How do you handle the mental load of partnered life?

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?

56 Responses to “How do you handle the mental load of partnered life?”

  1. moominoid Says:

    We practice division of labor/specialization. I deal with all finance stuff, cleaning the house (and especially kitchen) etc. Snork Maiden cooks, mostly shops for food etc. We each wash our own clothes but I do ironing etc.Things which don’t have a specific person to do them we have to decide who will do it but that is easy.

  2. Karen Edwards Says:

    We don’t have kids and split things pretty equally. He’s a teacher so I tend to do a bit more during the school term but then MUCH less during holidays!

  3. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I tend to do more in general, but we do split up responsibilities.

    I do all of the social planning, for example. Greg has also forwarded me emails from people I have never met to answer for him.I tend to take care of the house and all of the stuff in it- scheduling maintenance and repairs. I also manage our two rental properties and take care of any issue that arises. I also pay all bills and keep track of all financials.

    Greg is in charge of doctor and dentist appointment for the kids. He is the one who keeps track of the school calendar and making sure our daughter has her homework done (right now that mostly consists of flash cards and practicing letters and numbers). He gives the kids baths every night. He also takes care of anything outdoors on the house. Greg is also in charge of the cars.

    When you add it all up, I definitely do more. I’m home all day though, so I can do housework, bills, and budgeting while he is at work. I feel like our system is fair, though it might not seem like it to someone on the outside. I generally don’t let Greg do laundry or cook because he is not great at either and I am picky about it. He always tries to help and pitch in if he sees me doing something and is very sweet about it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of my male colleagues used to send social stuff to his wife to answer for him (our oldest kids are the same age). I always thought that was weird. Now she has a full-time job so he texts me instead to set up playdates, which makes much more sense to me!

  4. plantingourpennies Says:

    We split responsibilities, going with who is better at X (or who hates Y less) most of the time. For scheduling and delegation, we send each other calendar invites so that important things get merged with our work calendars. This has become a tad more important now that we share a car since he occasionally needs to leave work right on time for me to use the car after work. In cases like that, I send him a calendar invite beforehand to block off 4-5pm so he knows not to schedule any late calls that day. We usually also confirm verbally the morning of.

  5. Chelsea Says:

    We split things – probably not 50-50 – but definitely where our talents lie. I do most of the shopping but Daniel does the cooking and usually the clean up when he’s home for lunch/dinner. I do the laundry but he does the “manly” chores like putting things together (which I HATE) and the grosser things like cleaning out garbage cans and removing larger bugs from inside. We have a cleaning service so no one has to do the toilets. As far as scheduling, I keep the master family schedule because I don’t think I’ve ever once in our entire relationship seen him write anything on any kind of calendar, and that would drive my crazy. He’s totally in charge of his work stuff but will consult with me if there’s something that comes up outside of normal time. I make most of the kid appointments but consult with him to make sure it works with his schedule. Like PoP, our biggest mental load probably comes from sharing the car, which is a discussion that happens as things are scheduled (Is it okay if I make all the rest of my OB appointments on Thursdays or do you anticipate needing the car?) or the day before (I don’t have anything going on tomorrow so it’s fine if you want to take the car as long as you can do daycare drop off and pick up). We’ve never had any serious problems with the system (not enough to take the plunge and buy a second car), but we both do some chauffeuring. At some point when the kids get bigger and there are more times that we have to be at two places at once, I see it as an inevitability.

  6. Edie W Says:

    Does anyone have suggestions for getting to a more egalitarian division of labor (both physical and mental)? I know that ideally it would be set up this way from the beginning, but in my relationship I feel that it has gotten very unbalanced, with me doing most of the household “stuff”, both actual tasks (cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.) and also the mental work (planning appointments, knowing when bills are due, etc.). When this system started, it made some sense, because my husband was working more hours than I was (we both work full time, but he had a less flexible schedule and a longer commute), but now our work schedules are roughly equal but I’m still doing way more around the house. I HATE the feeling of complaining or nagging, so it is often easier to just do something myself than to try to get him to do it. We also have the issue that he tends to do more of the big projects (e.g., house repairs) and view those as his contribution to the household. I definitely appreciate these contributions, and many of them are things I don’t have the skills to do myself, but it still feels unequal. The most recent time I brought up maybe changing our distribution of tasks, he brought up these projects, and my thinking was along the lines of “yes, I know you painted the fence, and that was a big job, but it was also two months ago”. He is very appreciative about the work I do, says thank you and so forth, so it’s not really that I feel unappreciated, but I would like to know how to get some things off my plate without it turning into an argument or seeming like I am criticizing him or not valuing his contributions.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know how this would work in all couples, but the way we do it is just to talk about it. To say, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all the stuff.” And then we talk about if the other person can take on more or if it makes sense to hire someone out. This works both ways– most recently DH hasn’t had time for yard work (which I can’t do because I am extremely allergic to both kinds of grass we have around here) with his new job so we have outsourced that. We didn’t have the money before the new job but after the new job we have money but don’t have the time.

      We don’t look at is as a 50/50 split and there doesn’t have to be quid pro quo. We instead look at it as a household problem that needs to be solved, and we talk about what needs to be done and how to get it all done. So whether or not he painted a fence is irrelevant, what’s relevant is that you want to have more free time on a day to day basis. There’s a problem, you have a family budget constraint, what can be done?

      Another thing that we do at our household is that for the chores that can be split (see: yardwork– I can only do that in long sleeves, pants, and gloves, so I generally only suit up for the annual Aster pulling), we do them together as an entire family. Even the toddler gets involved. So we fold laundry together, we make dinner together, we clean the house together. We have painted the deck together (though that’s something a 2 year old can’t help with, so we keep meaning to outsource it and it hasn’t been painted in >2 years, which is a problem). You and the older kids (if applicable) can learn to do the big projects together with him just like he can learn to do the day-to-day stuff together with you.

    • Sarabeth Says:

      We kept time diaries for 2 weeks at one point, so that we could see if the load was equal or not. Harder to argue with the data (although, in your case, the big-but-rare projects might still be an issue).

    • Rosa Says:

      one concrete way to have the discussion is to do time logs for a few weeks, like you would in an office considering reorganization.

      The only other thing I have ever had work is to just not do some stuff. Let it fall off the plate. Having kids makes this way harder but there’s still stuff that’s just not a priority for *me* so maybe it just doesn’t get done and he has to do it.

  7. Sara Says:

    We split responsibilities by our strengths: husband handles food (shopping, weekday meals including lunch prep) with some coordination from me, I handle laundry (mostly) and random kid paperwork and bills (husband handles taxes). Kid dropoff/pickup varies based on work schedules and general mood.

    Scheduling is all done through google calendar – we can each see each others calendars and we have a shared ‘family’ calendar we created on google. This is where all kids playdates and doc appts go, so we can set up appts on our own. Once we figured out how to get the google calendars on our phones it was life changing!

  8. SP Says:

    Similarly, we are both mostly responsible for everything. I thought this might be harder w/kids, but seems like it is the same (only more of it). I do think my husband would love it if I just took over all of this – he definitely grew up in a house where mom ran the show. I’m very resistant and insist that we are both responsible. Really, I probably do more of the actual mental load – i just don’t let him off the hook and accept it as “my job”.

    I take care of the bills, aside from his credit card (used for reimbursable work things, otherwise he uses the joint). I’m (obviously) interested in money management, and prefer this. I plan most vacations (again, love it, and I am less flexible about what I consider a great vacation). I am way better at meal planning so usually do that. I don’t really know how to change that one, because any capable adult (or teenager!) could meal plan. He doesn’t it to my standards and it is easiest to just do it myself and just have him provide meal ideas. We both hate making phone calls and finding doctors and dealing with insurance. He’s taken on organizing all of the appointments for the house (which should taper off once we are settled), which is a big chunk. We split social stuff, and family gifts is per family of origin. But we still consult on everything. We use google calendars and just invite each other to things.

    Similar to housework, we have a 40/40 relationship, and then there is that 20% that gets procrastinated on forever or doesn’t get done. (been here a year, still need to find an eye doctor) We fail at adulthood!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We both meal plan– we have a back of the envelope where we put 5-7 meals for the week and then add the ingredients to the back of the envelope on the refrigerator. Sometimes we make our 7 year old meal plan from hir Kid’s book! The meal planning always has to be done before the grocery shopping, which is usually on Saturday. I guess having the regular deadline helps there– we substitute thinking with habit.

      We also take care of gifts for our respective extended families, though sometimes I’ll make suggestions for his (he has a lot more gifts to give and they have to be creative– my parents are easy and want the same thing every year so only my sister is a pain to shop for).

  9. Saskia Says:

    Probably I’m missing something, but (with a couple of exceptions) we both do everything and spend very little time coordinating. If one of us notices we need groceries, that person buys them. If one of us decides to set up a play date for the kids or to invite someone for dinner, that person sends out an email. If one of us wants to sign the kids up for afterschool activities, that person does. Once in a while, we double book, but it’s generally not an issue.

  10. Perpetua Says:

    Here’s the truth – I dump most of the mental load on my partner. But for a lot of the year, I’m solo parenting while working full time, which means that the mental load of caring for myself and the kids day to day falls solely to me. If they are sick, coordinating day care/babysitting issues as my schedule requires, cleaning the house, etc. I buy all the clothes & gifts for the kids. But really, my partner does everything else – car maintenance, house maintenance, bill paying, appointment scheduling, etc. We also use google calendars, though we don’t always coordinate that effectively (too much to coordinate sometimes!). So sometimes I feel like I carry more of the mental load – I worry a lot about parenting, about the problems that arise with the kids, keeping the family running. But then I remember all the crap that he does for us – he got our entire very complicated mortgage sorted. All I did was help choose the house and show up to sign the papers. I don’t know what it would be like if we lived in the same place full time – we never have, since we’ve had kids.

  11. xykademiqz Says:

    My husband doesn’t like people at all, but likes machines a lot. The only entity that can make him lose his temper is a computer. So he takes care of both our cars, mows the lawn/blows the snow. He also does the laundry and a lot of cleaning and anything involving tools (we have several vacuum cleaners of different size and portability and they all look like they are from Star Trek). He’s also obviously in charge of our many computers and TVs and the internet/home wireless networks that supports all this. He is great at playing with the little kids with toys, which I find excruciatingly boring. He’s also the talk-to-the-repairman guy; I will not these are the only humans he doesn’t mind talking to.

    I am in charge of food and humans (both our little ones and the big ones we have to come in contact with). I do all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, my and the kids’ lunches (DH makes his own sandwiches), kids morning routines and bedtimes, clothes shopping. I also coordinate everyone’s doctors and dentist appointments (he’ll take the kids if I tell him to); he was in charge for a bit but after I realized Eldest hadn’t had a cleaning in a year, I pulled the plug on that. I do morning prep with the kids and drive the Eldest to school, come back and finish the prep of the little guys; DH is very much not a morning person, so he’ll drive the Littles to school provided I’ve got them fed and dressed and ready to go in the morning. I also am the go-to person for help with homework, especially math.

    We handle the bills electronically and mostly automatically, and they were split spontaneously. I pay the mortgage (plus home insurance together), childcare, gas/electricity, Eldest’s exorbitant swim club crap. He pays the water bill and has car payments, including car insurance for both cars. We each pay our own phone and credit cards. We have separate checking accounts and a joint savings account, another savings for the kids’ college.

    I am also 100% in charge of all communication with all other humans, meaning all parents for playdates/birthdays, which does get taxing because I don’t like to do it either, but someone has to and DH is one taciturn fellow.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      And, yeah, we have a dry-erase white board, with a small cork segment where you can attach stuff with push pins, in the kitchen. There we write down personal schedule for everyone (kids having picture day, field trips, swim meets, concerts, out-of-town trips). I use my phone calendar for work and dental/doctor appointments, since the phone and I are inseparable. I don’t know what calendar he uses for his stuff. But we talk about our schedules and the board helps.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    We manage our schedules more like you, where we talk through things weekly. Although my travel hasn’t been crazy lately, it’s often required for one person to pick up the slack while the other is away, so most things get split randomly and as needed.

    I do know one super anal couple who sync’s their phone calendars with each other but the wife does all the scheduling stuff.

  13. Katherine Says:

    I handle most of the mental load, but my husband does more of the actual household tasks – dishes, vaccuuming, bathroom cleaning, etc. I keep track of the bills coming in, pay them, make sure we have money in the right accounts and make the transfers when necessary, keep track of most scheduling (but we don’t have kids and my schedule is significantly busier than his). We do meal planning and grocery shopping together, in a pretty OCD kind of way.

    My husband is job-searching right now, so I’m curious to see how our set-up will change once he is employed again. I think I will probably end up doing some more of the cleaning-type tasks.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We used to go grocery shopping together. Then I had to move for a job and found myself crying in the grocery store because I had automatically put his kind of cereal in my cart and he was hundreds of miles away. Now that we live in paradise, we usually make individual short trips to the store. It’s only 2 blocks away, so we walk, and shop like Europeans. A big load (soda, cat litter) would get either of us to take a car though.

      And when we’re going to the store, we both always ask the other one if there’s anything they need or want while we’re out. We talk to each other and use email to schedule our joint social events or appointments.

      • Katherine Says:

        I could see how moving away from my husband would make grocery shopping awful.

        We actually live across the street from a super target and two blocks away as the crow flies from our preferred grocery store, but the grocery store is unwalkable because of the stupid way our city is designed to kill pedestrians and bicyclists, and I think the mental load of grocery shopping like Europeans would kill me. When I was single I did it that way, but I couldn’t handle the mental load so I ended up eating cereal or popcorn for dinner close to half the time. That didn’t bother me at all, but my husband doesn’t think they are acceptable dinners so now we do it all once a week. We make the meal plan together (I maintain a list of warm and cool weather meals that we both like and don’t mind cooking at the end of a workday to make coming up with ideas easier) and then he writes the list in the order that we will walk through the store. I had never heard of this list-ordering thing before I met hem, but it is like gospel in his family and it is pretty handy. It definitely cuts down on buying things not on the list.

  14. becca Says:

    I think we’re a 70% + 70% = 100% sort of family. We negotiate it all regularly, and there are a lot of conflicts, but we’ve gotten good at solving them. Some of our coordination over the kid stuff is really elegant, according to my extended family.
    Right now:
    Me: Dr. appointments for kid; communication with teachers/donations to classrooms/snack provision; most grocery shopping; ~1/2 of household bills; PTO; car insurance; medical insurance; life insurance; more of the extra laundry; kidlet birthday party; dropping kid off at bus; bedtime; more of kid breakfast; reading to kid and taking kid to library; dealing with my Mom’s finances; my car; some garbage removal
    Him: My Mom’s property (coordinating estate sale, dealing with the hellacious co-op people, ect.); Our property (renovations); home insurance (NB: somewhat car insurance since we may bundle soon); ~1/2 of household bills; ZOMG there’s water in the basements type emergencies; most of the extra dishes; travel arrangements; picking up kid at bus stop; all afterschool activities; more of ensuring the kid is occasionally cleaned; more of making sure kid has appropriate clothes; more of kid dinner; his cars; more garbage removal
    Both: playdates; parent-teacher conferences; car registrations; weekend soccer (but this defaults to him when there are conflicts, and he coaches); dinner cooking; outdoor chores (no lawn to mow, but we don’t do enough landscaping/tidying); computer troubleshooting
    Hired help: dishes; laundry; bathroom and kitchen cleaning

  15. bogart Says:

    We use a google calendar to coordinate family events. I’m the gatekeeper and scheduler on all kid programming, which mostly reflects the reality that I have stronger opinions about what is a “good” activity, what safety questions need to be asked first, etc. Also because he doesn’t like spending time with people, I will usually take DS (if I can, i.e., if not a workday activity) if there is a “hang out with other parents” angle to the event (unless of course it’s a “we all go” event, then DH comes along). DH passes invites he receives along to me, but I will book DS for events without asking DH unless there is something on the calendar.

    DH is responsible for all workday kid care by default (he is out of the workforce, I am in it), but my mom also helps out and I work on getting them to communicate directly with each other. I am more in touch with my mom (about life in general) than DH is, so it can come up in that context, and I think he in particular can feel awkward about hitting him MIL up for help, and I get that, but I don’t want to be the go-between, it generates confusion. I mostly schedule babysitters if we are going out, though if DH’s adult kids are babysitting, he’ll sometimes set that up.

    DH buys all groceries except what I pick up at Costco, which is near my work. I put things on an list app if I notice we need them but he tracks “usual” needs like milk and makes sure we have them in stock.

    Mostly he cleans, or we don’t clean. I mostly do laundry because I prefer to hang it to dry and he won’t. I am 97.5% responsible for our dogs, which are “mine;” and leave him specific instructions if I need him to do anything for them (beyond feeding them at regular times and making sure they have water, he knows to do those things as routine). We each fill/empty the dishwasher as needed. He mostly preps the coffee maker. We each maintain our own cars.

  16. Debbie M Says:

    Although we’ve been together almost 15 years, we still do it a lot like regular single people. So we each have our own budgets and our own calendars, etc. Of course we do share many things such as the house and most social engagements. I pay for all the house stuff because it’s my house, I’m used to it, and I’m good at it. Then he pays me back for his part each month.

    When something needs fixing we discuss it equally. He loves dealing with that stuff. So generally he will fix it himself and I will buy all the tools and supplies. Or he will pick out the repair guy and stay home to meet them and I will pay. I get a fixed house, he sometimes gets tools, and we both get a nicer place to live.

    With the social stuff, we both put it on our own calendars and we’re still both reminding each other at the last minute. It’s definitely good both being in charge of that. And for each event, usually one person is more into it than the other, so that person naturally takes more initiative in the preparation or whatever. It helps that our social calendars are pretty clear. No kids. And our friends work too much. And I feel stressed out and don’t want a lot of other activities. So mostly we just do stuff at home that’s flexible and doesn’t really need to be scheduled. (This is a very exciting couple of weeks where we have work, class, and two sets of out-of-town visitors.)

    Actually, there are many things one person wants way more than the other person and so they take the initiative or the total control. I do most of the laundry because I am so picky about it–I want it taken out of the washer before it gets moldy, I want the wrinkles shaken out of it before hanging it on the rack, and after it’s folded, I want it put somewhere that’s not covered in dust. I know! Crazy!

    I do the dishes because that gives him a back ache. He mows the lawn and takes out the trash because he thinks men should do that–I disagree, but I let him. But then I point out when the grass is high (and weather is good and he has free time) and when trash and recycling days are and sometimes bring the trash cans back up (he’s better with deadlines). He deals with the toll tags because I never want to take toll roads, but sometimes he wants me to take them when he’s with me. He pays for virtually all restaurant trips. I pay for most movies.

    He likes having a pick-up truck, but I like having a car that uses fewer resources (gas) and pollutes less. I’ve learned that he will take my car sometimes if it has excellent air conditioning–so that’s more of a priority for me when I’m buying a car than it otherwise would be. So, we take my car when we’re driving across town. We take his truck when we’re going someplace I think we should walk but he wants to drive. (Or we take whichever car is already warmed up.) He takes his truck to work unless it’s being repaired, in which case he takes my car. Right now he takes my car to Spanish class. I take the bus. Then we both go home in my car.

  17. Linda Says:

    Well, from my point of view I haven’t been handling the mental load of partnered life very well at all, which is one reason why I am soon to be un-partnered.

    Basically, I have handled the mental load of everything for us, our shared household, and the dog. I am the owner of the house and the dog, but still I think a true partner should try to take on some of the mental load of maintenance. B would do some yard care and some house cleaning; he could also prepare a simple meal like pasta with jarred sauce or a Trader Joe’s frozen meal. Other that that, I had to handle anything else, including scheduling vet appointments, home maintenance work, etc. Socially we haven’t had many appointments with friends and such to schedule (hmmm…that makes me wonder a bit), and there are no kids to worry about, at least.

    I would ask for help and he may give it; often he would say he just couldn’t do it for one reason or another. (I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, I’m not feeling well, I’ll get to it later, etc.) It got to the point where I just didn’t ask. That played too well into one of my personal issues that developed from my family history (I rarely ask for help because I learned that I would rarely get it) and it made me more resentful and miserable.

    He’s moving out in two days. I may feel lonely, but at least I won’t have those same mental load issues anymore. *sigh*

  18. MutantSupermodel Says:

    You guys should check out Squarespace!! it is really cool. I have been using it with the kids’ father to sort things out. And then it exports to my google calendar which I use with my partner. I am the organizer though and the delegator of tasks. I just feel comfortable that way. I think it’s a control issue…

  19. First Gen American Says:

    I couldn’t find that kitchen post you had, so here’s my response to your kitchen design questions from a few weeks ago.

  20. Ana Says:

    Like you guys we mostly do it together except when we don’t and then its pretty randomly divided by who is better it/doesn’t hate certain tasks. We both do a lot, and it all gets done, and we are acknowledge the other’s contributions so I think we are OK.

  21. Revanche Says:

    Like POP, we tend to split along the lines of “who is better at X (or who hates Y less)”.

    I do most of the meal planning (high falutin’ description for: thought abt which cravings to satisfy or how I can use up all those leftover ingredients) and cooking but he proactively suggests that I don’t cook after I’ve done several days of cooking in a row, then he does a meal or two. Nights that we have leftovers, he’s in charge of reheating and serving because he is super picky about how things are reheated.

    He deals with the heavy-lifting, buying from Craigslist and car-related stuff, I deal with almost all the bills and household organizing because that’s what we like. He does most of the dishes, I do most of the laundry. We don’t discuss the routine stuff: when it needs doing, either the person with a few free minutes or the person who likes it more will take care of it.

    With the baby stuff, I’m doing most of the screen time on figuring out what we need, he goes off and does all the research on what to actually get. We had trouble early on sorting it out because we’d fall into our own not-combined routines & he wouldn’t tell me he was feeling overwhelmed but we’re doing better about saying that it’s getting to be too much or asking if the other person is alright with their share.

    Calendaring: we’re responsible for ourselves/our friends/family engagements. We’ll proactively decline invites when we know the other person’s not into it (PiC knows better than to suggest I attend a baby shower for his acquaintance, for example) and check with each other for the maybes. It works pretty well but I’m going to be getting a big calendar to share as well just because my brain isn’t happy with just relying on GCal, especially with all of Seamus’s daily veterinary care.

    We have a lot of “oh shit we forgot to …” moments still but, *shrug* it’s not the end of the world, generally. The really important stuff gets done, the rest is give or take.

  22. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I was responsible for everything. Example: One day, I was cooking dinner when my husband stepped into the kitchen screaming at me, demanding to know when I was going to clean the den because it was so messy that he could not find a place to sit. Our children were 11, 9, and 4. He continued to rant to me about shoes, coat, and books. I shut off all the burners and pulled the food off them. I stepped to the door and calmly observed, “Not one of the pairs of shoes are mine; three pairs are yours. My coat is not here. The rest belong to you and children. you threw down the newspaper. I put nothing down in here; I own no toys; there is a pile of clothes you just took off. Why are you coming to me?”

    He then turned in a rage at the children to clean up the whole room. He sat. I told the children to pick up the toys and shoes and anything else they dropped. He still sat. He said he would do his later because he was watching tv. NOOOO! No, I did not scream. I suggested in a less than patient tone that he was raging at me and caused me to stop cooking, so maybe he should miss a little tv. I really hated treating him like a child, but after 12+ years of marriage, I took on more and more responsibility because he said anything related to the house or children was my job. “You had children, so they are your responsibilities.”

    He picked up two coats/jackets, socks, his pants, three pair shoes, newspaper, books, other items he had put down that day. I told them to call me when they had picked up all they had put down, mostly in the last three hours. There was not one thing left out of place.

    He would not make appointments, even for himself. I had to show him how to put together things I could not handle. He always “forgot” things he was supposed to do, even recitals and ball games. He “taught” our five-year-old son to rake leaves by promising him a nickel per leaf. FAIL!

    In our home this was the rule: A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done. I did divorce him a year after this incident, but not completely for this type behavior.

  23. oil_garlic Says:

    I think one of the pitfalls of the gender-based mental load division is that women tend to take on routine chores that cannot be delayed indefinitely such as cooking, groceries, bills, medical appointments, cleaning, gift giving, social planning. While the husband takes care of the occasional oil change and yard/handy man stuff. Those are very important but in general, they don’t take up much daily mental load. And unless your SO is super handy, any major electrical/plumbing work or appliance repairs would be done by a third party anyway.

    In our case, the lifesaver has been the Cozi app (and website). We have a shared calendar and use this to enter appointments for all family members, put in any recurring events/appointments, birthdays, and social stuff. It took him a year to get on board but I just kept saying “check Cozi” until he started entering in it, too. Also, we allowed my Mom to access portions of our calendar for childcare related stuff so that it was easier for her as well. It’s helped us a lot and reduced time spent on rescheduling and discussing this type of stuff. It also has a shared grocery list and to-do list though we don’t utilize those features as much. I’m sure there are other apps out there that are similar.

    We still argue about the chores on occasion because I still feel like I have a huge mental load and more of the routine chores. However, I acknowledge that he does do a lot. He is responsible for gifts for his side of the family, own medical appointments and own social calendar (though we always check with each other but he can respond himself), and also does most of the kids’ medical appointments and visits. He is more in charge of cooking, caring for dogs, watering the lawn, and laundry. I do more of the dishes,clean-up, kids’ school-related stuff, and bills. We’re fairly evenly split on grocery shopping though I prefer to do this along with household supplies since i’m a better bargain hunter. Whew..I’m tired just from typing all this out.

  24. Cloud Says:

    We have a small whiteboard on the fridge for things we need to buy. That idea came from a comment on my blog, actually. We also have a calendar on the fridge. The rule is supposed to be that if you schedule something, you tell the other person AND WRITE IT ON THE CALENDAR and that you always check the calendar before scheduling something. We experimented w/a shared Google calendar (did you know that you can display that at the same time as your calendar in Google? It is awesome) but in practice, my husband does a better job of remembering to write things on the paper calendar.

    If you forget to write it on the calendar and the other person schedules over your thing, too bad for you. You’re soloing on whatever thing you scheduled. My husband got to do a solo camping trip with the kids while I had a nice evening at home with an old friend due to this little rule.

    For appointments for the kids, we sort of divide up by appointment type. Husband owns dentist, I own haircuts. Doctor appointments are on a case-by-case basis.

    • Ana Says:

      I’m trying to do the “if you didn’t check the calendar, too bad for you” with my husband. He just…doesn’t check it. I live & die by my Google calendar AND to make it easier (and for teaching the kids about calendars/scheduling) we got a white board one for the kitchen that I ALSO meticulously fill out with stuff that affects all of us. Yet…still its a surprise when I remind him I’m on call x weekend or we have a sitter coming x night.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My husband is great about this stuff, but I’m having these exact same problems with at least two of my coauthors. If you figure out a solution other than hiring someone to be their mothers, bottle it and sell it!

  25. Leah Says:

    Right now, we just talk regularly about what we have going on. With boarding school stuff, our life is fairly scheduled anyway (duty nights and whatnot). We still have little enough going on that we typically know each others’ schedules. We do have one snafu soon — he’s flying back from a conference the day we have opera tickets, but I think we’ve got that ironed out and will make the show.

    I think we need more of a system soon, but getting us to write on a wall calendar doesn’t work super well. I use google calendar but he doesn’t. One of these days, especially as our little one gets older, we’ll have to figure out a system to keep track of stuff.

    In terms of other mental load — he does the finances on spreadsheets, though I regularly check my CC for fraud. I do most of the social planning and big events (and he checks with me if there’s something he knows about). I do the buying of baby gear and diapers. We split groceries — it was all him this summer, but I’m starting to do grocery shopping after day care pickup once a week. He keeps track of gas (we only have one car) and makes sure the tank stays filled and the oil gets changed often enough. So, in short, we do division of labor for big, regularly occurring tasks in the household.

  26. chacha1 Says:

    I am 99.9% responsible for planning our vacations, setting up social engagements, our retirement planning, and “family” correspondence. We each take care of our own cars. The husband handles all his own financials and I handle mine, with the exception of the timeshare – he pays the maintenance fees, I pay exchange fees when booking a vacation.

    We don’t often consult on these things; since it’s well established that he very rarely plans something, if he has a reason to add something to the calendar he will ask me first if we’re free. If I am planning to do something that doesn’t involve him, e.g. on a Saturday when he’s usually working all day, I tell him what I’m doing, where I’ll be, who I’ll be with, and if I’ll be home in time for dinner. :-)

    I’m also somehow responsible for 99% of the meal planning, shopping, cooking, and cleanup, which has gotten to be a burr under my saddle of late.

  27. becky Says:

    I won’t go into a detailed description of what we do (although I loved reading everyone else’s/ yay! not just me/us), but one way that it lessens the mental load and the feelings I have about how the division of labour is gendered is to frame what we do as Ministries (as in the Federal type, we’re Canadian). So I am the Minister of Health and Welfare and the Minister of Education, and my partner is the Minister of Transportation and Minister of Technology and Innovation. Every so often we have a Joint Economic Summit or strike an Inter-Ministerial Special Committee. I am a control freak so I know I do more of the load in some areas, but my partner handles three “big” things: 100% of the shopping, 90% of all cooking, and 100% of car/driving as I am visually impaired).

    Havng a shared electronic calander on our desktops and phones that sends us alerts and reminders is essential for us to remember to show up anywhere. Also because I travel for work frequently and the kids’ have lots of medical appointments. Being on the same phone platform for many years helped with this (blackberry) but now that my partner has defected to android it can be a pain (i.e. sending you an electronic appointment is useless if I have to verbally confirm that you received it). I haven’t tried Cozi, but we have used My Groceries. Would love to hear rec’s from others for calander or shared to-do apps.

  28. Link love (Powered by soup, sweat and sleep) - NZ Muse Says:

    […] How do you handle the mental load of partnered life? (Not as well as I’d like) […]

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