School field day. Dentist appointments. Mother in law’s birthday. Dirty socks in the hallway. There’s hardly any milk left in the fridge. Flowers for the teacher on graduation day.
The list goes on and on. There’s no end to it. Next day it just starts all over again and the things you didn’t do the day before add to your already long list. Whether it’s on paper or in your head doesn’t matter, it’s still a mental load that’s nagging at you.
The constant stream of putting things away in the right place. How you always make sure to not walk empty-handed up the stairs, because there’s always something that needs to be carried to the second floor. How the kids always ask you where things are, but they rarely ask their father, and if they do, he’ll probably ask you anyway.
Even though you’re both working full time, you still do the majority of the emotional labor around the house. When you leave the office, instead of winding down after a long day’s work, you wind up in preparation for all the things that needs to be done at home.
What if you decided to not take on all of these tasks? What would happen? Would the world come to an end? Probably not. Would your household be in utter chaos for a while? Most likely. But maybe you could endure utter chaos for a while with the prospect of coming out on the other side with a husband who performs his share of the household work without you telling him to do it?
In his Ted Talk, Michael Kimmel says that “When men share housework and childcare their children are happier and healthier, their wives are happier and healthier, the men are happier and healthier.”
Sharing is the important thing here. “We often have two phrases that we use to describe what we [men] do: we pitch in and we help out.”
Pitching in and helping out doesn’t describe a truly equal relationship.
The problem is not only that women perform more emotional labor than men, but also that men are seen as the inferior, less competent parent.
Emotional labor can be difficult to talk about but try anyway. Don’t bring it up when you’re tired and frustrated. It’ll only come across as nagging and your husband will become defensive. Try to understand where he’s coming from. Most probably he had a very different upbringing compared to you. Like his father before him, he was never expected to take on household chores, except perhaps taking out the garbage.
If you want to be free of the added stress when you’re sick in bed, that the house will be a complete mess once you’re back on your feet, you have to start letting go. You have to drop the ball. It’s not going to be easy, but you have to try. Not just for your own sake, but for your husband and kids as well.