About a hundred years ago, this little rhyme was published in the Providence, Rhode Island Journal:
“Man works from sun to sun
But woman’s work is never done.”
I feel this.
Women almost always do the “invisible labor” that keeps the home (and the workplace) running. Invisible labor is the work we do like keeping track of birthdays, when to get the cards and when to mail them so they’re not late. It’s doing things like planning gatherings (birthday, holidays, etc.), keeping track of doctor’s appointments for the kids (and the pets), menu planning, meal preparation and doing dishes.
That’s not to say that the men in our lives don’t (sometimes) share in those duties – and you younger generations are better at it than ours – but it can be an easy pattern to fall into and a hard one to get out of.
I’ve been married 36+ years. Our oldest was born 12 months and 2 weeks after we were married. In the 35 years I’ve been a parent, I’ve been privileged enough to be able to stay home and not work full-time. Even though I’ve often had part-time jobs I’ve loved, my full-time job for more than three decades was being mom and running the household.
Here’s where we get to today’s real talk: Sometimes I’m resentful that I still do all of the “invisible labor,” even though I’ve had full-time paid employment for 2 years. I have adult children who live at home, as does my husband, but I’m the one who does the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the bill-paying and on and on goes the list.
Am I responsible for not sharing the load more? Yes. I am. But honestly, the emotional energy to point out the obvious dirty dishes that need to be washed, etc., is more draining than just doing it myself. When our children were growing up, they all had jobs around the house that we rotated weekly. They might have grumbled, but they did them. Now, as adults living in mom and dad’s house, with jobs and school, they can’t find the time to pitch in (even if they say they will).
So – I’m tired and a bit grumpy. Today was particularly long for my paid employment – almost 17 hours. In the middle of the day, I managed to do all the dishes, but when I got home tonight, I found the counters covered, the sink full just waiting for me to do tomorrow.
I understand now why mamas used to “go on strike” to make a point. I could do that – but I probably won’t because it takes too much energy to plan.
I’m totally open to ideas on sharing the load around the house in ways that don’t increase my own load. Fire away.