There’s a reason why it’s hard for moms to unwind after work.

Many have a mental “to-do” list about a mile long.

THOUGHTS MOMS HAVE AFTER A LONG DAY OF WORK: OMG. This house is a mess. Do we have enough bread for lunch…

Posted by Perfection Pending by Meredith Ethington on Wednesday, July 12, 2017

As Babble reports, discussion about the mental load so many moms carry — the product of constantly tallying the needs of work, family, and household — sometimes seems like the prelude to a debate about sexism. But as Meredith Ethington notes, there’s something to be learned on both sides.

The mom of three, who blogs at Perfection Pending, recently wrote on Facebook about the difference between her thoughts and her husband’s thoughts at the end of a long day. She began with a list of the things moms ponder after a long day of work:

OMG. This house is a mess.
Do we have enough bread for lunch tomorrow?
I need to have a talk with the five year old about honesty and have him return that toy he “borrowed”.
I hope I can get some sleep tonight. Like, actual real sleep where I have a dream, or twitch, or something. I should buy a sleep mask.
Did I put the laundry in the dryer?
Did I hit send on that email?
Is it too late to register the 8yo for soccer that is six months away?
Are they caught up on their shots for school?
Do we need more cat food?
I should clean out their closets.
How is the ceiling fan THAT dusty? Like, for real. Why is there so much dust on a fan that spins all day? How is that even possible?
I keep seeing spiders. Need to call the exterminator.
I hope that we get into that good preschool and not the shady looking one that for sure has a hand foot and mouth infestation.
I hope I bought the right sunscreen and not one that will give them a rash.
When was the last time I watered my flowers outside?
I should wash our sheets.
I bet Karen washes her sheets every week.
I need a freaking vacation from mom life, but who would remember that we need more ramen noodles?
I will cut someone if I don’t have any chocolate after the kids are in bed.

Then followed with the somewhat shorter thought process of a tired dad after a tough day, illustrated by a photo of her husband asleep on the couch. She wrote:

I’m going to lay down here and take a nap real quick.

The point was not to criticize her husband or suggest he doesn’t do enough. On the contrary, as Ethington wrote on her blog:

My husband is a great guy. He works hard to provide for the family, and comes home and helps out at the end of a long day. He’s willing to do whatever needs to be done, but he just doesn’t see it, or care about it the way I do. After 15 years of marriage, I’m learning to accept that.

Ethington wishes that her husband could peer into her head and get a glimpse of the never-ending list of chores and worries that make it impossible for her to take that nap. But at the same time, she sees the value in their different approaches. She wrote:

Yes, it would be nice if he was bothered by the same pencil that has been lying on the kitchen floor the same way I was bothered by it. But, would it really? I think it balances out the family dynamic to have someone that isn’t bothered by it. Because otherwise, we’d both be yelling at the kids constantly, and in a constant state of annoyance.

But a good relationship allows them to find balance. Ethington stresses that her husband isn’t responsible for her mental load.

Moreover, the fact that, over the years, he has grown to notice what bothers her and tries to help makes all the difference. She wrote:

I don’t really care if he doesn’t feel the same way about the mess that I do, or if he doesn’t know where something is kept on occasion. What I do care about is whether or not he rallies when I need him to. And, he almost always does.

And on some level, Ethington acknowledges that there’s a hint of envy behind her frustration with her husband’s lack of stress:

I guess part of the reason why I don’t get all bothered by the fact that he doesn’t seem to care about the same things I care about is because, I think he’s smart to not be so stressed by a mess, or a to-do list.

But while she might benefit from caring less — and he could probably care more — what really helps lighten her mental load is the fact that they’re a team. As she wrote on her blog:

“But, to me, the more important thing is that we’re a team when it matters. I try to care less, and he tries to care more, and we rally every day to make us both happy.”

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