Here is the english version of my now famous “Fallait demander” ; now available as a book with other stories :
Orders available here or here or here ^_^
Thanks Una from unadtranslation.com for the translation 🙂
Here is the english version of my now famous “Fallait demander” ; now available as a book with other stories :
Orders available here or here or here ^_^
Thanks Una from unadtranslation.com for the translation 🙂
1,860 thoughts on “You should’ve asked”
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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Precisely – you’re not his parent, you’re his partner. And I bet at work, he can be detail-oriented and effective.
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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’.
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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)
I understand your frustration and that of many other commenters; however, I think the bigger issue is how this ultimately is addressed. That’s where the real *management* work lies.
An anecdote I use is buying something online. The action of going online and placing an order is a very visible task. But how many times have you stopped to consider all the work that goes into designing and maintaining the website and logistics system to make that online order possible. That’s the hidden work.
Example – my spouse is fantastic. Spouse does loads of things almost exclusively – dishes, laundry, yard work, meals, etc., but I’m still exhausted and overwhelmed because I’m doing so much. At this point, you are probably wondering what the heck do I do, right? I get asked that question ALL the time.
We’ll that’s where this study / article comes in IMO. While my spouse does a ton of visible work, I’m constantly identifying needs and then creating and troubleshooting the underlying plan to address those needs.
Simple Example: Laundry: I set up the system for ensuring dirty clothes are consolidated and collected in a couple key locations. That involved understanding the traffic patterns in our home. Determining what resources were needed for collection (hampers, hooks, etc). Doing research and procurement of needed items. Then I had to deploy those resources and train everyone to use the system. I also have to fix the system if people are not using it and then retrain. All that work was *behind the scenes* so to speak. All my spouse (or paid cleaner) has to do is transfer the items from the hamper (where items are already color separated due to training / system design) into the machine and then fold and put in baskets. Everyone puts away their own stuff (again this was part of system design and training). The system design even took into account the research, purchase and install of a washing machine that has an auto detergent dispenser that has to be refilled only a couple times a month. My spouse didn’t have to do any system design, training or troubleshooting. Spouse has a checklist – move items from hamper to washer. Washer to dryer. Fold and place in basket. Done. I had to create the system. The checklist of “doing laundry” is only a small part.
This happens in many cases – choosing the technology infrastructure we use in our home, having a centralized plan for handling school communications, determining if our children are having issues that need addressed based on subtle signs, handling feelings – so many feelings, setting up the filing system for our business, determining where things go in our home and creating a system for that, having a way to understand what our kids are learning in school so that we can reenforce at home and when we go places (hey, they are learning about government, let’s go see where the declaration was signed in Philly while we are up there), etc.
My spouse often jokes about being my Go For – that I’m constantly asking him to run out and get things, or do tasks. My reply is always, that’s because I somehow ended up the project manager for all things but that I’d be happy to switch roles – I’m great at knocking stuff off checklists. I’d much rather cross things off a checklist then have to create the list and the underlying system the list is a part of – because my work never ends. Once all the laundry and dishes are done my spouse can relax – while I sit on the sofa and research a solution for all the projects on my plate…
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.
It’s not “helping your wife” when it’s your own household and kids!
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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.
Nisha Shah I created a WordPress account just to say amen to your comment and thank you for writing it all out.
To Emma: Your comic is brilliant. It makes me want to cry and throw up and hug you all at the same time (but I promise I won’t).
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.
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.
Many women feel pressured to marry and have kids, so they either settle with a man who doesn’t do the housework or discover later that he doesn’t do the housework and don’t have the energy to find someone else. The solution is to not have much housework by not having children. See https://www.stophavingkids.org/
This comment is quite shallow and short of true and complete analysis. Why would you assume that women have walked into a relationship, knowing that their spouses were non-participants in many respects. Also, yes your post is a bit Lysistrata and extreme. If we can agree that men, boys then, were inculcated with the ideas that they now practice, then we can then suggest that men can change subsequent to new information and practice.
Exactly. When we are taught from birth, the ‘traditional’ role, with our parents leading by example, we don’t know anything is /wrong/. We fall in love, we cohabitate, we procreate, THEN we ask ourselves how did our mother do it??? As we are being raised, by the time we are actually observing the ‘traditional’ role, mother has already figured out how to make it function. She has her routines, and father has his, making the world continue to revolve. -OR- We observe the fussing, & fighting and THAT becomes the norm, it is what you are attracted to (read ‘comfortable with’) therefor will manage your life as your role-models modeled them. It’s the circle of life (read as ‘link in the chain’) that is either worked at to be broken, or linked up in your life to continue the chain. We don’t /know/ we’re repeating the cycle until something *clicks* (for what ever reason) and we seek change. I don’t blame the ones who perpetuate the circle. I try to support, educate, and lead by example. Unfortunately, this type of ‘eye-opening’ education only comes when sought out. Either by higher education, or counseling. Sometimes, but more rare, we can find it through friendship with someone of an educated (in this regard) mindset. It would be lovely if public school integrated this into their courses but it’s a slow, slooow process to change curriculum. Hopefully someday.
So I ask you, the reader, to be that friend. We /are/ evolving, we just need to make it happen quicker. Lift up the women around you, seek counseling, and be compassionate, & patient.
precisely! this is why i am a single mother by choice.
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.
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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.
You are talking about adding more physical load to her agenda. This article is about mental load. Are you able to get groceries on your own or does she have to do the mental labor of giving you the list in order for you to “help”? And worse, do you expect her to generate the list and get the items and put them away? If there are children, have you known when the next medical appointments need to be or only when she lists it out? I never signed up to carry all the mental load and somehow I have it anyway. All those dishes you complain about. Who did the meal prep? Who planned out the meals? If you are doing all those things then kudos. If you are doing three loads of dishes and then having a subsequent stand off about dishes without seeing everything else……not so good.
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.
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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.
I’m standing right next to you on this. I’m also a full time student and he’s the bread winner. I’m constantly dealing with “you should have asked or just let me know what I can do to help”. I 100% acknowledge I am lucky, he does help, but Man! this mental load stuff is relentless! I’m working on just letting stuff go, it’s not important, let it go or my need to have everything done “correctly”, but change is slow and hard.
He’s fucking it up on purpose to make you stop asking. He really doesn’t care how he looks, or so he claims. He also doesn’t view you as an equal or he wouldn’t treat you this way. So, leave it all be. Let him look like a slob. Cook only for yourself. Only then might you see a change when his entitlement kicks in.
If one partner is going to presume what the “right” way to do something is, then it is impossible for there to be shared management of the household. That partner is asserting authority, and by doing so, is making their claim as the de facto manager and claiming the responsibility.
And yet they LOATHE when you referred to them as another one of your children or your child in general. Like my god, if you don’t want to be referred to as one stop acting like one and act like a spouse! I’ve always said when I have kids I want my daughter(s) to know how to stick up for themselves and “fight like a man”, and my son(s) to know how to cook and clean. I want to raise a Man who will be an amazing partner to their spouse, and raise a Woman who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants in life. Children are the future and “you didn’t ask” and “she divorced me for leaving my dishes on the counter” can not continue to be normal behavior married or not. They say be the change you want to see in the future, but we also have to raise the change we want to see in the future.
True. They have eyes to see that a woman is doing multiple things and they don’t have to wait to be asked.. Bcos women don’t wait to be asked they just jump in to help..
I think it goes back to men being mommas boys, which is not only the mother’s fault, but societally as well.
Or you could blame it on childhood training: his dad showing him how not to show up.
Why blame the mother? Not solely her responsibility there, either.
I once asked my husband to pick up our child from daycare since he got off early that day and his response was “ok but you owe me.” I reminded him that I everyday drop off AND pick up our child and I owe him nothing.
OMG, this is my life in a comic
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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…
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….
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.
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Thank you Franca and Brittany. As someone who grew up in a critical household, whenever I did something, my mother said I wasn’t doing it right…however what that really meant was that I wasn’t doing it her way. To each their own. If it gets done, that’s the important thing. In my relationship, my partner could care less how I fold the clothes as long as they get folded. Guess what? Less stress for everyone and the work still gets done.
Alex there are a number of ways to load a dishwasher. There is no such thing as a right / wrong way. More logical, sure. But if the dishes all get washed, your way works and that is just as valid as someone else’s.
The simple – as I see it – solution is this – ask HOW something needs to be done, and then DO IT THAT WAY. If we’ve been burdened with the project management of keeping a running home, we’ve clearly put in all the thought/planning of HOW. IF he was at work, and told something had to be a certain way, he’d do it, because those in charge said it had to be that way. He may not LIKE it, but he’d do it or he’d get fired. My husband put the burden of every single decision on caring for our child – which means I did the hours and hours of research on HOW it should be done, yet when I ask him to do something a particular way, he either refuses, or complains – which completely invalidates the exhaustive extensive effort I put into educating myself on the care and raising of a child (because it’s not like they come with a care manual). But the only way he could get “fired” at home is a divorce, and with chronic illnesses and the inability to earn a wage, I am literally stuck. And he knows that.
I take issue with Caiolainn’s comments about finding the right way to do something. Me and my partner have different views often how best to do a task and organise it.
I have ADHD and dyspraxia and for a lot of tasks I have to organise the process in a way which is logical to me, and which I find easy to undertake and understand. Partner often finds my way of doing things ridiculous and will sometimes moan about it.
For example. When I empty out the clean wash, if there is a lot of it I will sort it into piles based on what it is and who’s it is, before then folding and putting away. Her view is this is unnecessary – I disagree.
I’m not saying don’t ask how to do something if you don’t know. But the original poster wasn’t describing that either. They were describing a situation where a partner does a task in a way which does not meet the approval or standards of the partner; it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been done wrongly or badly.
I recognise in myself that if I get repeatedly yelled at by my partner for not doing something ‘right’ or on her schedule, I’m more likely to avoid doing it in future or to wait for her lead or instruction on doing it. It’s not an attempt to avoid doing work or avoid mental load – but if one person assertively takes the lead on a given task I find this often naturally happens – otherwise if you have two leaders clashing then that doesn’t work either.
So…why don’t they learn to do it right? If, say, the plates have been in one cabinet for years, why would he put them somewhere else that they’ve never been?
Please familiarize yourself with the term “weaponized incompetence,” because that’s what you’ve just described. “I don’t want to do it, so I’m going to do it very wrong on purpose so I’m never asked again.”
Excellent. I really enjoyed reading this! Raising our children to take responsibility for their messes and homes… regardless of gender!
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”…
OMG things like this make my blood boil. So that black ring around the rim of the toilet is what? Since it’s self cleaning and all…
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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.
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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!
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OMG! My ex-husband always said the same things! Self-cleaning….ewww
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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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Don’t just quit the therapy, quit the man! If you’ve told him and literally gone to therapy to discuss it, he doesn’t want to change. Children are hard work, and it sounds like you’ve already got one.
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.
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Same for me more or less. So sad 😞
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.
Yes I especially mentionned that in some houses men did their part
This is STATISTICALLY a gender issue
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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.
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i dont want to gloat or anything but god i love being a lesbian
The fact that we straight women still exist is proof that sexuality is not a choice.
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.
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? 🙂
On the other hand as a gay man I suffered terribly because of this! I just ended a 7 year relationship that I think was torn apart because of this at the root. I was the one that was the primary breadwinner, and I was the one who had to run the primary functions of the household: both the homeownership & maintenance and the food prep scheduling etc.I tried to make him in charge of the clothing/laundry and the decorating/landscaping. He couldn’t make a decision if he had to; and we ended up with closets full of clothes that we’d never wear..it became too much to bear when he’d complain about never having money and our physical relationship suffered.
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 🙂
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,
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.
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.
“Of couse, there’s nothing forcing us to do all this. The problem with that when we stop, the whole family suffers.”
This sort of comment is partnership/parental gatekeeping though. It’s not constructive. This tiny article does a better job of explaining than I could: https://www.purewow.com/family/gatekeeping-and-effects-on-relationships
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 (!)
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.
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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.
Thank you Tim, this made me want to cry. I’m not married and don’t have kids yet but I’ve seen the work my SIL does as a SAHM, it is a 24/7 job! I am so glad you realized that relaxing after work while your wife continues working means that she is working more than full-time! (Something I’ve thought about a lot when reading about these situations.) Thankfully I think my brother does a good job of making sure they both get the same amount of rest time, as someone in the comments above pointed out as a measure of equal workload. I do think at least in the beginning of having kids my SIL still carried more of the mental load.
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.
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.
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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.
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?”
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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.
Oh please, don’t tell me you believe this:
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!
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?
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
Cool, thanks for trying to hijack the narrative by “not all men”-ing this. If you feel so many men have this issue, maybe you should write your own article instead of coming here to try to take over the narrative in this one.
Thank you, Emma. This was beautiful.
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.
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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.
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.
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. 😉
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..
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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.
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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.
It’s not often about critizising, it’s trying to help. If I have been doing this thing for years and years, I have formed some habits that make it easier and more efficient. If I have to ask someone else to do it and they don’t have my experience, I might mention a more efficient way as means to help. But when we do that, we are seen as nagging and unreasonable.
I saw a post some time ago with a picture of hanging laundry with caption “this is how my husband hangs the laundry…. *sight*”, and so many people came to defend the husband stating “at least he does something” and “you should let him do it his way or he might not want to do it at all!”.
The thing is, the way the laundry was hanging would lead every single item being very wrinkled and possibly even getting stenchy from drying too slowly. His “help” requires her to to ASK him to fix it, redo the task herself, do an additional task later (iron wrinkly clothes) OR even wash and dry everything again if the clothes start stinking because of the way they were hung. I would call that the wrong way of doing it, and offering up information why there is a better way is not nagging, it’s letting them know what issues it causes.
When we were building a garage, I didn’t want to just throw my hands in the air because my husband was correcting me on certain things, I regodnized that he knows more about woodworking than I do and asked him additional questions if I wasn’t sure why something was done a certain way or what he wanted me to do. A lot of that was also about preference, not a necessity, and instead of getting offended for being corrected, I regodnized his knowledge over the subject and did things his way the next time.
“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.”
…So are you saying that these men require recognition and praise just to complete general household tasks? I wonder if these same men ever thank their wives for washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, etc. An adult shouldn’t need praise to do their part of the things around the house that need doing, god knows women do thankless chores all the time without any recognition.
To that same point, if you’ve been allowing someone else to pick up your slack for years and they’ve finally insisted you do your part but they correct the way you do it, maybe you should listen to what they have to say – there is definitely a right way and wrong way to do certain tasks, even the ones you believe are subjective, and as Beasty stated before me, doing some tasks in a less efficient way creates more work – such as half-a**ed hanging up wet laundry so that it will wrinkle or become sour and require ironing or rewashinh. Nobody – men or women – deserves appreciation for doing something if they do it so poorly it causes someone else to have to redo it.
i still do not understand why hetero women enter into relationship with men, it seems like too much work to me (i have been happily single for more than 20 years)
Preach it! I’m 29 and have been voluntarily single for life. Trust me, I have had many propositions for marriage but have happily turned them all down. Don’t believe them when they promise to treat you like a queen, because guess who will be stuck with managing the castle once you are married.
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.
This is a comment coming from a man. Not very surprising in the least. This is why our society will never change because men like you refuse to acknowledge the white male privilege that you have.
Right, he must not know anything about anything saying that. The majority of men are complete and utter garbage trash at household tasks like cooking, cleaning, organizing, and taking care of children. This is across races, classes, countries, regions, and wealth. I mean geez.
Chill with the racism. Men of all colors act in ways this comic points out.
As a woman I completely disagree. It IS about the socks, it IS about not doing a fair share of the chores, childcare, and mental labor. The man not taking on a fair share does make the woman feel unloved, unseen, unheard, but the way to fix that is for him to step up. There is no other solution. Going for a date night, buying presents, expressing appreciation, none of that will work.
Only the man doing what he should have been doing all along will fix this problem, because the woman is flat out exhausted and resentful because he seems fine with sacrificing her free time and mental health so he can sit on his butt.
And BTW, it’s not sexist to tell the truth. Look into the statistics on hours of housework and childcare men vs women do in a relationship. Heck, getting married to a man creates seven hours MORE of household chores for a woman per week.
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Oh yes, date night, that magical cure-all! I may quite possibly actually scream the next time I see that paraded out as a solution for a wife feeling overworked, overwhelmed and undervalued.
Don’t get me wrong, I love date night, especially the kind that takes the form of ‘honey, how about I feed the kids tonight and get them to bed early, and then I’ll cook for the two of us.” And I also love going out with my husband, figuring out where to go, dressing up, looking nice, taking time to reconnect.
But not when my mental load is overflowing, I’m juggling three people’s (mine and the kids’) complicated schedules, the days feel like a succession of marathons running around to get everything done, I’m already dropping balls, and 30 seconds before the kids come home from school – possibly with friends tagging along, sometimes with their mum in tow – I snatch those socks off the sofa.
That’s not fixed by date night and a pat on the head for being a great little housewife. In that situation date night is ADDING to my overflowing plate. Now I have all the same tasks as before AND planning a night out (you choose, honey), washing that nice dress (because I’ve been doing everybody else’s laundry first), arranging a babysitter, finding the time in my busy day to shower, shave my legs, do my hair and makeup for a night out, and I STILL have to pick up those damn socks. No thanks.
What does help:
1. A break. A REAL break, not the ‘just catch up tomorrow’ break. My ideal break (and this actually happens, once in a while) is renting a tiny house in the middle of nowhere, going there by myself, just switching off and being alone, and upon my return find that everything still got done. Last time I took a break everything got done AND he deep-cleaned the bathroom, and that was worth a million date nights.
2. Renegotiation: something obviously has to give if it’s gotten to this point, so either we move some regular thing from my plate to his, or we figure out together what can be dropped entirely if his plate is as full as mine.
3. And pick up those damn socks. Because it absolutely IS about the socks. They’re right there.
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Wow, I very much feel bad for your future or current spouse.
Quite sad this person is a relationship therapist.
An a fellow therapist and PHD in clinical psychology, I totally agree with you. “Repetitive fights are almost always about how one, or both, partners don’t feel seen, listened to, and loved.”
Correct. And the way to fix this issue, is for the partner that doesn’t do their fair share to step up. Because that is what showing respect is. That is caring for the wellbeing of your partner. Without it, no relationship holds steady.
Leanne explains it very well.
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Is the one about emotional work available already in English?
This is why I have learned to believe that being single permanently (especially as a woman) is far better than being married to or even living with a man. Never mind having children with them. Even if you did leave him, you’re still stuck with his kid. Oh yeah; guess who gets to be the permanent caregiver and guess who gets to be the cool every other weekend parent who takes their kid to the zoo and Disneyland?
Being a wife and a mother is a very mentally and physically taxing and thankless job. Honestly, I wish more women would wake up and just not be with men anymore in the first place. The only way they will even begin to think you have a problem with these gender stereotypes is if you just flat out refuse to do any of them.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve even heard my own father say to my mother “You should have asked!” They both act like they have a very progressive household, but I can tell you without a second thought who does more work around their household and who had to take on the role of the “bad parent” while I was growing up. Honestly, I feel bad for her having to do this because now that I am an adult, I finally get to see what a cool and fun person my mother actually is; but she was never allowed to display that personality while raising me. She had to be cool, level headed, and mentally strong for 18 years.
Not saying that my dad is a bad person by any means, but he definitely enforced these gender stereotypes. Now that I’m 29 years old, he’s complaining that I’m not even dating a man or even considering having kids. My mom replied “Good. I really hope she *bleeping* doesn’t.”
This was truly amazing to read. Curious if the translated comic exists about emotional work as referenced in the last bubble? I tried finding but no luck. I have a feeling it would be equally amazing and ring true. Thanks!
As with everything feminist, this focuses on the responsibility of women, but not on the benefits it produces them
By being the one doing household chores, the woman gets to decide how things are done
Just look at those comments about how men do chores, but “dont do them right,” they basically want the men to do half the housework in the way the women want
Sorry, but the one with the responsibility gets the authority, the moment you want the men to do chores, he gets half of the authority on how tings are done, but by complaining about how is “not done right” men very often decide that the benefit of doing chores they way the woman wants, is not worth the trouble
Just look at the comments about how men “changed” from courtship to marriage, and how “they used to have their own place clean but wont do chores now”
If a man had a clean place while single, and became lazy after marriage, 7/10 times he got tired of the nagging and just stepped back
But dont worry, marriage is dying anyway, there wont be much of this any longer
The BENEFITS of doing household chores are getting to decide how things are done?
This is F-ing hilarious. Oh my, the power trip of getting to decide whether to use toilet cleaner or bleach, getting to decide which kitty litter to buy, getting to decide when the best time is to get the kids new winter coats and shoes, oh be still, my beating heart! Never could I have dreamed I would wield such absolute power, I am positively drunk with the autonomy of it all!
I am actually a stay at home mum by choice, so yeah, I am the household manager and I am perfectly okay with making these decisions. And fortunately my husband manages to avoid being a patronising a$$ about it. Becaus that would be, you know, like me telling him how very lucky he is to be allowed to decide what font to use for his work emails.
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Its like you draw what I feel every day. My husband help me a lot. But he did not understand why I am exhausted. That to do list it is soo long. I do same work that he did, we are colegue. I go home, he help me with cooking, cleaning. But it is always me who says when and that to clean, what to buy and when.. Sometimes I cant rest, because in my mind I have a long list what to do. He never understand until now. Until he read this. Thank you
I tried to show this comic to my [hetero-cis-male] partner awhile back and they were completely triggered by it; asking aggressively “are these rules for living with you?” and claiming that “they have a mental load too!” And wouldn’t even finish reading…they just flipped out on me. 4 years later ask me if they have ever cleaned the bathroom or wiped down anything without being asked…our place gets so filthy so fast because I’m cleaning up after two people and we’re both messy but he doesn’t help and truly doesn’t see that he doesn’t and when I try to point it out it just starts a fight….and he wants children?! and I just don’t know what to do – how do you get someone’s dirty habits and lack of cleanliness to change?
It is a battle that I chose whether or not to have daily. It doesn’t change anything. My husband does physical work, while I do mental work. To him this is not the same. Like I said, not a battle I want to take on daily, it is too exhausting.
Living with another person in and by itself creates a “duty roster” that, unless it is discerned and tackled early on and agreed upon, with go the way of a group project: Someone always does most of the work.
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So I agree with all of this and loved it but here’s dilemma in brining this out in the open with hub. He would say: “well, get a job outside of the home and I will do half”. But pre-kids, he never did when I was working. I still cooked and cleaned and it was only after a fight that he said get a maid because his level of cleaning was not the same as mine.
So I feel I don’t have the time nor mental energy to get a job. I see job postings and I wish I could get that job but my youngest is going through mental health issues and was hospitalized for suicide attempt, so now I am sitting here managing her meds, her therapy and so forth along with house.
I feel you. My son also went through that while I was also working full time and doing most of the chores. It sucks.
Another facet of this is the expectation of praise from men.
The baby needs a new diaper because they pooped. I choose to say “thank you for helping them get clean” for several reasons: to verbally acknowledge his effort and contribution, to exude my gratitude that the task was taken off my plate, to help my own frame of mind into that “gratitude” mindset and to focus on the “did” instead of the “did not,” to model for our child(ren) the impact of a simple acknowledgement and gratitude, to help our children recognize that things are being done for them even when they’re necessities.
When *I* change the baby’s diaper because they’ve pooped, however, there is a noticable lack of “thank you” on his part.
He has an expectation: baby pooped so they need to be cleaned up and changed. Logically, this is the no-brainer that’s required. Its cause and effect. It’s a natural sequence of events that need to take place.
Exertion of gratitude is seen by him as a form of praise. Well, this task is nothing special therefore it does not warrant praise.
This logic gets applied to other natural sequences in domestic responsibilities: dirty clothes need to be laundered, dirty dishes need to be washed, food needs to be prepared to be eaten, etc. These are not “special” or extra, they’re given and therefore do not warrant praise.
To bring to attention that there is more to a “thank you” than praise is a mental and emotional load that he isn’t giving any consideration or thought to. How that absence impacts others is of no consequence to him…until the absence of it prompts behavior from others that now affects him.
As both a woman and a mother, that consideration for others is a thought that I have *because* of the absence of it in my life. Its palpable. And because with consistent neglect and absence, it affects me very poorly, driving me to ensure that others do not experience this, as well.
For men to go without these acknowledgements is hugely disrespectful in their eyes and is something they’ll very quickly punish you for by way of wielding their option to opt out, aka “I don’t like being nagged that I’m not doing it right/efficiently/at all, so I just don’t do it at all because I don’t like how that feels.” This is very much a power dynamic, one that men will not give up in any degree, and when relinquished is only in an effort to sequester their comfort in some other form.
Women, namely heterosexual women engaged in some sort of relationship with men, must play by these rules. And when these rules are boldly challenged, there is further wielding of male power to force women into some degree of compliance/submissiveness.
The mental and emotional load is then bargained for. In order for our lives to be LESS unpleasant, we have to choose from the lesser of 2 (or more) evils, all which dont actually yield pleasantness for us, just less UNpleasantness. Men, however, do not experience life this way. Their unpleasantness is held over us as a threat to which we must learn to live with in some degree, and if we make great efforts to live outside of it, we will be made to suffer, will need to make an absolutely enormous effort to make it happen, and will still have to carry those loads anyway.
And to ask our men to simply say thank you for the menial and mundane is asking them to make effort that they then want praise and acknowledgement over.
There is literally no getting on equal ground with men. Ever. It’s always skewed and portrayed like our experiences and efforts equal, but whether we can identify how that exists or not, we know it’s not equal.
Totally agree. In fact I had that conversation with my husband this morning. We both woke up, I fed the cat and let the dog out. Then I cooked breakfast for the both of us while he watched tv. We showered and since I take longer, he shaved and then cleaned just his side of the sink. I asked why not my side too? I didn’t cook just MY side of the breakfast? When I washed and changed the sheets, I didn’t do MY side of the bed? So I asked him, why don’t you clean my side of the sink too? He made excuses about how he cleans his weekly and I don’t, so mine is worse and more work. I told him it wouldn’t have been if he was cleaning the entire sink every time (like I do)!!!
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Actually it is mentionned in the book, that there are exceptions, did you really read the whole text?
I wonder what the statistics are on this. Of course women aren’t going to comment, “my husband does everything! I’m a bum and it’s great!” So we only see the complaints.
I lived with a female roommate that simply refused to pick up after herself, do her dishes, clean her cat’s litter box, etc. Eventually I gave her the ultimatum that if she couldn’t do a couple bare minimum things (I truly wasn’t asking for much) that we wouldn’t live together anymore. And now we don’t.
This also brings up the obvious question: why did you marry a lazy slob? I’ve dated multiple women that I quickly realized I could never live with because their homes were so dirty and/or messy.
How does this explain single men living in clean homes? If your husband cleaned up his own place before you lived together, why doesn’t he do it now?
Hi Jacob. This sounds a bit like the ‘not all men’ narrative. Of course this doesn’t go for évery couple who live together – but it’s a large enough dynamic to be addressed. As you can see even from the comments here. You can also use Google to find more statistics. Very current are the Corona statistics that showed that women picked up more of the home and childcare related tasks, also with both partners working from home. There are so many more if you are open to hearing, and don’t react with ‘but not me!’ right away.
Regarding men living by themselves, keeping a wonderful household, and then moving in with someone:
Very often it shifts once living with a woman.
When kids arrive the shift often becomes larger (there’s a large mental load there).
Maybe you could do more research into why this is?
It does sound like the ‘not all men’ narrative, and frankly it’s exhausting. That line of argumentation is invalidating and dismissive. No, it’s not all men. But it’s an extremely common experience, and the statistics Jacob ‘wonders about’ are not exactly hard to find, even if they usually focus on hours of housework and not the mental load part of it.
And then there is the ‘why did you marry a lazy slob’ question. I mean, seriously? I think I speak for most of us if I say that women are sick and tired of being held responsible for the way men act. It’s the ‘but you were asking for it’ argument all over again.
But why did you wear that skimpy skirt to your date?
But why did you stay at that frat party after midnight?
But why did you get an apartment with a guy who expects you to pay his bills?
But why did you marry a dude who has a filthy temper?
But why did you move in with a man who has a jealous streak?
But why did you marry a lazy slob?
No. Just no. We’re talking about grownups, not toddlers. It is not our responsibility to make sure the men in our lives act like decent human beings. It’s theirs.
Hmmm that’s very true. I would claim that my wife and I divide the chores and childcare rather equally, and in fact it’s me who nominally puts more hours into childcare (because I reduced my working hours more than she did), but the mental load lands mostly on her side. Not for everything (like I’m the one who manages doctor’s appointments, vaccinations, daycare etc), but it’s my wife who packs for the baby when we travel, buys her cloths, plans most of her meals etc.
I always assumed that me doing more of the repetitive tasks is enough compensation for the planning and managing aspects, but now I realize it’s not that simple.
The worst part there is always this push for the women to earn money. I am not a very career centric women and my children are my priority. I would rather take care of them myself however despite of earning so many years and sharing the household costs, my husband is not even willing to support me if i take break for few years to take care of my babies. He has a decent pay to support the family.So i work full time at home and full time at office and constantly live in a fear of financial insecurity.
Nomansland, you gotta leave that arse! This will probably make me unpopular but… I regularly remind my partner (who I refuse to marry because I refuse to ever go through another divorce) that although I am a stay at home mom of our 2 kids, the money he earns is OUR money. If not for me, he would be paying someone else to take care of our kids during the day, and frankly, if he’d prefer, we can co-parent separately and a judge will make a large portion of his earnings solely my money (also my kids’ of course, but they’re preschool age so not exactly managing their own money or purchasing things for themselves just yet). It may sound like a terrible thing to say, but the truth of the matter is that it’s true, and I’m nothing if not logical. So try not to worry so much about becoming financially insecurity. Like it or not, depending on where you live, he will continue to support you and your children, whether he chooses to or is forced to.
It’s the other way around with my husband I; I work between 50 and 60 hours a week, he works less frequently outside the home but is primary carer for our children and does the majority of the housework. It hasn’t always been that way and it might change again in the future, but for now I’m working long hours outside the home in a mentally and emotionally demanding role. I am happy to do more in the home but I also need some communication from him about what is going to help most especially as we seem to have different values, for example; I don’t care if the house is a mess, I am happy to help clean it up (I don’t see it and just think “oh well he’ll clean it up”) but it doesn’t often occur to me to because it’s not something that upsets me. I don’t need to be project managed or treated like an employee but I do need some communication about what is going to be most helpful to him and the children, because what I think will help and what he needs from me are usually very different. In terms of this article I guess that means he is carrying the mental load, but I fail to see how things can change in our situation unless we have clearer communication about the division of work inside and outside our home.
This dynamic exists between me and my wife, but with caveats. First – she’s diagnosed with bipolar in addition to other disorders that limit her ability to contribute. She’s unemployed and I work full time.
I also take care of all mental load, down to basic things like ensuring she takes her medications regularly. It is exhausting. I’m also responsible for the lion’s share of actually completing the tasks.
These things are simply context though.
Earlier I saw a comment about conflict caused by HOW certain tasks are “done.”
I relate very much to this. She’s very particular about how things are done whether they are routine house maintenance things or home projects such as building a new garden outside. She insists things be done how she wants them done but is unwilling and/or unable to put in the time to do those things herself.
I try to satisfy her, but typically her standard requires a lot more time and effort than my own. It really squeezes me for time and takes an emotional toll that creates conflict.
This comic and many of the comments have really reinforced to me two things.
First – a lot of men need to take more initiative in keeping their homes running.
Second – Those feeling overworked MUST learn to be more flexible if they are needing help from their partners they view as under contributing. Your partner IS ALLOWED to have a different and potentially lower standard than you for how your home is run.
The balance of these two is difficult and comes down to each relationship.
The infuriating thing about going out, date night, and gifts, is none of it is real effort. Oh you clicked a few times on the web and bought me that sweater I wanted. I spend at least an hour every day making dinner. Date night is a benefit to both of us. Going out is a benefit to both of us. Tell me how that helps just me or all the chores.
Fortunately my husband and I split things up pretty fairly. He and the kids do their own laundry. Kids do their own rooms, dishes, dog poop pick up. Husband does all the IT in the house. But when the kids were little I had heaps more work than he did and it was awful. One night in particular I wanted to raid in an online game, so I fed the kids, got them ready for bed, and he was supposed to take over. i did EVERYTHING. He literally said “oh you’re gaming? Great I’m going to now too” and I nearly killed him (figuratively)
While I definitely feel that the mental load of manage is frustrating. I seems to be
culturally and historically systemic of a lack of empowerment of everyone. I am a single mother and a early childhood teacher. With our own children, when developmentally appropriate, if we encourage and empower them to participate and think of what needs to be done in the day to day running of the family day. Not rebuking on how they did the job ie, dishes, laundry, but instead asking why they did it the way it was done, working together to get the same thought patterns about the how. Then using spare time, that comes about with the team work involved in getting what needs to be done accomplished, doing something fun and memorable, quality time. Maybe then we can stop the cycle.
For example, who has that two year old at home wanting to help with the washing, dishes. Who has them having tantrum while your trying to cook dinner, trying to get your attention. Who lets them be involved? Who thinks to themselves “This will just be quicker if I do it myself, go and draw or something.” By getting them involved early, making “chores” about team work, togetherness and connection, will for a positive relationship with the and jobs in the household.
The problem is that women are historically seen as the homemakers and thinking about everyone else and their needs. The pattern continues as when partners put their each other in these historic roles and the “homemaker” ends up with the burden of not only teaching their children the skill of managing the household but also teaching and breaking down the learned behaviour of their partner. THAT is exhausting! Add working for both partners and outside pressures and expectations from outside the relationship.
Like I said, I am a single mother, so I know I don’t have a male partner to “help” or and expectations to my household but I have also let some things go. If I don’t manage to finish a task because something else came up. Then I will get done tomorrow or the next day. I give myself slack. And currently my 2 year old daughter is fighting me on decision because she doesn’t know what she wants. Normal two year old behaviour but she still puts all her clothes she has worn in the washing machine, one piece at a time (sometimes mine too), before bath/shower time. And give her a scrubbing brush in the shower and it the cleanest thing in the house. I have no doubt she will be washing her own dishes(no dishwasher yet) before long.
Lots of guys are saying that if you get criticized for not doing something “right” you won’t offer to do things again. So at work when you don’t do your job to the best of your ability and someone calls your hand on it, you just don’t go back to work?? Yeah right….you know better so you do better. It’s not even about the “right way” like she has some sort of handbook to go by. I fold towels into 3rds not halves because that’s the only way they all fit in the shelf. My dishes and pots and pans have to be nested so they fit in the cabinets. Not the right way, just the best way. I have had to show the reasoning behind why I do things the way I do them so he understands and does it the best way that works for our household. I do feel that some men act like they’re completely stupid when it comes to household chores. Common sense goes a long way!!! I seriously had to explain last week that if you wash a small load of laundry, you don’t use as much detergent….🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️🙄 And before I get blasted, I have mowed the lawn, washed my car, and changed the belt on the lawn mower without help so men can do this if they want to! 😉
When I complained of these issues to my (male) therapist, he suggested I make my partner a chore list. I resisted for a long time because I felt my partner would find it condescending and it would only make me more resentful. I asked my partner’s advice, and he was all for it. “Yes,” he said, “all I need is a list.” I made a list with three chores: wipe down the toilet, sweep/vacuum the floors, and make the bed.
He didn’t like the smell of bleach, so he wouldn’t use it to clean the toilet. I asked him to use Lysol then. He agreed but refused to actually use it. Cleaning the toilet was reduced to him using a water moistened paper towel to wipe down the seat. Disgusting.
He only wanted to “sweep” the floor with Swiffer wipes. He would push debris around for 5 minutes before declaring the hardwood floors clean. He never vacuumed the rugs because “it doesn’t need to be done every day” (which to him “every day” apparently meant “ever”).
You can probably guess how making the bed went. This is a chore for children, and a man in his 30s couldn’t take the 5 minutes to just get it done.
I’m halfway out the door already from being so exhausted and frustrated. He doesn’t seem to understand that refusing to help at home shows a lack of respect and love for me. I dream of living alone more and more.
Great awareness and points in this article, as a man, husband & father of 2 I can see areas where I need better awareness around it. Also the wider community conversation like- our support structures- the financial dept and pressure of house ,kids, living. The pressure been heaped on families (on purpose) by officials that are meant to be supporting us.
Men feel this and react differently-but the feeling of helplessness and frustration manifests in alcohol, anger issues, even the higher % of suicide in the male population. Just some added awareness to the conversation.
Theres another key factor that many women here are either unaware of or dimiss – a man has a different tolerance and, shall we call it, a level of caring for such messes. A man can walk by a sink full of dirty dishes and leave them that way for several days til he feel he needs to deal with it. I find, generally, that woman tend to want it clean and empty as soon as possible. Same with the towel on the floor example. The man is perfectly fine with it sitting there for a while, he will get around to it, while its presence can be quite distressing to women.
There is basic, biological/brain differences, as well as society that accounts for this. This is not to excuse the husbands/men that literally never do anything, are completely selfish, or sabotaging to get out of work. But there is a spectrum here and to simply dismiss it as men are lazy and selfish is overly simplistic.
Maybe more people should just consider singlehood.
@ Calvin Hague who said on 3 Oct. 2021:
“Many women feel pressured to marry and have kids, so they either settle with a man who doesn’t do the housework or discover later that he doesn’t do the housework and don’t have the energy to find someone else. The solution is to not have much housework by not having children.”
All you are saying here is: Don’t have children so that there are less chores and it’s no problem: women can continue to do all the chore-thinking, all the chore-organizing and all the chore-doing (unless maybe she might ask…). Certainly no solution just as outsourcing chores to poorer women is no solution. An effrontery.