1,649 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.

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  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”…

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  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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  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.

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  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 🙂

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    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.

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  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.

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