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- Mental load: what is it?
- Mental load in the postpartum
- Reorganize your daily life to lighten the mental load
- Ask for help and share the mental load
Mental load: what is it?
Since 1984, sociologist Monique Haicault has highlighted in her work the “double life” of women, who manage both paid work and domestic tasks. But it was not until a few years later, in 1990, that another sociologist, Danièle Kergoat, associated a very specific term with this reality: mental load.
Canadian researcher Nicole Brait defines it as “the work of management, organization and planning which is at the same time intangible, essential and constant, and which aims to satisfy the needs of each person and the smooth running of the residence”. The concept of mental load mainly applies to women because even if mentalities tend to evolve, inequalities remain and the figures speak for themselves: in France, in 2016, 79.6% of women spent at least one hour per day in cooking and domestic work compared to 35.6% of men.(1)
The concept of mental load does not only refer to household tasks, far from it, it brings together all the tasks to which a woman is subjected every day, both at work and at home, "things to do and to think” that weigh constantly on his mind. Bring the books back to the library, make an appointment with the pediatrician, organize the Saturday aperitif, do a big spring cleaning, go to the trustee's meeting, pay for the canteen... a set of missions, from the most insignificant to the most important , from the fastest to the most time-consuming which are present constantly. And the list seems set to grow, even more so when a baby arrives!
Mental load in the postpartum
It's a fact: the arrival of one (or more) children in the home generally increases the load a little further, without necessarily redistributing the cards in terms of the distribution of tasks... A future mother does not always give in taking into account the great upheaval triggered by the birth of a baby, and the need to reorganize your days for more peaceful parenting.
Reorganize your daily life to lighten the mental load
This little baby is now your priority, and that is completely normal! Many young mothers, upon leaving maternity ward, are confronted with the reality of things: it is impossible (or difficult) to take care of the child, to cook good meals, not to be overwhelmed by dirty laundry and to have an impeccably tidy house. And we're not even talking about taking time for yourself, to do sports or go to the hairdresser... You will then have to review your priorities and perhaps organize yourself differently, and this is of course specific to each person and their style. of life.
Some ideas for distributing and lightening your mental load : Shopping takes too much time? Why not opt for the drive or home delivery? If your job involves long travel times, why not negotiate a few days of teleworking per month? Don’t be afraid to try out a new organization to see what works best for you.
Ask for help and share the mental load
If you are a woman in a relationship, try to delegate part of your “to do list”, in particular by asking your partner, in this case delegate the mental load and its associated tasks. Many dads do not understand the weight of the mental load and even less so before taking paternity leave. It is perhaps, in part, due to the difference in duration between paternity and maternity leave that the difference in mental load is created. Even if the duration of paternity leave has recently been extended in an attempt to reduce this inequality, it is important to raise awareness within the home so that the mental load is distributed and balanced.
You can absolutely make a “to do” list and see what can be better distributed. Monsieur can go behind the stove, start a load of laundry or pick up the little ones from school a few times a week. Don't hesitate to brief him and let go of the ballast: accepting that tasks are done differently or perhaps not as well is part of the process ;-) The important thing is that he takes the entire load. Letting go also means accepting that the best is sometimes the enemy of the good and that not being a perfectionist is not necessarily so serious. Learn to delegate tasks little by little, accept that they are not necessarily done according to your rules and let the other person take ownership of the mission. A great way to relieve guilt!
If you have other slightly older children, consider establishing a chore chart : each member of the family then takes responsibility for some small domestic tasks: folding the laundry, setting the table, taking the dog out are small gestures which put end to end can save you valuable time.
If you have loved ones nearby, take advantage! Grandparents are often happy to help look after the children or pick them up from school.
You can also call on help at home : babysitters, cleaners, carers can help you for a few hours per week. Even if finding home help requires organization: recruiting the right person, getting organized, paying them... which can cause an additional mental load, it is once again possible to distribute the management of this task to reduce the burden. mental load. And in the medium to long term, it saves energy and frees up time and mind.
Did you know that expectant and young mothers are entitled to certain assistance for housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation? Their amount varies depending on your situation and your income, do not hesitate to consult your CAF to benefit from it. Some mutual insurance companies can also finance home help.
No need to have a full-time job to collapse under the weight of the mental load: it can also affect mothers on parental leave. If you have the opportunity, don't hesitate to entrust your baby to daycare for a few hours a month to breathe and get a little well-deserved rest, all without any guilt: happy mothers make happy babies!