In the last weeks of my pregnancy my friend Beth, who didn’t have kids yet either, came to my door bearing good wishes and a stack of novels. “I thought you might like to read these once the baby comes and you stop going to work,” she offered. That made sense. I should have tons of time on my hands. So I gave her a thank-you hug and set the stack on the table. Of course, once our daughter was born, my bubble quickly burst. I had no time to myself. Every minute was spent taking care of her or doing stuff around the house. I rarely had a minute to read the headlines on the front page of the newspaper let alone a novel. Every once in a while, I looked at the stack of books, sitting on our table for months, unread, in the exact same place I put them down. Where did all that time go that Beth and I thought I would have?
Then when our baby was about six months old, we tagged along on my parents’ vacation in the desert town of Palm Springs. While my husband David rose early to catch a morning tee time, I rose early to prepare the morning bottle and change the morning diaper. As David played the ninth hole, and my parents played with the baby, I played house. I prepared bottles, did laundry, changed diapers, coordinated nap times, rocked her to sleep—all the round-the-clock stuff I’d been doing at home. I broke down, saying that nothing about this trip felt like a vacation to me. David quickly offered to stop golfing and pitch in. Then my mother and sister said, “But poor David, he’s been working so hard. He needs a break.” I nearly bit their heads off. “Excuse me!” I insisted, “I need a break too!” Though I couldn’t really explain from what. Why would anyone need a vacation if they weren’t “working”? Fortunately, my father chimed in, “Wait a minute; Kristin’s been working hard too.”
Working. Yes, he was right. I was working. I’d been working nonstop. I’d never thought of it that way. Growing up, my mother was never employed and I often wondered to myself, “What does she do all day?” What my dad did was work. Whatever my mom did was simply what moms do.
Then bam, I became a mother myself and I found myself doing a bunch of work day after day that had been completely invisible to me before, and was still invisible to everyone else, as if you needed special x-ray glasses to see it.
Because we assume caring for family is “simply what moms do” the work disappears into the role of “mother” and can’t be seen. And what can’t be seen can’t be shared, can’t be measured, can’t be valued, and couldn’t possibly be “work.”
Except it is.
So for Mother’s Day? Just get me a pile of x-ray glasses I can start handing out to everyone else.
- Choose a six-hour block of your day, at least part of which you will spend with your children and family. Make notes about how you spend your time. Be sure to include mental work like making lists or planning meals. The first step in challenging the unconscious belief that caring for family isn’t work is to make the work visible to yourself and your family.
- Read and share this post by the fabulous economist, Nancy Folbre. “Valuing Family Work”
- Read and share these related posts.
Executive Coach for Women and Teams, TEDx Speaker, Best-selling Author, Activist. Fighting for social justice, women, a better world every damn day.Load More...
Anyone else tired from the emotions of the week, inc simply feeling like it's safe to feel again? Between Joe's inauguration, @VP Harris making history, Amanda Gorman, finally memorializing COVID deaths & my parents getting their first shots today, I'm ready for happy hour
Thank you @GovTimWalz & @mnhealth #MN #MNStrong
Dump Instacart for Dumpling. Better for shoppers and better for customers. My experience shopping with Dumpling for both myself and in-laws has been amazing.
Stop using Instacart and switch to Dumpling which allows shoppers to set up their own small business & set their own rates. Plus you establish a relationship with a shopper who knows you. Better for everybody. http://Dumpling.us
1/ Covid (@UCSF) Chronicles, Day 310
What a joy watching Fauci's press conf. today. Last yr must have been torture for him, a brilliant man of great integrity. How liberating to speak truth w/o looking over his shoulder, & how uplifting to listen to him! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GJMDYZ2LNc
We are building a partnership with the American people to confront COVID-19.
A partnership rooted in transparency and science.
And together, we will mount an effective response to the pandemic that gets us all back to our lives and loved ones: https://www.whitehouse.gov/priorities/covid-19/
I am honored to be the first male spouse of an American President or Vice President. But I'll always remember generations of women have served in this role before me—often without much accolade or acknowledgment. It’s their legacy of progress I will build on as Second Gentleman.
I agree with Europe: Wearing medical-grade masks will be important to slow the spread of the B.1.1.7 strain. We have consistent evidence that single-layer cloth masks are not as effective as surgical masks, and N95 or KN95 masks are even better. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europe-coronavirus-masks-regulations/2021/01/20/23463c08-5a74-11eb-a849-6f9423a75ffd_story.html