this particular post because we just don’t know what Bill is doing so we’re all making assumptions about him that may or may not be true. Bill and Marcia have three kids so I assume they’ve gone to the beach before, so Bill should know what goes into a trip to the beach, if he doesn’t know, why not? Is Bill taking care of other things to get ready for their trip? Maybe he’s checking the van over to make sure the fluids are topped off, or the tires have enough air? Maybe he’s watering the tree? Maybe he’s fixing the leak in the water mattress…, we just don’t know which ends up causing confusion instead of helping to make your point more clear. There are too many unknowns in this scenario. If you ever run this post again maybe clarifying some of these things would help.

        Reply
      • Anon

        Dorthea, since Donny is described as getting the bathing costumes and towels ready and then wondering why Marcia was still running around, the implication is that this is ALL Donny did to help (and to be fair, probably all that he thought was necessary to help).

        Reply
    • Daniel

      This is exactly how I felt. After reading this post I felt a little insulted, childishly treated and frankly, I felt just sad. I totally get the message and I know this is meant to ‘educate’ men, but the tone is wrong. It is attacking (beating up men, like Dorthea mentioned) and not loving (a thing I love Sheila for in most of her posts). It felt just like “let’s learn them a lesson *cracks knuckles* ” and I was upset after reading it.

      Reply
      • Another Anon

        Same. I was irritated. And irritated again when Sheila once again claims she isn’t trying to bash men.
        But the post does, and it’s a common practice of hers (and her daughter)… not just men, but books, authors, churches, etc.
        I wouldn’t feel this way if there were actual solutions, tips, ideas for growing relationships and not just pointing out the areas where everyone else is failing women to an audience of (mostly) women.
        “Do better” is a pretty common phrase used by Sheila (or her team)… another way of saying, “I have it figured out and you don’t. But again, I don’t really see where the help is, just a lot of blaming.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Again, the help is pointing people back to the series last year. I did it several times within this article, and I’ve done it several times within the comments. To say that I’m not giving solutions, tips or ideas is simply untrue, and it means that you’re not being intellectually honest when you’re reading this.
          I can’t write it all again–I did it really well last year, and I’m always receiving comments that THAT was the series that changed people’s marriages. There’s so much practical help there. But I have a whole new audience this year that hasn’t seen it, and so I’m raising it again so that people can go back and read that series, which has a ton of posts, several podcasts, and lots of ideas of how to stop the nagging dynamic, the “just give me a list” dynamic, the heavy mental load so she’s resentful dynamic, all of that.
          If you are honestly looking for solutions, then I’d suggest you look there. If you simply want to bash me, then you can continue to do so.

          Reply
      • Lisa

        There is help. She recommended a specific book, “Fair Play” to read together, or several other ways to divide the labor and take ownership.

        Reply
  21. Anon

    Ok, so this is TOTALLY off topic, but as a gardener, every time I see that bit about watering the tree daily, I wince! Daily watering tends to be shallow – it encourages the roots to grow nearer the surface, so the tree never develops a deep enough root system to survive drought.
    If you are planting a new tree, you need to give it LOADS of water when you first plant it. I try not to do new plantings in summer, but if I have to, I dig the planting hole, fill it up with water and leave to drain. Then I plant the tree and water it in with another 2-3 buckets of water. Put a compost or bark mulch over the top of the damp soil to insulate from temperature changes and to keep the moisture in. If you’ve done it properly, you should only need to water once a week max. But when you do water, it gets another 2-3 buckets.

    Reply
    • Dorthea

      Thank you! That part has bothered me too!

      Reply
    • Lisa

      Yep. Totally agree. Ideally you use the watering stakes that put the water several feet underground instead of watering at the surface.

      Reply
  22. Dorthea

    In response to Anon’s reply thank you for pointing that out I had missed it in the above scenario and in that case then yes Bill needs to step it up and help out more.
    And I’m not at all trying to find fault or criticize Sheila’s post. Mental load is a big issue that needs to be addressed I just found this post in particular and some of the ensuing comments both problematic and triggering for myself in my own trauma from verbal abuse, which I realize I may have read into it what wasn’t there. Honestly though, this post out of the entire mental load series just simply bothered me. And yes as a gardener watering a tree everyday is a bad idea. (It’s trivial, but it’s one of the things about this post that bothered me!)
    However I do thank Sheila and Anon for replying to my comments.

    Reply
  23. Dorothy

    Many years ago, my husband and I sent our six kids to camp and went to the beach alone. I told him, “This is so much easier than taking a family trip to the beach!” to which he appeared baffled. We had such a great time, we decided to pick the kids up from camp and return to the beach with them. At the end of the week, we both collapsed at home. He said, “WOW, I never saw it before, but you’re right! Having those two beach trips back-to-back proved how much work a family vacation is!”
    The decade before that experience was truly difficult for me—but after he felt it himself, he has been looking for ways to relieve my mental (and physical!) load!

    Reply
  24. Lily

    That beach example is exactly my parents’ relationship! My dad (who has mental illness) has no idea how the household/family works and can’t take care of the family beyond making money. My mom has had to bear the load of mother and father. I’m grown up now and honestly a little afraid of marriage. I struggle with bitterness and resentment towards women whose husbands/fathers are actually equal partners in parenting. It seems too good to be true.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry for your experience growing up, Lily. That’s really rough. Such men are increasingly common in younger generations, I think. I know that can be difficult to believe.

      Reply
  25. julliemak

    Thank you, I am happy to hear you feel that way.

    Reply

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