The “mental load” of fathers: myth or reality?

The “mental load” of fathers: myth or reality?

An article in Le Figaro detailing the mental burden of fathers continues to cause a stir. Can we really assign them the same responsibilities as women, because they share “a little more” the household chores? We asked the question to Dr Aurélia Schneider, psychiatrist and author of a book on the subject.

“The mental burden of fathers: this taboo subject that we only talk about behind the scenes”. By publishing this article as a revelation, Le Figaro of January 14th perhaps did not know where he was going (or perhaps he did, on the contrary). In a single article, many editorial staff were offended or amused by the mirror comparison with the situation of women who often combine employment and family responsibilities.

Newly overwhelmed men

In fact, the men who testify in the article affirm this. Those who do more at home without having lowered their professional pace, now have “this feeling of being constantly overworkedbetween the pressure of “boil the pot” and that of playing a role at home. A discovery widely mocked: described as “yes-yes” on the networks, men who expressed their feelings with honesty are ridiculed.

Release also boasts a sentence to set the record straight: “We will therefore note that the new “mental load of fathers” is to start doing what they did not do before and to feel overwhelmed by it.. Some Internet users even almost choke.

By definition, mental load is not gendered

Impossible for a man to experience what mental load is? We asked the question to Dr Aurélia Schneider, psychiatrist and author of a book and an illustrated guide: The mental load of women, and that of men. (2018, Ed Larousse). This one is less vindictive.

“By definition, mental load is the fact of having to think about something when you are in another activity. That is to say the impossibility of carrying out a task from A to Z without being interrupted because “information arrives, that it is necessary to plan an appointment, to do a reverse planning, to integrate the children’s activities… It is therefore the simultaneity of activities. Based on this definition, everyone can be subject to a certain mental load since we are all constantly subjected to new information. Men too.

Proof of this, she comments, is that separated men who have custody of their children every other week, settle down quite quickly and find themselves managing doctor’s appointments, activities, shopping in more of their work during their week of care… Like mothers do. And can absolutely be impacted by the mental load. But in this task, some are completely comfortable, and others are quickly overworked.

But the roles are more conditioned in the couple

In the couple on the other hand, despite fathers more involved than before in the education of the children and the sharing of tasks, the model remains quite traditional.even among thirty-somethings ” confirms the expert. Even today, women spend on average 3 hours on domestic tasks (children, managing the house, laundry) compared to 1 hour 45 minutes for men.

But the problem is not only numerical: “There is also quite a bit of conditioning. A perfectionism that reigns among women (who wants to cook at home, brick their interior, iron their laundry) which is a major factor in stress. In men it is often different. They don’t prioritize in one place, don’t want to do everything at once, don’t care if the laundry is ironed and are probably right.”

The psychiatrist adds that perfectionism is neither good nor bad, but that in fact, there is reason to draw inspiration from men: “if you really want to iron your duvet, that’s ok, but give up on something else, because you won’t succeed” they advise women. Men seem to get there much more easily.

Mental load yes, but equality, no

The fact remains that yes, men have evolved. Dans Point, the psychiatrist concedes that confinement in particular, “has allowed many couples to take stock of what the other supports in their personal and professional lives.” Particularly in the event of “overload” or “poor distribution” of domestic tasks. Some men have decided to get more involved, and today find themselves with more pressure than before. To the point of sharing everything equally? Not yet.

As journalist Nadia Daam reminds us in a column on France Inter, “it’s all a question of scale”. “Even if there are fathers who exploit their educational and household skills, we are certainly not at the stage where the mental load would be perfectly and equitably distributed. she said, recalling that less than 1% of fathers take parental leave compared to 14% for mothers and that 85% of medical appointments are made by mothers.

“I’m waiting to see what couples who are twenty years old today and who have a much greater sense of this notion of equality will give” Dr. Schneider tells us. Because a shared mental load would mean more lightness.