How do we Smash the Mental Load??

Raising a son is not something that I take lightly. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to teach him to be a kind, respectful man. Since he was tiny, I've made sure that he has had baby dolls, play food and other toys that aren't typical boy toys.  I have been using the word "consent" for years and setting boundaries when it comes to touch and encouraging him to ask his friends before hugging them or holding their hands.

I don't take raising a daughter lightly either. But I feel a lot more confident that she will see me being the badass, eff the patriarchy kind of woman that I am and she'll know that she doesn't have to take any crap from anyone, she can be whatever she wants to be and doesn't have to get her ass grabbed to get there.

And I'm starting to feel pretty confident that my son is getting what we're teaching him. I see him setting boundaries with his own body, respecting boundaries that other people set and just being a kind little sweetie-pie.

But the other day, I was thinking about something else: the Mental Load.  I've mentioned the Mental Load before in this piece called The Illusion of Help. When I first read about the Mental Load, it felt like an epiphany and it's something I think a lot about.

The Mental Load is the invisible work that falls on women: like what size clothes your kids are in and what they need at any given moment, making sure that toilet paper makes it on the grocery list, getting a gift for your brother-in-law's birthday party coming up, the deadline for soccer signs ups, the allergen-friendly snack you need for the play date next week, knowing that the pile of laundry on the couch needs to actually be folded and folding it and putting it away and on and on.

As much as my mother raised me to be a bit of a badass: I still carry the Mental Load. And I don't even know how I learned that it was my "job" to keep track of all of this stuff. My husband is generally happy to help with all of it, but he still needs me to be the foreman of our family. And when discussing this the other day, he doesn't recall ever learning that this was a "wife's" job or ever being told he wouldn't have to worry about all of these things. But it's certainly not something that he naturally thinks of. He even said that there were certain things that he'd just go without when he was single and lived alone. Like toilet paper. He wouldn't remember to pick up toilet paper until he'd run out of tissues, paper towels napkins and coffee filters. (Love you, babes.)

It does seem like certain characteristics and traits are just innately male and female. It doesn't have to be this way. And it certainly doesn't work for things to be this way anymore when we live in a society that doesn't give mothers much of a maternity leave and forces most mothers to work full time outside of the home.

So how do we change these unspoken roles that are just ingrained in us? How do we teach our children about true partnership? How do we Smash the Mental Load?

I don't have an answer. And I've been thinking about this constantly for days.

Do I just speak about the things that I do in front of both of my children? Make them both aware of all of the things that happen to make a family run smoothly?

Does anybody have any ideas? I'd love to start a discussion and be able to come back with another post full of ways that we can Smash the Mental Load.

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  1. so interesting! I think you have to do more than just speak about it though. Kids pick up so much subliminally that your daughter may just see you doing it and therefor relate to it and your son may not see dad ever doing it so he may not relate to it. I’ve begun to slowly notice/learn kids pickup from behavior as much as from us teaching. As “bad ass” and independent as I want my 2 girls to be I have to make a very pointed effort to reflect being a bad ass because my nature is to “fallback” and not “stir the pot” etc etc.

    1. Thanks so much for that insight, Amber! I hadn't thought about it that way, I am also definitely one to fall back on things!


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