THE EMOTIONAL LABOUR IS REAL
Mental and emotional labour are the invisible but oh-so-taxing part of being a primary caregiver. It’s at the core of why so many moms feel burnt out, depleted and rundown. The burden very often falls on the women in households. Emotional labour often goes completely unacknowledged and, therefore, unappreciated. So, the first important step is recognizing it, and then naming it. What is it exactly? It’s the management of everyone and everything in and around the home. What distinguishes it from the tangible labour is the element of worry; it’s the “If I don’t worry about it, it won’t get done” kind of stuff. The meal planning, grocery list making, scheduling doctor and dentist appointments, registration and on-time payment for swimming lessons and T-ball and pre-school, writing and sending thank you notes, packing the diaper bag, packing snacks and lunches, setting alarms, keeping the plants watered and the pets fed, renewing subscriptions and vehicle registrations, looking up directions and recipes, reading baby books and relaying the information, planning birthday parties and social gatherings, restocking the toilet paper and shampoo and toothpaste before it runs out, cycling the laundry, changing the sheets, researching techniques for baby-led weaning and potty training, getting Halloween costumes ready, buying birthday cards and Christmas presents, remembering important dates and keeping the calendar organized, keeping in touch with family, setting up playdates, arranging for babysitters, giving the babysitter the rundown, buying new clothes when the old ones are outgrown, planning activities, reminding and following up, entertaining the kids and attending to their every need before any of your own.
Your partner relies on it, and they should be aware of it – and not just in the vague “I appreciate everything you do” way, but in the “I truly see you, acknowledge you and would probably perish without you” way. If they think they already know and understand, if they think your role is not assumed, just try not buying any wrapping paper this Christmas and see how long it takes them to realize that it’s not Santa that makes these things magically appear in the house. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you need to demand equal distribution of these tasks between you and your partner. Often times, it will make sense for you to handle most of those tasks, depending on your partnership and the setup of your household. But your spouse should acknowledge that and take some initiative. They need to understand the mental energy it takes to keep the house operating. They need to know this is a mental and emotional burden day in and day out. They need to know that giving you a break doesn’t just mean giving you 20 minutes for a bubble bath; sometimes it means planning the meals for the week so you don’t have to use your brain power thinking about it. You may need to delegate – which, let’s be frank, is a form of emotional labour itself – but at least it lessens the overall load. Delegating is not truly delegating unless you relinquish control. Trust your other half to handle the tasks in their domain, even if they have a different way of doing it. I’m getting tired of hearing women talk about their husbands like they’re incompetent chimpanzees who couldn’t possibly figure out a three-step diaper wash routine. You married the darn fools, and they co-created the offspring you’re knocking yourself out for every day, so have faith that they can (and want to) bolster the mental and emotional demands placed on you. As partners, it’s in the best interest of your relationship and your family to have each other’s backs, now more than ever.