10 Proven Ways to Get Your Husband to Help More with the Mental Load and Chores | Working Mother

10 Proven Ways to Get Your Husband to Help More with the Mental Load and Chores

Here’s how real moms got their husbands to pitch in and remember as much as they do.

stressed dad

This is how it should be, ladies.


At any moment in time, most working moms could recite dozens of tasks that need to get done, from replenishing the paper towel stash to booking long overdue haircut appointments for the kids to sending a birthday card to dear Aunt Sharon. That's our mental load. But ask a dad what needs to get done, and you might be met with silence. “Women don't need to be reminded to think about their kids or relationships because that's what they have always learned to do—be empathic, be nurturing, be sensitive,” says Brandon Miller, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts-Boston who specializes in gender studies. “It isn't that men can't be these things, but it isn't always their first instinct because they are taught that they should be driven, competitive and self-focused.”

Since women are battling against years of conditioning, we can feel hopeless that our guys will ever remember to do more that benefits the whole family. We all want our husbands to help out more without having to nag them. But the wives below have found success with getting their husbands to do what needs to be done—without asking (more than that first time, anyway). Try their tricks on your spouse to lighten your mental load and help out more.

1. Make lists. “They make him feel successful. I write out things that nag at me, but that he could easily do without my needing to follow behind him and clean up after him such as: Take out garbage every night, look behind himself after showering and pick clothes up off the floor, empty dishwasher in the morning before work while waiting for coffee to brew. Honestly, it's the little stuff that is a big help.” —Mary Herrington, Boston

2. Get him to admit when he has bandwidth to do more. “I will ask him, honey, are you able to take a load off of me this week? Sometimes, he really can't. He has big presentations to prepare for. But when he can, see #3.” —Mary Herrington, Boston

3. Put him in charge when you’re down for the count. “When I was pregnant with my second and had hyperemesis gravidaram, he definitely learned to be more helpful. Since I was so sick, I would cry to him and say please either take our daughter somewhere or deal with her alone when I get home. Since then, I haven't really had to ask for help.” —Kristie Cafiero, Ramsey, NJ

4. Give him an ultimatum. “Our firstborn was maybe a year old, and I had enough of doing it all, so I showed my husband his suitcase and told him that I wasn't his mother, I'm Alex's mother, and enough is enough. He could either stay and be a parent and husband, or he could go. Since then, he has done his part with the kids, the house and dinner." —Laura Rensen, Welland, Ontario, Canada

5. Flash him “the look.” “He works hard all day, but he comes home and just has to look at my face to determine whether I need him to swoop in. Sometimes I have to direct him (‘brush Luca's teeth,’ ‘feed Noah some soup’) if I want something specific done, but overall he takes initiative.” —Sarah Pampillonia, Staten Island, NY

6. Don’t criticize his work. “My husband loves to cook, so he is now in charge of keeping the kitchen clean. Sure, sometimes I would like to give it a scrub-down when he doesn't clean it as well or as often as I might, but I try not to think about the kitchen anymore. It's about taking ownership, which sometimes means giving it up.” —Ashley Womble, New York City

7. Play up his strengths. “Mine is a meal-planning whiz. He always seems to have a mental catalog of what's ‘in stock.’ I think it comes from doing bar inventories for so long. I don't need his logistical brainpower for much else.” —Ellie Martin Cliffe, Milwaukee, WI

8. Make him the master of his domain. “I find you have to give your husband a responsibility that's all his, 100 percent. For my husband, among other things, it was signing up the kids for sports teams and making sure that all the arrangements around those were in place. I never got involved, so it was clear to him that he couldn't expect me to pick up any slack.” —Deborah Skolnik, Scarsdale, NY

9. Just don’t do it. “I have found success with dashing to the bedroom closet and shutting the door behind myself when I hear our daughter wake up in the middle of the night. It's not asking. It's not telling. It's just leaving him to deal with the situation however he wants.” —Diane Ross, Brooklyn, NY

10. Give him credit where credit is due. “We wives have to be honest with ourselves: Are there areas where our husbands assume the mental load, but we are oblivious? It's easy for me to complain if my husband doesn't put out the garbage, but before I do, I ask myself what else he might be doing that I never even think about, like handling the house/insurance bills, yard work and replacing the brake pads on the car.” —Deborah Skolnik, Scarsdale, NY


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