Latte Papas – a solution to the mental load?


The mental load, a term coined by feminists referring to the "project management" role that women undertake in our households.

We’ve just had two weeks of school holidays, which is possibly why “The mental load” comic created by a French lady, Emma Clit has been running on overdrive in my social feed. For those not familiar with the term, the mental load is a term coined by feminists referring to the “project management” role women undertake in our households, even though many men believe that they share equitably the household responsibilities. Who can resolve the discrepancy in perceptions? Well, the data helps.

According to ABS, the latest census found that women spend on average two hours and 52 minutes a day on domestic work and 59 minutes on childcare. In contrast, men spend one hour and 37 minutes on domestic work and 22 minutes on childcare. And 1 in 8 Australian men do ZERO household chores.

It’s data like this that sees Australia categorised as a “mid-range performer” across most gender equality measures, according to the OECD’s report The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, released yesterday.  Why? Because the gendered expectations directly impact women’s participation in the workforce, the number of women in leadership roles, domestic violence and the gender pay gap.

Yet while The Mental Load comic simplifies the issue, we know that addressing the gendered expectations – which become most pronounced when couples have babies is far from easy. Government and workplace policies, for example, continue to reinforce the notion that a real man’s responsibility is to provide.

Take paid parental leave – the Government Paid Parental Leave scheme provides “Dads & Partners” with just 2 weeks’ leave, paid at the minimum wage. But it becomes even less of an incentive when you factor in:

  1. Workplace cultures that see 1 in 4 men experiencing discrimination for taking parental leave,
  2. Men’s requests for flexibility more likely to be denied than those of women, and,
  3. The family being more reliant on the man’s salary (thanks to an age gap between heterosexual couples and a gender pay gap of around 15%).

Benefits of a more generous paid paternity leave scheme. 

A recent Monash University study of 951 fathers found 85 per cent said they would take three months off work to take care of their baby if there was no financial penalty. 60% of working fathers would like to work part time provided they could have a meaningful career. And Swedish research has shown that a mother’s future earnings increased an average of 7 percent for every month of leave their affectionately known “Latte Papas” took.

It also makes good business sense. Economists estimate that closing the gender gap in workforce participation could increase GDP by some $180billion.

Outdated gendered expectations are holding men, women and the economy back.

Changing our parental leave policies,  and setting targets to increase the number of Latte Papas makes sense for our communities, our children and is the best way to increase female participation in the workforce, and ensure women are equally responsible for the most important decisions in our society.

Maybe a challenge we should set for the 130 Male Champions of Change?