The Editor’s Desk: You should’ve asked

A comic about what a French author calls the ‘mental load’ strikes a chord

Have you ever come across a word or phrase that you had not previously heard of, which perfectly describes something you understand completely but didn’t even know had a name?

It happened to me recently, when I read an article that pointed me to a comic by a French cartoonist named Emma, called “You Should’ve Asked”. It describes the situation of many heterosexual women who are married or have partners, and who usually have children, who bear what Emma calls the “mental load” in the family.

The mental load is that unseen, unacknowledged, but omnipresent list that many women (and probably some men, but in my experience it’s mostly a woman’s responsibility) carry around with them all the time. It’s an ever-changing list, but a typical one might look like this:

“I need to check and see when the cat is due for his shots, and sign off on the form for Emily’s field trip. And it’s my sister-in-law’s birthday next week, so I better get a card and send it off. Oh, right, we’re almost out of laundry detergent, which reminds me that the sheets need to be washed in the next couple of days. There’s a non-instructional day next Friday, so that might be a good time to see if we can get Jackson into the dentist for a check-up. And I better check the fridge to see what vegetables we have if we’re going to have stew tonight.”

I am not saying men don’t carry a mental load around with them, but I suspect that when it comes to households it’s the woman who bears the brunt, perpetually thinking of all those things that keep families ticking along. And of course most men are probably fine with sending off that birthday card or making a dentist appointment, but since they’re not the ones with these things as part of their mental load, they don’t think of it until/unless they’re asked to do it.

(As an aside, here’s where women often do themselves no favours. The stereotypical women who expects her husband/partner to read her mind, then gets annoyed when he fails to do so, is a cliché, but like most clichés it has gained that status because it’s true.)

This situation—the woman carrying the mental load and then having to ask for things on it to be done—makes the woman, in Emma’s words, the “household management team leader”, with her husband/partner an underling who has to be asked/directed to do things. She notes that one problem with that is that planning and organizing things is already a full-time job, adding that when she began organizing projects at work she stopped participating in them; she didn’t have the time.

In the comic, a woman is pictured at a sink full of dirty dishes. Looking at them in despair, she asks “You didn’t do the dishes?” Her husband replies “Well you never asked.” Another example she cites is a friend who had recently had a baby asking her husband, before she went to bed, to get the baby’s bottle out of the dishwasher when the load was done.

When she got up for the first feed of the night, she found the bottle on the counter, as requested, and the rest of the clean dishes still in the dishwasher.

We don’t learn the follow-up to that, but I suspect that if the wife had inquired why her husband hadn’t emptied the entire dishwasher, the reply would have been along the lines of “You didn’t ask me to.” Perhaps she should have, but on the other hand, she shouldn’t have had to.

Knowing the term “mental load” doesn’t make it go away, but it does explain a good deal. And there’s a simple solution, or rather two. Women: don’t expect the man in your life to read your mind. Men: don’t wait to be asked. Everyone’s life will be much happier (and the entire dishwasher might get emptied).

Read “You Should’ve Asked” at http://bit.ly/2RUF5NH.



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Highway 1, crime and pipeline debated at Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon forum

Five candidates for the riding debated the issues Thursday in Abbotsford

Heated cross-riding clash at debate between NDP’s Nenn on stage, Conservative Fast in crowd

Candidates from different ridings show anger during Thursday’s all-candidates meeting in Abbotsford

RCMP officers recognized for fighting Ashcroft wildfire, taking down Hells Angels

Officers were recognized for fighting the 2017 Ashcroft fire and dismantling a Hells Angles ring

Advance voting in 2019 federal election begins

Voting at advance polling stations has become a popular choice in Canada over the years

Future remains unclear for Historic Hat Creek Ranch

Proposed one-year extension to site management agreement creates instability

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

‘Wham-bam out the door’: Surrey man’s front yard left ruined by scamming landscaper

Resident warns neighbours to be careful of door-to-door salesmen

Most Read