We have argued for decades how women carry the burden of the mental load in a household. We routinely engage with a mountains of small tasks. Our minds are purged with a million of things to remember on a daily basis. We are the ones who noticeably execute these jobs as though they are our burden, and ours alone.
We have fought against this, but not much has changed. And now we are living through a pandemic. The problem with this is that the mental load has gotten drastically heavier.
Research has shown that women, who already take the brunt of the load, have taken on the excessive burden as schools shut. Childcare has fallen on us along with maintaining our children’s education from home and at a distance. We have taken on the additional emotional distress of not only ourselves but our children at a time rife with confusion, apprehension, and anxiety. And we are exhausted.
It has been suggested that we will suffer as a result of this for many years to come. This will happen as the negative impacts become more apparent. The invisible and unpaid work of motherhood has been joined by this emotional labour, and naturally has a distinct effect on our place in the workforce. While we educate ourselves, work unreservedly and maintain our home lives, the pandemic has been recognised as a medium by which we may very well find ourselves going backwards a few years in our fight to share the mental load.
The pandemic, however, is not viewed equally by men and women. It is decidedly unfair in how we value the time of women. Further research has shown that women are more likely to experience more stress and anxiety than men during this time; the care of children and elderly relatives has fallen squarely on the shoulders of women. And disappointingly, more women have lost their jobs or had pay decreases than their male counterparts due to the outbreak.
The mental load is on the verge of collapse as women simply can not take on more of this burden. The monetary risk is vast, but the mental health risk is even bigger. In order to ensure a gender-equal future, protecting the health and wellbeing of women, we need to recognise and value the importance of the mental load and the burden of care. But more importantly, we need to tackle the stereotype that the mental load belongs to women.
We have the opportunity to come out of the pandemic with a greater shift and balance in how our households run without gender imbalance. So, let's start today.