I’ve always been the boss in my house. It was a position I didn’t ask for, but it kind of happened after I got married and my ex-husband and I decided I’d stay home with our kids while he went to work.
I didn’t know much about men when we married — I grew up with three sisters and a single mother. I didn’t see my dad much after my parents divorced, and I remember my mom just did all the things. Somewhere along the line, I thought that’s just what women did — everything— and so I took on that role.
What I didn’t realize was how little thought men put into future events. While I was stressing about the stain on the carpet, whether the cereal I bought had too many preservatives in it, or if our child was reading at the appropriate level, he was thinking about the present moment: that was it. Most men don’t see that their child’s pants are two inches too short — moms do. Then we add it to the ever-growing list.
If he needed something, he’d ask me where it was. I did the laundry and if something wasn’t clean, he’d make do until it was. I made the doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, and when I got pulled over with three small kids in the car because the inspection was four months past due, I realized I needed to add that to my list as well.
The thing about moms is that as soon as we give birth, all sensors and alarms in our body and mind go off: Is the baby hungry? Are they breathing the right way? Why does our vagina feel like this and is it normal? Do we have enough food in the house if people come over to see the baby? What’s that strange smell and what if we never feel like having sex again?
Meanwhile, the dudes are over there showing their friends how they can position their baby’s hand so it looks like they are giving them the finger, as they ask us where their phone is so they can take a picture.
No one asks a mom if she’s worn out from doing too much. No one thinks much of it if they hear about a working mom who is raising kids and is the one who does all the cooking, cleaning, and planning.
But when a dad is seen out in public with the kids and the dog at the park — then gathers them all up to hit the grocery store to get the ingredients to make a nice meal — people of the world look at him like he’s a movie star and should be wearing a cape.
The mental load has always fallen more heavily on us and the support to deal with it doesn’t exist. We are told to stop freaking out, to let things slide, to live in the moment, to leave it until tomorrow.
Dads aren’t worried about hurting anyone’s feelings, the state of the house when someone comes over, or if their kids wear matching socks to school. And we all know they definitely aren’t thinking about how they need to hurry up and shit so they can help their wife make dinner.
When this pandemic hit and schools were canceled, I was trying to get my kids set up for online learning as I was trying to work from home. My ex-husband sent me a text asking me how we were going to get through this and if I could make sure the kids had their work done before he picked them up so they could relax.
He told me to make sure they weren’t just on their phones all day. Then he sealed it with a nice, “I think you are letting them eat too much fast food. Oh, and can you see about when their dentist appointment will be rescheduled?”
This was proof he had no problem asking me to do things, because I’ve just always taken care of them. But it was also proof that he literally didn’t have an ounce of guilt about passing the buck.
Pandemic life brings a whole new set of challenges. A friend of mine told me she and her husband fight when they get home from the grocery store because he’s fine with putting groceries away without wiping anything down, so it falls on her.
Another working mom told me her business has slowed way down and all her extra time is “spent helping the kids with their homework and trying to keep my business afloat in between doing all the other things I used to do while my husband has an incredibly hard time handling bedtime by himself so I can get a head start on working before it gets too late.”
I’m dating a man who is in his 40s. We’ve both been having Zoom calls with our friends. While I talk with my mom friends about the financial worry this is bringing, how concerned we are for our children’s well being, and how damn tired we are, the men talk about that time they got wasted in college and passed out in front on their dorm in their undies.
They aren’t lying in bed thinking about what they need to do the next day to keep things running smoothly. They don’t feel like they need to be in charge of everyone’s feelings and well being while they let their own languish on the back burner.
We are tired because we are always thinking about what’s next, the tasks that need to be completed (even if we aren’t the ones who need to complete them), and how everyone else is doing during the days of COVID-19. There are many partners out there who tell us we should just speak up and ask for what we need and they will gladly help, but the asking is just one more thing we have to do.
Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist tells Today Parents: “Even though men have certainly stepped up to the plate, whenever there’s extra work to be done, it tends to fall on moms because we’re caregivers and we want to make sure that everyone is happy. Women really do take on that dual role even when they’re working outside of the house and especially when they’re in the house.”
No truer words have ever been spoken.
So yeah, moms of the world are burnt to a crisp right now. If you are wondering why you are so drained, tired, and short tempered, that is why. Your already-overburdened mental load just doubled thanks to COVID-19 — and all I can say to you is, you’re not wrong for feeling this way, and you’re not alone.
There should be free healing seminars for us nationwide when this is over … or at least a whole hell of a lot of slacking spouses coming to some hard realizations about shared responsibility.