Today’s women continue to be primarily responsible for the well-being of their loved ones. Little sister of the mental load, the emotional load is a source of suffering from which they struggle to free themselves.
The past few decades have seen increased attention to children. But before they are well educated, they must be happy. Dad and Mom are working on this task as best they can. Solo, in straight couples, this responsibility still rests mainly on the shoulders of mothers. These efforts that our society often presents as a source of joy and fulfillment can be exhausting. Especially since with the various confinements and the whole family returning home, this maternal work has increased tenfold.
We have often talked about the mental load suffered by women, which you have to think about everything in the house – organize appointments with doctors, buy bread by accompanying the children to school, throw a car in the air, prepare dinner on the way to work … Very concrete and visible actions. But the emotional burden, which makes mothers responsible for maintaining the bond and managing the emotions of loved ones, is less often identified because it tends to be invisible. Remember everyone’s favorite dish, music, movies, even those close to your spouse, don’t forget birthdays, comfort the crying baby, be with your husband when he is tired, take care of him when you are angry, manage seizures adolescents, working to ensure that everyone is well, always, forgetting about it … The list of this other burden that weighs on mothers is long. So many things that may seem insignificant but that require additional psychic work from women. Attentive to everything, they anticipate and evaluate the needs of their loved ones, even before they are formed and become strong in solutions. A more difficult task than it seems.
Bringing life, then giving it still seems today considered the consecration of a woman’s life, the long-awaited moment. The latter then applies to resemble this perfect daronne she has been prescribed to be. The one who always thinks about cooking her children’s favorite dishes, is always happy to take them to do activities, read them a story, listen to them tell their discussions with friends at school or their last pains. In short, the one who lives for her children. “Even today the archetype of the good mother is the one who takes charge of everything, the one who sacrifices herself, the one who sacrifices herself, the one who puts herself in the last place after all”, explains Patricia Mignone, author and coach specialized in care of mental work. As if babies who were always well were a guarantee of maternal performance, when we know that trying to make everyone happy is an impossible mission. Claire, 52, mother of three, now young adults, testifies: “There is a form of obligation, of pressure that my children are always okay, and I have always felt it.” Valérie, 49, continues: “When they are little they don’t struggle: you have to hold on. When it passes, it is later that we realize they have been giving for years.
Dolls and knights
But how are we still there? If women are still today the main referents for receiving the emotions of their children and loved ones, it is not socially a coincidence. When little girls play with dolls, little boys play heroes. The former are already learning to care, the latter are imitating their future independence. This arrangement of gender roles, from childhood, therefore does not facilitate the sharing of tasks in adulthood with regard to childcare. Because if women are educated to take care of others, men sometimes lack the knowledge on the subject. “Culturally, manhood in our societies is still often expressed through strength, the expression of power or even tenacity. The only emotion men can legitimately express is anger, and sometimes they completely ignore another aspect of themselves, which is their sensitivity, their need for connection, their need for attachment. On the contrary, women through their education have many more keys and resources to perceive the whole emotional palette and therefore also have a better ability to respond to it “, explains Annick Bruyneel, psychologist. more than necessary to value in all children qualities perceived as feminine such as kindness or kindnessbut also to normalize for men to go to a psychologist or to talk about their problems with friends. If this dynamic were better received, the weight of their difficulties would no longer fall exclusively on the partner.
“Couples only communicate when there is tension, so both sides tend to equate communication with discussion.” Patrizia Carina
Furthermore, interpreting “knowing how to take care” as an intrinsic trait of femininity gives little recognition to the work done by women. While essential for the proper functioning of our societies, this quality seems trivial when it comes to the fairer sex. A discourse that changes radically, according to sociologist Cécile Thomé, when men in turn are involved: «Fathers are always exceptional fathers if they take care of their children, mothers are always deficient mothers. A father who gets up at night is fantastic and hypermodern, a mother who doesn’t get up at night is a disaster.
Corollary of this split distribution of roles: men also suffer the blow, even when they try to invest more extensively in the life of their offspring. Why a baby’s first few months have a lasting impact on the parent-child relationship: “The mental load, like emotional work, breaks down very quickly. When you spend ten hours a day with your baby, while your spouse is at work, you inevitably get to know the baby better, understand his material and emotional needs better, “says Cécile Thomé. Quickly, mothers are therefore seen as more competent and their better half feels less legitimate. In fact, due to their closer proximity to the baby, they simply have more experience. A dynamic that lasts over time and perpetuates the idea that men help in a task that is not theirs. Here institutions have a role to play, the sociologist believes, in particular by extending paternity leave …
Honey, can you help me?
But beyond this management of the boys, another one also comes into play. “Women do emotional work not only for their children, but also for their couple, and it becomes particularly heavy when the baby arrives when he was already unbalanced at the base,” notes Cécile Thomé. Linda says, “When she was born, my daughter became my first priority. However, I continue to relieve my spouse. I will not ask him to empty the dishwasher because I know that he comes home from work, he is tired, I will deprive myself of going out one evening to be with him … “Valérie, 49, believes, she, having worked a lot on this question with the her current spouse. She trains herself to put herself in first place and he to do more, but for a result in her opinion that is not always convincing: “The natural returns to gallop, generosity and doing things for others is not at all in their temperament for boys, so even if there are efforts at times, it doesn’t last.
It is not enough to despair, however, according to coach Patricia Mignone. For her it is above all necessary to invest in a better listening in the couple: «We do not communicate so much and so badly. Couples only communicate when there is tension, so both parties tend to equate communication with discussion. ” Women must allow themselves to verbalize their wants and needs to overcome this poor distribution of care. As for fathers, they must learn to intervene, to take charge of themselves by placing limits on their children, thus favoring the partner’s time for themselves. They also have to try to acknowledge their partner’s efforts, all those little things that made their life easier – hearing them moan, spending the evening with them rather than going out with friends …
The importance of talking about it
Accepting the emotions of those around you, even if it means silencing yours, in the long run, however, this is no longer livable. An exhaustion that can lead to parental burnout in the most extreme cases. Linda, 46, mother of an 8-year-old girl, testifies to a sadness that she cannot shake off and a need for recognition that is never satisfied: “I am a mother before I am a woman. My language of love is that no one lacks anything, but I have lost the sense of my freedom. She makes me angry, I feel trapped in the role of the good mother that I can no longer get out of. Like all human beings, women need to recharge their batteries, have time for themselves and that we mutually take care of them too. Psychologically, the emotional burden can have deleterious effects on mental health: “While I give up everything that guides me, I no longer recharge the batteries, I run out”, says Patricia Mignone. And she adds: “Women must regain their power in the public sphere as well as in the private sphere. You must learn to withdraw, you must have confidence in the willingness of others to contribute ”. The mental support coach is in favor of letting go to find some form of freedom.
For Cécile Thomé it is absolutely necessary lifting the taboo around the difficulties of motherhood: “To be able to express your difficulties in being a mother, avoid keeping it within yourself and feeling completely divided between what you feel, the sense of guilt of feeling it, the fact of not daring to express it.” To get rid of the idea of motherhood without pitfalls, Mélanie, 37, uses a nuanced look: “Taking care of my daughter is an embodiment, I am proud to put a lot of effort for her, but at the same time, I feel also fragile and vulnerable because it is not a force to be transmitted always “. Claire, 52, now approaches her relationship with her children more lightly. She is more serene, and is convinced that it has a positive impact on them: “Before I took the side of the warrior, it was necessary at all costs to be well, to be on your feet. In fact, it was very bad for my children, it is also important when you are a parent to show that you are not well, that you have vulnerabilities.
If sharing her difficulties feeds the relationship, it also normalizes their emotional whims in children.. They integrate that even if the mother loves them, taking care of them is not always taken for granted, that she too needs to be alone or to cultivate other interests. So, relieving oneself of the emotional burden undoubtedly means accepting that you cannot be guarantors of the eternal happiness of others, recognizing your limitations and respecting them, admitting in particular that you have the right to a full position, not as a helper but as a human being.