For those of you with partners, of course. Unless you have a personal assistant!
In married life, especially when you have kids, there are often things that you have to do or get done. Appointments to manage. Places to be. Things to sign up for. If it were just you, you’d take care of all of those things (assuming you’re not in the “personal assistant” bracket).
Once you’re married you have to coordinate things and someone has to remember things. But it doesn’t have to be you. In “traditional” marriages, the wife takes care of these things. She even takes care of the husband’s social engagements. She keeps track of everything, makes all appointments, and is responsible if something is forgotten or missed.
That type of arrangement makes economic sense on the whole. It makes sense to have one person taking care of everything so the other person is free to think about other stuff. It’s a division of labor and one person specializes in appointments and filing paperwork and so on. There’s no accidental double-booking unless the person in charge does that double-booking, and presumably that person will notice. It doesn’t have to be the wife, but it makes sense to have one person in charge. That person doesn’t have to be in charge of everything– it might make sense for one parent to take care of all the adult stuff and another all the kid’s stuff, or one person the house stuff and another the school stuff. There’s lots of different ways to arrange it that are both egalitarian and efficient.
We don’t do that. We are both in charge of almost everything. We have little black books that we coordinate. We have a list on the refrigerator for groceries. I do take care of all the bills (even DH’s credit cards, though he is responsible for reviewing it each month for fraudulent charges) and DH is mostly in charge of the cars (even mine, though since I’m the one driving it I’m more likely to notice when the sticker says I should get another oil change), but for the most part, and especially for the kids part, we both take care of everything.
I noticed this lately when I emailed one of my colleagues about a play-date. Our kids go to the same school and are friends and I know him but I don’t know his wife. He forwarded to his wife and she emailed back. Similarly, we got a birthday party invitation for another child who is DC2’s age from another colleague’s wife, not from him. Usually the invitations for things go to me via email or to our joint junk mail account, but to DH by text because I never have my phone with me. With DC1’s best friend whose mother is super-mom, and often on-call, we’re equally likely to get a text playdate from the dad or the mom (and occasionally the college-age uncle who babysits for them)! Generally we email the dad, but just because that’s the email address that pops up first (alphabetical order).
There’s drawbacks to our non-method. We have to consult each other. We have to make sure our books are synched. (Yes, we could have a calendar in the kitchen near the grocery list like my family did growing up, but that would be an additional thing to update! Once DC1 is old enough do start doing hir own social calendar, we may switch to that.) It’s extra effort, extra time, and extra mental load that only one person could have.
But there’s also benefits. The biggest benefit is that when we forget to do something or forget to go somewhere, it’s both of our faults. It’s hard to be mad at someone for forgetting when you forgot too! Also with both of us needing to remember and both of us checking our planners and our shared junk email account, there’s a bit of overlap and perhaps a greater possibility that one of us will remember or notice even if the other doesn’t. I’m not sure if that works, but we’re both so busy I bet either one of us would forget just as much if it was just on us all the time.
#2 doesn’t have kids, so this is much easier. We delegate, and we talk. For example, we just moved to another state. This requires SO MUCH COMMUNICATION, folks. I mostly coordinated that, since I have the time, but he has most of the money. Every day we would say, what do you need me to do for this move? Did you hear back from the movers? Did you pay the security deposit or shall I? We have a joint savings account, and we need to talk to each other about planned transactions because of Regulation D. We share spreadsheets and lists in Google Docs (drive). Sometimes we IM each other during the day, and then we each have a chatlog of what we talked about. It can certainly get tedious having this conversation every day — there was a point during the moving process where I lost my shiz because he asked me about tasks one too many times — but mostly it’s been working for us. We’ve also found in other areas (e.g., kitchen) that it’s helpful to put one person explicitly in charge– doesn’t matter who– and that person directs and delegates to the other.
For those of you with partners, how do you divvy up the mental load of planning and deciding and answering and filing? For those of you without, what methods do you use to keep track of everything that needs to be done?