Mental load, also known as emotional labour, is an invisible burden that many women carry without realising it. It is a major complaint of the women’s movement. However hard we work, as soon as we finish we slip into the role of managers, making sure that life runs smoothly and taking care of the tasks that others fake they are not capable of doing. Mental load is not about chores, it is the mental strain of juggling everything so that it all gets done.
I know that as a freelance translator at home, others think I have time to ‘help them out’. When it comes to the house, now I am on my own, I know what I need and can take care of it, but there are still plenty of people in my circle ready to add to my mental load, suck my energy and stress my brain. This week alone I made two visa applications for friends who claim that they are ‘no good at computers’. I ended up charging their trip to my credit card because they had not set up online payments. Tomorrow I am accompanying a friend to a medical appointment who has lived here for ten years and still doesn’t speak Spanish. Last week I spent two days imprisoned in my home waiting for other people’s packages to be delivered to my address because I ‘am at home all day’. It all takes time, my time, and planning, and focus.
Just saying, ‘no’ doesn’t always work. I was looking forward to seeing the live stream of the opera Faust at the local cinema until my friend decided to invite three other people along who I don’t even know. That’s fine, but she also told them that I would buy their tickets online and that they could pay me back on the night. When I said ‘no’, she came to my house on Sunday morning with her husband’s credit card so that she could ‘watch’ while I did it. I was so fed up that I decided to give it a miss and didn’t bother to go. Mental load turns what should be fun into a chore.
I will admit that in the past I was more willing to volunteer my time and skills to do these things, but even I can see that I have crossed the line to overcommitment. I need to set boundaries and reorganise my time with the right priorities so that I feel less resentful and more balanced. Never fear! I’ve got this!