I was recently intrigued by this visual depiction of women’s workload and this related article that describes the “mental load” that is carried by most women who are homemakers. While I’m not crazy about the underlying tones in these pieces of that infer mothering and maintaining the home are insignificant drudgery or that all men are clueless when it comes to homemaking, I think there are important points to be considered.
The basic gist of these pieces is that most women act not only as the primarily homemakers with all the tasks that role entails but also as the “project manager” for the whole family. Because she is in charge of the big picture, for anyone to assist her in household duties, she must know what to ask for and delegate that task. This results in women taking on 75% or more of the work it requires to run a home/family.
This model makes sense if women are taking on the bulk of household management because they are staying home and the family can be supported by the husband’s income alone. But that’s not the reality for many families (including mine). In our current economic situation in which most families can’t survive on one income, women take on multiple full-time jobs. Working full-time outside the home, managing the family, maintaining the home, and doing the majority of care for the children feels like an impossible work load for mere mortals.
The conversation surrounding the idea of the “mental load” prompted me to consider how we share the important tasks of running our home and family. Although we’ve never written it out, Daniel and I have fallen into a kind of rhythm that ebbs and flows according to who is working more at the time and what our family needs (as well as what each of us enjoy and are most skilled to tackle). I thought I’d share what has worked for us and I’m interested to hear what works for you.
Because I homeschool and work from home (here’s a breakdown of my typical day) I do handle a lot of the home management simply because Daniel is away from home more than I am.
Things I do:
–Laundry (I actually kind of like laundry because I watch movies while folding.)
–Grocery shopping (Daniel used to do this, then I discovered curbside pickup and it changed my life.)
–Homeschool planning (Ordering materials, homeschool co-op participation, daily work with kids.)
–Doctor’s appointments for the kids
–Decluttering/Donating items we don’t need
–Purchasing necessities for the home and kids (local Buy Nothing group, online consignment, or Amazon)
–Some cooking and meal planning
Things Daniel spearheads:
–Cooking (and bringing home meat and veggies from the farm)
–Financial planning/Banking/Bill paying/Taxes
–Backyard chicken care
–Cleaning the bathroom
–Organizing family trips
–Putting the kids to bed
–Setting up family calendar
–Cleaning their rooms
–Taking out trash/compost
–Clearing the dining room table
I don’t think there’s any one way to run a household. Families are different, have different work/life situations, and different people are skilled at and enjoy different things.
My husband is an amazing cook. He puts on farm-to-table meals for more than 100 people. He can create masterpieces out of what I think is an empty pantry. It would just be insane for me to cook every night in some misguided attempt to conform to conventional roles. We would be missing out on great food. And furthermore, since cooking isn’t a passion for me, I would be taking on a task that does not boost my creative energy and would be depriving Daniel of using his creativity in a way that makes him come alive (and bless our family).
Different things also bother me more than Daniel and vice versa. I feel anxious when the house feels cluttered and the floors are sticky so those are things that are at the top of my priority list. Daniel really hates dirty dishes on the counter and messy sink in the bathroom so he makes it a priority to tackle those things. Different strokes, y’all. I do think it’s important to remember that if a certain task is very important to you but not to your spouse, instead of being frustrated that your spouse isn’t taking care of it, add it to your own to do list. Problem solved.
But however you share the tasks of homemaking, those acts of service for your family that make it a home are meaningful. Don’t let anybody tell you they’re merely drudgery. Because every act of love matters.
How do you manage the “mental load” of homemaking and the tasks that are necessary for your home and family to run smoothly? Let’s chat in the comments!