Emotional Labor

Life's too short to keep everything bottled up!

Emotional Labor

October 20, 2017 Rants 0

I always feel like I’m juggling so many things, and even a simple task is much more detailed than it looks on the surface.  My spouse does not seem to just help where he sees help is needed, although on occasion, he does do something, like wash some of the dishes when he’s been baking. At that point, he expects to be thanked, or at a minimum, he uses it as an example of “how he’s helped” as a counter for any complaints or pleas for help on my end. A job for a job, an eye for an eye. Credit due.

I have been feeling absolutely exhausted lately and I could never put my finger on why. I seem to never be able to get anything done, but yet the household keeps running smoothly, for everyone else.  I consider “asking” for help–since that’s the only way to obtain any. But yet I cannot seem to get ahead. I would go head to head and try to plead my case–I need more help. I need ANY help. But again, it looks like I’m doing nothing.  Or so I’m constantly told.

Then I read this article: “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up–Emotional labor is the unpaid job men still don’t understand” and it all made sense.  Women tend to take on the household mental lists.  Make sure all the kids get their checkups once a year. Remember to schedule a dentist appointment.  Make sure the school gym clothes are washed and dried before Monday morning.  Don’t forget to pick up laundry soap the next trip to the store. Return the library books. Pay the bills on time. Get cash out from the bank before the field trip. Inventory the school lunch items so that the kids have stock to make lunches for the week. Research the best method to cut the cord for cable. Find the best place to get the car fixed. The list goes on.  These are items that are swimming around in our heads. Sometimes you can make a list, sometimes you just get them done. We never truly relax.

In the article, the author just wants a deep cleaning of the house as a gift.  She does not want to do any part of it–the search for the service, including costs and decisions.  Simple on the surface, detailed behind the scenes.  Her husband completely misses the point.

Later in the article, she states that she tries to explain to him what he is not helping with the “emotional labor” which usually ends up at a stalemate. He tells her she just has to ask, she says she shouldn’t have to ask. She doesn’t want to manage everything. Asking is delegating/managing. She gives up.

“Walking that fine line to keep the peace and not upset your partner is something women are taught to accept as their duty from an early age.”   I find that I do this with my daughter. She sees me picking up things that will make my husband mad if I don’t. Or doing things that will make him more comfortable.  Or washing the wine glasses instead of leaving them on the counter–otherwise he’ll break them as he shoves a pan out of his way to clear off the stove.  And sure enough, he did. And it felt like MY fault for not anticipating what would happen and preventing it.  Right now he’s been freezing when he sleeps, accusing me of taking away the covers. I’m going through perimenopause and so most nights I’m so warm I sweat.  No covers for me.  But he accused me of taking all the covers, so he slept awful.  Later I found the extra blanket buried underneath a pile of clothing in the bathroom. All he had to do was leave the blanket in the laundry room, and I would have washed it.  But his expectation is that not only will I wash it, but also locate it and placate his ire at being too cold.  It’s what women do.  And it should stop.  But how?

I consider myself a feminist and I was determined not to do what my mom did for my dad. My spouse and I both worked, making good money.  I tried hard to separate the duties and I took on traditional male ones–mowing lawn, taking out garbage.  He took on some cooking.  I thought, Yay! I had figured this equal stuff out.  But alas, through the years, kids came, and somehow things had settled back into traditional roles AND I’m also still taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.  Somehow, somewhere, I screwed up, right?  Now when I want to discuss it, similar to the author in the article, I get shot down. He turns the tables on me, accusing me of wasting time on social media.  I can’t win.

And now the next generation is headed towards adulthood in our house.  My daughter is like me, always helping when she sees its necessary. No complaints, no required quid pro quo.  My son, on the other hand, will help, but only if I ask, require it as part of his chores, or offer him some sort of extra cash.  Granted, I know how to get work out of him, but I’m worried he’s just going to be another husband someday who will expect to be asked to pitch in.

In the end, I’m unsure where to go to fix this. Every discussion ends in an argument and it’s not worth it.  I’ve consciously stopped pre-cleaning up after my husband.  My daughter has been a god-send, helping alleviate some of the piles of chores I have to do daily, which has helped allow me to focus on my home-based career and blogging.  My husband is perpetually crabby–he doesn’t understand why he’s always annoyed.  It’s because I’ve stopped being his “mom”.  Where do we go from here? I’m at a loss.






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