How Can I Teach My Son to Share His Mental Load with Me?

Seeing how “mental load” has become a part of our conversation about gender roles and partnerships gives me optimism for the future. One of the most important things we can do to affect long-term change is to demonstrate to our children that there are other options than the ones we’ve been taught about “mental load.”

Most couples (well, moms) tell me that the domestic workload is heavily tilted toward the mother, despite their intentions to break gender stereotypes. My friends’ mothers, on the other hand, talk about how their sons seem to be following in their fathers’ unhelpful footsteps, but there are also instances of parents who require less from their sons than from their girls around the house.

In reality, research has revealed that girls not only perform more housework than guys, but also get paid less for doing it. When it comes to our homes, it’s surprising how much we can learn from what goes on there, and this is why it really matters to pay attention to how your sons can help out around the house now—for both your sake and theirs.

Demonstrate the Attitude You Want to Instill in Others

Look at how you and your partner divide domestic duties and other responsibilities. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, what are your sons learning from their father about housework and providing for the family’s needs? What more could he do? Dad may not be on board with this idea, but what better way to motivate him than to see his children do more around the house?

The same is true for our girls, who are setting their own expectations for a future relationship. Daughters need to see both male and female role models actively participating in household activities and administration. If you and your male partner can’t attend a doctor’s or dentist’s visit, or a school event, you may have to divide the job; for example, deciding who goes to which appointments.

Even in the absence of a father figure, parents can teach their children about gender equality by having them help with domestic chores. It’s a good idea to get your son involved in cleaning up after dinner. When it comes to unloading and putting away groceries, ask him to assist you (this is a great opportunity to show him where things go in the kitchen if he was not previously aware). You can’t learn how to run a family better than by allowing your youngster to participate in the process.

Establish Goals and Expectations, as well as the Necessary Actions

Step two is to make sure your sons are expected to participate and assist you in any way they are asked. Using a chore chart, you can get your kids involved in household tasks that are both age- and gender-appropriate. Include repercussions if they fail to follow through on your instructions. Your son may be told that he can’t play video games until his backpack is put away, his stinking socks are in the hamper, and the dishes are done. To avoid squabbles and arguments about what constitutes “helping around the house,” it’s critical to spell out exactly what you expect of your children and what will happen if they fail to live up to your expectations.

Create Equality in Your Own Home

Until the world is really gender equal, there is still time for you to make a difference by starting at home. Every time your children ask why “life isn’t fair,” you’ve probably explained to them that they shouldn’t expect the same treatment from everyone. These kids are serious about keeping score, so it’s in everyone’s best interest if household chores are equally distributed between men and women.

Develop a strategy that ensures equitable contributions regardless of the gender combination in your household. A rotating chore chart, in which the same tasks are assigned to different family members on a weekly basis, or an agreed-upon morning each week when everyone is responsible for housework, would work. “We are a team” is a statement that my kids and I use whenever they start grumbling about cleaning or other tedious household chores.

To Sum It Up

When both parties in a domestic partnership have a knowledge of what needs to be done to keep the household operating, and then do it, “mental load” will go completely. Both our sons and daughters will benefit from parental advice in this area. We may teach our children how to be effective partners, rather than how to be “wives/mothers” or “husbands/fathers,” as our views about gender are evolving and becoming more inclusive.

Taking these actions in our own homes can at the very least bring us closer to the utopia of children’s books and fairy tale endings. You can’t do it all at once.