During the week, Laurie spends her days at home, alternating tidying up the house, the children’s homework, preparing meals and other household chores … On weekends, when all her family is resting, she puts on her therapist cap and finds her patients in his office in Paris.
This 27-year-old young woman has always had staggered schedules and busy days. But since the start of the health crisis, this mother of two has had a new dependent: her companion.
Before the crisis, Laurie had made a habit of cooking simple meals for her children, in order to free up some personal time. He also sometimes went to the restaurant with his companion. Now she is in the kitchen for lunch and dinner.
“At first I thought that this new organization would help me since we would be two adults at home. He’s got more time, and yet he’s still not helping me. Worse yet, his presence is an additional burden for me. I have one more person to manage, one more mouth to feed. ”
Read also : Women’s mental load, exhaustion to handle everything
Alone when it comes to shopping / meal logistics
Like her, many women report strong anxiety and significant fatigue since the onset of the health crisis. According to a Kantar poll for the Women’s Foundation, carried out in February 2021, 66% of women feel “anxious “ since the start of the crisis, compared to 55% of men. And as far as fatigue is concerned, they are 40% to declare themselves “overworked“, against 35% of men.
This is the case of Cécile, a 38-year-old farmer who, in addition to fatigue, expresses a lot of anger towards her husband: “Before the confinement, the races were already a subject of disputes between us, so we decided to delegate this task to an external service provider. But with the crisis this service came to an end. Since we couldn’t go to the supermarket together, it was quite naturally me who took over this task, without the question really arising. “This mother of three also says that the new organization of meals has been an additional burden in her days.
Aurélia Schneider, psychiatrist and author of an essay on mental load, recalls that meals “Nothing anecdotal. It is a real job.” Indeed, since everyone is at home, there are more mouths to feed. A task that often falls to women. “During the first confinement, they went from an average of seven to fourteen meals per week. And it’s not enough to prepare the meal, there are all the logistics of the races upstream, and the dishes after. It’s not nothing.”
The crisis amplifies existing inequalities
Like Laurie and Cécile, many women have seen their mental load, that is to say the load carried by married women in managing the household, explode with the health crisis. For the latter, the confinement and other restrictions put in place since have only amplified the inequalities already present within the home.
“For example, it has been observed that homework is more often a women’s affair. This is both out of habit but also because unconsciously, the work of women is considered to be of less value. Therefore, if one of the two spouses has to take time out to take care of the children or household chores, it is more often the woman who will do it.”, Laments the psychologist.
“In addition to my work as a farmer, and meals, I also took care of the children’s homework. My husband tried it once, except it was in pain and tears. Our son therefore refused to do with him “, explains Cécile, who does not hide the anxiety she has suffered for several months.
Less sport and more anxiety
These inequalities within the couple have several effects. Among the 70% of working people who teleworked in France, women were 1.3 times more likely than men to report a situation of anxiety (Ipsos / Boston Consulting Group)
Another figure to illustrate this inequality: according to the barometer of the French Federation of Physical Education, 67% of women claim to have had more difficulty in exercising physical activity. Indeed, with the curfew, “you have to be at home at 6 pm and the majority of women, even if the gap is narrowing, have to think about the races, anticipate etc. They can therefore no longer play sports in the evening”, Explains Émilie Martineau, national technical manager at the French Federation of Physical Education and Voluntary Gymnastics at France Info.
“Hold on, even when everything is falling apart”
If Laurie and Cécile want to be optimistic about what will happen next, it sometimes happens that inequalities break a relationship. This is what happened to Inès *. Last December, the mental load and the health crisis got the better of his couple.
The 23-year-old could no longer bear to hold her home at arm’s length. While she alternated between her remote license and an evening job in a hotel, her ex-boyfriend did not participate in household chores.
“He was very depressed, which I can understand. He is a musician and therefore lost his job. So I didn’t dare ask him for help. But in the end, I was just as exhausted as him. So, since we couldn’t be two to crack, I had to hold on, even when everything was crumbling around us.”
Overwork and depression
In January, the modern literature student was diagnosed with “depressed”. A diagnosis that she imputes directly to her rhythm of life. “Before leaving for work, I had to check that everything was ready for his dinner. And when I had the misfortune to return after two days of travel, I found the apartment in a deplorable state.”
A state of overwork which is not surprising for Aurélia Schneider: “If we are alone managing the house, and in addition we have new constraints, and we lose our social life alongside, we will end up being in a state of collapse.”
Now single, Inès ensures that in her future relationships, the issue of mental stress will be crucial. “I know my limits now, I’m not going to say yes to everything anymore.”
To read also: Mental load: learn to say no and to delegate!
Towards a better sharing of tasks?
So what can be done to avoid ending up in burnout? How to better distribute tasks? The psychiatrist insists on the need to seek help. This is not an end in itself, and again it’s up to you to think about “ask for help“, But if it can lighten your days”it’s already good to take. ”
But asking for help occasionally is not enough. For Aurelia Schneider, a better sharing of tasks must be established. In addition, you should not delegate only part of the task. For example, if your spouse offers to cook, he or she should also think about the menu, do the shopping and then, after the meal, do the dishes. Why ? Because the whole organization that surrounds a meal is also a burden.
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be hard on yourself and remember that no one can do it all.
If the situation weighs on your mental and / or physical health, do not hesitate to contact a psychologist, or other health professional.