As working mothers, we are sold “Mum hacks” and list organizing apps to make our lives easier and more manageable. But, do we ever stop to ask ourselves why we even talk about working mothers but not about working fathers? Why are there not hundreds of thousands of “Dad hacks” and articles about how fathers manage to combine parenthood and career?
At the start of 2019, I returned to my medical registrar position after having our first baby. Like many women before me, I struggled to apply myself to my job as I had pre-baby – not a surprise? But then, why could my husband? Why, and moreover, how, could he still be progressing in his medical career as he had been pre-baby, while I felt like I was just getting by? Yes, I was doing what I needed to on a day-to-day basis, but I lacked the time and the mental energy to move forward in my career.
It didn’t seem fair. We’d both graduated from university in the same year, we’d both spent 8 and a half years pre-children pursuing our dream medical specialties. If anything, it was me who had studied harder, achieved better academic results and pursued more “CV-building” activities, so why should I miss out now?
It was then that I realized it was the mental load! While my husband and I were both attentive and loving parents when we were at home, I carried almost ALL the mental load in my head ALL the time. I knew everyone’s schedules (including the puppy’s), I knew who was going to look after our daughter when, I kept track of the vaccination schedules, the developmental milestones, the sleep regressions, the starting solids plan, and the dog’s food delivery. I googled, contacted and arranged the electrician and the plumber when required. And I kept all this in my head at work and at home and everywhere else!
I realized that to successfully continue my career (and my relationship in any happy state), we needed to share the mental load.
And once we figured out how to truly share the mental load, it was life-changing. That’s why I encourage all women, especially working mothers, to make 2020 the year of Mental Load Equality!
Here’s my top 20 reasons why 2020 should be the year to learn to share the mental load:
- You’ll have more time and energy – yay!
- Domestic tasks will also be more evenly shared – once the mental load is shared, it is far easier to fairly divide actual physical tasks.
- You will model equality to your children everyday – and break the cycle of gender inequality when it comes to the mental load and emotional labour.
- When you do have a night out with your friends, you’re less likely to be interrupted by text messages asking what to feed the children, when they should sleep and what they should wear.
- You are more likely to have that aforementioned night out with your friends in the first place!
- It will improve your mood.
- Your house will be tidier – see reason 2.
- You’ll sleep better.
- Your husband will feel more connected to the family – benefits of mental load equality are actually shared by both partners.
- It will boost your marriage.
- It may even lead to better sex.
- You will be more focused, creative and productive at work thus increasing your career success.
- You could take up that new hobby you’ve always dreamed of – parlez-vous francais? – or just watch more Netflix.
- It is possible! (I was skeptical too but it actually is – trust me!)
- You will have more energy and time to just have fun with your child(ren).
- Going travelling will be easier. (No more annoying questions – “honey, did we pack the…?” as you pull out of town.)
- The benefits will last beyond 2020 – by actually changing your subconscious thinking habits, these changes can be sustained forever!
- You will be able to do yoga and actually focus on your breathing!
- It will reduce your Mum guilt – halving the mental load actually halves your Mum guilt. Suddenly you’re not responsible for absolutely everything in the household!
- Next Christmas you won’t have to buy all the Christmas presents!
Will you join me in making 2020 the year of the shared mental load?