Research shows that a large part of the emotional work of a household, like calming distressed children, is part of the burden that usually falls on mothers (Credit:)
This hidden work is hard to measure because it is invisible and performed in-house, making it difficult to know where it starts and ends. In 2019, Allison Daminger, PhD candidate in sociology and social policy at Harvard University, found that while most of the participants in his study on cognitive work Householdrealized that women take the lion's share, it was not yet a "standardized form of work ". In the study of 35 couples, she found that men referred to their wives using terms such as "project manager" or said they "followed more".
En In fact, Daminger identified four clear steps. mental work related to household responsibilities: anticipating needs, identifying options, deciding among the options and then monitoring the results. Mothers did more in the four stages, her research showed; while parents often made decisions together, mothers took more care of anticipation, planning and research. In other words, the fathers were informed when it came to making decisions, but the mothers did the legwork around them.
This hidden work has impacts to care about childcare even when they are not with their children. It also causes additional stress, as it is always present, even when you have to concentrate on other things.
"Mental load is that common thread that brings family into your professional life" says Leah Ruppanner, associate professor of sociology at the University of Melbourne and author of Motherlands. It is the constant low level worry about whether we are doing enough and what impact our parenthood will have on our child's future. "You always try to mitigate future risks. "
" Maternal control "
One thing that intrigued Daminger was that this unequal distribution of work did not seem to create much conflict among his participants. . To understand why, she conducted a follow-up study one year later , this showed that couples explained some of these gendered behaviors. Men and women suggested that the "unequal pision of mental labor was due to a partner working longer hours, or said women were" by nature interested in being organized "- that they are simply good at planning ahead.
This showed that participants believed that personality differences and work constraints were at the root of these inequalities. These were well educated participants who agreed to participate, so they may not be fully representative, but it still gives an interesting glimpse into a misconception that other studies have debunked - women do not soundt not naturally better at planning, organizing or multitasking , they are just supposed to do more and therefore ultimately become better.
Yet there are other structural reasons why women continue to carry more of the mental burden. Women often find a way to work to flexible , while men's jobs are seen as more rigid, their careers more traditionally linear. This means that women are more available to care for children, that they do more - and therefore they need to think more about it. More powerful, gender expectations that start from the birth may explain why ideas about who does housework and carechildren are so ingrained. The girls are known for doing more work household than sons , for example.
The ideals of motherhood also feed into this equation. For example, the house is often considered the domain of a woman. We know that women are judged on cleanliness more harshly than men. A study showed that While an identical room for a potential rental property belonged to Jennifer rather than John, Jennifer was seen as less likable, less competent, and less hardworking than John. The conclusion? The condition of a woman 's home was literally tied to its worth.
Mothers performing tasks like choosing a child's outfits are examples of "ma ternal gatekeeping " - subtle tasks that are incumbent on moms to take control of.s forward (Credit:)
These ideals can be perpetuated. Because women are judged more on how a household operates, it is essential that they demonstrate "maternal guardianship". This means taking on babysitting duties that might be shared, like writing meal plans or picking out outfits, subtly signaling that it's a mother's job. Think about the old joke, "Well, her dad dressed her ". It's funny when fathers do it wrong, but it involves bad mothering if mothers do it wrong. Despite the progress we have made in normalizing men who care for children, there is still "that sense that women are ultimately responsible for family outcomes," notes Daminger. “There are more costs to a woman if these things don't go well or happen. "
Impacts, at home and at work
The fact that mothers ficoming up with this mental burden has consequences, however.
Mothers are more stressed, tired and less happy than fathers, who are happier in childcare , research shows, in part because they tend to do fun and recreational activities more often. A Swedish study showed that when women believed that the division of the most obvious household chores was unfair and the perceptions of each partner's contribution differed, it led to marriage problems and increased the likelihood of a separation. The risk is also exhaustion for mothers, who might initially ask for help, which may seem nagging if it has to be repeated over and over. "And then it hurts relationships," says sociologist Daniel Carlson of the University of Utah, who has found that the unequal distribution of family responsibilities among couples can also lead to less sex .
If the women are overworked at home, this further means that many feel that they cannot physically or mentally do the overtime required by many workplaces , so that the gender pay gap continues to grow to dig. Women constitute the majority of part-time workers, for example, and in turn are less likely to get salary increases or promotions after having children , which makes it even more difficult to find top jobs level. Many are leaving the job market completely .
Talk more, do less
Since the pandemic, the link between gender equality at home and participation of women in the labor market was more in the spotlight than ever. While there are many systemic issues at play, tackling the hidden domestic work within couples could help ease the burden on women and men. deter further activity.