Lightening the Mental Load
The arduous task of planning and organizing the household is an invisible phenomenon called the mental load.
Planning and organizing is an endless cycle in home management. Meal plans, organizing schedules, due dates, and managing the budget are only some of the things that require planning ahead for a smooth family routine. Arduous and time consuming, the stress that I feel handling these invisible task is real.
It’s hard to prove that you’ve been productive at home when there is no proof of the invisible task we do to make sure the household is on track. I feel tired but I also feel it’s not acceptable to say that all those thinking and planning is more tiring than my full time job.
There is no way to lighten this endless mental load but to share it with V. The most difficult part is learning how to communicate about it to my husband. At first, I sounded grumpy and complaining too much of him. It wasn’t until a huge fight that I was able to modify my communication style. It was hard to share the list in my head without sounding judgmental or impatient because I have to explain things in details. I would rather do all of it on my own than explain. The problem lies in the fact that I can’t do all of it on my own… I am lucky to have a patient man.
No day is perfect but we try to get better everyday.
The huge fight that has lead me to become better at communicating my thoughts to my husband was back in 2005. 14 years later, V and I share my mental load more efficiently. Here’s what’s working for us:
1. Slow Down with Chores and Commitments
I need a day in a week where I slow down from commitments, errands, and chores. I use this time to think of our plans of the previous, present and next week. When things get busy and I don’t have the luxury to slow down, I just choose 3 important tasks we need to accomplish and force a day within the next three days to slow down.
2. Make a To Do List
I am dependent on lists. It’s the only way I can make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I have a list of things to buy, a list of when payments are due, a list of things I need to do, appointment lists, list of what I want to do, a list of passwords and accounts… it goes on. Lists, for as long as it’s correct and realistic, saves time, is efficient and lessens anxiety.
3. Set Reminders
I never leave without my phone. It is the only thing that I know I will pay attention to whenever it makes a sound. I take advantage of that by setting up reminders in my phone.
4. Timing is Gold
By knowing our individual schedules, we know when to bring up a subject or not. We also know how to adjust our schedules if needed. Schedules are guidelines for us. We haven’t been able to follow it perfectly because something always comes up. I have accepted this, I have also mastered the art of adjusting our schedules as needed.
At least once a week, when I know V is ready to give me his undivided attention, I share with him my mental load. This is when we talk about our schedules, budget, appointments and splitting of chores. We don’t do 50/50. It has never worked for us. Some days he does more. Some days I do more.What’s important is we agreed who does what.
6. We Go Out
We don’t do fancy. We never have. Mainly because we can’t afford it. But we go out. We like to explore local restaurants. Talking about our family stuff seems easier for us when we eat out. Subjects don’t sound serious and boring and heavy. As soon as we are done talking about my mental load, we talk about the food and take walks. It’s sounds simple but I must admit, it has taken a lot of practice to get to this level of communication where we are now.
7. Accept the Task of Following Up Once in a While
It has taken me a long time to accept this. I get easily irritated when I need to repeat myself. But following up with V is something I had to do, calmly. He depends on me to remind him of due dates and things that needs to get done especially when we have too much to do with very little time. That’s why I make a list for him. The good news is he likes his list that I make for him.
V and I have been to hell and back. Perhaps couples who have been married for more than half of their lives have. We’ve done the hard work. We keep doing the hard work. This time, it just looks easier for us because we know how to do it better.