The general rule on the internet is not to click on links unless you know where they’re going to go, right?
The other night, I clicked on a link tweeted by a friend entirely without any context or comment associated with it and I have never been so glad to have taken that chance. It lead me to “You Should Have Asked.” It details the mental labour that women do that is not in the least bit obvious to men, particularly in committed relationships where the couple also has kids.
One of the examples that struck me the most in the web comic was that of cleaning off a table. It could take a man 5 minutes to take everything off the table and put it where it belongs. It could take a woman 2 hours to clear everything off that table and put it where it belongs because she’ll notice, as she puts the towel in the laundry hamper, that it’s full and so she puts in a load of laundry. And then as she’s putting vegetables away, she realizes that they are out of mustard, so she has to add that to the grocery list, and so forth. While all of these tasks are needing to be done regardless of whether it is the man or woman who is doing them, these tasks are largely invisible to the man who concentrates only on clearing the table.
It explains why I start getting ready for bed before Scott, but he’s always waiting for me to climb in before he can turn out the light. It’s true that I have more that I typically do. I have to do things like take off my makeup, take down my hair, take out my contacts and brush my teeth. And all he has to do it brush his teeth. But there are all the unrelated tasks that I still have to run through before I can even get there.
- I take a quick look around the house but the quick look often takes long time even if I ignore all the mess that still lying around the house that I like to clean up before bed. I check to make sure that the front door is locked because if Scott only used the back door, he won’t think to doublecheck the front door before going to bed.
- I have to make sure that I’ve got a water for the night because in the middle the night there’s nothing worse than having to get up tiptoe past sleeping baby’s room to get some water only to have her wake up and having me unable to get back to sleep after 45 minutes of feeding, rocking and sneaking out of her room.
- I have to check on two sleeping babies. I have to make sure that the toddler is breathing normally because her night terrors and her head sweating are often linked to severe sleep apnea. I have to make sure that baby sleeping calmly enough that I can check to make sure that her boots are on properly and that nothing is shifted around on her brace without us knowing.
- I have to check the weather for the next day that way when Scott gives me a kiss goodbye (if I’m still asleep trying to make up for the interrupted night) I can take a quick look at what he’s wearing to make sure that it’s weather appropriate.
- I have to make sure that I’ve got a list of everything that I need to get ready the next morning because the minute that my feet hit the ground, they hit the ground running, knowing it doesn’t matter whether we need to be at the door at 9 AM or whether we need to be at the door at 11, because there’s always something that gets forgotten or left behind. I always tell myself that tomorrow’s going to be the day that I remember to get everything into the bag when it needs to be in there.
- And then I have to do a postmortem on the day. I think I put on things that went well. I think one of the things that I forgot to do, and I have all the things that I didn’t get to do. And then I have to try to decide whether it’s more important that I get eight hours of sleep a night or whether I get them done or whether I put them in a note somewhere to get them done which inevitably leads to making a note of all the things that need to be done around the house because I was intending to make that list of things we need to pick up from Home Depot and every time I’m at Home Depot I think “I don’t have a list of things to do” so start making that list
Before I know it, an hour has passed and while I may not accomplished anything in full, I’ve gotten at least three and a half lists made and figured out answer to a problem that I didn’t realize was an issue until I was half asleep.
Scott once explained me that having ADD means there is a constant sound of static in his head. Maybe not static, he said, but there is so much going on that he couldn’t pick out one single sound, and it gets exhausting. This mental load that women handle often feels the exact same, only instead of it being a constant droning sound we can’t distinguish, we can’t stop hearing each individual noise and try to categorize them and control them, all while trying to maintain a sense of composure, grace and decency.
It’s no wonder that once I finally fall into bed, I either can’t sleep, for all the thoughts in my head, or am out immediately, exhausted from trying to have my body keep up with my brain.