Sharing the Load: How to manage gender equality at home

Susanna Kahr

If you’re a woman who feels like you have to manage everything at home and in the office, then you’re far from alone. Women everywhere are talking about how their husbands, boyfriends and male housemates expect them to have a handle on the household chores and let them know when things need doing. This feeling finally has a name – we’re talking about mental load! So, ladies and gents, listen up, here’s how to ensure that you share the mental load between you and keep the balance right at home. 

What is mental load?

Mental load, otherwise known as emotional labor, is that well-known feeling of constantly having too much going on in your mind. The viral comic “The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic,” which started the conversation in 2017, really nails it. At the start, it shows a stressed out mom who is trying to juggle cooking a meal and feeding her kids before exploding at her husband, who replies “You should have asked! I would have helped.” This is something that so many of us recognize in our own households, but has been difficult to explain until now. 

If you’re constantly trying to work out your shopping list for the week, planning and cooking for the week, working out who will pick up your kids from school or nursery on what day, making sure that your kids (and your partner) pack everything everyday, managing the laundry, delegating the cleaning tasks etc. etc. then you probably feel like a project manager at home. At the office we have a word for it, but at home we just don’t. Running a household is a full-time job which more often than not falls on women. When the men in your life expect you to tell them when to do the laundry, when to clean and what to pick up from the store, they expect you to be the manager of the household chores and this means that you have to carry the mental load. 

But it’s not just your personal and home life which suffer under the mental load. Many working women with families end up stepping off the leadership track due to the combined stress of their daytime job and managing their household and family care. This home management is constant, unrecognized and unpaid, and because it falls so often on women, it has a big impact on their ability to get into leadership roles, thus affecting gender equality in the workplace all around the world. 

With that in mind, the best place to fix this is at home! It’s time to start recognizing how much you’re taking on and redress the balance. 

“I do feel the hours could be a little more balanced for employees to balance home life.” – anonymous employer review at LossPrevention

Here are 5 tips for women on how to redress the balance.

1. Make your invisible labor known! Tell your partner what you do on a daily basis, not in a nagging way but in a way that they will understand. Tell them how many loads of laundry you have to do, how many trips to the store you have to take per week, how long it takes you to plan meals for everyone and how much time you spend thinking about all the chores that need doing. Once your partner understands all of this, they will be able to share the load with you.

2. If you can, take shared parental leave, let your partner spend one-on-one time with your new baby and find out for themselves just how much you have to do during the day.

3. If you can’t take parental leave together, then do a handover when you go back to work. Sit down and work out who will take on what task and empower your partner to step up and share the load. Parenting is a team effort.

4. If it’s already got bad, then you might want to consider making less effort in certain areas in an effort to make your partner realize that you have too much on your plate. You could neglect the laundry or the dishes and see how long it takes for your partner to realize you need support.

5. Prioritize. Women are conditioned to take pride in running their households and ensuring that their homes are kept clean and tidy. Add to this the unrealistic standards we’re exposed to everyday on social media and it’s easy to see why we’re stressed out. But, you need to remind yourself that it doesn’t need to be perfect all the time. Set your priorities straight and make sure your partner knows which things are non-negotiable i.e. the dishes, and which things aren’t so urgent. That way you’ll be on the same page and you will be able to work better together.

“I’ve had supervision on a few levels encourage and remind me to go home and enjoy life too.” – anonymous employer review at GEICO

And here are 5 tips for the guys who want to support their partners as best they can:

1. Talk to your partner about what the chores that need doing on a day to day basis and listen to what they have to say about their mental load. Work out between you, what you can do to share this load as fairly as possible.

2. Work out which chores you are willing to take on, and make sure that some of those are more time-intensive such as meal planning, to ensure that the load is balanced between the two of you.

3. Think of yourself as a project manager and equal partner instead of a helping hand. By all means ask for advice, but make these tasks your own, and take pride in getting them done.

4. Find some good solutions for you both. Think creatively about how to manage the load and suggest some solutions such as investing in a meal-kit subscription so that your groceries for a number of meals are delivered every week, relieving the stress of meal planning. Or, invest in a robotic vacuum cleaner that can vacuum your floors while you’re out of the house.

5. Take parental leave – if your company offers it, you should definitely take some time to look after your child one-on-one. Not only will this strengthen your bond, it will also help you to understand what is required of you and your partner when it comes to parenting.

“The management has been flexible to help me balance home and work life.” – anonymous employer review at Horizon Eye Care

 

We want to hear from you. What’s your company like for new parents and working mums? Do you have flexible schedules and paid parental leave or does your company fail to acknowledge that you have a life outside the office? Tell us all about it in a review on our site and help others to find the perfect job for them. 

 

+++

Here at kununu, one of the world’s largest employer rating platforms, we’re on a mission to make the world of work more transparent. Write a review and let us know what your company is doing, or not doing, for gender equality. 

 

share your voice