I'm Not Waiting For My Husband To Lighten My Mental Load

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 
PhotoAlto / Eric Audras / Getty Images

I had no idea our lawn hasn’t been mowed for weeks, but it’s completely out of control. There are actual African lions crouching in my overgrown front lawn, ready to pounce on an innocent squirrel. My husband told me he’s been trying to find time to mow it for weeks, and I’ve been oblivious to the fact that this is even a thing that needs to be done.

How did it get to this point? Because I do not give a shit about the lawn, so tasks related to the care and tending of said lawn do not even register with me.

Articles on emotional labor and the mental load carried by women have been a frequent staple in my newsfeed lately, and I sometimes feel compelled to share them with my husband. I don’t share them with him to try to make him feel bad or tell him he’s not doing enough. He does a lot.

I share them more as a way of seeking validation for all the things I do that make me so tired all the time, as justification for the way I forget random things and why I sometimes greet him at the door with a tap-out high-five before shutting myself in our room — alone. Showing him these articles makes me feel heard.

My mental load isn’t something I’m looking to delegate, and that doesn’t even feel possible. Unless I want to add the mental labor of remembering to cross-check our schedules and grocery needs and to-do lists, my mental load won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It’s here to stay. And you know what? This doesn’t even bother me because I am not bearing the only mental load in this relationship.

I consider myself to be in an equal partnership. My husband shares the workload around the house with me and has never, not even once, complained. There hasn’t been much of a sit-down discussion about who is expected to do what. We both are aware of what needs to be done, and it gets accomplished one way or another. We don’t keep a running tally of who did the dishes how many times this week. But if the dishes need to be done and I haven’t done them, he handles them. If he doesn’t and I can’t, I ask him and he’s on it.

I am one of the “lucky ones.” According to the non-scientific study of polling my friends for anecdotal evidence, I am surrounded by a population of man babies who can’t be bothered with chores or cooking or errands or even basic parenting. I know women — women with an “e”, so plural women — whose husbands have never done laundry or changed a diaper. They’ve never wiped a butt covered with shit that came out of a rectum made of 50% their own DNA.

When I am tired or forgetful or less than enthusiastic at the end of the day, my husband knows why. And he does what he can to make my life easier because he knows I am working every day behind the scenes to make his life easier too. We’re in this — this marriage thing — for each other. Marriage is not 50/50. It is not “I’ll wash and you dry.” It’s 100% from both sides and weaving what you have to give together with what your partner needs.

Has my husband picked up a toilet brush unprompted and scrubbed the porcelain like the Queen would be parking her royal derrière upon our humble john? No, he has not. But if I ask him to do it, Her Royal Highness would not feel compelled to hover during her post-tea bladder relief. The mental load of remembering the toilet needs a good Cloroxin’ and then asking my husband to make it shine is still way easier than cleaning it myself.

Asking my husband to do something is about as burdensome as asking my doctor to refill my prescription or asking a waiter for napkins. My doctor knows I am going to need a refill. My waiter sees me at a table with two children and knows I am going to need a sizable stack of napkins. But asking for those things instead of huffing at the labor of asking ensures that I get them when I need them.

I do not give a shit about the lawn, and I do not notice — even when it resembles the Pride Lands — just like my husband does not care about the shininess of our toilet and does not notice when it needs to be cleaned. The fact is that different things matter to us, and while my mental load is real and never going away, I still know that he’s giving 100% and so am I.

I may still show him an article from time to time so he doesn’t forget that I’ve got a lot of shit rattling around in my head, but I also realize that there is a lot of shit not rattling around in there, and it is thanks to my husband. If all that rattling becomes too much, asking for help is not so much of a price to pay.

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