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The ‘mental load’ is burning women out

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IT’S 6.30pm. The kids are in their high chairs and you’re trying to coax them to eat while keeping an eye on the stove.

Your partner comes home, dumps his bag on the floor, pats the baby on the head, and tells you about his day. “That’s great,” you reply, “can you feed the cats?” Two minutes later, “that’s great, can you put this stuff back into the fridge?” “That’s great, can you give the baby something to eat?” “Awesome, can you set the table?”

It continues during dinner. “Sounds fascinating, can you hold that thought while I run the baby’s bath? And book her in to get vaccinated? And remember to write ‘soap’ on the shopping list because you used the last one and I’m showering with baby shampoo? And hold that thought while I throw on a load of laundry so we all have something to wear tomorrow, book the incontinent cat in at the vet, and — holy crap — I just tripped over your bag.”

Sound familiar? It’s called ‘The Mental Load’, and the scene above was brilliantly depicted in a recent comic that went viral by French artist ‘Emma’.

A.V. Williams

  The mental load is the running commentary that plays in the minds of (mostly) women, of all the things that need doing that no one else sees but you. And the mental load doesn’t respect downtime. You may be snuggling with your partner in front of the TV, but you’re actually wondering if it will rain on the laundry overnight because the kids are down to their last socks.

Think of a household like a company running several ongoing projects all in different stages (cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills, maintenance, childcare, etc.), and you’re the project manager for all of them.

“The problem is this is a whole job in itself,” Emma says in the comic. “So when we ask women to take on this task of organisation, and at the same time execute a large portion, in the end it represents 75 per cent of the work.”

Like all forms of inequality, the people who profit from it tend not to see it. According to research by sociologist Dr Leah Ruppanner, “when women start to cohabit, their housework time goes up while men’s goes down, regardless of their employment status.”

(Interestingly Ruppanner’s research also found that “when men don’t do an equal share of housework, those men end up divorced.”)

How did ‘women can do anything’ became ‘let’s stick them with everything’? Yes, men do vastly more housework than they did 50 years ago (up from ‘nothing’) but they’ve kept the luxury of switching their brains off at home. Women get home from work and know they have another four to five hour shift ahead of them. And the women who work part-time end up picking up so much slack at home they end up working twice as hard, for less money.

How did it get this way? Culturally we still depict home as the ‘woman’s domain’. Advertising perpetuates the myth that it’s not masculine to be anything above barely competent. Hapless mere males who can barely keep it together when left alone with their own kids and a pile of laundry reinforce the idea that it’s funny for men to shirk their share and heroic of women to swoop in and save the day. We’re meant to find it hilarious that while men can get it together to be the CEO of everything, they can’t follow the care instructions on a jumper.

Children soak up these messages and learn to tie their worth to the values they espouse. Men go out into the world and have adventures while women are wise caregivers who always know where your soccer shoes are when you need them. How fulfilling!

“Once we become mothers this double responsibility blows up in our face,” writes Emma. “And once we’re back at work, things will get so hellish that it will feel less exhausting to keep doing everything rather than battle with our partner to do his share.”

“It’s permanent and exhausting work. And it’s invisible.”

I know; ‘just don’t do it,’ right? The trouble is if no one does it, things fall apart and you end up having to step in after the bill hasn’t been paid, the kid’s had cold pizza for lunch every day, the car didn’t get registered and mould grew on piles of wet towels.


1. Factor in the mental load as an actual job in itself when dividing household responsibilities so you don’t do it on top of everything else.

2. Delegate whole areas of responsibility in addition to specific tasks like dishes. Eg. “I’ll stay on top of the kids’ and pets’ medical visits and you take responsibility for school lunches.”

3. I’m afraid you have to let some standards drop. Work out the most amount of domestic chaos you can tolerate and then let it go. On the plus side, when you step back, someone else might just step up.

4. Stop stepping in to make life more comfortable for others. If something doesn’t affect you (or a young child) directly, don’t do it. Instead of constantly organising and reminding, it’s more effective to let people feel the effects of their own behaviour (missed appointments, late fines etc.). Endure the mild discomfort while they have the dignity of learning for themselves.

And finally, when your partner does star taking responsibility for a new area, let them work it out on their own. Resist the urge to criticise or “rescue”. And while they’re figuring it out, grab a book, turn on Netflix, leave the house without giving instructions. Switch off and let someone else figure it out. And repeat.



Women handling the mental load
posted Jul 20, 2017 by Gowri Vimalan

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The other day, a reader wrote this: “My child is lying to get out of trouble.  My daughter is in the habit of lying in order to get out of trouble. How do I encourage her to tell the truth, even when it may mean consequences?

by Becky Mansfield


So, we asked other parents to chime in and give us their best advice.  It was great, of course.  Here is what you said you do to encourage your kids to stop lying, even if it means that they might get into trouble.

  1. A fun way to work on this is to play a game together. Talk about the rules before you play.  Ask your kids what they would think if someone cheated, just to win.
  2. We always say that we would rather our kids be honest up front.  We talk to them about it (not while it is happening, but all of the time).  We want them to know that lying now is not a good idea, and the truth will always come out… even if it is much later.
  3. I check my emotions. It is easy to overreact in the moment which then can cause kids to lie because they fear your overreaction.  Take a minute and count to 20 before reacting to any situation.
  4. Share about your mistakes openly with your kids. Kids can struggle with honesty because they fear disappointing their parents. Make it a habit to talk about what you failed at so they know you are not perfect.
  5. Hold a family meeting and go over consequences. Sometimes just having open plans about things can help clear the air.  What do they do if they have done something wrong.  What should they do if they have lied?
  6. Remind your child that as they show they are honest, you will be more apt to give more freedom. My mom always said she would trust us, but when the trust gets broken, it has to be rebuilt.
  7. Be an example of what you want to see. Are you telling little white lies and your child is watching?  Try to stop yourself from doing this and just be honest with your kids (as much as you can with little children, of course.)
  8. The next time they lie, talk calmly about what happened. Why did they lie? What happened as a result? Building a strong communication line with your kids is key to building honesty.
  9. When you are working on this issue, make sure and forgive and forget. Give your child the hope that you believe they can be honest- do not label them a liar. Instead, label the action and encourage them to turn from it.  Children live up to what we expect of them.   Our words become their inner voices.
  10. Don’t give up on your child! It can take a lot of repetition, but it is always worth it. Keep on teaching, training, and modeling what you want your child to do.
+1 vote


Photo Source: kqed news

As a new parent, Jack Gilbert got a lot of different advice on how to properly look after his child: when to give him antibiotics or how often he should sterilize his pacifier, for example.

After the birth of his second child, Gilbert, a scientist who studies microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago, decided to find out what’s actually known about the risks involved when modern-day children come in contact with germs.

By Lulu Garcia-Navarro

“It turned out that most of the exposures were actually beneficial,” Gilbert says. “So that dirty pacifier that fell on the floor — if you just stick it in your mouth and lick it, and then pop it back in little Tommy’s mouth, it’s actually going to stimulate their immune system. Their immune system’s going to become stronger because of it.”

Gilbert is now the co-author of a new book called Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System. Presented in a Q&A format, the book seeks to answer many of the questions Gilbert has fielded from parents over the year

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

What are some things that parents get wrong?

Some of the main things are over-sterilizing their environment, keeping their children from ever getting dirty. So going out into the backyard and playing in the mud, and then as soon as they’re filthy, bringing them in and sterilizing their hands with antiseptic wipes, and then making sure that none of the dirt gets near their faces. Also, keeping them away from animals. The dogs and cats, sure, but also, other animals. It’s fine to wash their hands if there’s a cold or a flu virus around, but if they’re interacting with a dog, and the dog licks their face, that’s not a bad thing. In fact that could be extremely beneficial for the child’s health.

What about hand sanitizer? Good or bad?

Usually bad. Hot, soapy water is fine. Even mildly warm, soapy water is fine, and it’s probably less damaging to the child’s overall health.

How about the five-second rule? The idea that if something falls on the ground and is there for under five seconds, it’s clean.

The five-second rule doesn’t exist. It takes milliseconds for microbes to attach themselves to a sticky piece of jammy toast, for example. But it makes no difference. Unless you dropped it in an area where you think they could be a high risk of extremely dangerous pathogens, which in every modern American home is virtually impossible, then there’s no risk to your child.

Wash a pacifier or lick it if it falls on the ground?

Lick it. A study of over 300,000 children showed that parents who licked the pacifier and put it back in — their kids developed less allergies, less asthma, less eczema. Overall, their health was stronger and more robust.

Are things like allergies an unintended consequence of trying to protect our kids too much?

Absolutely. In the past, we would have eaten a lot more fermented foods, which contain bacteria. We would have allowed our children to be exposed to animals and plants and soil on a much more regular basis. Now we live indoors. We sterilize our surfaces. Their immune systems then become hyper-sensitized. You have these little soldier cells in your body called neutrophils, and when they spend too long going around looking for something to do, they become grumpy and pro-inflammatory. And so when they finally see something that’s foreign, like a piece of pollen, they become explosively inflammatory. They go crazy. That’s what triggers asthma and eczema and often times, food allergies.

Give us some advice. What should I allow my child to do?

Oftentimes, it’s hard to get your kid to eat a healthy diet. I would strongly try to encourage the consumption of more colorful vegetables, more leafy vegetables, a diet more rich in fiber as well as reducing the sugar intake. But just generally, allow your kid to experience the world. As long as they’re properly vaccinated, there’s no threat, and they will actually get a stronger, more beneficial exposure.


+1 vote

Twinkle Khanna has a subtle writing style that is consistently funny, real and hard hitting at the same time. Her contributions under Mrs. Funnybones on the Sunday Times are worth a read. Here she writes on one of her favourite topics - parenting. Go here for the full story:

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Photo Source: kids activities blog

Back when my husband and I were living on the East Coast, we attended a moving workshop to prepare us for an overseas move to Japan. The idea of moving halfway around the world was both exciting and extremely terrifying. How do you calm an upset child when you are experiencing a day-to-day hiccup or a big life change?

By Lauren Tamm

During the workshop a counselor came to teach us about helping kids through big life changes.

Sitting in a classroom of about 30 people, I did my best to pay attention. But I'll be honest, the workshop was boring and my mind was starting to wander. I started daydreaming about the overpriced latte I was going to order from Starbucks after the class ended.

Then the counselor said something I'll never forget.


No matter if you are experiencing a big life change or an everyday life event, this tip is easily applied to a variety of situations.

Use I wish you a thousand statements to help your child cope and feel positive about what is upsetting them.

Here are a few examples of I wish you a thousand statements:

Example #1:

  • Child: I don't want to move to a new home. 
  • Parent: I wish you a thousand friends at our new home. 

Example #2:

  • Child: I ™m never going to pass my test at school. 
  • Parent: I wish you a thousand A+ grades on all your tests forever and ever. 

Example #3:

  • Child: I hate playing at this park. 
  • Parent: I wish you a thousand parks that are the most fun and coolest in the world. 

Example #4:

  • Child: My dad is never home to play with me. 
  • Parent: I wish you a thousand of your daddy so you would always have him to play with. 

Example #5:

  • Child: I want cookies for dinner. 
  • Parent: I wish you could eat a thousand cookies for dinner someday. 

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. You can use them in a variety of situations to help your child cope when they are feeling upset.


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The other day, I took my kids to their grandparent’s house.  They were happy to see their grandchildren. My kids insisted their grandfather to take them to the park to which he agreed instantly. My mother went in the kitchen to make their favourite onion fritters.



After some time, she brought hot and crispy onion fritters along with ginger tea. We started chatting and enjoying our snacks. I noticed that the fritters had a different taste. They were lighter, less oily and crispier. I asked her the reason behind it. She told me that she had started using Sunny Lite Oil. It has the power of 5. It has vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, antioxidants and Omega 6. She praised it a lot, saying that food cooked in it is very light and easy to digest.


My children came back and couldn’t resist themselves from eating the fritters. I asked them to wash their hands before eating. They protested and turned to their grandparents for support. My mother scolded me pretentiously and very gently took the kids to wash their hands. They were very happy to see me getting scolded by my mother. They felt comforted and secured with the powerful presence of their grandparents. They were soothed by getting their support and being listened patiently by them.