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We, as mothers, do it ALL — and a new comic perfectly illustrates this frustration. French feminist author “Emma,” released the illustrations on her blog and they’ve gone viral.
The piece titled Fallait Demander was translated into English under the title You Should’ve Asked, and it keeps on resonating with mothers everywhere. The French version alone has been shared on Facebook over 213K times, received 73K likes, and gathered 14K comments.
But the author is no stranger to making profound observations about the gender-related challenges of motherhood. She recently authored the revolutionary, feminist comic book Un Autre Regard, which translates loosely as Another Look, and is about the shock of returning from maternity leave to realize her colleagues considered it an extended vacation.
But her viral piece is also incredibly well-crafted and stunningly easy to relate to. It features a comic depicting one of motherhood’s greatest struggles — the struggle of being the one who bears the burden of most of the obligations of the day-to-day.
It shows the feminist concept of “the mental load,” which the author defines as “always having to remember.” And this typically falls upon the mother — even though many modern-day moms also have careers (and lives) outside of parenthood. Even if they embrace staying at home, though, most of us these days had visions of co-parenting, or having adequate help from our partners so that we don’t always feel like we’re drowning. But, for some reason (the mental load!), many still do. Which is why some of us (ahem, me) promptly shared this with our husbands and said, “THIS IS EVERYTHING I’VE BEEN TRYING TO EXPLAIN FOR SO LONG!”
While Emma is not trying to say dads are useless or lazy, she points out what so many moms know to be true — that the more managerial tasks of parenting and running a home often fall on mothers whether we like it or not, and even if we really, really hate it.
No, it’s not always out of choice (aka because we’re inherently controlling or just like things done a certain way), but many moms say it’s out of necessity. It’s because if they didn’t do it, no one would and the whole family would suffer for it. So instead of trying to keep things even-steven or giving ourselves a break, we make the doctor appointments, the dentist appointments, we arrange for the babysitter, and do one thousand tiny tasks without anyone asking us to, demanding that we do it, or making us a handy list. In fact, usually, it’s without anyone noticing at all. That’s why it’s called the invisible work. Because no one really sees it but it’s constant and consuming and exhausting.
As the author poignantly suggests, mothers often feel like managers — doing the day-to-day tasks, plus, keeping track of all that needs to be done, who needs to be where, and so on and so on. And while it’s neither natural or normal for mothers to feel this incredible pressure all on them, it seems quite common and glaringly relatable, which is why the post has reached far and wide. Few pieces can get to the heart of why motherhood is so epically hard. But this one touched a nerve.
I happened to read this piece after my husband returned home from a week-long work trip. While I was expecting the previous week to feel much harder, I actually found many things to be easier. I wasn’t constantly having to nag my partner, or feeling let down if things didn’t get done. I simply took care of them on my own. I wasn’t playing the “manager” in addition to all my tasks, and somehow it felt like a bit of a break.
I am certainly not hinting that single motherhood might be easier. But the tasks of communicating, organizing, relying on a spouse, and trying to not navigate the murky waters together can be immensely challenging. Feeling like you aren’t always on the same page happens and it’s not easy to figure out how to get back on.
While perhaps this speaks to issues in my own marriage, I’m not ashamed to admit it because they are the same issues so many families with young children also experience. Constantly communicating and meeting one another’s needs, while running a house and taking care of kids, require persistence and maintenance and can be so much more demanding than you think they should be.
While it might not make for an instant or dramatic shift in my (or anyone’s) unique family roles as the holder of the mental load, I am so thankful for the honesty of this author. The piece has definitely given me a lot to think about and the courage to keep standing up for my needs.