Emotional Labor

Emotional Labor

My sister sent me this article over the weekend and it summed up exactly what I had been feeling for the last few months. I had been wanting to write about it, but didn’t have a name for what I was feeling.

Let me paraphrase the article for you. As a woman, have you ever been accused of being a nag? I’m guessing yes, especially if you’re in a relationship. Oftentimes, what could be called “nagging” stems from emotional labor, an unrecognized duty that many women do on a daily basis.

What does that mean, exactly? I’ll give you some examples that have occurred in my house in the last two days alone to explain it. They aren’t exactly complaints, just facts:

1. The laundry was folded and ready to be put away. I put away mine and Amalia’s immediately, but Anel’s pile sits there for two days. I ask him to do it and he does, all while telling me that I should have asked him earlier. In my head: I shouldn’t have to ask!

2. New dog food was delivered. It’s sitting in the front hall but I can’t lift it because the bag is too heavy. It remains there for a day until I ask him to put it away. He puts it next to the closet where we keep dog food, but didn’t pour it into the food bin because it “wasn’t a priority” at that moment. After yet another day of it sitting there, I ended up doing it myself. In my head: Why didn’t you just finish the job?

3. Our car has been making a weird noise for over two months (two months!). Every single week for said months, I’ve asked him to call the dealership and bring the car in to be looked at. Finally, last week, I said I would do it myself and he convinced me not to, promising me he’d schedule it soon. The jury’s still out on what will happen. In my head: Just get it done already!

Obviously none of these things are a big deal on their own, and I don’t mind doing any of them… on their own. So if I bring them up as a problem, it feels silly. But when multiple instances like these happen on a daily basis, week after week, year after year, it adds up. We’re eight years deep in our relationship, and I think it’s time to figure this out!

When I’ve talked to Anel about instances such as the ones above in the past, he is supportive, responsive and totally gets it. He wants to divide our work equally.  But he’ll also say that he just doesn’t see what I see or doesn’t think of things the way I do… The pile of laundry doesn’t bother him, the dog food isn’t a priority in the moment, and the car squeaking doesn’t bother him. Fair enough, right? Right… but also not.

Why should I have to be the only one who is constantly thinking of things to keep our house running and in order? Dividing the work isn’t enough, the mental load needs to be divided too.

What constitutes keeping a house running for us? It’s everything from buying groceries to keeping diapers stocked to making dentist appointments to paying bills to keeping us from running out of toilet paper to… you get it. We divide the tasks, but if I didn’t say something or ask for them to be done, it will all fall on me. Until we run out of toilet paper and it’s too late!

Similar to the author of the article, I have a feminist husband who does half of the housework and, amazingly, half of the work involving the baby, more than a lot of my friends’ husbands. They all tell me I’m lucky, and believe me, I am! But the difference is that I do it constantly and thanklessly, while when he does, it requires me asking him and then congratulating him in some way.

Also, like the author, I want him to have equal initiative so that I don’t have to micromanage him and our home. If he goes to the grocery store, it’s because I’ve asked him to, I wrote the list, and probably fielded a phone call or two about how many eggs we need. I’m always on top of what we’re running out of, including items like coffee that I don’t even drink! It’s probably my fault in a big way because I keep doing what I do.

And that’s a lot of what emotional labor is for women, the easy way out. It’s easier to just do the work or be the one to remember things when it comes naturally. It’s easier to skip the long conversations about it and just get it done.

I’m not trying to complain or throw Anel under the bus. He’s an amazing, involved, and supportive husband and I have no idea how I got so lucky to have him. I think, sadly, that it’s the nature of gender roles, and I have no idea how to change it except to keep talking about it both with him and publicly so that other people talk to their partners as well.

Here’s another great article about emotional labor if you’re interested.

What I’d love to know from you is: 1. Do you bear the load of emotional labor in your home? 2. How do you handle it?

  • Oana

    I haven’t thought about it, but I feel exactly the same way! Why should I aleays keep count of everything that needs to be done? It’s exhausting! My husband also does things when asked, but doesn’t take initiative. I will def share this article with him!

    • So happy to hear that you’re sharing this with your husband. Let me know how it goes!

      • Oana

        Yeah, so my husband agreed that it all makes sense, but with the way men approach these things, I think I will now have to do one more thing: remind him to remember to take initiative. LOL

  • Rebecca

    Omg- thank you. I am experiencing the same situation and feel like a crazy person!!! Glad I am not alone.

  • Caitlin F.

    I read this article this week and thought it completely hit the nail on the head. I’ve struggled to articulate to my husband what it is I’m feeling overloaded with around the house and what the source of my frustrations are when he says “well just ask me to do it” and he never understands what I’m trying to say. Now I know–emotional/mental labor!

    • “Just ask me to do it”… Classic! I get that on a daily basis.

      • Ellie

        THAT IS LITERALLY THE WHOLE POINT!

        ^is what I want to say back… haha

  • Taylor Cannon

    Crying a little as I read this because I can absolutely relate and I often feel bad for feeling this way, but it helps to know what it isn’t just me. I of course think my husband is wonderful and he does so much to take care of us, but I definitely bear the load of emotional labor in our household and I don’t think I truly realized it (or had words for it) until reading this.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    -Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com

    • Don’t feel bad for feeling that way! We’re all in it together.

  • Katherine

    YES, YES, YES to all of this!

  • All of this!! Thanks for sharing. I have the same thoughts in my head. Sometimes, it’s just easier to do things myself because they will get done right away. Our light in our shower burnt out 4 MONTHS ago!! Once a week i’ve been asking my husband to repair it – the ceiling is too high for me. He said he is tired and he’ll do it tomorrow. I feel like a nag, but just do it already and i’ll stop asking! I’m sure he doesn’t like to shower in the dark either 🙂

    • Oh man… In those situations I threaten to hire a Task Rabbit, then he does it real quick. Ha!

  • I can definitely relate, but at the same time my husband often has to remind me to take my clothes out of the dryer or to clean trash out of the car. I think it comes down to we have different priorities. I don’t mind if my clothes stay in the dryer and he doesn’t mind if they stay in a hamper on the floor in the middle of the living room :-o. I’ve considered making a list of all the household chores he does so that I can be more grateful.
    Also, we all like to feel appreciated! My husband and I both try to show gratitude for the little tasks that we accomplish because working, raising a family, and managing a household is a lot of work.
    Make Life Beautiful Blog

  • Silvia LL

    This is also a really good article explaining the situations (as a comic strip!) It really bring the point home.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

    • That is amazing, thank you! Going to share in my link round up on Friday.

      • Silvia LL

        Great! I saw it this morning reading your blog.

  • EmRo F

    This has been an ongoing conversation in our household since our daughter was born. I read a very similar article and it finally described what I had been feeling. I am always the person who knows exactly what is for dinner, how much dog food is left, and when important appointments are coming up. I absolutely get stressed out and overwhelmed.
    As far as handling it, it’s a process. The biggest thing is awareness from my husband. He will now make comments about understanding why I do things in a certain order and asks how he can help. It’s not perfect, it might not ever be perfect, but the communication is there.

    • I love that he’s trying and listening though! Anel is like that too and it gives me hope for a bigger shift as we keep going.

  • Colleen

    YES!!! I read this article last week. Our brains are just hard-wired differently than men’s. But I feel like after your baby is born you notice it so much more- because now you actually need assistance doing these things, because you’re caring for the child- whereas before you would have had the time to just do it yourself. Speaking of which- we collectively as a family of three (myself, hubs, and 5 month old baby girl) have SEVEN baskets of clean laundry that’s folded and needs to be put away. It’s embarrassing that we even have 7 baskets and also that many clothes. Rest assured, you are not alone- and even when we ask them it doesn’t always get better. But I’ve learned to pick my battles. We’ll deal with the laundry someday, for now he handles the dog and the dishes. That’s a start for me! LOL.

    • Seven? OMG I would actually have a panic attack haha. And hey the dog and dishes is a great start!

  • Rachel Machen

    YESS!!!!!!! This is a touchy subject in our house. If I provide a list in advance, he sees that as me bossing him around. If I don’t provide a list, he doesn’t know where I need his help and then I get frustrated, voice that and he says “why didn’t you just give me a list?” I like the concept that this is not just biological, but learned from observation. I know that women are more inclined to be multi-taskers and problem solvers, but I don’t think that is 100% accurate. I look at how my husband manages his career. He’s juggling numerous projects and he does it flawlessly. His job is basically the professional version of running a household-just in a different industry. I ask myself, if he can do such a great job assessing what needs to be done, making a plan and executing on that, why is that skill set not used at home? Maybe this goes back to what the author of that article hits on – that this is learned from an early age. Like your husband and the one in the article, mine wants to be a team player and wants to feel like he is pulling his weight. But a lot of times he misses the mark for where I need help. I have learned that I have to tell him what I need – both for help with the daily tasks and what he can do to make me feel loved and cherished (fold a load of laundry and I feel like I did on our wedding day hahah). Thank you for sharing-I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    • YES to the list dilemma. Right right there with you.

  • Ann

    Great topic.. I actually feel a little guilty reading this, because in our case, my husband could have written this!! We both used to have pretty high stress jobs, now his is a bit better, but I am still working at a pretty stressful job. He does probably bear almost all of the emotional labor in our marriage. There’s also the fact that I’m super laid back, so I’ll get things done, but it may be a day or two later (like your husband)! Definitely going to think about how to improve and share the emotional load, especially with a baby coming in a month!

    • I’m so glad that you were able to see it from the other side’s perspective. I hope it helps!

  • Rachel

    If any of you enjoyed this post you will definitely enjoy this coming about the same subject! https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

  • Wendy

    This! my bf and I don’t even live together yet but I can already see this happening some. I just don’t get why most men don’t see things they way women do and I want to figure out how to manage because I don’t want to be as a nag but I also think if I cook dinner, I shouldn’t have to ask him in turn to do the dishes-he just should!

    • I think it’s a great idea to have a convo before you move in together if you can 🙂

  • Grace

    Like you people tell me all the time I’m “lucky” to have a husband who wants to be (and is!) an equal partner. But its not luck. I made a very conscious decision that I would never marry someone who wasn’t willing to be that type of partner. Choosing to marry someone who isn’t like that isn’t unlucky, its just a choice that some women have made. To say otherwise is removing agency from yourself. Give yourself credit for making a good decision! There are a lot of good articles on this but here’s one: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/abi-oborne/five-reasons-i-am-not-lucky-to-have-my-husband_b_7875666.html

    • YES YES YES so true. And good point! I love that article, thank you for sharing it.

  • I relate to this SO much in my day job!! I was taking on a few different roles while we were shortstaffed earlier this year and doing a lot of work by myself. When we hired new people, I started to delegate some of my extra responsibilities, but I still carried the emotional labor of making sure they were doing things correctly (or at all). Even now, if a task is not mine, I still worry whether it’s going to get done or not, and if not, I’ll just do it myself. I would definitely love to shed the weight of worrying about if things get done, ha!

  • Amye

    Yes, this is definitely the case in my household also- even with a feminist husband who is truly a partner. Since we made the mutual decision for me to stay home with the baby, I’ve felt better about shouldering the majority of those tasks bc they’re in my “domain”. It’s a bit strange bc we are progressive-minded but our household looks more “traditional” – we are just making sure our values are expressed for our children to know even if our actions look traditionally gendered.

    One concept that helped us both get on the same page a few years back was “touch it once” – if you’re touching it you’re dealing with it through completion of the task. Eg with the dog food, I would have said “touch it once” as a reminder and he would have completed the task. It helps to both know what that means and agree that’s how our house should operate! Then the nagging is less emotionally driven.

  • Adrianna Taeschler

    I love this post because I think it’s incredibly relatable. My boyfriend is very similar and while he does a lot, he also doesn’t do it unless I tell him. Exhibit A: After I make dinner, he clears the table but leaves the dishes in the sink. Why not in the dishwasher that is 3 inches away from the sink? Exhibit B: He does his own laundry and leaves in on the floor for 6 days before folding it and putting it away. I don’t get it!! After I do my laundry, I fold it and put it away immediately. Why is it not important to be able to see the floor? Having things on the floor makes the house look dirty and messy when it’s not. It’s a simple fix…just put it away. I definitely don’t know the answers and I do my best to be vocal to my boyfriend and tell him to put things where they belong and I can only hope that one day he just learns and does it without me telling him. #wishfulthinking

  • Laura

    Story of my life! I don’t know if women are wired differently than men, or if this is something that we learn from our parents? My dad actually handled a fair share of the emotional labor, but my husband’s father definitely did not. My husband’s job is much more demanding than mine and he spends fewer hours at home, so I’ve been trying to relax about this a bit, but sometimes I’m like can’t you just put your shoes away or clothes in the hamper or notice that when you use the last plastic fork, that means we should add those to our grocery list! Or apparently I’m supposed to somehow know that we ran out. We are ttc so I can imagine this worsening with a baby, so I am trying to address it now, but I have a feeling it will be an ongoing conversation

  • Amy

    Thank you for this! I very much believe having an open dialogue about this subject is so important. I read this quote in another article recently (I apologize I don’t have the source), “Her willingness to do it allows everyone else the freedom not. Thinking is not a superpower, it’s work. To be truly free, we need to free women’s minds. If the burden is shared, only then will women have as much lightness of mind as men.”

    I remind myself of this because I know my little ones are watching me. So when I’m about the fold that one last load of laundry before bed, I’m encouraged to demand a little help. Not in a “nagging” way, but in a “I’m going to take minute for myself, could you fold this laundry and put it away” kind of way. I would consider myself a total perfectionist, but I have learned I need to allow my husband to make mistakes – buy the parley instead of cilantro, put the kids clothes in the wrong drawers – so he not only appreciates all that I do, but he learns to do it too.

  • Melanie Hochsztein

    I would be really curious to hear his side/thoughts. Like does he feel like he also spends just as much time being stressed about just as many (but different) things for you and your family. Like the dog food wasn’t his priority because he has so many other household related stresses on his mind? I’m not defending him or saying you’re wrong in any way. I feel like in my home we both care about our home and tasks but just find different things more important. Like my fiance is better about doing his laundry consistently every week or even washing the dishes while dinner is still cooking, but won’t even look at the pile of clothes that I asked months ago for him to go through so I can take to donate.

    • Ellie

      That’s a good exercise…with an open mind and a common goal of improving your relationship, make lists of some of the things the other ignores that make you batty! I wonder how many of us would be surprised to see that our boyfriend/husband/partner’s lists are just as long!

  • leah cillo

    Oh my gosh this is my life every day! I know that i am very type A personality and usually very on top of everything but i have the same issues. We have the same thing happen with dog food every single time it is delivered and since i am due any day there is just no way i can lift it because it is so heavy. It will literally sit there for a week waiting to be put away. I try to just do these things and not make a big deal but it ends up getting to me overtime and then i usually have to say something. My biggest one is always clothes on the floor. No matter where i put the clothes hamper his clothes never ever end up in there. I think it really is as simple that it just doesn’t bother him but it drives me absolutely crazy. Thankfully with the end of my pregnancy here we did end up hiring a cleaning service and this has really cut down on my stress level, but the little every day things still do get to me. I think women do so much and don’t expect praise and then if the man does something they have to be thanked and congratulated. My husband and i have been together six years and he definitely helps and does all the fixing/outdoor maintenance but it is simply the picking up after himself that i just can’t get him to do. I’m also not trying to throw my husband under the bus as i know he works hard and does a lot around the house it is just these little things that do sometimes drive me crazy,

  • Alexandra Pagar

    This is so my life! I have the worlds best husband. Seriously. He does SO MUCH for me and our family and always does his share around the house. Its the asking thing that kills me. I hate having to ask. He says the same as Anel and I do believe they are being honest. I wonder if its just my Type A get it done strategic personality. Thanks for putting a name to this!

  • Nichol Hopper

    I feel the same way! This is one of those things that I always felt but never could put it into words. All you want is for him to realize all the little things you do for the family as a whole. And you don’t ever want to be a nag and ask him to do things, but if you don’t they never get done. And I understand the anxiety of walking by the bag of dog food for days and it just sits there staring at you wanting you to put it away when its supposed to have been a weight lifted off of your plate by the person who said they would do it. I’ve had this problem with roommates as well. I’ve wondered if it was just because I am a very clean organized person and others are not. But I don’t care if people are more lazy than me as long as they hold up their end of the deal. Just do what you said you would do. Or else I feel taken for granted and like my feelings don’t matter. Great article!

  • Hadley Stigliano

    Yes! I read this other post last year that spoke to me: http://www.lovethatmax.com/2016/05/mothers-day-2016.html

    My husband and I both notice what needs replacing, or cleaning, however I am the one who actually says ok I need to go buy that item, or clean that thing. As supportive as I know my husband is, there are times when I think I live with a teenager who needs constant monitoring instead of a grown man!

  • Julie Beattie

    LOVED this post! I read the same Bazaar article last week, and it has been on my mind ever since. When I saw your Instastory mentioning today’s post, I was so excited and couldn’t wait until I was at my desk, coffee in hand, to read it. This is 100% my relationship with my husband. He will do anything I ask him to, but left to his own devices some things would just never get done. I actually had a mini protest last week about not emptying the dirty dishes from the sink into the dishwasher. After about 3 days (and some leaning towers of dishes) he loaded them, saying “I’ve reached my limit looking at these, which I’m guessing was your point.” Umm, yeah! But that whole exercise made me feel like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Not exactly the image I’d like to portray. I’m not sure how to bring up the actual concept of “emotional labor”, and will probably wait to do so since he’s in the middle of a 10-week class right now that’s really stressing him out. But open discussion is key, and your post will absolutely be a starting point. Thanks!

    • Ellie

      I am so tempted to do something like that, but it’s not usually in my nature. I’m considering going there, but may use some of these articles to start a more helpful discussion instead haha.

  • Beth

    So I’m just going to say it, I think the mental load is sexism baked into modern society. Women are supposed to be the COO of the home, while the man is the CEO. Most men are raised in homes like this, and expect their wives to manage the details while they weigh in on the big stuff, just like a CEO would. I would like to point out that most of our husband’s are capable of seeing the small stuff, and I guarantee you that most of them see the “details” at work because they have to. So how do we make them see? I’m not sure I have a good answer to that. But for those of you with children, we need to figure it out and model it for the next generation!

  • stephie

    Incredible post, Julia. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kendria

    Loved this article. My biggest “aha” was realizing that I’m not necessarily just naturally good at this (household management) stuff. I’m good at it because I’ve practiced. Because it mattered/still matters to me. Which means my husband can get good at it too. He just has to want to.

  • I also read the Harper’s Bazaar article and felt like it summed up experience living with my now-husband perfectly. He’s willing to do housework and always looking for a way to help, but I’m still micromanaging everything and keeping mental tabs on stuff like when we need to wash the sheets and towels, and oh by the way, when was the last time we wiped down the cupboards or vacuumed under the furniture.

  • Col

    Sigh. My husband promised to get closet organizers installed in our new walk-in closet over a year ago. I refuse to nag him, and he’s put his clothes elsewhere for the interim. (If he got the organizers taken care of, he could use the closet!) So yeah, still waiting. I hired a cleaning service because I couldn’t deal with his half-a$$ed housecleaning. I opted out of things like his doctor/dentist appointments and haircuts, and to some extent his clothes. I don’t shop for gifts for his family– I’ll buy “grandparent” cards for his parents from the kids, but that’s it. I’m too busy, and if it’s not important to him… . I let it go.

  • Emily

    Julia, your post resonates with me. On top of that, I will be going back to work soon and I feel I will also bear that responsibility, along with trying to adjust to leaving my daughter. I’ve tried not doing the tasks, and they don’t get done. I’ve tried not asking him to do them, to see if he would prioritize them, and they don’t get done. If I repeatedly ask, I feel like I’m nagging. I tried to remember if there ever was a time when I wasn’t running the show and it would have to be at the very beginning of our relationship. Today is our 3rd wedding anniversary and to be honest, communication and finding time to enjoy each other looks a lot different with a 10 week old. I think what we as women have to do is continue to communicate and voice how we feel. I know I go crazy if I keep my feelings inside and it only leads to resentment. That being said, he did surprise me just now with a spa day as an anniversary gift and I feel like he read my mind! Now if only I can get two free hours between cleaning the house, laundry, nursing, naps, and everyday life to enjoy it!

  • I have never related to something more.
    My husband just accused me this week of nagging him about something, and I got so frustrated because him not doing the thing was nagging me! It’s so nice to know that many many other feel the same way, all the while being completely in love with the person too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Amanda

    Julia, thank you so much for writing this. I am so glad that you accidentally shared this as you mentioned on Instagram stories today even if it seemed like you were complaining. I haven’t heard of this term before but it certainly explains so much. I will be sharing this with my boyfriend of 6 and a half years who I recently moved in with. Thank you for being honest, open and sharing all moments, even the not so perfect ones.

    • So glad you’ll be sharing with your boyfriend. I’m glad I accidentally posted too 🙂

  • Kristen Anderson

    First of all, YES. And I have the same guilt that you and other commenters feel. My husband works hard and does manage some aspects of our household on his own – to name a few, he manages all of our finances, does the yard work, and will do most things that I ask him to. It’s the ASKING. Asking him to throw the junk mail away versus leave it on the counter (the recycling bill is like a foot away!), put dishes in the dishwasher, clean up materials after a home project (I love that you painted the room but do I have to look at paint cans/clothes months later)? I know I’m not perfect but I just feel like keeping a home at its best is something that falls on the woman. It is probably ingrained somehow; I agree about always knowing how many toilet paper/paper towel rolls are left, knowing when to order dog food, knowing how long it’s been since the bedsheets were changed – it doesn’t occur to my husband to think about them, but if I leave it up to him, my quality of life is affected nonetheless. So I ask, and then I feel bad for asking – I hate feeling like a nag! So where is the solution? My mother would tell me that I am fortunate to have a husband who helps with housework and will do things I ask him to. Should I be grateful for that? Or still want more?

  • Jill Koole Byrnes

    I am so happy to read this! I thought I was the only one. It’s like my brain never gets to turn off, and my husband gets a list, checks it off and he’s done! Like today, he called me to ask what he should get started for dinner. Now, I have an amazing husband who wants to cook meals and do his share around the house. And the stuff he does take full responsibility for (i.e. making sure the snowblower has new spark plugs) I don’t want to do. But that dinner he’s cooking? I have to have taken care of the menu planning, grocery shopping, unpacking of the groceries for him to even get to his question.

  • Melissa

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one…. I’m the same way, I keep things running at home, always scheduling, reminding and sometimes just taking care of it myself if I’ve mentioned it too many times.

  • Lindsay

    Two weeks ago… him: want to help me with the lawn? Me: sure, when you clean the bathroom without me asking.
    We have a very tiny lawn that takes 5 minutes to cut. He has never cleaned the bathroom. Whenever he wants to clean or really do anything around the house it needs to be a team effort for some reason, but I just clean a room when I see that it needs it. He doesn’t realize I’ve already cleaned a million things that week, so no, I don’t want to spend and hour cleaning up your mess. Beyond frustrating.

    • Meredith

      Yess. Lindsay, the “team effort” thing if he is going to do anything. Ah, exactly! It drives me crazy. I also say, if we divide and conquer the chores, we’ll both be done and more will be accomplished. Hubs doesn’t seem to see that. You’re not alone!

  • Lisa

    It’s called being a wife and a mother. That why we wear crowns and capes. It NEVER ends. I’ve been at this game for 23 years. The good news?? It is rewarding. Know we can do it all and still look fabulous. As far as it getting easier, raise your kids right and they’ll know to help. Without asking. It’s overwhelming for you now. But stay afloat. You’ll reap the rewards.

    Xoxo
    Lisa

  • Christina

    Julia! I heard on your Instagram story that you almost didn’t publish this and I’m SO glad you did. I had this exact argument with my boyfriend yesterday morning. Like Anel, he is so wonderful and is so willing to do anything to help around the apartment or in general, but I’m the one with the lists and the meal plans and the stress about it. This is the perfect expression of what I was trying to articulate. THANK YOU!

    Cup of Jo posted this a while back – clearly this is on the minds of a lot of women! https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

  • Ellen

    I feel so conflicted over articles like these. On one hand, they perfectly sum up the way that I feel, often on a daily basis. On the other hand, they also cause me to stop and reflect on the areas of our life where my husband may be feeling the exact same way about me…! In our case, I have very limited involvement (or interest in being involved!) in things like financial planning the upkeep of our furnace/hot water heater/plumbing/utilities, the maintenance of the rental property and little summer cottage we own, and the list goes on. My husband is fully in charge of all of these things. If he asks me to be at home when the plumber comes, I’ll do it, but he’s the one initiating that project.

    The other thought that I reflect on when I encounter these feelings is that it’s just a fact in our relationship that I care much more than my husband does about whether the laundry gets put away, whether the sheets are changed, whether we meal plan or scramble through dinner, etc. Sure, he appreciates when things are in order, but his happiness wouldn’t be affected as greatly as mine would if these things don’t get done. He just doesn’t value them as much as I do. I think that’s true in a lot of relationships.

    So ultimately I FEEL the same feelings as the writer does, and as you do Julia, but In my case (and I acknowledge every relationship is different) I wonder if they’re just a natural part of the whole marriage deal?

    • hofken

      I’ve been married almost 37 years and, Ellen, you summed it up beautifully. Look for his strengths, not his weaknesses and hopefully he’ll do the same for you. Love is not always 50/50, so don’t keep score.

    • Ellie

      This is SO insightful! Thank you for writing this comment. I read a similar article* maybe 8 months ago and shared with my then-fiance, now husband. He asked me if that was how I felt and I responded with a resounding YES.

      My dad is usually very aware of viral articles like this and I asked him if he’d seen it. He said he hadn’t yet, but that men and women are different (another topic to talk about haha) and that that’s not actually how marriage is. My parents have been married for 30 years and I absolutely look up to their relationship. I think what you wrote expands on what my dad was getting at. That we value different things and share in the emotional labor in perhaps different areas.

      I’ve been hesitant to bring the the Harper’s article to my husband’s attention because I don’t want it to come across as an attack. I think approaching it in the way you do–as a discussion about what we each value and how we can help each other manage those things–is the key here and will lead to a better, more productive, and more fulfilling discussion.

      Julia, thank you for sharing this! I know it must feel weird or difficult or even wrong to air details like this about you marriage, but it seems to have started a really great dialogue and I applaud your courage to “go there”!

      *Here’s the other article I read awhile back: https://www.simplemost.com/mental-load-why-moms-so-tired/?partner=raycom&utm_content=bufferb6227&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

  • well damn, this makes me feel extremely lucky. i have a fiancee who just gets it when it comes to running a household. I am more often than not the one who cleans the house, but he takes care of so much that I never have to worry about/ I don’t have to nag him about basics like lawn, laundry, car. It is really interesting to see different ways we prioritize and rolls we fall into! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anna

    Thank you for this post. I carry all of the emotional labor in our home. The things I do automatically do not even occur to my husband. Don’t get me wrong, he will try to do anything I ask of him but I hate always having to ask and he doesn’t quite finish the tasks the way I would. For example, if he vacuums he will move furniture out of the way to do a good job but then he will never put it back. Hours later I will walk into a room he has vacuumed and see everything out of place. He will look to me for approval and thanks but I feel as if the job isn’t finished yet.

    I wouldn’t mind managing the house by myself if I didn’t also work full time outside of the home. We are expecting our first child soon and I feel like my responsibilities will only be growing. If someone figures out how to transfer some of the mental labor to their significant other please share!

  • Barbara Geiger

    After 20 years of marriage, two girls, 13 and 17, a house, a dog, two successful careers…I have learned to focus on the bigger picture of who my husband is, and not sweat the small stuff. I call him “half-assed” Bob, because he does things halfway and leaves it. I, personally, think, if you’re going to do something, do it well and see it through to the end…but he just doesn’t care that much about the things I care about. Does he like a clean and tidy house? yes, but random flip flops and sneakers by the front door don’t bother him (there is a basket right there!). So even though these things are super annoying to you…try not to dwell on it too much, or at least don’t put too much into it. There are more important things to focus on. It’s just not worth a riff.

  • oh my gosh!!! I did not even know this was a thing. I knew it was a thing in my house between me and my husband but I did not know this was an actual thing. I’m going to have to read the articles you recommend but, wow, i feel entirely and overwhelmingly the exact same thing! And my husband is an equal person too (he does all the cooking and he loves being involved with the kids and typically does all the grocery shopping too). I think it is the nature of gender roles and probably mixed with just not feeling thanked for the weight i let sit in my head and on my shoulders to manager our lives and our two kids. this is horrible to admit but i often will move stuff to be obnoxiously in the way in hopes that he’ll take care of it and it’s like he doesn’t even notice. his brain just does not take in the details that mine automatically does. I could go on but I will stop and thank you for sharing!

  • OK, I just read the Bazaar article and thought of something else that could be a factor (at least for myself). Both my parents and my husbands parents are divorced and remarried. We lived with our mothers and step-dads. Naturally, our mom was the boss, which probably weighs heavily on how our world view was shaped. Just food for thought. 🙂

  • Amy Foss

    Julia, thank you so much for sharing this. I realize I’m nesting now as I prepare for the last 16 weeks of my own pregnancy and our baby to come, but I have been going a bit crazy internally over instances just like these. I keep wondering if it’s all in my head, and it’s reassuring to know it’s not – nor am I alone. The conversation is critical and you’ve inspired me to have this crucial conversation at home. Like you, I’m so genuinely blessed with an amazing husband who cooks, cleans and does the grocery shopping. He’s supportive in so many ways, and yet I always feel like the one noticing or taking on so many of these other tasks. Thank you for helping me know I’m not crazy and I’m not alone!

  • Karlie Karish

    I have always wondered what it was that I felt when these things came up and this hits it right on the nose!