The Mental Load

Okay, so what is it ?

Do you know that feeling you get when you are going through some tough times, burdened by a unpleasing to-do list 24/7 ? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything that was going on around you – like your English exam, the philosophy essay, the birthday you need to note down before you forget about it, the administrative papers you must turn in by the end of the week…? We all have this « load » in our lives, and we tend to cope with it in different ways. It can be by using an agenda, partying endlessly to put aside the trouble of having it all on your mind, or anything else. Anyways, the mental load is about those worries we constantly keep somewhere in our brain.

Okay. what’s the big deal ? Why do I feel like I need to write an article about it ?

Well, it’s simple, really. The « mental load » term has lately been used by feminists to describe the one women often have towards house chores. A blogger and writer  named Emma actually made a pretty explanatory and crystal-clear comic about it. It’s called « You should’ve asked« . She explains the « mental load » concept much better than me, obviously. But I’m here to raise awareness (just in case you haven’t heard about it) and by doing so, complain about our society, so I’ll give it a try.

Basically, the point of the comic is to show us how women undertake the responsability to organize the house, the chores that go with having kids, etc. It’s not about how the chores are divided between both sides of the couple, it’s about the fact it’s mostly the women who keep in mind what needs to be done, when, how often, how…

There are many examples. One could be how my step-mom always feels like she has to cook, to shower my sister, to fold the clean clothes, and it goes on and on. I talked to my dad about it and told him he might not realize it, but my stepmom is always doing everything around here. To that, he answered me that wasn’t true : he’s the only one who can drive in the household, so he takes us everywhere we want to go, he takes care of the car, he deals with the paperwork, he shops the groceries, he washes the dishes, takes my sister to her dance lessons and it goes on and on.

And yet, I never felt like they were balanced. Ever. I wondered a lot about why I felt that way, until I came accross the concept of « mental load ». You see, before my dad goes to the grocery shop, he gets out of his office and loudly says : « What should I buy ? ». Then my stepmom takes some time to check every food shelf and the entire fridge, to imagine what we should eat in the next few days and to create a checklist for him. He could totally do it himself. But he doesn’t. She organizes it all. She’s the brainstormer.

My stepmom also manages the amount of clothes my sister has in stock, and how fast she’s going to grow, and when they will need to replace the closet. She’s also the one who thinks about the laundry. And a lot of other things.

 

Another example could relate to me. As a seventeen year-old girl, I tend to party as much as I can. I love parties. And in France, we tend to celebrate at our friends’ houses. That way we can sleep there, rest and not face the horrendous mission to go home after a few drinks. Although tradition and good sense command the guests to help with the cleaning-up the following day, I’ve noticed only some of us actually do the effort to help with the chores. Who could that be ? All the girls who slept over. What do the boys do ? Pretty much nothing at all.

Surprisingly, these very well educated and polite boys – I have no doubt  about that – usually wake up and get breakfast, at ease. Do not get me wrong : I have nothing against that. So far I can’t blame them. I would do the same. But as we emerge from the tiredness, it just seems impossible for most of us girls to sit around and leave the mess as it is. We somehow feel responsible. Meanwhile, the boys are still having a drink in the patio. Why is that ?

This probably happens because we don’t need 15 people to clean the house. Therefore, when the guys see that the chores are already being taken care of, they don’t lift a finger. The problem is, they don’t seem to take responsability for any mess left from the day before. I swear, in my lifetime (which is short, but still), I’ve never seen a guy do any post-party chores. Ever. Obviously, we girls seem to have accepted the role of the person who does the housework. Systematically. And you, boys, do not seem to take action to share this mental load. Because obviously, we all feel – in the end of the day, consciously or not – that it is a woman’s responsability.

Hence my weird face when I hear people saying the « mental load » – in its feminist implication – does not exist. Yes, it does, even though we are not always aware of it. So it’s time to wake up. Do not exhaust yourself with the mental load, you, girl who’s reading this post right now. Do try to explain this to your male friends. And you, boy who’s reading this post, please take your share of this invisible mental load. Sounds like fun ? Probably not. Then you know how we feel when all this behind-the-stages work is not aknowledged thus not divided equally.

Just keep in mind there are a lot of things we overlook in the world. Sometimes we don’t want to see it because it would go with a complete change of perspective and even  a redefinition of what we consider moral. And that’s completely comprehensive. That’s being human. But as humans, we also aspire to change, improve and civilize. Now let’s try to do so.

Of course, you are allowed to disagree ! So let’s debate !

(By the way, if you want to know more about this phenomenon, there are a lot of much better posts out there, of a professional, journalistic genre.  Feel free to check them 🙂 )

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