How to Minimize “Emotional Labor” and “Mental Load”: A Guide for Frazzled Women

A comic strip in the Guardian recently alerted me to the fact that many women are exhausted from the “Mental Load” of thinking about things and need their husbands to pitch in and help. Go ahead and read it.

Whew. There’s a lot to unpack here:

  1. Yes, you have to talk to men. DO NOT EXPECT OTHER PEOPLE TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. Look, if I can get my husband to help me when I need it, you certainly can too. That or you married the wrong man.
  2. Get a dayplanner and write things like “grocery lists” and doctors appointments in it. There’s probably one built into your phone.

There, I solved your problems.

That said, female anxiety (at least in our modern world) appears to be a real thing:

(though American Indians are the real untold story in this graph.)

According to the America’s State of Mind Report (PDF):

Medco data shows that antidepressants are the most commonly used mental health medications and that women have the highest utilization rates.  In 2010, 21 percent of women ages 20 and older were using an antidepressant.  … Men’s use of antidepressants is almost half that of women, but has also been on the rise with a 28 percent increase over the past decade. …

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. … Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one‐third of sufferers receive treatment. …

Medco data shows that women have the highest utilization rate of anti‐anxiety medications; in
fact, 11 percent of middle‐aged women (ages 45‐64) were on an anti‐anxiety drug treatment in
2010, nearly twice the rate of their male counterparts (5.7 percent).

And based on the age group data, women in their prime working years (but waning childbearing years) have even higher rates of mental illness. (Adult women even take ADHD medicine at slightly higher rates than adult men.)

What causes this? Surely 20% of us–one in 5–can’t actually be mentally ill, can we? Is it biology or culture? Or perhaps a mismatch between biology and culture?

Or perhaps we should just scale back a little, and when we have friends over for dinner, just order a pizza instead of trying to cook two separate meals?

But if you think that berating your husband for merely taking a bottle out of the dishwasher when you asked him to get a bottle out of the dishwasher (instead of realizing this was code for “empty the entire dishwasher”) will make you happier, think again. “Couples who share the workload are more likely to divorce, study finds“:

Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found. …

Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples. …

The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.

Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.

Theory: well-adjusted people who love each other are happy to do what it takes to keep the household running and don’t waste time passive-aggressively trying to convince their spouse that he’s a bad person for not reading her mind.

Now let’s talk about biology. The author claims,

Of course, there’s nothing genetic or innate about this behavior. We’re not born with an all-consuming passion for clearing tables, just like boys aren’t born with an utter disinterest for thing lying around.

Of course, the author doesn’t cite any papers from the fields of genetics or behavior psychology to back up her claims–just like she feels entitled to claim that other people should read her mind and absurdly thinks that a good project manager at work doesn’t bother to tell their team what needs to be done, she doesn’t feel any compulsion to cite any proof of her claims. Science says s. We know because some cartoonist on the internet claimed it did.

Over in reality-land, when we make scientific claims about things like genetics, we cite our sources. And women absolutely have an instinct for cleaning things: the Nesting Instinct. No, it isn’t present when we’re born. It kicks in when we’re pregnant–often shortly before going into labor. Here’s an actual scientific paper on the Nesting Instinct published in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior:

In altricial mammals, “nesting” refers to a suite of primarily maternal behaviours including nest-site selection, nest building and nest defense, and the many ways that nonhuman animals prepare themselves for parturition are well studied. In contrast, little research has considered pre-parturient preparation behaviours in women from a functional perspective.

According to the university’s press release about the study:

The overwhelming urge that drives many pregnant women to clean, organize and get life in order—otherwise known  as nesting—is not irrational, but an adaptive behaviour stemming from humans’ evolutionary past.

Researchers from McMaster University suggest that these behaviours—characterized by unusual bursts of energy and a compulsion to organize the household—are a result of a mechanism to protect and prepare for the unborn baby.

Women also become more selective about the company they keep, preferring to spend time only with people they trust, say researchers.

In short, having control over the environment is a key feature of preparing for childbirth, including decisions about where the birth will take place and who will be welcome.

“Nesting is not a frivolous activity,” says Marla Anderson, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour.  “We have found that it peaks in the third trimester as the birth of the baby draws near and is an important task that probably serves the same purpose in women as it does in other animals.”

Even Wikipeidia cites a number of sources on the subject:

Nesting behaviour refers to an instinct or urge in pregnant animals caused by the increase of estradiol (E2) [1] to prepare a home for the upcoming newborn(s). It is found in a variety of animals such as birds, fish, squirrels, mice and pigs as well as humans.[2][3]

Nesting is pretty much impossible to miss if you’ve ever been pregnant or around pregnant women.

Of course, this doesn’t prove the instinct persists (though in my personal case it definitely did.)

By the way, estradiol is a fancy name for estrogen, which is found in much higher levels in women than men. (Just to be rigorous, here’s data on estrogen levels in normal men and women.)

So if high estradiol levels make a variety of mammals–including humans–want to clean things, and women between puberty and menopause consistently have higher levels of estrogen than men, then it seems fairly likely that women actually do have, on average, a higher innate, biological, instinctual, even genetic urge to clean and organize their homes than men do.

But returning to the comic, the author claims:

But we’re born into a society in which very early on, we’re given dolls and miniature vacuum cleaners, and in which it seems shameful for boys to like those same toys.

What bollocks. I used to work at a toystore. Yes, we stocked toy vacuum cleaners and the like in a “Little Helpers” set. We never sold a single one, and I worked there over Christmas. (Great times.)

I am always on the lookout for toys my kids would enjoy and receive constant feedback on whether they like my choices. (“A book? Why did Santa bring me a book? Books are boring!”)

I don’t spend money getting more of stuff my kids aren’t interested in. A child who doesn’t like dolls isn’t going to get a bunch of dolls and be ordered to sit and play with them and nothing else. A child who doesn’t like trucks isn’t going to get a bunch of trucks.

Assuming that other parents are neither stupid (unable to tell which toys their children like) nor evil (forcing their children to play with specific toys even though they know they don’t like them,) I conclude that children’s toys reflect the children’s actual preferences, not the parents’ (for goodness’s sakes, it if it were up to me, I’d socialize my children to be super-geniuses who spend all of their time reading textbooks and whose toys are all science and math manipulatives, not toy dump trucks!)

Even young rhesus monkeys–who cannot talk and obviously have not been socialized into human gender norms–have the same gendered toy preferences as humans:

We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization.

Young female chimps also make their own dolls:

Now new research suggests that such gender-driven desires are also seen in young female chimpanzees in the wild—a behavior that possibly evolved to make the animals better mothers, experts say.

Young females of the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda, use sticks as rudimentary dolls and care for them like the group’s mother chimps tend to their real offspring. The behavior, which was very rarely observed in males, has been witnessed more than a hundred times over 14 years of study.

In Jane Goodall’s revolutionary research on the Gombe Chimps, she noted the behavior of young females who often played with or held their infant siblings, in contrast to young males who generally preferred not to.

And just as estradiol levels have an effect on how much cleaning women want to do, so androgen levels have an effect on which toys children prefer to play with:

Gonadal hormones, particularly androgens, direct certain aspects of brain development and exert permanent influences on sex-typical behavior in nonhuman mammals. Androgens also influence human behavioral development, with the most convincing evidence coming from studies of sex-typical play. Girls exposed to unusually high levels of androgens prenatally, because they have the genetic disorder, congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), show increased preferences for toys and activities usually preferred by boys, and for male playmates, and decreased preferences for toys and activities usually preferred by girls. Normal variability in androgen prenatally also has been related to subsequent sex-typed play behavior in girls, and nonhuman primates have been observed to show sex-typed preferences for human toys. These findings suggest that androgen during early development influences childhood play behavior in humans at least in part by altering brain development.

But the author of the comic strip would like us to believe that gender roles are a result of watching the wrong stuff on TV:

And in which culture and media essentially portray women as mothers and wives, while men are heroes who go on fascinating adventures away from home.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the Bad Old Days of the 80s when She-Ra, Princess of Power, was kicking butt on TV; little girls were being magically transported to Ponyland to fight evil monsters: and Rainbow Bright defeated the evil King of Shadows and saved the Color Kids.

 

If you’re older than me, perhaps you grew up watching Wonder Woman (first invented in 1941) and Leia Skywalker; and if you’re younger, Dora the Explorer and Katniss Everdeen.

If you can’t find adventurous female characters in movies or TV, YOU AREN’T LOOKING.

I mentioned this recently: it’s like the Left has no idea what the past–anytime before last Tuesday–actually contained. Somehow the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s have entirely disappeared, and they live in a timewarp where we are connected directly to the media and gender norms of over half a century ago.

Enough. The Guardian comic is a load of entitled whining from someone who actually thinks that other people are morally obligated to try to read her mind. She has the maturity of a bratty teenager (“You should have known I hate this band!”) and needs to learn how to actually communicate with others instead of complaining that it’s everyone else who has a problem.

/fin.

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23 thoughts on “How to Minimize “Emotional Labor” and “Mental Load”: A Guide for Frazzled Women

  1. Yes, you have to talk to men. DO NOT EXPECT OTHER PEOPLE TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. ……..

    I have no idea whats up with that shit. The She-Ton catches the stupids way more often then I would like. Could have sworn I raised her better but she gets a major case of the stupids after each grand kid. And what’s worse , each bout of the stupids seems to last longer.

    I rescued these just plain mean american pit bull terrier and called her She-Ra. I forgot how dumb that show was. Now I feel a little bad for taging her with that handle

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    • She-Ra was pretty bad, but then, it was the 80s.

      Ridiculously, the original comic’s writer compares running a household to running a business, and then insists she shouldn’t have to tell others what needs doing. Can you imagine a manager insisting that they shouldn’t have to communicate duties or expectations to their team when explaining why their projects constantly fail?

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      • …yeah, you missed her point. Culture clash, maybe. (She is French.)

        Since I repeated her point 5 zillion times in the long comment I just made, I’ll just refer you to that.

        (OT pet peeve: Whatever happened to the verb “liken”? Without it, Millennial English starts to misleadingly imply any kind of comparison is…well, is likening. Pretty soon you get trolls taking advantage of the confusion to imply that someone who just made a comparison *intended* to say the two things were the same.) (OT because here, she really was likening.)

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  2. Funny enough, I’ve seen 2-year-olds fight over toy vacuum cleaners… Boys at least as much as girls. But they have wheels and make noise, so I wouldn’t be about to make any feminist proclamations…

    Anyhow, there exist men who explicitly agree to do chores x, y, and z, and still need to be reminded daily or those things won’t get done… But my advice to young women would be to go back to the Jane Austen style vetting of the potential husband’s family before getting married… If the family is chaotic, he’s not going to be a good housemate, barring really unusual innate organization and communication skills…

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    • We have a toy that I call a “push me popper” (I’m pretty sure that’s not its real name) that is similar in shape to a vacuum but it has balls inside that pop loudly when you push it. It’s super loud and annoying and kids love it. They come in pink and blue so you can condition your kids to be whatever really loud thing you want, I guess. :)

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      • The toy vacuums I’ve seen fought over actually make no noise themselves, oddly enough. And rarely any colors. Then again, toy dump trucks are usually silent, too…

        But, yeah, the supposed conditioning by toys just baffles me. My oldest is a girl. When she was a toddler, she showed interest in trucks and trains and buildings, so we encouraged that. Then she discovered princesses, and it was game over. Aside from draconian control over her media and playmates, I can’t imagine any way I could change this. At any rate, with two young children, I’d love it if the boy would exclusively stick to boy toys and the girl would exclusively stick to girl toys. Being a referee isn’t my strong suit. (It’s not the specific toys. They really do play differently. Cars for the girl are to help the princesses or ponies or whatever it is today get where they’re going in their story, and dolls for the boy are, I guess, test pilots?

        The biggest howler in an article recently was something about transgender issues, talking about dealing with it for people who grew up with such strict gender roles… I’m thinking, wait, was all that unisex stuff in the 80’s my imagination? Do people write these articles with a set of available phrases, rather than thinking through what they remember or asking someone who does if they were too young? (or at least notice that the feminist line about girls being forced to have girl things making them girly and the trans line about really being the opposite sex in spite of upbringing don’t quite logically go together…)

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      • The 80s:

        I’m very lucky that my kids don’t fight much.

        I’m sure not all parents were gender egalitarians in the 80s, but it definitely wasn’t some unmitigated dark ages. As far as my own childhood was concerned, I found the other kids in elementary school much more interested in enforcing gender norms (“You can’t play with that, it’s blue!”) than the adults. Still, it’s odd to have more such stories even as society becomes more liberal on such matters (assuming, of course, that it truly has.)

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      • Given that the argument is usually that it was The Culture and The Media, any argument about the 80’s that doesn’t specify who was being strict about gender roles is suspect… (Like, if you specify that “your” 80’s took place in a religious fundamentalist subculture with tightly controlled media, I’ll listen, but it then needs to be clear that a lot of people’s 80’s was more My Buddy and gender-neutral-era Gap… even if more kids were into My Little Pony or G.I. Joe as predicted by their sex…)

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      • My Little Pony had strong female characters, too.

        There are parents with strict ideas about gender who don’t hail from particularly extreme subcultures, but I think there is a tendency to over-inflate the % of parents with strict ideas relative to the % who wanted their girls to grow up and get a well-paying job, because “culture” is such a convenient, hand-wavy excuse for “why things are the way they are.” People get so used to that argument that they don’t even pause to look back and check “Wait a minute, is that what really happened?”

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  3. The comic’s main point is that being the household manager is a job in itself. For which the household manager should get credit–rather than being expected to just do it automatically on top of the jobs they are recognized as doing.

    I recently reread /What Katy Did/ and was reminded that in the time and place in which the story is set, that was taken for granted. The bedbound Katy earns her keep by becoming the “housekeeper”: Planning the meals; keeping track of the stock of necessary consumables (not just food; cleaning materials and other necessities too) and the expenses thereof; and telling the servants what to do.

    Wow! She got credit for doing a job even though she did not, could not physically do anything! All she did was the mental work of keeping accounts, planning…*managing*. That was recognized as a job. Because it is one.

    If you don’t have servants, then obviously, the physical tasks must also get done by family members. But–they are *another* job. They aren’t “just part of the management job.” *That’s* the comic’s point. (A traditional feminist point. Depression-baby feminists were making that point.)

    Aaanyway to the extent that you are the household manager, pouring scorn on that point is just shooting yourself in the foot. It’s like kid!me going, I Am A Smart Kid And Smart Kids Like School So “I like school!” (I hated school, as you know.) It’s like feminists going I Am A Feminist And Feminists Are On The Left And Leftists Support The Poor Discriminated-Against Muslims so “I support Islam!”

    It’s a mistake, is my point. ;)

    >Theory: well-adjusted people who love each other are happy to do what it takes to keep the household running and don’t waste time passive-aggressively trying to convince their spouse that he’s a bad person for not reading her mind.

    Wait, are we talking they’re both automatically just detecting and doing whatever’s necessary because they’re “well-adjusted people who love each other”? Or is it her job to detect and decide what needs to be done and give orders to him, so if he doesn’t just do what’s necessary, the problem is that he “didn’t read her mind”? Make up your mind here.

    I mean we’re back to the comic’s main point again: Noticing what needs to be done and taking responsibility for making it happen *is a job in itself*. In a business, it’s called being a manager, and you need to pay a separate individual to do only that.

    I know couples for whom the “everyone just detects what’s necessary and does it” plan works well. For them the job of managing the household is equally shared.

    However, if a couple has agreed to live by that plan but one of them just…isn’t taking initiative to do stuff that needs doing…then that person isn’t doing what they both agreed to do. The problem isn’t that “he’s not reading her mind”; the problem is that he’s not doing his share of the job. (In a business, such a person might be tagged “Not a team player.”)

    The obvious solution may be, “This couple shouldn’t try to split the job”–

    –but before we can talk solutions to that problem, we have to admit it’s a problem. Instead, here you are assuming the problem away: “No, they never tried to split the job, it was always her job! *She* was supposed to decide what to do and do some of it, *he* was just supposed to do the rest!”

    No, they were trying to split the job. And it wasn’t working for them.

    Here’s where some people would argue that *most* couples shouldn’t try to split the job, while others would argue that most *should*, etc., etc.–I don’t really care what “most couples” should do here. I hope we can have an Overton window wide enough to allow individual couples to pick what works for them, even if that’s not what works best for most.

    >But the author of the comic strip would like us to believe that gender roles are a result of watching the wrong stuff on TV

    I would bet she’s simply slotted in the boilerplate there, because the “cause of all gender roles” is really not her point. The existence of the specific problem of “household management not being recognized as a job” is her point. To address her concerns, you don’t need to prevent all gender roles. You just need to include “household management” as one of the jobs that needs to be done around the house. IOW: Add “Patrol Leader” to the list of roles for members of each patrol in the Scout troop. ;)

    >She has the maturity of a bratty teenager (“You should have known I hate this band!”)

    Wait, weren’t you just talking about how well parents always know their children’s likes and dislikes, unless they’re “stupid” or “evil”?

    I’d wink, but I actually *am* metaphorically whiplashed here. I just typed a bunch of stuff giving that kind of teenage hurt as an example of how, no, parents *don’t* necessarily always know their children’s preferences, and also that doesn’t necessarily make them “stupid” or “evil,” just human–and now this.

    People *do* generalize and then pre-judge and sometimes it steers them wrong–even parents with their own children.

    And…well, now I’m gonna wander off topic to a general issue that doesn’t really apply to the comic under discussion. It does apply to “discussions of feminism” in general:

    So I’ve told you before about my teachers’ “Stop that nonsense, you’re mentally half your actual mental age,” and how crazy-making it was for me. With that issue, there was a group who weren’t *just* being thoughtless and human, they actually had an emotional need for me to be different than I was. But then there were also many other adults who *were* just being thoughtless (including my father–speaking of parents not knowing their kids, And he was the primary parent too! He just…pre-judged based on age). And that, just the thoughtless pre-judgement, is the only problem many gifted kids experience. Yet schools usually resist correcting it–and that usually harms the gifted child (see: generations of research).

    So us gifted advocates come along and say: “Don’t assume that *every* child’s mental age matches their chronological age. Remember, for some kids it’s very different–and they honestly *need* a placement that doesn’t match their age!”

    So…to me, seems like often, there’s a very similar “Remember, the gender stereotypes aren’t always true! Give those who *don’t* fit the stereotypes what *they* need, too!” point being made, and then there’s…giant fit-throwing in response. Why is that? What’s the problem with making this point? Where’s the harm?

    Other people, of course, ask where’s the harm in just being polite/nice and downplaying HBD? The harm I focus on is that it causes us to assume that ability grouping and IQ testing are racist, which greatly harms many children’s education (see Larry P. v. Riles and the follow-up case Crawford v. Honig), and for some children even harms their psychosocial development. Others often focus on the way it similarly causes us to assume other things are deliberately racist when they’re not. Concern, whether warranted or not, over Griggs v. Duke Power, prevents many businesses from using ability tests even though they do accurately predict employee performance. Etc.

    So when I say “Where’s the harm?” I really want to know. Because I know maybe there is some, that I’m just not aware of.

    But you do need to actually make that case to me. I’m not going to…read your mind. ;)

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    • “I know couples for whom the “everyone just detects what’s necessary and does it” plan works well. For them the job of managing the household is equally shared.

      However, if a couple has agreed to live by that plan but one of them just…isn’t taking initiative to do stuff that needs doing…then that person isn’t doing what they both agreed to do. The problem isn’t that “he’s not reading her mind”; the problem is that he’s not doing his share of the job. (In a business, such a person might be tagged “Not a team player.”)

      I think part of the problem is people frequently meet in college or a few years thereafter, and they like the words about sharing the work, etc, but not having grown up together, they probably don’t even realize that they might have different mental conceptions of what that constitutes. If they both grew up in Midwestern German farm families, even if they were a thousand miles apart and a generation or two separated from actual farming, they’ll probably be fine “just knowing” what needs to be done and having minimal spats. The further apart the upbringing was culturally, the harder it’ll be to “just know”… (Like, unspoken standards of who does what, what’s worth hiring someone else to do, what actually needs to be done–does it bother you if there are weeds in the yard?–not issues that usually make the headlines, but in terms of marital happiness, actually pretty important. And, part of the issues not making the headlines, couples getting married probably won’t even realize that they need to discuss those things, and if they are discussing them, might not even realize they’re talking past each other until things are getting crazy…)

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      • Good points! Marrying someone from a different subculture taught me a lot about “talking past each other,” that’s for sure. Wish I’d had more warning, but I don’t know if it’s really possible–young people don’t know what they don’t know. You mentioned “Jane Austen style vetting of…family”–but the whole point of /Pride and Prejudice/ is that you *shouldn’t* always reject a potential spouse just because of their family. I think she was right, though maybe we’ve gone too far in the other direction these days.

        /Home Comforts/ talks about that too–one of her parents was “Italian American” and the other was “Scots-Irish American,” and they strongly disagreed on some areas of housekeeping.

        The difference between spouses and roommates: *Roommates* are often assigned based on a questionnaire about housekeeping. ;)

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      • “The difference between spouses and roommates: *Roommates* are often assigned based on a questionnaire about housekeeping. ;)”
        Wow that’s a brilliant idea. Definitely not how I got my college roommate. But I did consider my husband’s attitudes about cleanliness a major bonus in his favor while dating.

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    • Welcome back, Cord. Nice to see you. You’ve got a lot of interesting points; hopefully I can do them justice.

      I originally wrote much more “advice” directly aimed at the problems of household management, but then deleted most of it and replaced it with everything after the bullet points. I think the author (and some of her friends) needs to sit down and give some serious thought to “How much can I put on my own plate?” As my mother once told me, “When I was young, all of the magazines promised I could ‘have it all,’ balance work, family, social life… Well it turns out life is harder than that and you have to prioritize.” (Or something to that effect.) Sometimes people try to do too much and end up exhausted. They need to scale back and prioritize.

      For example, no, it’s not reasonable to expect one person to cook two separate meals after work, one for their kids and one for her dinner guests. This is where the rule of “everybody eats the same thing” comes in. I managed to host three separate holiday parties without collapsing from exhaustion by following this rule. If you can’t cook, order takeout or delivery.

      Similarly, when it comes to making sure the bills get paid (which is definitely important,) one person should have that as a clearly defined job. No one should be asking “Oh no I forgot to pay X, did you remember to do it?” Paying the bills absolutely cannot be an ad-hoc thing of whoever happens to remember it on their way home from the grocery store.

      So a lot of complaints in the original comic come across to me as things where either the author just needs some organization in her life on the order of “buy a pad of paper and write things on it” or “prioritize; you are only human and can’t do everything you want to,” which is not a matter of feminism or not-feminism, of men or women, but of practical life skills.

      But I think telling her that would probably come across as “mansplaining'” and probably isn’t actually useful to my audience, which is why I deleted it all.

      Often a husband and wife (or any two people living together) have different ideas about what is “critical” and needs to be done. How often should we vacuum? How many times can I wear a shirt before it needs to be washed? Does the grass need mowing or can it wait another week? Assuming the husbands here are not malicious and the women picked men who at least made some claim that they intended on sharing the housework before they got married, we are probably talking more about cases where the men just had different ideas or standards about what needed to get done than the women did. In that case, the couple needs to discuss what amount of work and style of homelife they are willing to do and happy with. If they have really different ideas, they’re either going to have to compromise or be dissatisfied.

      But the author’s approach isn’t “Let’s talk this over and try to find solutions that satisfy us both,” but “My expectations about housework are the default and therefore you should already know what you are supposed to be doing.”

      Whenever people have different expectations about how a job should be done, “You should have predicted what I wanted done,” is not a productive way to fix the problem. (The example given in the comic of “I asked my husband to take a bottle out of the dishwasher and came back to find that he’d taken the bottle out of the dishwasher,” was particularly egregious.) I understand the author is frustrated, but good management depend on clear communication of goals and duties. McDonald’s didn’t get to be a globally successful company by just telling its employees to “You know, do whatever looks like it needs doing around the restaurant.”

      All of which is not meant to summarize as “household management is unimportant” but “this is not a productive way to solve your problems.”

      Wait, are we talking they’re both automatically just detecting and doing whatever’s necessary because they’re “well-adjusted people who love each other”?

      Sorry for the confusion. I was trying to talk about having a particular personality type rather than following a particular formula like “the woman does all the work” or “they split the work 50-50.” Maybe certain personalities are easy-going and easy to get along with and live with, and some personalities aren’t. People who count up all of the hours worked and try to make sure they are exactly divided are, in my experience, also the kinds of people who count up slights and never forget them. They are always convinced that they aren’t getting as much as other people and demanding more counting to make sure they get their fair share. In my personal experience, these people are difficult to deal with and get divorced quickly.

      There is probably an added benefit from clearly defined roles–like doing the bills, stuff gets done with a minimum of confusion. If you use established roles, you might think they are unfair, but at least you don’t have to talk about them. If you want new roles, you’re going to have to talk about them.

      And then, of course, there are the beliefs and values of the particular people who try to split housework in different ways, where some people are just more accepting of divorce.

      I would bet she’s simply slotted in the boilerplate there, because the “cause of all gender roles” is really not her point.
      Boilerplate is a problem, though. It means she isn’t thinking critically about what caused the problem in the first place, nor how to solve it.

      Wait, weren’t you just talking about how well parents always know their children’s likes and dislikes, unless they’re “stupid” or “evil”?

      What I said was, “I am always on the lookout for toys my kids would enjoy and receive constant feedback on whether they like my choices. (“A book? Why did Santa bring me a book? Books are boring!”)

      I don’t spend money getting more of stuff my kids aren’t interested in.” (among other things.)

      I never claimed that parents can perfectly predict what their kids will like, only that they won’t persist for years in buying the same sort of thing over and over even though their kid consistently doesn’t like it. For example, my kids went through this phase where they said they wanted toy trains at the store, but when I actually bought them trains, they didn’t play with them. After a few trains, I learned my lesson and stopped buying trains. I didn’t keep buying them trains for years and years because I had some idea in my head that “little boys like trains so I’m going to buy them trains.”

      As a parent, I am always *trying*, but I am human and make mistakes.

      The difference with a teenager is (stereotypically) their preferences change more rapidly (making them harder to predict) and they are less forgiving of mistakes/ungrateful toward people who actually are trying.

      But I also think there’s a huge difference between teenagers and children in the presents department. Kids will give you wishlists; teenagers will expect you to just know that Band X is soooo last year. Lost of people who were reasonably competent at buying for their kids just get lost when their kids turn into teenagers (and sometimes never really understand them as adults.) With kids, it’s pretty easy. Do they play with the gift? If yes, get more of that sort. If no, give it to Goodwill and don’t get more of it. You can give a kid a bike or a set of Legos and be pretty confident they’ll probably have fun. Teenagers are enmeshed in the intricacies of their social orders and so much trickier.

      Okay, this is long and I need to do stuff so I’m going to pause before addressing the rest.

      Like

    • Sorry about the delay–you write fast!

      So I’ve told you before about my teachers’ “Stop that nonsense, you’re mentally half your actual mental age,”
      My apologies, I don’t remember you mentioning that before, but It’s a very familiar story. I’d like to discuss it further, but my observations involve stories I don’t feel entitled to share openly on the internet. If you feel like emailing me you can, (evolutionistxyz@gmail.com) but I understand if you don’t want to. I will say, though, that I don’t think the issue is easy to solve: a child can be at one age physically (size) another age intellectually, and a third age maturity-wise. Skipping the child up a grade (or two) to match their intellect puts them in a class with other kids who are physically larger and socially far more mature than themselves; trying to hold them back until they “mature” makes the work mind-numbingly dull. Often such kids struggle to find anyone else like themselves.

      But to get to your point: what is the harm? I assume you mean “What is the harm of the comic?”
      Two main things: 1. It is essentially dishonest about what we know (and don’t know) about the origins of gender roles. This dishonesty leads people to blame folks who are essentially innocent.
      2. I don’t think this is a productive way to deal with the author’s problems (nor her readers’.) Even the best marriage occasionally hits snags; then people need to talk to each other and work out their problems, not argue that the other person’s perhaps honest mistake was the result of being on the wrong side of politics.

      If we take management–of a household or a company–as a kind of code or program–used to run the various subroutines needed to keep the household running, like “buy food” and “cook dinner,” or in a business, like “order parts” or “bolt on the wheels,” then it seems that these problems could be more easily fixed by improving the program.

      That doesn’t mean it’s the woman’s job to fix the program, but since she’s the one who’s unhappy, she needs to start by actually talking with her husband about what’s bugging her. For example, many couples arrange that one of them will pick up groceries on their way home from work; they keep a notepad on the fridge with all running list of needed groceries and on grocery day, the designated spouse just grabs the list.

      (And for the record, household management does not come naturally for me, nor did I learn it as a kid. I had to learn/work it all out with my husband pretty much from scratch, but we did and thing are very pleasant, now.)

      Beyond that, I think there is *something* going wrong with women, as evidenced by our high medication/mental illness rates (assuming the data is correct.) I find this very concerning. But what is causing it? Men taking on more of the household chores doesn’t seem to offer improvements in women’s happiness (though apparently it makes them happier, so why not promote it from that angle?) Some of the women I know personally “had it all” when they were younger–kids, career, spouse–and then things went wrong (as they do in any life) and they degenerated spectacularly. Obviously most don’t, but some do.

      A lot of modern feminism, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t encourage people to approach their problems in an emotionally healthy or productive way. People end up trapped in this worldview where they see themselves as victims without any ability to change their own lives. Here, for example, instead of doing something to fix her personal problems, like buy a calendar to write doctors’ appointments on or talking more to her husband, she’s complaining to the internet that she wants him to take the initiative to figure out what she thinks is wrong and then fix it for her.

      I get frustrated and snap at people sometimes, but in the end, we all have to work together.

      Like

      • Thanks! Neither my internet access nor my typing ability is very reliable, and unfortunately I often can’t predict “outages” in either. (But this time I can: I’ll be offline the rest of the week.) I miss Usenet, when you could have long-running conversations and it was fine to take a week off and then come back to it. Today’s expectation of an immediate reply often has me giving up on continuing a conversation any time I’m offline for a few days.

        On to your points…

        I think the comic and I have been conflating the two separate, related issues, “Is household management an actual job?” and, “In a heterosexual couple, is household management automatically the woman’s job?”

        My answers happen to be the typical Depression-baby feminist ones: Yes, it’s a job; and no, it’s not automatically the woman’s job.

        Under the issue “Is it an actual job?” we can include “Should we care if whoever’s doing it gets credit for it?” I say we should. From a personnel-management (excuse me, “human resources”) perspective, you need to notice when people are doing work, because “doing work” means “using up time and energy”–otherwise you’ll wear them to a frazzle. From a human-relations perspective, everyone likes to be appreciated.

        Then under the issue of “Is it automatically the woman’s job?” we can include “Should it even be one person’s job?” and “If so, how much?”–because I think opinions there are on a spectrum from “completely one person’s job” to “McDonald’s manager and low-pay, high-turnover employee” to “good(tm) manager and valuable(tm) employee” to “partners.”

        On which note: *Fast food* uses the model “hire the cheapest employees you can find and systematize them within an inch of their lives.” Other businesses use models which rely on paying more to get “better” employees who are expected to take more initiative.

        Similarly, a good stockdog who sees something the handler does not will sometimes do something different than asked because the dog can see that this would better achieve the goal–IOW, a good stockdog perceives, adopts, and takes initiative in achieving, the handler’s goal. That’s why people often liken a good stockdog to a human employee.

        Another example might be the difference between well-paid, high-performing artisans, vs. those who have gone on work to rule–you could say the cartoonist is complaining about “work to rule” husbands. ;) And one of the points of /Ender’s Game/ is the same thing applied to the military: Even in the military, where people outside it focus on the strict chain of command, still you want everyone involved to keep the goal in mind and take initiative to better fulfill it.

        So when you say:

        >she’s complaining to the internet that she wants him to take the initiative to figure out what she thinks is wrong and then fix it for her.

        This seems to imply the management job is solely her job–if he takes initiative and does a management task, it’s “for her.” But household management tasks benefit all members of the household, so why shouldn’t all members of the household take initiative on such tasks? Why should he insist on working to rule?

        “She’s the one who’s unhappy, so she’s the one who needs to say something”–sure, but what if what she’s unhappy about is that he’s not acting like a team player?

        It’s a difficult perception to put into words, which makes it easy to dismiss, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

        >Assuming the husbands here are not malicious and the women picked men who at least made some claim that they intended on sharing the housework before they got married, we are probably talking more about cases where the men just had different ideas or standards about what needed to get done than the women did.

        What you write sounds reasonable…but then I look at the comic again. Is the scene where Mom is struggling to both prep for guests and also feed the kids, while Dad sits there doing nothing, really just a *disagreement* about what needs to get done?

        If I saw one employee visibly struggling with a task and another one just sitting around…then the second one really looks like “not a team player.” It doesn’t even matter if Employee #2 thinks Employee #1 shouldn’t have attempted the task; once your teammate is visibly struggling, you help out–that’s what being on a team means.

        “Hey, teammate who got too aggressive and is now being guarded too closely to have a shot at the goal–I’m open.”

        >All of which is not meant to summarize as “household management is unimportant” but “this is not a productive way to solve your problems.”

        Yeah, “taking the school district to court” is not a productive way to solve your kid’s school problems, either–by the time the case gets adjudicated, your kid will be grown. But some people think it’s worthwhile anyway.

        I mean, the point of activism is never “to solve your own specific problem.” At most it’s a *reaction* to your own problem–but if you’re willing to discuss your problem with the world, it’s because you think it’s a general problem–an issue on which society needs to change. And so criticizing a parent’s lawsuit with, “What an idiot, taking the district to court when they could obviously just homeschool/go private,” is missing the point–it’s not *for* their kid. It’s for *other* kids, who (they hope) won’t ever have to deal with what their kid did. And hey if nobody ever did that, society would never make needed changes.

        I didn’t intend my question to apply to the comic–I thought it was OT–but I see your answers do apply to my general question as well. What’s the harm in too much abstraction? I agree with your point #1–it’s what I was trying to say re Larry P. v. Riles etc. And point #2–you’re saying one harm is making everything into a grand societal struggle when you could just solve it with a specific little personal deal just for yourself? OK, fair enough, sometimes it’s not actually a general problem. (But sometimes it is. I mean, this is a “moderation is best” situation, not a “swing the pendulum all the way back” one.)

        But that is a “fully general counterargument.” “Don’t do activism on this because you shouldn’t do activism on anything” makes no argument as to whether *this* issue is *particularly* unworthy of activism. I don’t think it is.

        >Here, for example, instead of doing something to fix her personal problems…she’s complaining to the internet

        I just don’t agree that this is just “her personal problem.” Especially since she starts with an example of her *friend’s* problem.

        And I mean, this is a comic. “Her personal problems” are not the point, never were the point, and it surprises me that anyone could ever think they were. Would you also criticize Charles Dickens for writing a Novel Of Social Criticism instead of addressing his “personal problems” of “having married a ‘child wife’ like Dora”? He didn’t actually marry the real Dora (Maria Whoever), they actually were broken up by her parents, and /David Copperfield/ was in part an acknowledgement that this had been for the best. It portrayed several different bad marriages in order to make the point, “Don’t get married too young.” There was a reason he wanted to make that point, but it wasn’t “to solve his personal problems.”

        (Looks like that reason also affected American society, to the point that now our mainstream cultural messages are an overreaction to *that*–now many people need to hear the opposite message. But when it comes to cultural messages I like to remember earlier times so as not to overshoot. Meanwhile, I married young and it’s worked out well for me.)

        >But I think telling her that would probably come across as “mansplaining”

        I think you’re right.

        Since her point is, “This is a actual job that takes energy, and also, it shouldn’t automatically be my job,” replying with tips on how to make the job easier doesn’t address her point. It also sends the message, “You’re only saying that because you’re bad at the job. If you were better at the job, you wouldn’t even think it even *was* a job and/or you wouldn’t mind it being automatically yours.”

        It’s like if someone wrote an article saying, “Women should be allowed to work outside the home,” and someone else replied, “You’re only saying that because you have no chance of marrying well.” (Which, as you probably know, did happen in earlier iterations of feminism.) It comes across as Bulverism.

        >And for the record, household management does not come naturally for me, nor did I learn it as a kid. I had to learn/work it all out with my husband pretty much from scratch, but we did and thing are very pleasant, now.

        …I keep getting the impression you assume it’s the woman’s job. Come to think of it, the above is one of the things giving me that impression. It seems like a non sequitur…unless you think the only reason someone would complain about household management “not being recognized as an actual job” or “being automatically assumed to be their job” is because they’re bad at it? To return to the earlier uh “throwback analogy,” it’s as if we were discussing “women working outside the home” and you said, “For the record, I had a hard time catching a man myself. But I did it and now I have a great marriage.”

        >People who count up all of the hours worked and try to make sure they are exactly divided are, in my experience, also the kinds of people who count up slights and never forget them. They are always convinced that they aren’t getting as much as other people and demanding more counting to make sure they get their fair share.

        This is one of those issues where moderation is best. Free riders exist, and so do tiredness and laziness–it’s easy to let imbalance develop even with the best of intentions. IMX the downside of trying to “just not worry about it” is that by the time you *consciously* notice the situation is imbalanced, it might have grown *so* imbalanced that someone’s at the end of their rope–and if you’d been paying attention all along, you might have discussed the issue long before it got that bad. Meanwhile, in wage work, “counting up all of the hours worked” is standard, but most people don’t adopt the attitude you described.

        >The example given in the comic of “I asked my husband to take a bottle out of the dishwasher and came back to find that he’d taken the bottle out of the dishwasher,” was particularly egregious.

        Yes, I could see both sides there. It struck me as a normie-Aspie type of disagreement. Normie: “Take the bottle out” *implies* “unload the dishwasher”! Aspie: “….I can’t help being more literal than that.”

        Digression: Aspies often don’t realize this is often a “conflicting access need”: Just as Aspies often aren’t capable of being less literal, many normies aren’t capable of that much linguistic precision, especially when tired. People do often struggle just to verbally “gesture in the direction of” their point, and rely on their interlocutor’s social instincts to bridge the gap.

        But the cartoonist’s issue here seems to be different. (That ambiguity makes it a weak example of her point, I agree.) Her issue seems to be again that he’s “not a team player.” He’s treating her as the fast food manager, making himself the underpaid robot who does only what he’s told–when she wants a team player (or partner) who will take some initiative.

        >If we take management–of a household or a company–as a kind of code or program–used to run the various subroutines needed to keep the household running, like “buy food” and “cook dinner,” or in a business, like “order parts” or “bolt on the wheels,” then it seems that these problems could be more easily fixed by improving the program.

        I haven’t read the book you referenced, so I don’t know if I’m getting an accurate idea of your meaning here, but management is more than what you seem to be describing.

        In most types of business (or in a household), there are two types of tasks: The ones needing to be done routinely, and the ones that irregularly “come up.” You can never predict all of these, so you need the flexibility to deal with them as they arise. The manager is the person who absolutely has to apply intellect and attention and human judgement to the goal, instead of to other things like that theorem they’d rather be proving or that novel they’d rather be writing.

        I don’t want to slight the importance of good routines, but if you treat good routines as the *whole* of management, then you’re overlooking the other part–the “actually applying an intellect to staying on top of the situation” part.

        The more you routinize, the less is left for the “manager” to do (and the less predictable the environment, the more quickly you reach the limits of routine). So maybe you think that given reasonably good routines, the “management” left over is easy enough that it doesn’t matter who does it or if there’s any imbalance…

        …which may come across as both “it’s not really a job” and “who cares if it usually turns out to be the woman’s job?”

        Depression-baby feminists started seeing this as an issue because they started noticing that it usually did turn out to be the woman’s job–and the man usually didn’t even see it *as* a job at all.

        “If only every woman with this problem still thought it was just her personal problem! *Then* it’d get solved!” I’m not so sure. The reason they even started noticing it was because each of them had been having it for a while and here it was, still not solved–so they decided to try something else (as Dworkin wrote, “Proposing it in commune after commune, to man after man, did not make it so”). Feminism didn’t invent this problem out of nowhere, feminism just tried to address it. One amusing example is how Lynn Johnston of /For Better or For Worse/ started out very suspicious/hostile towards Feminism(tm), such that she never heard many feminist arguments (she talks about this in the strip’s various anniversary compendia)…and then ended up making a lot of the same points in her comic. She had the same problems, feminism or not.

        (For example.

        Here, it’s the kids who aren’t being team players. But uh…yeah don’t undo the work of other team members. So why do they? Because they aren’t thinking. IOW, they aren’t *paying attention* to how their actions affect the rest of the team.)

        I think the problem that feminism ran into is that communication is more difficult, and typical members of each sex are more different, than most people (or maybe just most people in NWE/outside-Hajnal-line/universalist cultures) ever imagined or tend to assume.

        I think many Depression-baby feminist “complaints” are accurate. What these feminists didn’t know was how to solve the problem. But they did learn from experience that treating it as a personal problem didn’t work. I don’t think treating it as “just a personal problem” will work any better now than it did then.

        >Beyond that, I think there is *something* going wrong with women, as evidenced by our high medication/mental illness rates (assuming the data is correct.)

        Those rates have gone up for both sexes, haven’t they? Seems like a society-wide mental health problem.

        I think two of our big problems are community fragmentation and the rise of “bullshit jobs.” I don’t know if these are the cause of the mental health problems. The latter does seem like a possible candidate to explain why doing more housework makes men happier–it’s a tangibly meaningful job, perhaps unlike their “bullshit” paying job. And why men doing more housework doesn’t seem to affect women’s happiness–it makes them less likely to be overworked, but it also reduces one of the few remaining sources of meaning in their lives.

        Like

      • Hello! Sorry about the delay; got flattened by a nasty cough for about three weeks and have been playing catch-up with the regular writing schedule since then. I hope the beginning of spring is treating you well.

        To step back a moment, I don’t assume that this “should be” her job, but it is the job she IS doing. To use your For Better or For Worse example, maybe it’d be better if the *kids* folded their own laundry, but it would be unreasonable for the mom to just expect them to start doing that without telling them so. They assume laundry is “mom’s job” not because they’re ageist and think older people exist solely for the sake of folding laundry, but because that’s what mom has always done. Changing the situation requires communication, even when everyone involved is well-intentioned.

        And then of course mom discovers that the kids don’t actually care whether the laundry is folded or not and are perfectly happy just shoving all of it into a drawer or leaving it in a big pile on their beds. Reasonable people may disagree on how much housework is actually necessary.

        Since these women are already doing various household management tasks, their husbands, no matter how well-intentioned, are probably not going to realize that they are unhappy with the status quo without being informed.

        I understand that this is not *satisfying*. It’s much more satisfying to blame the other person for the problem. But I think communication would get her to the desired solution (equitable work sharing) much faster and more effectively. Ideally they should have talked about this *before* she started doing the housework, but people can change.

        Calendars: in my household growing up, there wasn’t a specific person who made appointments. Anyone could make an appointment. Then the appts went on the calendar so everyone knew what the schedule was. Occasionally there were discussions, like “So what’s up this week? Dr’s appt on Tuesday, who can drive the kids to that?” If one person knows the appts but isn’t writing them on the calendar, that makes it much harder for the other partner to know what’s going on, remember the appts, or drive anyone to them. The calendar doesn’t just “make the wife’s job easier;” it makes the job more equitable by letting everyone do it. (TBH, my husband does most of the scheduling in our household, which my parents complain is “dictatorial” and “patriarchal” even though it is really fine, proving that you can never ever win with some people. If I do it, it’s “patriarchy dictating that I do the household jobs” and if he does it, its “him dictating the schedule to me,” which is one of the reasons I’m skeptical of “activism” because almost anything can be “problematic” if you want it to be.)

        “What you write sounds reasonable…but then I look at the comic again. Is the scene where Mom is struggling to both prep for guests and also feed the kids, while Dad sits there doing nothing, really just a *disagreement* about what needs to get done?”
        I feel like this is a hard scene to judge because we are only reading an outsider’s comic version of a thing that (probably) really happened. Maybe the husband is a very friendly and helpful but totally oblivious person who was deeply engrossed in a fascinating article in the newspaper. Maybe he had a long day at work, was exhausted, and really needed to sit down and rest for a bit before helping out around the house. Since these aren’t even his friends, maybe he didn’t actually want to be around them much less help host a dinner party for them right after work when he was tired and just wanted to relax in his underwear, but instead of complaining he tried to put on a happy face and be a good host while his wife cooked. Maybe he thinks his wife always bites off more than she can chew; he told her it was a bad idea to try to cook two separate dinners right after work; he offered to order a pizza but she insisted, and then everything went kaboom just like he said it would. Or maybe you’re right and he saw her struggling, shrugged his shoulders, said “cooking’s not my job,” and went back to his paper.

        For that matter, just because a co-worker is struggling to do their job doesn’t mean it’s your job to step in and fix it for them. Maybe they need time and experience to learn. Maybe they’re bad at that job and shouldn’t be doing it. Maybe doing it for them means that your job doesn’t get done.

        “Come to think of it, the above is one of the things giving me that impression. It seems like a non sequitur…unless you think the only reason someone would complain about household management “not being recognized as an actual job” or “being automatically assumed to be their job” is because they’re bad at it?”

        I think there’s been a miscommunication somewhere. I am not saying “this job is easy, anyone can do it!” I admit that I, myself, was quite bad at it once and had to learn. If anything, my husband deserves credit for being more competent at it than I am, which is why he handles the scheduling. So the result was very few expectations about who will do what, besides the obvious factors like if one of us is out and a thing needs done at the house the person at the house does it. After a bit of a learning curve, we each ended up doing the jobs we prefer or at least find most tolerable. I’d never really given the whole process much thought; it was just part of learning to live and share space with another human.

        So you say this conversation gets repeated over and over, from the Depression to communes, but maybe that’s just because “negotiating how people are going to live and interact with each other” is just part of living with others. So I read this comic, and my reaction isn’t “Wow this is a pervasive social problem,” my reaction is “Sometimes people need to learn life management skills and talk to their spouses about how jobs should be divvied up.”

        This is just incidental to the main points, but IMO, a lot of people try to do more than they ought to. Many of them would be happier if they scaled back. For example, when my mother throws a party, she tries to do so much stuff that she ends up exhausted before the party even starts. Then I get drafted to run the actual party, even though I never *wanted* to be involved or doing any of these things in the first place. Maybe I”m not a “team player” because I don’t help with the party preparations in the first place, but I don’t like these parties, never said I wanted to be part of them, and don’t want to encourage them.

        My mom’s not a bad person, she just over does everything. She also mansplains. Momsplains.

        The combination of “people who bite off more than they can chew and then get exhausted” (of either gender) plus “spouses who disagree about how much actually needs to be done” seems like it potentially explain a large % of this phenomenon. Since my husband and I have similar ideas about “what needs to be done,” we probably find it easier to synchronize than, say, my mom and I.

        The rest of your comment was interesting food for thought; thank you.

        PS: I can’t imagine faulting someone for taking a bottle out of the washer when I asked them to take a bottle out of the washer… Even if I meant “empty the washer,” I’d chalk it up to “perfectly reasonable misunderstanding given how I phrased it.”

        Like

      • >I’d like to discuss it further, but my observations involve stories I don’t feel entitled to share openly on the internet.

        I understand. I prefer to discuss things on the public internet as a general policy because the public internet doesn’t know who I am IRL, but someone who got into my e-mail might. If I manage to get an e-mail I’d be willing to associate with this handle, I’ll e-mail you, but realistically I may never get to it. So…tl;dr grade-skipping isn’t “the” solution because there is no solution, but it’s still the best of a bad bunch of options (with rare exceptions), and the research backs me up on this.

        Screed:

        I skipped several grades, but not till after Gross’ critical period for childhood socialization had ended–I’d have been immeasurably better off if I’d done it sooner, and the research I’ve read suggests that so would *most* SETster types. (I do know “most” isn’t “all,” of course. Since I’ve been ranting about it enough! ;)) For someone like Gross’ subjects or SETsters, a “token” grade skip (as Gross put it) is worse than useless; that isn’t enough acceleration to ameliorate the mental difference, and adds a physical difference on top of it.

        I agree with the child who told Hollingworth, “It isn’t good to be in college so awfully young (12). It produces a feeling of alienation.” I just think he was using “*be in* college so awfully young” to denote “*need* to be.” I’d bet it never occurred to him that someone might, like, deliberately hold you back thinking it would solve your problems! (IMX people who have never been deliberately held back can never imagine that someone really would do that…or how difficult it is to cope with when they do.)

        IOW, I think he used “be in college so young” the way I use “SETster”–and I do not mean “Oh, just don’t let them *take* the SAT before age 13, then you won’t *know* if they qualify for SET, problem solved!” It isn’t good to *be the type of kid with the potential to qualify for SET, whether or not you ever get the chance to*. It produces a feeling of alienation. Gross’ 180+ ratio IQ subjects agreed with the statement “It’s tough to be me.” It just is, and that can never be “solved.”

        But so are plenty of other things so oh well. (Also: With that kid’s ratio IQ (190) and with today’s more rigorous curricula, he could be taking all APs in high school as a 12-year-old 11th grader and still get his needs met, allowing him to hold off college till age 14. And save money on college, too.)

        Based on my experience, observations, the research, etc., my personal opinion of a Best You’re Gonna Do Given Practical Constraints (sorry, I first wrote “ideal” but um no) SETster Socio-Educational Plan is:

        1. Homeschool till intellectually well-prepared for a rigorous college-prep high school curriculum (as in, take an “8th grade spring” test and score around 95th percentile–which BTW maps to around 99th percentile on a 7th grade spring test, so if a kid got the latter, I’d order the 8th grade test too that year); then

        2. Public high school, so that as an adult you can look back on as close to a normal high school experience as is possible for a SETster type. Because IMX that actually gets you closer than going at the typical age–socially, too. It’s hard to be different, but it’s better to be different physically than mentally.

        A SETster type can’t fit in well through a full four-year experience of both high school and then college–their mental age changes too quickly. I chose high school because in American adulthood, “When I was in high school…” is the fond memory and topic of conversation. High school is the American enculturator. College is just a necessary qualification (and expensive)–my ancestors are turning over in their graves at that, but these days it’s true.

        …I suppose I should also mention that this plan may produce Chads if even one parent’s geekitude is due to having been socially isolated during the critical period rather than genetic ASD. Any geek-identifed parent considering this plan might want to ask themselves if they’re ready for a Chad kid. Sounds like a joke, but I mean it. Consider this example from Hollingworth:

        [A]n eleven-year-old boy of [ratio] IQ close to 180 decided to run for the office of class president in the senior high school to which he had been accelerated. His classmates were around sixteen years of age. During the electioneering a proponent of a rival candidate arose to speak against the eleven-year-old, and he said, among other things, “Fellows, we don’t want a president in knee pants!”

        In the midst of the applause following this remark, the eleven-year-old arose, and waving his hand casually in the direction of the full-length portrait of George Washington on the wall, he said, “Fellows, try to remember that when George got to be the father of our country he was wearing knee pants.” The eleven-year-old was elected by a large majority.

        That remark did not address the opponent’s actual concern (his youth); it was a politician’s cheap shot (fallacy of equivocation applied to “knee pants”). Would I rather have grown into a glib politician, even if it did mean I had a happier childhood?

        If I were asked for the sake of argument to take a parent’s perspective, I couldn’t choose anything but the happy childhood. But it…does produce Chads.

        Meanwhile, I’m really happy for anyone who really does only need a single grade-skip–someone for whom it *wouldn’t* be “token.” They have a great opportunity to spend their entire school career right back in Hollingworth’s “optimum range” (well, relative to classmates anyway). Anyone who isn’t extremely immature for their age will fit into the already wide range of maturity levels in the adjacent grade; the typical gifted child’s maturity level is *between* their chronological and mental ages, not below both (and if you’re aiming for an “optimum range” experience, you don’t want them with typical kids of their mental age anyway, you want them with kids a couple years younger than that–who are typically right at their maturity level); and with someone who *was* immature for their age, I’d be very worried about their ability to adjust to the intellectual difference between themselves and age-mates, so if anything they’d need the grade-skip *more*. Adjustment to intellectual difference takes maturity. Socially young kids approach everyone as an intellectual peer, and need intellectual peers to continue developing social skills. Basic peer social skills develop first–adjusting to difference comes later. The problem for the immature kid is that they do also need more support, which schools may not be willing or able to provide.

        Which reminds me…the few people I’ve talked to who did wish they hadn’t skipped grades, each kept having the brain-fart of imagining themselves as they were in high school (as a child with the mental age of a bright teen), except with a body to match everyone else’s. Not as they were in college–IOW, as they *actually* were as a teen–except trying to focus on high school work and befriend high school kids. It’s hard to be different; everyone wants to be normal–well, OK, smart-normal–able to go to high school at the normal age, *and* focus on the work, *and* fit in with their classmates, *and* be just as physically mature as everyone else, all at the same time. But *that’s not an option* for us. “If only I’d had a teenage body at the same time as I had a teenage mind” is not actually, “If only I hadn’t skipped grades.” It’s, “If only I had been normal.” Yeah, if only I had been normal, too–but we weren’t. We were never going to be, and nothing could have changed that. For SETster types it’s always a compromise.

        OK, I’ve said my piece. Logging off, back in about a week.

        Like

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