Any time someone, usually a woman, alters their behavior for the benefit of someone else it is emotional labor. Women start their career in emotional labor often before they enter school. Boys are expected to be rough and tumble, dirty from enjoying their own existence. Girls should be quiet, well mannered and look pretty so others will like them.
Extreme stereotypes, yes. But ones that persist, even in small ways.
As women get older we learn to incorporate that emotional labor into our everyday lives. By the time we hit college we can put on that practiced fake smile and do it without even thinking about it. Listening when we don’t want to. Laughing at jokes we don’t find funny. Explaining things to people too lazy to do the research on their own. Perfect prep for motherhood, isn’t it! After spending four years at college doing emotional labor part time, you are ready to get a family and do emotional labor 24/7 365 days a year. Lucky you!
We always say we aren’t going to be THAT kind of mom. We always say that we are going to continue doing the things we loved before we had kids. But full time emotional labor is exhausting. We start putting things off, just for a little bit. Until the baby is a little older. Until soccer season is over. Maybe during summer break.
Sometimes we look at our husbands, off continuing their pre-child life and wonder how they can still have the energy to go out after a long day of parenting. But once again, the men are enjoying their own existence while the women are listening, laughing and explaining things to little people too lazy to do their own research. Emotional labor is exhausting and by the time those little people are in bed, it’s time for wine, nexflix and an early night. Not to go out and deal with anyone else’s demands. Especially the non-consensual demands of emotional labor.
Plus, little people wake up stupidly early. Its like they have a job to get to.
This is why I feel it is so important for moms to have time away from their family. No, not, going to Target alone to pick up toilet paper and a little something pretty for yourself (also a very important outing.) Not I’ll watch the kids so you can run errands by yourself. Not, do you want to spend the day at your friends house while I text you and ask you if we have any more milk.
Once again. Extreme stereotypes, yes. But ones that persist, even in small ways. Even the most supportive partner doesn’t realize the extend of the emotional labor that a mother does.
Until she leaves for the weekend.
You can argue with your partner about emotional labor, whether it exists, what it is, how easy it is to replace etc, all you want. Or you can leave them to fend for themselves for the weekend. Sure. The first time or two are going to be rough. The first time I left for a weekend away I came home to find my daughter had jumped off the couch and landed on her face. My husband, despite having absolutely no experience with cutting hair, decided he would trim her bangs so they wouldn’t poke her in the growing purple egg on her forehead.
When you look up “what will happen if I leave for the weekend?” in the urban dictionary, you will find a picture of my daughter with that choppy haircut, giant facial bruises and a big grin.
Of course, this could have happened on my watch. Well. Not the haircut. Because I gave that haircut to myself already, several times, and I’m pretty sure I could have done a better job.
Point is. Hair grows out. Bruises fade. But a weekend away will teach your partner, through experience, about emotional labor, and also, where you keep the milk and other supplies needed to run a household for 48 hours.
This is the perfect time for a mommy only adventure.
Pick a city you’ve never been to and fly there with a friend. Bonus points for meeting up with friends from multiple cities.
Girls weekend at a theme park. Going with kids is fun and all, but going with your girlfriends, no early morning wake up call and no-one to check your water bottle for vodka? Much more fun!
Come to Portland Oregon and I will set up a weekend of responsible debauchery for you and your friends, involving strip clubs, yoga or hiking, sex toy shopping, kinky sex tips and lots of amazing food, drink and shopping.
Good old fashioned road trip! Grab a friend (or not!) and drive. Don’t book a hotel. Don’t pick but the most basic destination or direction, and go!
Girls camping trip!
Going away without your family feels decedent. So irresponsible, I know. But you will returned refreshed, with stories for your partner, and ready to dive back into emotional labor. Plus. Your partner may have learned a thing or two about how to listen to stories they don’t want to hear, laughing at jokes they don’t find funny, and explaining things to little people who are too lazy to do their own research.