Men­tal load is real

CityPress - - News -

Ja­nine Hayter’s hus­band, Gary, makes their three young daugh­ters’ school lunches, does all the big gro­cery shop­ping and helps out with the house­hold chores. Al­though she val­ues her hus­band’s ef­forts, say­ing he does more than many other men, she points out that it wouldn’t hap­pen so well if she didn’t plan and man­age the process.

She keeps a com­pre­hen­sive gro­cery list for him be­cause he won’t no­tice if they’re run­ning out of clean­ing de­ter­gents; she in­forms him about what chores need to be done; and she plans and cooks the fam­ily’s meals. In ad­di­tion, she also helps all the chil­dren with their home­work and projects, or­gan­ises their school pick-up sched­ule, which in­volves three dif­fer­ent school clos­ing times and scores of af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties, and keeps lists posted in the kitchen so ev­ery­one can re­mem­ber what has to hap­pen.

Hayter (43), a head of depart­ment at a top Jo­han­nes­burg gov­ern­ment school, knows all about women’s men­tal load.

“Like this morn­ing,” she says on Wed­nes­day night over a glass of wine. “I came home from a run at 6am and they weren’t out of bed yet. And then while I was try­ing to get ready for work, my eldest needed a let­ter writ­ten to a teacher about miss­ing hockey prac­tise. And the mid­dle one wanted her hair done, and the youngest needed some­thing for her class theme ta­ble about sharks.

“And while all this was go­ing on, Gary was stand­ing in the kitchen drink­ing a cup of cof­fee, un­sure of what to do,” she says.

Hayter was so flus­tered by the time she got ev­ery­one in the car that she had to go back into her locked house twice to fetch things they had for­got­ten. Her work day also didn’t get off to the best start.

It is un­sur­pris­ing that Hayter hasn’t con­sid­ered ap­ply­ing for a pro­mo­tion and one day be­com­ing a school prin­ci­pal.

“Oh, I could never do that! Not with ev­ery­thing I have to do right now,” she says.

A lack of de­sire to progress in their ca­reers has been cited as one of the con­se­quences of women’s men­tal load.

To en­sure she had enough time to get ev­ery­thing done, Hayter gave up run­ning to al­low her to jug­gle her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But she de­vel­oped se­vere health prob­lems as a re­sult and took it up again on doc­tors’ or­ders. Now she wakes up as early as 3am to get her work done, and goes to bed ex­hausted as late as 11pm each night.

Hayter blames so­ci­ety’s ex­pec­ta­tions of women: “We say we are ready for women to break the mould, yet we are not ready to let go of the tra­di­tional ex­pec­ta­tions of what women should be do­ing in their roles as wife and mother. Women try to do both equally well, and then won­der why it feels so over­whelm­ing.”

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