The Spanish government has, this month, announced plans for an app that will tell wives if their men are doing enough housework. The new app intends to address the gender imbalance of housework with Spanish minister Ángela Rodríguez announcing that men and women will soon be able to log the number of hours they spend doing chores around the house as part of its ‘co-responsibility plan’.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer about what sounds like a positive step forward but I can’t help but have a sneaking suspicion that if my family were to subscribe to this initiative, the burden of downloading the app, then reminding my husband to log his hours and analysing the results, would very much fall to me – therefore adding to my already 26 page to-do list.

Mental load, particularly maternal mental load, are hot topics right now, and for good reason. In her 2022 book Equal Partners: Improving Gender Equality at Home, Kate Mangino writes that in different-sex relationships, women do around 65 per cent of the physical household work. Cooking and cleaning tend to fall to women, Mangino found, while intermittent chores, such as sorting out finances or mowing the lawn, are more likely to be done by men. 

The good thing is we are talking about this more. TikTok is full of videos from women detailing exactly how they are the “CEOs of their own households” – organising doctors’ appointments, liaising with nurseries or running school WhatsApp groups, remembering how many days there have been between clean sheet changes, turning over laundry, cleaning out the fridge, arranging holidays, travel insurance, flights, booking the cat into the cattery, keeping on top of everyone’s vaccinations (but having to reschedule your own smear test because you didn’t have childcare).

Some couples are sharing videos of what they consider to be ‘man jobs’ and what are ‘woman jobs’. In my house the division of domestic chores goes a little bit like this: my husband does the bins, the recycling, puts the dishwasher on before bed and is in charge of anything car or grass related.

Almost everything else falls to me, including anything to do with our one-year-old son’s childcare (which is balanced between nursery or “granny day-care” thanks to my mum), his appointments and haircuts, putting away his clothes that are too small and buying new ones, planning holidays, taking the cat to the vet, renewing our insurance policy, cleaning our skirting boards, cleaning the high chair (a million times a week), emptying the lint tray in the tumble dryer, cleaning the scuzz out of our toothbrush cup, the list goes on and on.

I know this list very precisely because, in a passive aggressive but mostly cathartic way, I recently wrote down everything I had done that day which I knew would go unnoticed by my husband: a ‘choredit’ if you will.

At this point I must stress that my husband is a great husband; he does as much as I do to look after our son, he cooks more than I do, he waited on me hand and foot when I was pregnant, he does bath time most evenings. Yet no matter how much you consider your husband a ‘doesband’, a huge proportion of men simply could not comprehend what goes into being the CEO of a household on a daily basis because it is embedded in society that the majority of this unseen workload falls to women.

For some couples this imbalance can push their marriages to breaking point. Mumfluencer Cat Sims, who goes by @notsosmugnow on social media and has almost a quarter of a million followers, posted earlier this year that the maternal mental load almost ended her marriage. In an article for Grazia she described the ‘ticker tape of jobs which range from the eternally mundane to the potentially lifesaving’.

Sims decided to write down the entire list of things which women, like her, take care of, on a daily basis. It turned out to be 47 pages long, and she now sells an adjustable version of The Mental Load List to try and help couples address their own imbalances.

Sims says: “It’s not easy and it takes work, and it may feel laborious but it’s really important that we lean into constructive conversations and recognise that we may have fallen into toxic habits when it comes to talking about these things.”

Sex and relationship expert for The Stag Company, Clarissa Bloom, says that Covid and working from home opened a pandora’s box when it came to realising the true imbalance of domestic chores. “With the change in lifestyle and home environment, there were a number of impacting factors, such as who looks after the children if you’re both working from home, do you both work in the same space or choose separate rooms and do you both have time for chores,” Bloom says. “While in the office, it is impossible to complete home chores, but WFH means people could potentially find the time to sneak in some extra housework, depending on how busy they were with work.”

She adds that the unfair division of household chores is one of the most common argument topics she has had to deal with in the past. “This will inevitably affect a relationship over time. One partner might not feel appreciated, so then in turn they may reciprocate in other ways, which causes a continuous knock-on effect.”

So, what can you do? Will an app or a spreadsheet really help? Communication is key, says Tina Wilson, relationship expert and Wingman Founder, as well as keeping realistic expectations rather than trying to hit 50/50. “It might be that household chores don’t need to become equal all of the time, and comparing who’s done what or criticising your partner for failing to complete a task will be highly draining or damaging to the desired output, so avoid this.

“Instead focus on balance within the relationship which will promote mutual respect by both individuals. Ways to make the balance fairer includes expressing your concerns openly with your partner and the burden it bears on you. Pick the right moment to bring it up.”

For my husband and I, post ‘list-gate’, employing a cleaner to come once a week helped defuse my biggest bugbears. The mental load isn’t going anywhere, but with some paid help it is certainly less overwhelming on a practical level.

Relationship advice guru and Oatly spokesperson Paul C Brunson, who you may recognise from Married At First Sight UK and Celebs Go Dating, agrees that taking such steps together is vital for success. “If couples aren’t willing to compromise on tasks, and fairly dish these out, it can be hard for relationships to thrive,” Paul says.

“Whenever an issue arises, try to think as a team and not as an individual in that moment…Is it really worth the argument? Or can we approach the habit with love and laughter instead?” Love and laughter aren’t on my current to-do list – but maybe I can make some room.

By admin