Cleaning, cooking, child care – these routine household chores are more often on female shoulders, which is not always fair, but at least everyone knows about what. Isn’t it time to declare the load of a different kind, mental and inconspicuous, which also needs honest distribution? Psychologist Elena Kechmanovich explains what cognitive tasks are facing the family, and offers to take them seriously.

Read the next four statements and think about whether any of the above belongs to you.

  1. I am leading most of the households-for example, I plan a menu for a week, make lists of necessary products and household goods, control whether everything in the house is functioning normally, and raise the alarm when something needs to be repaired/fixed/establishing.
  2. I am considered a “default parent” when it comes to interaction with a kindergarten or school, coordination of children’s events, games, logistics of movement around the city and visiting doctors. I am following whether it is time for children to buy new clothes and other essential items, as well as gifts for birthdays.
  3. I am the one who organizes assistance from the outside, for example, finds a nanny, tutors and an assistant in the household, interacts with masters, builders so on.
  4. I will coordinate the public life of the family, organizing almost all the trips to the theater and museums, traveling around the city and meetings with friends, plan excursions and vacations, track interesting city events.

If you agree with at least two statements, most likely in your family you carry a large cognitive load. Please note that I have not listed ordinary routine affairs, such as cooking, cleaning, washing, buying products, haircuts of lawns or joint time with children at home or on the street. For a long time, it was these specific tasks that were identified with work on the house. But cognitive labor eluded the researchers and the public, since it does not require physical effort, as a rule, invisible and poorly outlined by the temporary frames.

When it comes to identifying resources (for example, the question arises of finding a kindergarten), men are more actively involved in the process

Most of homework and children are traditionally performed by women. In recent decades, more and more families have appeared where domestic responsibilities have been distributed evenly, but studies show that women, even working, are loaded with household chores.

In Washington, the District of Colombia, where I practice, women often express disappointment about the fact that they are exhausted by many tasks that have no beginning and end and do not leave them time for themselves for themselves. Moreover, these matters are even difficult to clearly define and measure.

Harvard sociologist Ellison Daminger recently published a study 1 in which she defines and describes cognitive labor. In 2017, she held detailed interviews with 70 married adults (35 pairs). These were representatives of the middle class and the tops of the middle class, with higher education and at least one child under the age of 5 years.

Based on this study, Daminger describes the four components of cognitive labor:

    1. Forecasting – awareness and anticipation of upcoming needs, problems or opportunities.
    2. Determining resources – identifying possible solutions to the problem.
    3. Decision -making – choice among the revealed options for the best.
    4. Control – observation that the decisions are fulfilled and the needs are satisfied.

    The study of Daminger, like many other unconfirmed data, indicates that forecasting and control mostly fall on the shoulders of women. When it comes to identifying resources (for example, the question arises of finding a kindergarten), men are more actively involved in the process. But most of all they participate in the decision -making process – for example, when the family needs to decide on the choice of a particular preschool institution or company for the delivery of products. Although, of course, further research is needed, which will find out in a wider sample how true the conclusions of this article are.

    Why is mental work so difficult to discern and recognize? Firstly, it is often invisible to everyone except the person who performs it. Which of the mothers did not have to correspond all day in the chat about the upcoming children’s event, simultaneously completing an important working project?

    Most likely, it is the woman who will remember that the tomatoes remaining in the lower drawer of the refrigerator have deteriorated, and make a mental note to buy fresh vegetables in the evening or warn her husband that you need to go to the supermarket no later than Thursday, when they are definitely needed to prepare spaghetti.

    And, most likely, it is she, sunbathing on the beach, reflects on what kind of preparation strategies to be offered to her son. And at the same time, from time to time checks when the local football league begins to accept new applications. This cognitive labor is often performed in the background, in parallel with other matters, and never ends. And therefore it is almost unrealistic to calculate how much time a person spends on these thoughts, although they can negatively affect his ability to concentrate in order to do their main work or, conversely, relax.

    A large mental load can become a source of tension and disputes between partners, since it can be difficult for another person to evaluate how burdensome this work is. Sometimes those who fulfill it themselves do not notice how many duties they pull on themselves, and do not understand why they are not satisfied with the fulfillment of a specific task.

    Agree, it is much easier to feel the pleasure of painting a garden fence than on constant control of how the school implements a curriculum, compiled specifically for your child with its special needs.

    And now, instead of evaluating the load of duties and distributing them between family members more evenly, the home « manager » continues to monitor everything, bringing itself to complete exhaustion. Psychological fatigue, in turn, can lead to negative professional and physical consequences.