Bliss Counselling | The Mental Load
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The Mental Load

The Mental Load

What is the mental load?

The mental load is emotional labour. It’s those things that we do that we don’t physically see but are constantly at play in partnerships. Although this load can be carried by partners of either gender, current statistics suggest that it is “typically” carried by women. The issue with the mental load is that it often breeds resentment in relationships can affect them on many levels – mental health, intimacy, desire. Carrying a greater mental load doesn’t mean that one partner doesn’t want to assist, it may just be that one person is better at organization or planning; they may do it willingly at first but over time, it starts to take a toll on the individual and ultimately the relationship. Some examples of the mental load include:

  • Planning family get-togethers/functions, children’s birthdays, religious occasions;
  • Noticing when household items are running low, making a plan to go and pick up the items or even requesting the items be picked up;
  • Purchasing and wrapping gifts;
  • Keeping track of school functions, ensuring homework is completed, remembering parent teacher nights;
  • Planning date nights or family vacations;
  • Arranging children’s camps, summer caregivers;
  • Meal planning;
  • Taking family photos;
  • Children’s immunization schedules and;
  • Cleaning up prior to guests arriving.

 

Below is a chart (adapted from the Gottman institute) to use as a way to assess the workload that can often lead to resentment and a list of common chores and things involved in our day to day lives that can add up, depending on how we have decided to share the load.  There is no such thing as 50/50 split. It should not be what we strive for. But, this is an easy way to see where we can re-evaluate how tasks are considered and distributed. Please use the chart as a tool to see how the workload is dispersed. This can help couples consider alternative options and gain insight into how the “load” is distributed. Remember even doing this together is a way to build connection and have important conversations with your partner. You don’t have to agree. You just need to listen to one another.

 

Common household roles and responsibilities: (feel free to add any additional ones that are not on the list)

  • Creating grocery list
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking dinners
  • Making lunches
  • Washing dishes
  • Emptying dishwasher
  • Drying dishes
  • Menu planning
  • Cleaning the shower/tub
  • Cleaning the toilet
  • Cleaning bathroom counters
  • Replacing toilet paper
  • Washing and putting out clean towels
  • Cleaning kitchen counters
  • Emptying garbage/green bin
  • Taking out garbage/recycling/ green bins
  • Getting the care services
  • Putting gas in the care
  • Getting the mail
  • Sorting the mail
  • Sending mail
  • Paying bills
  • Doing laundry
  • Folding laundry
  • Putting laundry away
  • Ironing
  • Sweeping the floors
  • Mopping the floors
  • Changing the light bulbs
  • Repairing/replacing appliances
  • Cleaning out the fridge
  • Cleaning the stove
  • Making the bed
  • Shopping for new clothes
  • Planning trips/vacations
  • Home repairs
  • Buying new furniture
  • Redecorating
  • Buying household items
  • Sewing/mending clothes
  • Cleaning cabinets
  • Organizing cabinets
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Gardening
  • Weeds
  • Snow removal
  • Cleaning up the leaves
  • Going to the bank
  • Donating old household items
  • Preparing for guests
  • Buying gifts for family/friends
  • Taking kids to school
  • Taking pets to boarder
  • Arranging childcare
  • Arranging pet care
  • Spending time with kids
  • Planning family outings
  • Feeding the pets
  • Meal prep for the kids
  • Grooming the pets
  • Taking kids to the doctor
  • Scheduling doctors appointments
  • Immunization schedules
  • Picking up medications
  • Taking kids to the dentist
  • Taking the kids for haircuts
  • Walking the dog
  • Taking pets to vet
  • Carpooling to activities
  • Arranging carpools
  • Supervising homework
  • Supervising bathing
  • Putting toys away
  • Responding to kid’s emotions
  • Dog training
  • Supervising bed time
  • Taking care of a sick child
  • Attending teacher meetings
  • Dealing with the school
  • Arranging play dates
  • Holiday preparation
  • Shopping for holidays
  • Decorating for holidays
  • Arranging date nights
  • Planning weekends
  • Initiating sex or intimacy
  • Financial planning
  • Making big purchases, ex. Cars
  • Managing investments
  • Planning for retirement
  • Arranging time with friends
  • Doing taxes
  • Handling legal matters
  • Watering the plants
  • Changing the furnace filter
  • Refilling the water softener
  • Buying stamps
  • Changing the water filter
  • Keeping track of birthdays, anniversaries
  • Vacuuming
  • Renewing insurance for home and car
  • Researching purchases
  • Sending out thank-you cards
  • Initiating emotional connection
  • Initiating difficult conversations
  • Purchasing new electronics for the home
  • Signing up kids for camps/activities
  • Cleaning windows
  • Cleaning mirrors
  • Dusting
  • Cleaning up spills
  • Cleaning the inside of the car
  • Washing the car
  • Cleaning rugs
  • Creating a budget
  • Cleaning the gutters
  • Hiring a housekeeper
  • Finding a tutor
  • Finding a therapist
  • Making store returns
  • Getting cash for the sitter, cleaning company
  • Paying membership dues
  • Packing for vacations
  • Calling the cable/telephone company when issues arise
  • Planning physical activity
  • Reading books about parenting/relationships
  • Arranging santa/easter bunny/tooth fairy rituals
  • Keeping track of where items are put in the home
  • Checking for expired food items
  • Arranging care for aging parents

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Written by Tammy Benwell

Tammy Benwell is a Registered Social Worker at Bliss Counselling who holds an undergraduate degree in Social Work from the University of Waterloo and Master’s degree in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her formal training focused on interventions for individuals, families, and groups, across various therapeutic orientations.

Tammy has been afforded extensive opportunities working in mental health, supporting clients with various mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and trauma. Tammy can assist individuals with relationship struggles, codependency, infidelity, separation and divorce, substance abuse, low self-esteem, family concerns, and life transitions. She has additional training in the areas of trauma counselling, and has been trained in EMDR through the Niagara Stress and Trauma Clinic.

Tammy believes in fostering a collaborative, therapeutic relationship within which clients are best able to direct their own care. In addition to providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families, her work has also involved finding community supports for clients in distress, assisting with life transitions, and enhancing effective interpersonal communication styles. Tammy embraces an eclectic therapeutic orientation in her practice, tailoring interventions to meet the client’s individualized needs. Tammy’s philosophy is best described as one which helps clients understand their role and their ability to achieve their desired happiness.