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

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Technology allows TNRD residents to see the heat

A new library program allows residents to borrow a thermal imaging camera and check for heat loss

Are you a victim of the thermostat wars?

The battle over the thermostat is quite heated in many households.

Community Income Tax volunteers will be at local libraries to help with tax returns

Lower-income singles and families can take advantage of free tax return service

Local News Briefs: Free Family Day weekend movie at the HUB

Plus an ice fishing derby, a Fancy Schmancy Tea Party, the Million Dollar Bursary is back, and more.

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

B.C. pot giant Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

Most Read