Emotional Labor – Who Takes Care of What? (Episode 175)
How do you navigate role conflict in your home? Has one partner become the "emotional manager" for the family, while the other one stays out of all those intricacies while they "bring home the bacon"?
It's not just about assigning specific roles, and it surely isn't about boxing it into a certain gender. But boy, knowing what each family member brings to the table is so, so important.
What "Invisible work" is bogging you down?
What, Exactly, is Emotional Labor?
Gemma Hartley went viral after her article was featured in Harpers Bazaar, "Women Aren't Nags; We're Just Fed Up." It hit home for so many women, and I'd argue to say that it resonates with some stay at home dads as well.
Emotional labor - this involves all those things around management, organization and delegation. Remember, it's not just about knowing when a babysitter is showing up. It's searching for, vetting, and hiring the right sitter for your family. It's working on schedules to ensure you have them booked for when you need it.
It's not just taking kids to soccer practice; it's getting them in the soccer league best suited for them, getting their uniforms and making sure they are clean and accounted for, showing up at games, practice, coordinating carpools, and navigating the emotional lessons of loss and sportsmanship that may come along with it.
“[emotional labour] is the unpaid, invisible work we do to keep those around us comfortable and happy. It envelops many other terms associated with the type of care-based labour I described in my article: emotion work, the mental load, mental burden, domestic management, clerical labour, invisible labour.”
Emotional labor is more than just doing household duties - it's the management that determines what is worth your time and energy, and ensuring everyone else follows through with their part as well. And it can be utterly exhausting.
Here is a great little interview that shares a bit more about Gemma's latest book, Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward:
Fixed Vs. Growth Mindsets
We can definitely come to our family with default settings. We tend to look to our childhood and either replicate it or go to the opposite extreme. So a biggie for us is to really address whether we're coming at life from a fixed - or growth - mindset.
Wikepedia states, "In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notions held by one or more people or groups of people. A mindset can also be seen as arising out of a person's world view or philosophy of life."
Over 30 years ago, Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues started to pay attention to students' attitudes about failure. It seemed like some students exhibited great emotional resilience and would keep moving forward no matter what, while others seemed devastated and crippled by even the tiniest of setbacks. Dr. Dweck set out to research the behavior of thousands of children, and she coined the terms "Fixed mindset" and "growth mindset" to describe the underlying beliefs people have about their learning and intelligence. When the students truly believed they could get smarter, the simple focus and effort actually helped them learn more. The higher their teachability, the more likely they were to succeed.
What is really your goal? Sometimes we can get trapped in our pride, and we have to scale back to remember the bigger picture. Not every battle is worth the fight. Scale back and look at the big picture, and make sure you don't simply get lost in nit-picking and criticism. It can be a slippery slope.
Get Out Of The Way
I wrote a post a while back called "If you want Daddy to be involved, get out of the way!" Are you micro-managing the relationship your partner is "supposed" to have with your children? Remember they are the other half of this creation and commitment. And they deserve the right to create their own relationship with them just as you do. Just like you trusted them enough to create a relationship with you, give them the trust to create their own relationship with another human, including your children.
Pay Attention To Semantics
There is a big difference between, "will you get off my back?" vs "it sounds like this is more important to you, so would you like to take it over?"
Can you convey something to your partner without accusation or attack? Own your own feelings and steer clear of controlling another. If you're having a hard time explaining your desires or a process, simply ask them to observe your world for a minute and show them the process. Allow them to step into your world to see your perspective...and give them the grace and respect to do the same.
In this article, Hartley shared,
"I was really micro managing my husband. Even when I was writing this book I was figuring out how to strike this balance. So, I was standing over his shoulder trying to tell him how to do everything as he’s taking it on. And it didn’t work at all. Looking back, it’s obvious why it didn’t because he felt like he was never going to be able to live up to my standards. And once I sort of backed off and let him gain that confidence on his own, it was just shocking to me that I had held him back for so long from being a really fully involved member of our family, and for being a really involved parent."
Do you trust, respect and value the impact your partner has on your life? Are you able to trust, respect and value the impact they could have on your child's life?
Our lives are precious. Do you truly know what all your partner carries in your household so you could step up and cover for it if they were gone tomorrow?
The Drunk Monkey
Fear is that nasty thing that can cripple or separate...or maybe it can snap your attention to what is truly important. Be careful on whether the "drunk monkey" is holding you back.
In the scope of life, does your relationship with another in the home need to be grounded on the one little thing they didn't do...or the step closer to hearing you that they did do?
Remember these four key components:
1. Address a growth mindset
What is this? It's the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed - it never stops beyond your own limiting beliefs.
"I never want to stop growing. I'm grateful for the person I am now that has grown from five years ago, and I'm eager to meet the person I will be five years from today."
2. Work Together
Are you working together...or is your pride leading your decisions?
Go back to your goal as a family, and how you want to work together as a team. Pick your battles. Not every single thing needs to be nit-picked.
3. Trust Each other to have individual relationships
If you want the other parent to be involved, get out of the way. Are you trusting that they can have their own unique relationship that looks different than yours? Or are you micromanaging how they are "supposed" to parent?
4. Know ALL the elements of running your household
Our lives are precious. Even if we settle into our own roles in a household, do you know how to handle the others if that person were to be gone tomorrow? Not only does this help everyone involved, but it creates way more empathy for all the roles.
Some additional resources for you
- Women Aren't Nags; They're Just Fed Up
- What Is Your Goal?
- If You Want Daddy To Be Involved, Get Out Of The Way!
- Understanding Emotional Labor Is Key To A Happy Marriage
- Tasks: They Are Taking Over My Life!
- Life Isn’t Compartmentalized…but if it were…
- The Burden of Overwhelm – Moving Forward While Always Feeling Behind
- 5 Tips To Focus For Frazzled Families (Episode 160)
- Opposites Attract…And How To Live With Them (Episode 86)
- My Marriage Sucks (Episode 66)
- How Do You Navigate Gender Roles In Marriage? (Episode 56)
- Welcome to the Fight Club – Choose Wisely (Episode 34)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
Your Weekly Challenge:
Go through these four steps, and ensure you really have stepped into the perspective of the others in your home. Do you truly know what all they may do for the family? Maybe now is the time to show them.
We cannot understand what we don't know - empathy, and finding that similar emotional connection - makes things personal. And when it's personal, you find a way to really pay attention. Remember where your greatest light is, and how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.