Being a mom is hard.
I have two kids myself — my daughter Emily is 4 and my son Andrew is 10. Emily is — you know when your parents tell you they hope you have a kid just like you someday? Emily has made me realize that is a curse, not a compliment. And Andrew and I recently had the “where babies come from” talk.
So that’s my life.
It’s not easy being a mom under the best of circumstances. Throw in jobs, sports, bills, special needs, what have you, and no wonder moms are so stressed. According to a survey reported on babygaga.com, 64 percent of moms feel that parenting has become more competitive these days, and 75 percent say they feel pressured to be the “perfect” mom. Eight out of 10 moms with kids under 6 say parenting is “exhausting.” (Anecdotal evidence would suggest the other two are either lying or have massive amounts of help.)
The fact is, the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ‘70s failed us in that it told us we could “do it all” — and now we’re expected to do it all. We’re expected to work full-time, take care of the kids, maintain a spotless house and look flawless while doing it. And if we have a spouse or partner who does his or her share, we’re considered “lucky.” What kind of nonsense is that?
I do have one of those spouses. He’s a great dad. He does at least 50 percent of the housework — probably more, because I work a lot, and I also have chronic migraines. But at the same time, I’m the one who keeps track of everyone’s activities. I make the doctor’s appointments. I make lunches. I organize the birthday parties and get all the presents. If someone needs a particular uniform or shirt clean or form filled out, I’m the one who takes care of it. I do all the things he doesn’t think about doing.
It’s called emotional labor, and I’m sure you know all about it. It’s the idea that we’re stuck with all of the jobs no one else thinks of, the things everyone else sees, but doesn’t do, the things that somehow magically get done — the laundry gets put away, the kids get to the dentist, the toothpaste gets scrubbed out of the bathroom sink. You could wait until someone else notices is and takes care of it, but then it wouldn’t get done. You could ask someone else to take care of it, but that’s the whole point — everyone else sees it, so why can’t they take care of it without being asked? Why do I have to micromanage everything? Why can’t someone else take the initiative?
But how do we address the inequality without sounding like we’re nagging? How do we come to understand that we deserve to share the load equally, perceptions of nagging be damned?
Like I said, being a mom is hard.