[2023/04/11] mental load

I read an enlightening comic called “You should’ve asked,” shared by my friend BAT. It is a crisp illustration of “mental load,” a term coined by feminists for “always having to remember.” In a project, the leader’s main responsibility is to organize and plan everything. They have to remember and outline things, such as placing orders, creating work schedules, delegating team members, etc. It is a full-time job. They work with team members to ensure tasks are completed. In a household, when one person manages the house chores, they are doing the work of a full-time manager. There are a million things this person has to remember, including buying vegetables, picking up clothes, meal prepping, and cleaning the table. So, if they also execute them, they take up at least 75% of the work. This mental load, therefore, is permanent and exhausting but also invisible. Unfortunately, most women are defaulted to do this.

I then thought about the mental load on my family and my life. I realize how prevalent it is. In my family, my mom is responsible for household tasks, while my dad is in charge of other “big events.” However, I always wonder why my mom has to do so much more. Now I learn that this is because she has so many small items to manage and remember. When she heads out to the supermarket, she might also have to buy medicines for me or mail a box simultaneously. She takes on this heavy mental load because she takes charge of household tasks, while my dad’s responsibility usually involves “important” and long-term tasks. Even though he has to financially execute or manage them, they still involve my mom’s decision and do not require that much mental load. When we were building the vacation house, my dad hired a construction team and oversaw them. But small things like picking up paperwork or buying new items were all in my mom’s hands again. My dad did not have to take on this mental load. He only has to execute things around the house.

Translating this to the relationship between me and KF, I see that I am also taking on the mental load, at least in my apartment and when we hang out together. I get it, it’s my place, and I should own my responsibility. However, I sometimes feel very annoyed that after we eat, KF would go straight into my bedroom and not be worried about anything around the kitchen area/dining area. If I ever asked for his help, he would ask me what to do, and I would say something like, “Could you help me clean the table?” He then cleaned it and played on his phone. When I finally finished washing the dishes, I would come back to see that the table was clean, but the towels were not in the right place, and everything else was cluttering it. So I would have to put them all away myself. This task, again, is my mental load. I am the project manager of my house, and I have to remember to do every single tiny task to keep it tidy the way I want it to be.

So, in the future, if I ever move in and live with someone, I want us to both have ownership of our place so we can own the workflow and divide up the mental load among ourselves. In a project, if a member only does what they are told, they will never understand why they do it and will be unable to contribute value to the team. What makes another member more valuable is knowing exactly why they do what they do to contribute to the big picture. So, if they see that what is instructed is invaluable to the final result, they will voice their concern, and we can work together to see what needs to be adjusted.

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