1,705 thoughts on “You should’ve asked

  1. I think what bothers me is that I shouldn’t HAVE to ask! A man has eyes and can see what needs to be done. Shopping has to be unloaded, dishwashers need emptying, dirty kids need their faces washed, laundry needs folding etc etc. Its not new…these things are daily occurrences and have been happening around him since he was a child. As it was for his wife too. And yet he chooses not to see it so that she must ask. She sees it, no one has to ask her…its there. The mere fact that she has to explain what has to be done is in itself tiring and annoying because she is not talking to a child – he’s an adult. This explaining leads to ‘might as well do it myself’ because of the extra involved in doing that. And men are very literal. Clear the table? OK he does just that but you have to ask for the dishes to be put into the dishwasher. So ok…he does that when asked. BUT the leftover food is still sitting on the counter with the spoons, not packed, wrapped and refrigerated. “Well you didnt ask!” So you think ok..now he knows. Nope…same deal tomorrow night, and the next, and the next. Because you did not ASK. Its like you are living with an 8 year old in a man’s body. Or you get “I made the bed for you” Oh really…and just where do you normally sleep then? “I vacuumed the living room for you” like he’s a guest in his own home and is doing you a favor by actually cleaning an area you both use. I blame it largely on childhood training…mothers who seem to feel its not manly for a son to cook, clean, change a diaper, do laundry.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Right, so why is it always someone else’s fault? Blame the man – Call it what it is: Men are just simply selfish and choose to ignore the daily household chores, because they don’t want to do them, and they feel they have already completed their daily task by going to work, regardless of the fact that their spouse just spent the day at work, as well, yet she is left to do it all. And just because he may do seasonal chores, like yardwork, or occasionally changing the oil in the cars, that doesn’t come close to the responsibility of daily household chores, on top of working full-time – it always falls to the woman. And when you’ve been as diplomatic and nice about it as possible and still get called a nagging wife just for wanting/needing your husband to put in as much effort as you do, it seriously makes you question your choices in life. It’s infuriating!! Just sayin’.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For us, this is one of the problems: After a long day at work, the brain is just exhausted. I can do physical activities fine. That said, some things can easily be incorporated into the behavior. Like when I run across a done dishwasher, I automatically empty it and refill with dirty dishes I find. Just like closing the door, don´t have to think about that one.

        (And btw. I am very aware that my wife does have a managerial position in our household. Also we thought long and hard on how to distribute the work an in the end, we had to choose either we both go to work or I only work as she is making too little money despite her having a higher qualification – a fact that frustrates me every time I think about it)


    1. I 1000 percent agree with you. But mind you, I’ve seen a couple of man who at least tried to help their wife with house chores and taking care of their kids. More likely they learned it from their parents.



      1. I agree with you!
        And to the comment before me… I do think that it is “helping the wife” when the wife shuts the husband down because he doesn’t fold the laundry properly or doesn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher so you can get more dishes in instead of having to run two loads. If the wife would allow the man to do his part and not criticize the way he does things (as long as he is actually putting in effort and not doing things half ass on purpose) then yes, the man is just participating in household duties just like the wife. But, if she critiques him… then I call it “helping the wife” because in that situation, the wife is obviously the ruler of the house and not treating the relationship equally.


    2. Why does anyone marry these men? Who would choose to have a child *with* a child? In what world is it preferable to be with and start a family alongside these men who have to be cared for than to just… go without them? I know it’s all a little Lysistrata, but you have to imagine that women collectively going their own way might result in lonely men being forced to confront their problems before joining a family.

      Of course I know many women are also not fully aware of the problem (read: taught from childhood that there *is* no problem), but it’s so frustrating to see it happen.


      1. I didn’t know my husband would end up this way. When we were dating, he cooked for me often, his apartment was clean, he did laundry and mopped the floors and all that. He wanted kids, he had younger siblings and I didn’t. It was only later that I learned his sister actually took care of the younger ones, he never babysat his siblings, and that although both of his parents worked similar jobs, his mom cleaned everything.

        He was prepared to do all of that cooking and cleaning to impress me, and just in general, until things got stressful. We were both sleep deprived, and stressed, and very busy after having a child. But I thought of doing housework as a responsibility I had while he thought of it as extra credit work, so he pulled back and I couldn’t get him to do it.


    3. Exactly.

      My mother had a saying. “I shouldn’t have to ask.”
      She said it a lot when we were children she is right. I grew up in a household with my mother my father and two younger sisters. You bet things got done.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. This is how I feel about my wife going into the kitchen. I’ll put three loads of dishes away, and my wife won’t lift a finger to put anything away. Then the dishes will be all over the counter two nights later because I can’t handle putting something else away and getting my next four projects done all at once, and my wife sees the mess and instead of doing something to help, has a meltdown because it’s too messy to do anything in there.

      Well, if you did anything to help keep it clean without whining every second whenever you have to do something, maybe we could keep it clean. Instead, she feels that she’s already done her work for the day once she gets done with her session and I’m a freelancer, so I can remake my schedule to take care of all of the housework while she rests. It’s not just women who handle the mental load.


    5. Unfortunately even if the managerial duties are divided, any observed failure by someone on the outside will be attributed to the mother. If a kid’s pants have a hole, or there are no fruits/veggies in a school lunch, it will reflect poorly on the mother. Any known transgressions by the father, like if the woman is out of town and he is required to “help out”, are so totally forgiven – “It’s the thought that counts! He’s really trying.” It is viewed as if he went above and beyond the call of duty.


    6. What drives me nuts is he never does it RIGHT. To me there is sort-of-done, and done-properly to everything in to house. Separate the laundry properly, zip and button everything, look at the clothes, treat the stains, let sit for a min, put in delicate cycle, make sure extra rinse and spin, re-check worst stains before putting in dryer… he ruins all of his clothes bc he doesn’t do it remotely right and won’t buy new. So I have to rescue the shit he didn’t do right in the 1st place. On top of my own stuff. I try to teach correctly and I get protested rudely, saying “don’t waste your time on this stuff is not important do important things.” Having a nice home is important damnit!! But I feel like I can’t blow up over it bc he works so many hours in a hard job and I’m just a full-time grad student (w a flexible schedule). But I’m tired of having to re-do everything. And planning every meal. And doing all the food shopping.


    1. I recognize me and my partner very much in this (though he does have a few things he does regularly and without me having to ask him, like empty the dishwasher every day). BUT I’d also like to add that in my experience (personal and from people around me), part of the problem is that many women feel very strongly about HOW a job is done, so that they don’t even WANT their partner to do it in fear it won’t be done their way. My partner never puts away the dishes the same way I do, which irks me because I thought I had found a very efficient system for where everything goes. But if I insist on the job being done my way, I’ll end up doing it. So I have to accept that I won’t find items in their designated spot, otherwise I have to do it. I’ve heard of many couples where the man would have been happy to do certain chores, but got frustrated because his wife wouldn’t stop pointing out how he hadn’t done the chore according to her standards. I think women have been portrayed by society as the perfect housekeepers who have everything under control, so that giving up that control can be really hard – also because as women we feel like we’ll be held responsible if some balls are being dropped. My partner dresses the kids in the morning and can’t tell their clothes apart (even though they each have their own closet). When my 2 year old goes to daycare wearing his older brother’s shirt I get frustrated because I feel his educators will judge me, the mother, even though I didn’t even dress my kids. My partner however never cares what people think of his abilities as a parent when he mixes up his kids’ clothes. Something I can learn from him…


      1. Yesss!!!
        I agree 1,000%! This is what so many people do not realize. There are a lot of guys out there that would gladly do so much more. But, because they are ridiculed about how they do each task by the women they are with… They slowly stop doing those things. If you want your partner to take responsibility with more household chores and child rearing tasks, you need to accept that they will most likely be done differently than how you would have done it yourself. You have to come to terms with the differences if you truly desire “help”. Otherwise you will push your partner away with the nitpicking and you will be left to do all the tasks and chores by yourself….


      2. I kind of take issue with your statement that more men would help if they weren’t criticized for doing it wrong, because that begs the question: Why don’t these men learn to do it right? In school or at work, it’s not sufficient just to do something, you have to do it right. Why is home so different?

        The examples I’ve seen listed here – loading the dishwasher logically so that more dishes will fit, putting away clean dishes back into their normal spots so you know where to find everything – are pretty basic things that everyone should be able to learn. It doesn’t seem like a big ask to observe how the dishwasher is loaded and add new dishes the same way, or to observe where clean dishes live and put them away the same way. Not sure where something goes? Set it aside, ask where it goes, then learn so you’ll know for next time.

        If my teenager can learn to properly load and unload the dishwasher, your life partner should be able to as well.


  2. This reminds me of a conversation I had a few days ago with my husband regarding cleaning the shower/tub/sink/toilet… I am 7 months pregnant and told my husband he needs to clean the tub for the next few months. He said to me that when we shower it cleans the shower, and when we flush it cleans the toilet. Literally he said “you don’t have to clean those, they’re self cleaning”…


      1. he probably also thinks that towels are also cleaner and don’t need to be washed because you just washed your body and your clean body will make the towel cleaner.

        It would be a heckuva surprise if the wife wasn’t there for a while to wash the towels and he’d be like “hey, how come this towel can stand up on it’s own? Because it’s got bits of soap and stuff in it, the same reason washcloths get stiff.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This is my husband 100%. He will attempt to try and help “divide” the chores but when he cleans a room, he feels he now gets to choose what needs to be done and if I have any input I am being too harsh on him (the “manager” role!).

      Showers, toilets, sinks – he considers all of these self cleaning without thinking of how they actually stay relatively clean. He thinks I’m too anal about cleaning because I insist on changing the sheets and towels weekly. Baseboard, dusting the ceiling fans every once in a while, vacuuming the stairs- forget about it.

      He grew up in a household with a mom that cleaned on top of a weekly multi-hour house cleaner visit. Then he marvels how his childhood home is always so clean yet he’s never been asked to clean a bathroom. Boils my blood too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is 2020 and I still come and read this. I love my husband. We both have high demanding jobs, we both travel for work and yet when I am at home I am the one cleaning everything, doing laundry, getting groceries, and cooking meals. It is exhausting. We had couples therapy and I basically quite because the therapist would say that I need to ask him for help with the house chores. I do it, I ask for help in all possible ways: nice, frustrated, and visibly upset. Mostly in that order. Even when I told the therapist that this is the case she would insist in me to ask…I just did not see the point and he neither… I am completely terrified of thinking in a baby because I know it will be all my responsibility. I admire all the moms in the world because the ones taking care of the home and children already have a full time job.

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    1. We did 8 months of marriage counseling and our counselor had me make a chore list. It’s STILL the womans job in this way to fix the the burden of the mental load that is ruining the marriage. I complied. I took even MORE time in my already burnt out life to make a chores list for a grown ass adult, I took the time to treat him like a child. By week five, he tore up the chores list.
      I left him. I am happier now. I have time to myself now. He had to start adulting and parenting when I ended the marriage.
      This is why stats show women end marriages at a higher rate then men, and women are happier after the marriage is over, and men are more often miserable. This is why married men live longer, while married women die sooner.
      It is such a nightmare and turn-off to have to treat your spouse like a child.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I came across the concept of the Mental Load and this comic because of issues I have living with my sister. Obviously, we don’t have kids, other than that, it’s the same thing.
    I think this shows something important: That it’s not necessarily always a gender issue. Sure, there are too many men who think of these things as women’s work, and many more who have been raised to be fairly useless housemates BECAUSE they are men, but please also consider the possibility that someone else’s mind functions very differently from yours. If there’s one thing I know about my sister, it’s that she never, ever means to hurt me. Every time I boil over about household issues, I see that it pains her to know how much energy she’s costing me, she just genuinely doesn’t know how to change.
    One aspect you may want to consider is your partner’s insecurity when it comes to chores. Cooking, for example. Sure, there are men who’ll say “You’re just so much better at it than me.” to have a reason not to help (I know that dude. I’ve dated that dude.), but then there’s also my sister who feels that her cooking just isn’t good enough in comparison. And of course there’s a part of my brain that goes “Well, I wasn’t born knowing how to cook either, so f***ing teach yourself!”, but given that there’s a near zero overlap of our talents in other areas, I have to consider the possibility that cooking is something that is harder for her to learn, that my approach to cooking doesn’t work for her, that her tools are not the same as my tools.
    I think she also assumes that I’ll know the best approach to solving a specific problem – like removing mold in the bathroom, or ice from the freezer – because I’m not too bad at pretending I’m not a useless barely functioning adult like everybody else. I just wing it, but with confidence, from which she concludes I have all the answers.
    I hope to have the patience to figure out exactly why it’s so difficult for her to contribute to the mental and other work, and to develop a system that takes these difficulties into consideration. And I hope that maybe I’ve given you a different viewpoint to consider as well.


    1. All I could see in your comment was how much of the extra mental labor you’ve taken on yourself to help your sister learn to adult. Why is it up to you to figure out why it’s so difficult for her to take on some of the mental work?

      Because if you don’t manage this process of changing her, she won’t take any autonomous steps…

      This is the true Catch 22.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In reply to Christina: There’s also the GREAT, frantic, job that our larger environment/culture performs in pushing “compulsory heterosexuality”— framing the only/best/legitimate desire as female for male and vice-versa.

        (I’m a 65-year-old woman who, despite a life-long habit to “Question Authority” at (most) every turn, just this year finally understood for myself how this conditioning has affected my partner choices.)

        Interesting discussion and comments on a most articulate post about the energy required in home management.


    1. Oh wow, I would say as a gay man in his 30s with a 10 plus year partner, this absolutely exists in queer relationships.

      We have mental load ‘discussions’ all the time. How I ended up being the one who feels like I carry more of the mental load than he does, who knows? I often wonder how heteronormative gender roles have showed up so clearly in my relationship. Maybe time for a second comic? 🙂


  5. My parents are separated, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve done more and more of managing my dad’s household (more than just chores kids usually take on, the actual “management position” you referred to). He recently said that “you should have asked!” in response to me explaining I felt too relied upon to do household tasks–and I was just left speechless. Was it that simple? Was this the magic key to less exhausted daily life and having leisure time back? But when is the opportunity to ask, exactly? When helping my little sister with something distracts me from cooking, like your example of the overflowing pot on the stove, is he not prompted to step in? Or is it only his responsibility once it’s clattering loudly and distracting him and affecting him directly? Are communal tasks only ever his once I’ve acknowledged it as A Task To Complete, and asked would you like to help with a Task I have figured out and then delegated? When does he start to consider the household /his/, and therefore /also his/ to manage? My sister doesn’t need to be prompted to recognize the kitchen has gotten a little too dirty and that she can go ahead and clean a space she herself lives in! But of course, she was socialized that way.

    You mentioned a possible solution in feeling guiltless over disengaging from the managerial tasks and leaving things up to the other person, but what if they never take on the tasks you stop overmanaging because they’re used to everything being assigned to them and now won’t take on new things undirected? For example, I’ve lacked the energy to do the grocery shopping when the fridge was looking empty, but I figured it could wait a day. But the next day I’m drained from schoolwork. And the next day from this or that and we really need to get groceries, but he never thinks to make the run himself with that list helpfully taped right there on the fridge. This comes back to the question for those that say “you should have asked!” When? This is a gradual process of needing to get groceries more and more pressingly, and it was the next logical step when you see the fridge is empty, when could I have suddenly realized you weren’t going to do the task unprompted? It’s food for all of us, it’s a group responsibility; why is that not a Task for you to do? When your search for those chips you like only found them on the grocery list, did you never think, hmm, I’ll go buy those? Oh, actually I’m remembering he does do grocery runs like this. In which he buys only the chips. It just feels like a lack of consideration for the whole household, instead there’s consideration only for yourself. “The Household is not my responsibility, only My Tasks are my responsibility, and maybe I add some Tasks to my list because I want to add them, and I’ll do Tasks delegated to me to ‘do my part,’ because I’m focused on me and my part and what I might do for myself, and the wholistic, collective perspective–the Household–isn’t my responsibility.” This seems very tied to the emotional mental load women carry in terms of needing to cater to everyone else’s needs and make sure everyone’s comfortable and happy–the antithesis of focusing only on your own part. Individualism strikes again.

    For all my complaining, my dad does still take on some household tasks automatically, without being managed, and we’ve been expanding those to prepare for when I move out, but that again falls more on me thinking to arrange this and easing him into living alone again. I really appreciate this comic as it has helped me recognize this phenomenon in my own life, clarifying what I saw as “he just needs to help more” into “he views his help as directed by me too often and needs to take on responsibilities of running the household, not just individual chores.” I also think this comic will help me explain it all to my dad when I raise the issue again. So thanks 🙂


    1. Hi Jumi. Your situation is more difficult than living with a male spouse. I am STEM-y, and have no problem issuing dictats to male romantic partners I live with, e.g. saying,

      “I am no longer going to the market to get groceries for us. If you do not do the shopping properly when the refrigerator is almost empty, then you will go hungry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Going to the store and buying only chips does not constitute proper shopping. Rather, proper shopping is defined as taking the list which I helpfully wrote up and taped to the door, then going to the market, purchasing the items, and putting them in their proper places upon returning home. I will be supportive and provide guidance when you make mistakes, but this is just like a task at work. You must learn how to do it correctly.”

      My father is gone from this world, but I love him very much. My stepmother died, and I had to get him accustomed to living on his own. He was healthy and alert, quite capable. I didn’t want to be disrespectful or unkind to him, never! Sometimes I would hold in my feelings, then get exasperated and yell at my father, which was awful.

      Finally, I took the mindset that I was hurting him by being so accommodating. He would need to do these things for himself, and it would be better for him to learn while I was available, nearby, to help. Try being polite but unyielding when telling your father what he needs to do. Don’t apologize. You actually DO know what is best for him, an odd feeling maybe, but valid. You are a good daughter for caring for your father, but you have your own life to live.


  6. Great comic – thank you Emma!!

    I think instead of debating about payments and the amount of mental load, it would be easier to compare the quantity or the amount of “leisure/hobby/regeneration time without kids”. Each parent should have the approximate SAME amount of leisure time to regenerate. If you then see that one parent has too few leisure/free time, the other parent has to take over some tasks.


    1. Hmm. You’re talking about micromanaging and sorting things too not be perfect. However this article isn’t talking about perfection. It’s about passable. This isn’t about too much parsley in potatoes.. this is about no potatoes at all, or raw potatoes and a whole kitchen to clean up afterwards…
      As with everything there is a certain standard that must be met before a job can be considered done. In work, say for Example work involved building cars… it wouldn’t do to have only 2 wheels put on, and a load of scrap metal lying around… not to have had to roll out the red carpet for that to have happened at all.
      It’s not gate keeping to expect someone to take sufficient ownership and responsibility for doing their daily living tasks to a reasonable standard, and that they take the initiative to do them when they are due, without having to be reminded, asked or heaven forbid begged (!)


  7. Hello, Emma.

    I think I’ve read through most of the replies and probably wasted about an hour doing that. It seems like many have taken up arms to defend against an evil they feel the need to attack. Wrong forum. It blurs your important message to the partner that falls into the heterosexual male category guilty of perpetuating this type of behavior.

    I was munching on some tasty leftovers from the dinner my wife made when she asked me to come over and read something as she stepped away to go tuck in our boys. A cursory pass of “You should have asked” I picked up on many words that made me feel uncomfortable, made me want to stop reading, words like; household management, chores, workload and heterosexual men. Irritated and unable to find an immediate statement I could debunk my wife came by and started to load up the dishwasher. I told her I would do the dishes in a minute but she said she was already doing them so, no. I think I got to the part in the cartoon about clearing the table when it dawned on me that 1) I hadn’t done anything since I came home from work except play video games to “relax” 2) my wife just zipped past me taking the trash out and 3) it was already 9:00 pm.

    Thank you for the epiphany. I’m leaving right now to pitch in, hope it’s not too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thats what i will do too, past the fact that Im the one doing the dishes, cooking reaparing and buying grocerys nearly every time i still feel Im not doing 50%. So thx for the Comic.


  8. Yep. I feel this. I’m not married – but until now (cause I’ve put my foot down) my housemate (male) and I (female) have been working as a partnership instead of housemates. I’ll give you three guesses who works 40 hours a week (in childcare mind you) and STILL does the majority of the cooking/cleaning while the other one is unemployed?

    I have been nagging him for WEEKS to get the dishes done – and each day he would only do what was “needed” for that day – which wasn’t what I asked for. I did half and told him to do the other half. Well – until tonight it had been 2 weeks since that and he’d only done the cutlery and a few containers. Guess who did it all tonight? Yep – me – because I have guests coming over on Friday. Guess who came out right at the end and said “aww, thanks sweetie you should have asked me to do that?”. Again – 3 guesses.

    Guess who got offended when I slammed down the towel I had and said “That’s it! From tonight – we do everything for ourselves (besides joint things like cleaning common areas) I can’t fucking do this anymore?”. I was very innocently asked if I was pms’ing.

    I have to write a fucking list on the whiteboard DAILY for this (alleged) grown ass man to do chores. And half the time it doesn’t get done because ‘I’m tired’, “I’m in pain” (he does have a chronic back condition – BUT SO DO I, with G size boobs on top of it that I’m desperate for a reduction for to help my back out) or “I was busy doing XYZ”.
    Tomorrows note simply says “Take the trash out, put the bins on the road and vaccum the common areas of the apartment” (which is NOT very big at all). I’ve actually written “This should take you TWENTY minutes tops and I will be home at 4pm”. as an expectation of it being done by 4pm. I’ve even put the vaccum on charge for him tonight so that THAT isn’t an excuse.

    Note: 100% plan on going our separate ways – I just can’t afford to right now with covid wrecking my entire savings and not having anyone else to move in with.


    1. piggybacking my own comment to say – I’m even considering hiring a cleaner for a once off giant clean as my own depression has been kicking my ass enough that I’ve just done basic cleaning and need help to do a deep clean. He won’t pay for it as “I (he) can do that myself”… I mean – you NEVER HAVE BEFORE so why do I trust you there? I’m even having to consider going to a laundromat to do a deep wash of sheets and towels and blankets because I just can’t trust him to get them all on/off the clothesline while I’m at work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emily,
        Why do you live with someone who isn’t your spouse, isn’t your boyfriend/girlfriend, doesn’t work, doesn’t do any cleaning or housekeeping, while you work 40 hours a week and presumably pay rent? Also, why does your roommate call you “sweetie” and make comments about your supposed PMS? If you are working 40 hours per week and don’t like living with this lazy guy, then you need to find a different place to live that costs the same or less than where you live now. Or, if it is YOUR home/apartment, then you need to tell him to leave, and find someone else to split rent with.

        You might want to view this as an object lesson in what NOT to accept in a future boyfriend or spouse. When one is in a relationship or has a child in common with a male partner, walking away due to uneven burdens in domestic matters despite both people working is frustrating and challenging to change, however, it is worth finding a more fair equilibrium because of relationship commitment. You, however, are free to move on if you find your living arrangement intolerable.

        Good for you, being employed 40 hours a week despite COVID! Stay safe and healthy. You don’t need more stress in your life.


  9. I’m a woman who lives with her brother, and I’m guilty of acting like the men you described. My reasons don’t make it okay, but could perhaps offer some perspective:
    I spent large portions of my life surrounded by people who not only refused to acknowledge anything good or constructive I did, but also found conflicting errors.
    For an example, if I only did X when asked to do X, I’d get berated for not also doing Y and Z. If I did XYZ next time, I’d be berated for not just doing X as that’s what was asked.

    I was constantly told my every desiscion was wrong, and if I asked for directions, got told to think for myself, only to get yelled at for doing it wrong, picking the wrong option, or getting in the way.

    This has lead me to become extremely scared of making mistakes and taking initiative.
    I realise asking someone else to tell me which chores need to be done and how is placing an ubfair burden on them, but it’s a way of protecting myself from getting yelled at for not doing the right thing the right way.

    I am getting better at it, but I still catch myself often saying things like “Do you need help?” Or “Do you need me to do anything?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there’s some important truth in that observation, M. Most of the comments here imply that this is a genetic abnormality in men (which maybe true), but what if there’s also an element of learned behaviour? When I lived alone I did all the stuff around managing a household alongside my day job. But after marriage and children I got a lot of “don’t do it that way, do it this way” from my wife. Eventually, the regular corrections (criticism?) taught me to ask first or wait for directions. Hence, with a lot of chores, especially related to babies and toddlers, I just stopped taking the initiative.

      I’m not looking for absolution or anything here. We have been happily married for 36 years. I’m just offering this observation — if you actively take on the “manager role” to the point of instructing your partner in his inadequate performance for each chore, you will eventually train him to wait until asked (and instructed). Sometimes it may be worth accepting a job done by your partner, which may not be up to your high standards, but nevertheless done.


      1. Michael,
        Oh please, don’t tell me you believe this:

        Most of the comments here imply that this is a genetic abnormality in men (which maybe true) ..

        There are no women on submarines, nor were there any women on naval ships until about 30 years ago. Toilets still needed cleaning, food needed cooking, dishes had to be washed and put away after every meal, laundry had to be done, shirts needed to be ironed, etc. Occasionally, there were sewing tasks, for officer’s buttons and probably ripped sails. Men did all these things without any woman’s instruction or oversight.

        I have only read a dozen of the many comments, so I do not dispute whether prior comments suggest men have a genetic abnormality when it comes to household duties. Y’all are just as capable as women at managing a household. Plenty of men are more capable than I am at it.

        I’m sorry for my rebuke of what you probably meant as a light-hearted nudge (I realize now…). Everything else about your comment is right on target. Household tasks don’t need to be performed perfectly, and accidents (e.g. a broken glass, chipped plate, iron burn on a shirt) are forgivable. It is no good to instill a quasi-learned helplessness as it seems happened to M. Fortunately, that can be unlearned. Glad to hear you’ve been happily married for 36 years. That’s awesome!


      2. Hi Michael. I recognize this. I think women have internalized some of these things, the same as men have. It’s helpful for women to realize this and not be critical when the partner does a job differently – but it is also helpful for the man to help her with this. Where does the critic come from? Ask her, so that you can kéép taking on tasks, instead of just withdrawing. I think it’s a part of the conversations we need to be having. We all need to shift things mentally, and we can support each other in this.

        Also, in my experience, a part of this is that some chores are only done partly (doing the dishes, but leaving the drain full of stuff, not putting dried dishes away, what have you). And/or that a first response is not ‘yes, that makes sense’, but ‘well, you’re too strict about it, that doesn’t need to happen, that doesn’t need to happen so often, that’s just your way of doing it..’, instead of first asking a question to better understand the need.

        So then it’s a: ‘you should’ve asked’, turns into a ‘you shouldn’t have critiqued me when I did it differently than you would’ve’, to a ‘you should’ve asked again’.. Where does the responsibility lie?


      3. Are you happily married or is she just no longer bringing things that bother her to your attention? You admitted that you have stopped trying without being given instructions, so why do you assume that her lack of verbal unhappiness automatically means you’re both happily married? Besides, your second paragraph seems more like a lesson for you and other men than for women. You should try actively listening the first time corrections are made so that you don’t do the same thing wrong the next time. You likely did not listen well enough to do it right, which made you continually do it wrong. This means that your wife would have to continue correcting you, which, sure, will make you feel like shit because you are constantly being corrected, but it is ultimately on you for not fixing it the first time. The idea that your wife should have to just deal with a poorly done job because “at least it’s being done” simply because you cannot take the time and effort to listen and make corrections is awful. You claim that this is just an observation, but it just sounds like you’re making excuses for the fact that you don’t help until asked – attributing that to “training” only furthers the point that you didn’t listen and fix your mistakes, so you decided to help even less than before.


  10. This comic brings out truth to relationships but more household management regardless of who is living in the house.

    What I discovered living with 3 other males was the “cleanliness threshold”. Everyone has their breaking point of “the kitchen is filthy and needs to be cleaned NOW”. I always hit it before the other 3 guys. Our fridge was a science experience to see what we could grow. I don’t even want to talk about the bathrooms. My point is that the jobs will get done by the person whose threshold is hit first.

    Conversation v internal frustration
    Obviously the mental load is taken up by the female in the majority of relationships. Instead of getting frustrated perform a performance review on him. Talk about it.

    So I’ve taken the initiative before and mostly it doesn’t end well. I did the job but it wasn’t to my wife’s standards or her method or liking. So it was redone. So will I do those chores again? Recognising there are multiple ways of doing a task could also go along way at the start of a relationship.

    If he’s lazy that’s a whole other conversation.

    The last point is high level decisions and brain space that takes. Often unspoken but still worth a mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose there are relationships where one partner is genuinely a neat freak and it therefore makes sense for them to clean more, as cleaning past a certain threshold is just not necessary. But in a situation where the fridge can be legitimately moldy before people get tipped off reduces efficiency to a large extent because that fridge is quite unusable due to the safety risks.

      As for your wife’s standards, I don’t know your situation so that might be true, but I had similar frustrations with my husband. It mostly came down to the fact that whenever he wouldn’t do something up to my standard, which he thought was too high, the consequence would be felt whenever I’d do it next. He would clean the kitchen but forget to toss leftover items past their expiration date, or forget to scrub the sink, or to put the dish towels in the wash, which would inevitably mean I’d have to do it one day while cooking. He’d put away the groceries but stuff things into the freezer, so when I’d go to make breakfast for the kids next morning, things would fall out and I’d have to put them back in and organise a way that’s accessible to grab things.

      I know he tried and I was grateful for him taking the initiative, but it just got incredibly frustrating to explain all these little things.


  11. Here’s the thing.

    Men know what needs to be done. Men know how to do household tasks and chores. They simply choose not to do them when they’re married because their wives have been conditioned to manage everything.
    After divorcing my husband, not only did he lose his emotional punching bag he also lost his housekeeper. Baffled what to do with the kids after I left as we had split custody every other week they spent at his house. As far as household tasks go he knew how to do them it was just easier to have me do everything because I was a stay-at-home mom. Because he made enough money had a cleaning lady come in every week. It would have been nice to have that kind of help when I was living there.

    I digress. My fiance and I live in separate homes. He knows what to do and does it. He has no one else to depend on to do these things it’s his house and his responsibility.
    It will be interesting to see if the dynamic changes when I move in with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice post, but not applicable to all men in the world. I do everything that is needed for my home without any ask from wife. We always discuss together and do the chores and taking care of kids. Whatever the story posted is also old ways of doing things by a women. I have so many women taking their personal time, means their husbands are also taking care of things. So it will be a equality between partners rather than saying women do the mental load. I pray that someone from men write about mental load of men fighting between wife and parents love.


  13. Emma, just wanted you to know that I read your comic before the birth of my son 5 years ago – I’ve since had a beautiful daughter as well. I’ve returned to your words time and time again as possibly the most important general guidance to help me be the father and husband that I want to be.

    Thank you so much for creating this.


  14. Please see “Brain Games” Chapter “Battle of the Sexes” it seems that men cannot see all colors and all details that women can see. I am convinced my husband does not see the dirt, he cooks and helps when I tell him and that is fine. So far wee keep the family togheter.


  15. See, I know my husband would be outraged if I showed him this, because he would say (to a certain extent correctly) he does more than me in terms of housework, tidying, doing the washing etc. But my mental load still exists because he has absolutely no idea what the kids are doing when, or what they need. He doesn’t think about food until he starts feeling faint with hunger. He doesn’t know what time the kids finish school or where or when their extra-curricular activities are. He doesn’t stand by the door reminding them what they need to take to school. All of that is mental load, not just housework.


    1. So much of the mental load is invisible. Just take food from your example:

      3 meals a day, 7 days a week, is 21 meals that you have to plan for every week. Leftovers cut down on cooking, but still require planning – how much leftovers will you have, what meals will you eat them for, how will you vary things so you’re not eating the same thing every day, etc.

      You have kids that don’t eat the same things you do? That figure balloons to up to 42 meals a week.

      You have kids that are picky and don’t all eat the same thing? Now that figure explodes to up to 63 or 84 meals a week.

      Even taking the average, you’re looking at planning, shopping for, and preparing 21-53 meals a week, every week.

      And then your partner spontaneously declares that they want to do something different for dinner that throws all your planning off. 😉


  16. Many of today’s young working women did not respect their mothers’ choice to be housewives. About half of my generation (baby boomers) were, and many didn’t go to work until the children were in school. Now that there is nobody home to do all that mental/organizational and menial work, all of today’s workers really need someone like a housewife. That’s where the low-paid women come in, except that the other thing about paid help is that they are usually not expected to do the managing other than within their narrow job description. It’s still usually the mom who has to manage the schedule and tell the worker in detail what needs to be done. And it’s frequently the mom who has to take time off work to take kids to the dentist, stay with them when they’re too sick for daycare, etc..


  17. This single thing destroyed my marriage. I cannot overstate how important this is. After 28 years of this the marriage drowned in a sea of resentment and frustration. Don’t let this happen to you.


  18. Fair warning, male opinion 🙂 .
    I would first like to say that I very much agree that far too much of the mental load and the physical load for home management falls on women. A great deal of this is because men will do as little as they can get away with, but also as much as they get praised for. I personally see it as two sides of the same coin. The carrot and the stick are rather fused together. However it does seem to me that from many of the comments, women end up placing themselves in the manager position with the frequent comments of things along the lines of “doing it wrong”. There are many things where there is an obvious wrong, such as spoiled food and mold and whatnot. Other things definitely have an optimal path of maximum efficiency, such as loading the dishwasher or organizing the dishes. However, many many other things are simply a matter of upbringing, culture, and preference. In a workplace, anyone who is not an actual manager who sets themselves up as an arbiter of these things is seen as controlling, or simply a jerk. In a caring relationship, there is an obvious bias towards allowing management rather than writing the other off as a jerk. This does not mean that the man has no reason to listen to and respect his partners preferences. However, it also does not mean that the woman has any call at all to criticize her partners choices in those areas that are about preference rather than safety or necessity. Even areas of efficiency I think should largely be left up to the one doing it, unless very good reason is found to criticize and correct. It is very disrespectful, and as has been mentioned in other comments, disincentivizes the man to do it again, because obviously it was not appreciated.
    In two of my own relationships, I was very much the primary as far as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and meal planning. (No kids.) Nevertheless, there was a continual struggle over the mental load, as both partners tended to criticize as my choices for those things, while absolutely refusing to follow through on any requests for assistance or even to give suggestions on alternate options. To me, this resulted in them taking over the mental load because they did not like the outcome of leaving it to me, while not taking on the physical load. This also resulted in my physical workload increasing, as the time that I allocated for tasks increased as, for example, the menu had to change.

    All that being said, there are a few things that obviously no man could tell a woman how to do properly. At least, not legitimately. Things such as how to manage her own pregnancy and breastfeed come to mind. Closely linked would be early childhood care, although hopefully a man would have input on that. However, for many other things, perhaps consider that the man’s preference might be just as valid as the woman’s, even if it is not to her liking. There is a tremendous difference between “do it this way because it is the right way” and “I would like you to do it this way because that is the way I prefer it”. The latter is much more vulnerable, since it is obviously preference, not moral high ground.

    Another thing to consider is that for the past several decades, pretty much all men have been raised almost exclusively by women. The father goes to work, the mom stays home and raises the child, then the child goes to school and is taught by almost exclusively female teachers. In that whole 1950s era of male breadwinners and female homemakers, the woman understandably ran the home, and that is what children saw growing up. They then took that with them into their adult relationships. Now that women are very much in the workforce, that mindset is no longer applicable, but is still hanging around.
    To the men, I say listen to your partner and do your utmost to maintain the house in a way that makes her comfortable, since her tolerance for unclaimliness is likely lower than yours.
    To the women, I ask you to remember that many of these things were instilled from childhood and are hard to change. Men greatly value being respected, and do not respond well to criticism in this venue. A cook at a restaurant does not have to eat the food he is making, and therefore it is easier to shape it to the recipients preference, since he does not have to take into account his own taste. At home, doing it her way means not being allowed to do it his way. This can be challenging and if overly criticized, very demoralizing.


  19. I am amazed at how hostile and sexist these illustrations are. They make global statements about how men are bad and women have to pick up the slack. They are harmful and insulting cliches. And when men and women enter into marriage carrying pre-set attitudes toward their partner, it results in fights rather than communication. In my experience, as a Couples Therapist, fights over picking socks up off the floor are almost never about the socks. Repetitive fights are almost always about how one, or both, partners don’t feel seen, listened to, and loved. But, talking about those issues is too difficult, so instead the couple fights over the dishes. But in my opinion, these illustrations simply perpetuate sexist attitudes and will only lead to more conflict.


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