I Was Interviewed for Research About The Mental Load. This Is What I Said.

They got more than they bargained for

Jae L

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Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Recently I participated in a university research project about women and the mental load. It’s a concept that I find endlessly fascinating and multi-layered so I jumped at the chance to put my two cents worth in.

The idea of the mental load first rose to prominence as a rallying cry from women fed up with their male partners not doing their fair share. It shone a light on the invisible labor associated with keeping a household and family running.

The mental load is not just about the physical tasks, but the overseeing of them. It involves anticipating needs, identifying options, making decisions and monitoring progress.

What makes the mental load so maddeningly difficult to grapple with is its invisibility. It can look like two people are doing an equal amount of work but one of those people is doing a lot more because the responsibility for getting things done rests with them. It’s why “just get a cleaner” is never the right answer.

The invisibility of the mental load means it is largely unacknowledged by those who do not carry it. Carrying the mental load is the inescapable burden of knowing that if you don’t keep track of things, no-one else will. You don’t have the luxury of slackening off because there will be no-one else to pick up the ball if you drop it.

The mental load is not just a series of tasks to be ticked off, but an ever-present sense of obligation with no clear beginning or end. It’s like a cloud hanging over you even when you’re not consciously worrying about anything in particular.

Most people aren’t aware of it because it’s just what they do. They focus on the tasks to be done while the work in managing the responsibility remains hidden. And it has a way of creeping up, leading to overwhelm, burnout, anxiety and depression. And because it’s so difficult to articulate, resentment builds just as emotional regulation is faltering. It’s a lot to hold together.

This is what the mental load looks like for me

I wasted no time in giving the lovely researcher conducting the Zoom interview a comprehensive rundown of the…

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Jae L

Queer, neurodivergent and in the business of defying expectations. Doing my best to answer the questions I keep asking myself. diverge999@gmail.com