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Are you doing too much mental labour?

chores mental labour relationships Jul 27, 2022

Mental labour, also known as the mental load, is one of the most critical considerations in any relationship, but it becomes especially important once you have children. If you want to know whether or not you are doing too much mental labour now that you’re a parent, read on to find out what exactly it is, the types of mental labour most people do and how to spot if you’re taking on too much of it.

What is mental labour?

The mental load is defined as the mental energy required to exist. This includes managing the household and ensuring that things run smoothly, among many other things. 

Unfortunately, more often than not, the bulk of the mental load falls on one person in the relationship. Think about how common it is for one partner in the relationship to be the one who knows when the kids need to go to the doctor, who attends school functions and who runs the household, all while making sure dinner is on the table at six o’clock every night.

This uneven mental load can easily lead to stress, burnout and even relationship problems. 

Types of mental labour

Mental labour encompasses a wide range of activities and tasks. The following are the most common types in today’s society. 

Chore management

This type of labour involves managing chores, including:

  • Knowing what chores need to be done regularly
  • Noting when new tasks need to be added to the list (such as an extra load of laundry because it’s time to switch seasonal jackets) and then usually doing them
  • Knowing when certain chores need to be done (such as cleaning the bathroom before company comes over)
  • Being able to prioritize and shift around tasks when necessary (for instance, if a child drops crumbs on the carpet—vacuuming the carpet now becomes a higher priority than washing the dishes in the sink)
Appointment management

This type of labour involves managing appointments, including:

  • Knowing when children need to go to appointments (doctor, dentist, school, etc.)
  • Knowing the names of children’s doctors, dentists, teachers and other appointment-related individuals
  • Knowing why the appointment needs to be made (such as two dental cleanings a year or knowing your child hurt their elbow and it’s still bothering them, etc.)
  • Getting your child to and from the appointment or making sure they do 
  • Arranging for homework or makeup work if the appointment falls during school hours
  • Making sure that appointment times do not conflict with anything (such as not booking your child’s dental exam when you have a scheduled work meeting)

Are you doing too much of it?

If you find that you are the one responsible for most of the above tasks on the list, then it’s likely you are taking on too much of the mental load in your household. It can be difficult to have a conversation with your spouse about making things more even, but it’s important that couples share mental labour—especially when children are involved. It might help if you sit down with your spouse and read about the mental load together so that they will understand why things need to change and make a very clear list of which responsibilities which partner is going to take on, so there is no confusion. There is also a great book called Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) by Eve Rosky, which helps couples divvy up domestic responsibility—including the mental load. Get your copy here

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

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