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Do Husbands Have Mental Loads?

What Women Need to Understand About Our Husbands' "Mental Load"

If you're like me and spend a fair amount of time perusing mommy blogs and message boards, there are a few common complaints that seem to come up fairly often. Besides struggles like trying to get a baby to sleep through the night, I've read hundreds of posts from overworked and exhausted mamas who are frustrated by their husbands.

Of course, a lot of these women have the right to complain about their partners. I would be upset too if my husband did any number of the "bad" things that I've read about other spouses doing. Beyond the truly bad stuff, there are good number of women who seem particularly incensed about their unfair mental load.

What I worry about here is that in trying to survive our daily lives of errands and chores, it's impossible to adequately see each other's invisible labor, and men have their own list of things they mentally take care of.

What I worry about here is that in trying to survive our daily lives of errands and chores, it's impossible to adequately see each other's invisible labor, and men have their own list of things they mentally take care of.

When I talk about mental load, I'm referring to the tiny invisible chores you know have to be done throughout the day in order to keep the house together. When my family leaves the house, I'm the one who packs the bag for my toddler and assembles all the snacks. Additionally, as we get closer and closer to the age of preschool, I'm the one that's been doing the research, calling the schools, and keeping a spreadsheet of our options.

It can feel like these kinds of invisible labors go unnoticed, and sometimes they are. My husband had no idea that I'd developed that detailed preschool list — not because he's willfully ignorant, but because I never told him. Just like he never tells me about all the things he does.

I had no idea that for years my husband has gone around the house every night double checking all the lights, locks, and windows before bed. While I'm busy getting one last sweet fix of internet or brushing my teeth, he's making sure we're safe and secure.

There are a bunch of little examples like this. He's the only one that can get our son to brush and floss his teeth. He pays the bills, not because I don't know how or can't, but because it's not a chore I enjoy, just like I clean the bathroom because he doesn't like doing it. We each have our own things that we tolerate and prefer doing.

Stereotypically, he is also the one burdened with household maintenance, often referred to as a "honey do list." This laundry list of tasks befalls him since, let's be real, I have no desire to learn about plumbing or to get my hands dirty. When my feminist mother reads this, I'm sure she'll feel like I've failed her.

But the thing is, that's what works for our family; we each have our own mental load associated with keeping track of all the things we do to keep the gears of the household turning. I suspect it's the same for many households.

It's easy to get lost in the narrative that women do all the work, and it's not entirely untrue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that women spend nearly an hour more per day taking care of the home than men. I'm not arguing that the division of household labor is even, just that those besmirched husbands might have their own share of a mental load that they are also secretly harboring to maintain the house. That is a far more difficult thing to get statistics on.

After finding out about my husband's secret life as our personal security guard, I've been sure to acknowledge the little things I see him do, and in turn I know he sees what I do.

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