Erin Stewart: Why we need to address the ‘mental load’ for moms

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When Erin Stewart sat her husband down to vent about why moms do more than dads, she was not prepared for his response.

Mothers everywhere are nodding their heads in agreement with a cartoon that’s taken the internet by storm. The sketches explain the phenomenon of the “mental load,” which is a term most women have experienced but maybe didn’t have a name for — until now.

The cartoon “You should’ve asked,” by French cartoonist Emma, shows a mother doing everything for her family until eventually she asks her husband to help. He replies, “You didn’t ask.” Those simple words send the message the woman is not only responsible for doing most of the tasks, but also for planning and directing them. This invisible “mental load” means women end up doing way more than their fair share of household duties.

I identified immediately with the cartoon. My husband and I don’t fight often, but when we do, you can bet it’s about equity. Who is doing more? Who woke up more often with the baby? Who is contributing the most and who is slacking off?

So the idea of the mental load intrigued me. Could this be the unnamed inequality I feel but can’t explain? When my husband has the kids, for example, his job is simple: Keep them alive.

But when I have the kids (which is most of the time), the job includes not just survival, but coordinating lessons and activities, stretching budgets, fostering friendships, nurturing self-esteem, establishing long-term goals, promoting healthy eating, organizing bedrooms, teaching life-skills like shoe tying, shopping for school supplies and encouraging a sense of civil engagement…

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