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The biggest myth of invisible labour

Turning the mental load on its head

How to share the mental load.

The most common thing I hear from friends and clients alike is – but my husband just can’t do that! If I didn’t do all this invisible labour, no one would.

IF I didn’t carry the mental load, the house would fall apart.

In my mind, this is non-sense!  Think about it – does your husband remember to sign up for compulsory courses at work? Does he reply to his own e-mails at work?  Does he apply on time for promotions or special events related to his career?

And then remember before you met him.  Did he own a car?  If he did, he must have somehow remembered, at least most of the time, to renew his registration, organise services, fill up with petrol before the tank ran dry.  Did he rent or own an apartment or sharehouse?  He must have had some dealings with the real estate agents, set up internet, managed an electricity account, washed his clothes or at least organised for them to be washed.  My point is that men can do these things for themselves.  Somehow, far too easily, when a man and a woman move in together, the lady starts taking on many of these tasks for the couple to the point where the man doesn’t even have to think about them, wouldn’t know the account numbers or passwords if he did need to contact the insurance company, and just starts (either knowingly but more often than no unwittingly) expecting his partner to do them.

In many relationships, this continues for months or years (or forever)… until one day, the woman may get fed up.  She decides to drop the mental load.  She announces that she’s FED UP, that she won’t keep doing everything, and stops.

Then the house does fall apart.

This only then confirms the belief that men can’t manage the mental load and grudgingly but surely, the fed up woman starts organising the money for the school tuck-shop again, responds to the unpaid bills, sets up the dog’s food on auto-delivery. This cycle of getting fed up, dropping the mental load or just screaming a lot, then slowly but grudgingly retaking the mental load can suck the life out of any relationship.  Resentment builds.  Fun fades.  And suddenly neither party is happy.

What I keep reiterating to my clients is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can change.  Our partners can change.  And our relationship and our lives can change. Trust me.

Both partners need to learn new habits.

I believe to truly manage the mental load both men and women need to learn new habits.  As the habitual mental load managers, we ladies need to learn to change our thinking patterns.  We need to shift the focus of our thoughts to a set of designated tasks and free up the rest of our mental energy for whatever else we choose to think about.  Simultaneously, our partners need to learn to take the initiative and responsibility for a different set of designated tasks.  To begin with they may not do things to the same standard as we have always done them, and they may also do them differently, but with time and practice they will in fact prove themselves very capable.  Even better, they will even enjoy being back in the seat of co-captain rather than cabin crew!  And even better still, positive energy and feelings will replace all the pent up resentment as you truly become a team again.

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