What if you want to redistribute the mental load and emotional labor in your household–but your husband’s not on board?

We’ve been talking about emotional labor all month on the blog, and we’ve got a lot more coming! And today on the podcast we want to continue the conversation by looking at how to renegotiate how your household functions. 

But first, listen in to the podcast!

When Your Hubby Wants to Help with Mental Load–but Doesn’t Always Understand

Sometimes you’re married to an awesome guy (I think  most of us are, really), and he wants to help, but he doesn’t understand what  needs to be done, and doesn’t feel the same ownership or urgency. 

That’s the situation Rebecca and Connor were in with mental load, and they discussed how they came to a great solution in the podcast this week. 

And it wasn’t only Connor who had to compromise–Rebecca had to learn a lot, too. That’s what marriage is about. Learning to be on the same team!

This conversation was a continuation of one we started last week on the blog about emotional labor, and on our podcast about emotional labor. I promised in the podcast this week that I’d point to all the posts so you could catch up:

Posts Coming in the Mental Load Series:

Another tool to talk about dividing up emotional labor: The Fair Play Cards

We’ve been talking this month about the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, which goes into the problems of one person bearing the majority of the mental load for the family, and how to even this out so you feel like you’re on the same team, and your marriage feels so much better. No more nagging. No more annoyance and frustration. No more confusion and lack of communication about tasks.

But she also has a card system that makes talking about this so much easier. So check out the cards, too!



Fair Play:

A Game-Changing Solution for Sharing Mental Load and Emotional Labor--

that will transform your marriage!

What if your husband isn’t open to sharing mental load?

I hear a lot “well, he has mental load and stress from work, so I can’t ask him to take on anything at home.” I agree that housework may be off the table, but people still need to be engaged with relationships at home, especially with kids. And when a husband does nothing at home at all, that does set a bad example for the kids. 

I dealt with these questions on the podcast from women whose husbands aren’t as open to talking about things:

With regards to chores, how do you deal with a perfectionist? My husband complains about the yard/patio every single time he goes outside. We fixed it up nice this spring, but he still complains. I don’t have the energy to sweep the patio daily and weed the driveway cracks etc, so I mostly just tell him to do it himself. I always feel like he holds me to a higher standard and nothing is good enough— not just with me, but with our kids’ behavior, with his work, with everything. Nothing is good enough for a perfectionist. I mostly let it roll off my back because I’m used to it and he is hardest on himself and I know that, but sometimes it bothers me. Like about the yard.

Any household paperwork is my job— we hired an accountant for taxes but my husband is still asking me for paperwork that HE has for the taxes, so taxes haven’t been done. Finding a plumber when we have a leaky faucet? That’s on me to research. He mows, but it’s been on me to find someone to do yard work when he can’t do it. Basically the mental load of running the house is all on me. We need a new sink and he keeps telling me to pick a sink because he doesn’t want to get the wrong one. I even remind him to pay himself because he is self-employed. I struggle with mental load a lot and can’t say anything about it because he has too many clients and too much work to share in the household mental load. I meal plan and make the grocery list, but he does the shopping because I almost passed out after grocery shopping when about 6 weeks postpartum with my third kid— I had taken all 3 kids with me and it was too much. When he saw that he said he would do the groceries from then on.

Another woman commented this week:

I have tried on numerous occasions to get my teenage children and spouse to take on responsibility for certain tasks (after discussion about what they preferred from my list of stuff that needed doing really regularly). It’s the mental load of noticing and reminding that gets tedious: i find my son is very good doing specific tasks when asked to. Nowvwith us all stuck in the house together since lockdown it’s starting to get more shared out, certainly in terms of cooking meals and clearing up. My husband doesn’t cook though and recently my daughter has been noticing more how infrequently he will get up and clear dishes after family meals. So it has got to be a bit of a joke…however when she has cooked the evening meal he has taken the lead to say that she shouldn’t have to wash up because she cooked! Different rules for wives and daughters He is a good man but just not great at noticing stuff – very good at doing a task very thoroughly once he has got started though and gets frustrated if I mention other things to do before he has finished (oops). I think that may be a male trait.

I think what happens often is that our work becomes invisible when we’ve been doing it for so long and people come to expect it. So he doesn’t even notice after a while. And when men don’t feel “ownership” of a task (which is what the book and cards are great for), then they don’t jump up and help.

A few things about teens: If they’re enjoying the benefits of the household (like wifi; shared data or cell phone plans; TV; video games; etc.) then they can share in the responsibilities. And if they need to be reminded to do their chores, then you can simply stop reminding them and change the wifi password. Do something where it relieves you of the problem of having to remember it all. Also, if the teens see the dad ignoring the mom’s work, then how will that impact their future marriages? That’s worth talking to the husband about.

Okay, one more comment:

So my husband and I both work full time and I was just promoted to manager for a busy office a yea ago. I have always handled all bills and kids (ie. doctors/dentists/schools/daycare etc) but since promoted I have been working late hours so he gets off at 3 and gets kids from school and I usually don’t get home until 6:30 (give or take).. then I have to help with hw and clean up and get them ready for bed… then get up at 5:45 to make lunches and get kids ready for school and do it all over again. On weekends he sleeps in and I get up and make breakfast and clean up and he wakes up and just sits on couch! I am losing my mind! I feel it is unfair! Especially if we have a birthday party or something to go to he won’t bc he says “I’ll stay home and I’ll clean .. etc..” it’s like he is a blob here and I’m a single mom.

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I’d just say–deal with this before it gets worse. If you are both working full-time, then the household needs to be shared. If he isn’t stepping up, let your circle know, like his parents or siblings. Talk to a counselor. But most of all, talk to him and tell him what you’re willing to do, and what you’re NOT willing to keep doing. 

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But now I’ll let you all chime in–what do you think she should do? How do you have these hard conversations? Let’s talk in the comments!

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