I’ve been hearing a lot lately about “mental load” or “invisible work” - especially as it typically relates to women’s roles in a relationship. This recent article got me thinking about it more:
It’s something I feel on a daily basis - not only doing the work, but owning the thought process behind each task. In my marriage, I’m the one paying the bills, making the grocery list, planning the meals, registering our son for activities, RSVPing to birthday parties, making breakfast lunch dinner, packing lunches, doing laundry, hand washing the pots and pans… the list goes on. It’s exhausting and resentment kicks in A LOT. Just the other night, my husband and I were trying to get the printer to work after replacing the ink cartridges and he said, "Maybe you should call them to deliver a different cartridge, " and I responded, “Maybe YOU should call them…” It’s typically assumed that I’m responsible for taking care of these things.
(In my husband’s defense, there are a number of things that I assume he will do, and I have gladly removed myself from any learning or responsibility for those tasks.)
Anyway, reading that article got me thinking that yeah, that’s all well and good that people are talking to their partners about sharing the mental load, but what about those partners who have ADHD? My husband has ADHD, and while he’s medicated and is way better than he was before he was diagnosed, dealing with mental load is something that is more difficult for him than people without ADHD (like me). On top of that, he’s a school teacher, and I know he spends all day struggling to stay organized and keep track of things. When he gets home, he is mentally exhausted. So I try to stay compassionate, knowing full well that spending his childhood and young adult life with undiagnosed ADHD has been a huge contributing factor in his Substance Use Disorder.
I also read this article, which helped to remind me that adjusting expectations (or releasing them altogether), practicing compassion, and having conversations that stress teamwork rather than blame, is really important: Article: ‘Non-ADHD spouse burnout’ is the new mental load
I especially liked this from the article:
“Take a personal inventory to understand your role in the relationship. Ask yourself questions like, what are my priorities? Where is my boundary line? What are my non-negotiables in a relationship – what am I willing to compromise on/not willing to compromise on?”
“You might think you just feel frustrated all of the time, but it is important to reflect on what might be underlying an irritable or angry response. Instead of ‘I’m so angry with you that you have made us late again’ try ‘I am really worried about getting to work late because it puts my role and reputation at risk’. Anger is often a symptom of fear and is exacerbated when we feel threatened.”
In a more practical sense, she says, factor in considerations that, together, will help you manage time and admin more effectively.
I’m curious to hear thoughts and experiences from other Villagers whose loved ones have ADHD, or may have ADHD, and how you’ve navigated that along with supporting through addiction and recovery. It’s exhausting and feels hopeless and never ending at times, but knowing there are others going through it and making it out alive can be helpful.