Try this Convo With Your Spouse to Even the Mental Load

You’re probably pretty familiar with the mental load. It’s the logistical to-do list (laundry, summer camp sign-ups) forever encroaching on the lives of women—not men, according to research—and diminishing the hours we can allot to leisure time. But according to Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play who recently partnered with P&G’s Dawn and Swiffer brands to launch the Home Eq(uity) program, a reflective conversation with your spouse about past experience with domestic work can go a long way towards evening the score.

Essentially, she says, we can point fingers all we want for tasks unfairly delegated, but if you don’t address the systemic problem (meaning the history that led you to adopt your domestic habits in the first place), you won’t achieve a meaningful solution.

Rodsky’s most universal example is one that applies to nearly every household: grocery shopping.

“Instead of saying, ‘Oh, my partner never does this’ or ‘My partner never does that,’ it’s much more interesting to look at how we got here,” she says. In the case of grocery shopping, getting to know how you and partner each individually saw your parents approach to that same task in the past can help you improve (and more importantly, change) the present and future.

For example, let’s say that growing up, your spouse’s mother always managed the meal planning and shopping. Then it makes sense that he may continue to be pretty hands-off about it. (His childhood experience is shaping the assumptions he’s making today about the same household job.)

This is also where communication comes in. After all, it’s healthy to better understand each other’s formative years, but it also helps illuminate the way you’re both approaching the same task today. “Is your partner repeating the exact life they had? Or are they breaking habits of things they didn’t like in the past?” Rodsky adds. Therein lies the key to making an actual change.

After all, once you can each better understand where each person is coming from, it’s much easier to connect on an approach that makes sense going forward and successfully align on new habits. For instance, you might have a conversation where you acknowledge his experience but come to a one-ness about what you’re both willing to do moving forward. Maybe that means you continue to grocery shop, but you need him to do the cooking. Or maybe it results in him taking ownership of one grocery trip per week and meal planning for Tuesdays and Sundays.

Mental load managed? Maybe not fully yet—but baby steps.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...