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Sharing The Mental Load and THE WIFE APP by Carolyn Mackler

Cover of the book The Wife App used as a teaching tool to describe sharing the mental load.

Best friends Madeline, Lauren, and Sophie are frustrated by the invisible labor of home life. It’s the everyday tasks, like singlehandedly preparing kids for camp, meal prep, and managing chaotic schedules. A lack of fairness in the division of these tasks factored into each of their divorces. In a flash of inspiration, the friends devised a solution - The Wife App, which outsources users’ mental loads.  


Mental load, or cognitive labor, is the task-oriented work of running a family and a household. In many relationships, these responsibilities are shared. But, in relationships where the mental load falls unevenly on one partner, frustration and resentment flourish.


There are men out there carrying their fair share, or more, of the mental load. But commonly, women take on disproportionately large amounts of cognitive labor.

If you’re in a relationship where the mental load needs to be reshuffled and shared, consider these tips:


Raise Awareness: Honestly and non-judgmentally tell your partner about the specifics of the mental load you are carrying and how it impacts you. Highlight the tasks they may not notice.


Collaboratively Define The Work: Brainstorm together to create a list of necessary tasks.


Decide, Divide, and Delegate: Working together, decide if everything on the list needs to be done by the adults in the family. Anything that does can be divided. Anything else can be delegated to your kids (they can do chores!) or outside helpers (cleaning services, babysitters, etc). Delegate tasks to technology like sharing online family calendars and auto-ordering everyday household items!


Let It Go: No one does things the same way you would. That’s ok. But, if you mandate tasks be done your way, you will end up frustrated or with the job on your to-do list.


Continue The Conversation: Regularly reflect on how the division works and adjust as needed. When your partner is stressed, and you have capacity, offer specific help.


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