It's Never More Obvious That Moms Carry the Mental Load Than When There's a Baby at Home

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“The baby is crying,” my husband, Paul, helpfully says to me, someone who also has functioning ears.

“Maybe he needs a change.” Why is it my responsibility to determine why the baby is crying? I think. “Could you please change him?” I humbly request.

To which Paul responds, “Sure, in a few.”

The baby keeps crying. I can’t stand the sound, so I stop doing the laundry, walk over to the swing and pick him up.

His wails reduce in volume, but he’s still whimpering.

“Can you change him now?” I ask Paul, growing irritated. I’ve done the last three changes and just want to get back to the laundry.

“Where are the size 3 diapers?” he asks me. I know where they are. Why doesn’t he? “We’re out of wipes,” he adds. I break open a new package for him. “This Desitin is goopy.”

And the baby is crying.

So I just change him myself.

“If I ask my husband to change a nappy he’ll happily do it … but asking often takes as much energy as changing it … so why not just do it myself?” This was the question that Australian author and blogger Constance Hall posed in a now-viral Facebook post about the “injustice” that is carrying the mental load as a mom to a baby. This is her fifth child, her first with her second husband, and yet his inability or unwillingness to take action when the baby needs something seems nearly universal among my circle of mom friends, all married to their original spouses.

It’s not that we’ve wed incapable or unwilling guys. They’re lovely, and in almost all cases, more progressive and interested in childcare than their own fathers. Still, they become helpless or simply not as attuned to what the kid might possibly want as mothers seem required to be. Sure, some of it might be biological. After all, only a mom can feel the discomfort in her chest when it’s been a few hours since her baby has nursed. Most of it, though, is not.

Take, for instance, the mentally taxing task of packing a diaper bag. I can’t imagine an evolutionary reason for a mom to be more familiar with the SkipHop backpack and its contents. But when we were running late to go somewhere the other day and I was feeding our baby upstairs in the nursery, I asked my husband, who was downstairs, if he was ready to go.

“Pretty much,” he professed.

Meanwhile, there was still so much to do for the baby.

“Could you please pack the diaper bag?” I shouted down to him.

“I don’t know what goes in it,” he said.

“Diapers, wipes, a bib, a burp cloth—”

He cut me off. “I don’t know where anything is.”

Those six words. I clenched my teeth. I closed my eyes. I sighed. The baby would unlatch every time I called down to Paul, and this nursing session had already gone on too long. So it was time to go digital with my response. This is the actual IM I sent my husband.

Does that IM make me sound bitchy? Probably. (And I still don’t know why the burp cloths were in the swing.) But we don’t live in a palatial estate where diapers can be in 37 different places. And Paul’s a smart guy who has changed our sons’ diapers. He knows where we keep these essentials. I don’t know why his memory goes whenever I ask him to chip in with chores. All I know is that, while it’s challenging to keep track of everything a baby needs, it shouldn’t be any harder for him than it is for me, the one whose brain is forever changed from her two pregnancies.

I’m grateful he’s willing to pitch in, but it doesn’t matter much if I have to do all the thinking for him. Rest assured, if he asks me where any of the baby essentials are again, I will refer him to that IM.

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