By Manda Griffin Jacob
Recently, I’ve been feeling really, really worn out. Not physically but mentally. I wondered why. What was sapping me of my mental and emotional energy? Then I read this brilliant article in Harper’s Bazaar entitled “Women Aren’t Nags, We’re Just Fed Up” by Gemma Hartley. I highly recommend that everyone read this piece, particularly men so they can better understand where we are coming from. The one sentence that sums it all up is: “Emotional labor is the unpaid job men still don’t understand.”
It is draining work being everyone’s schedule keeper, household manager, and problem solver to list but a few things that most women, working or not, are obliged to be. But more than that, the lack of understanding and, yes, gratitude, makes our multiple responsibilities that much tougher. Take my house for example. There are a total of seven of us residing there and I am responsible to ensure that the day-to-day minutiae runs as smoothly as possible. Day in and day out.
In her article, Gemma brings up gender stereotypes and why women are placed in this particular role. She also explores whether it is fair that we women are made to bear the brunt of all of this emotional labor. Well, of course not, but that’s life. It will take a very long time to alter this specific ingrained outlook that is equally entrenched in women as it is men.
For me, I just need a break from it every now and then because it really is quite a burden to carry the mental load 24/7, 365 days a year. I have been able to get away twice this year when I went away for work and a pilgrimage and once last year when I was alone for six blissful days before my friend’s wedding in Croatia. That amounts to a total of 14 days of respite in 10 years. I think I was eligible. When I say take a break, I mean just me, alone, not having to answer to anybody but myself. I hadn’t realized how essential timeouts are for my soul until I took the leap last year. I was the same as the majority of women I know. I never took personal time off for myself because I thought it was selfish. That I should always be with my children and my husband, doing everything I mentioned above. Now I know better. For my sanity and mental wellbeing, these mini vacations are my prescription.
Otherwise the tedium and expert juggling of everyone’s social schedule, meal planning while simultaneously being a taxi driver, chef, and mediator wears thin fast. My husband David is one of the best ones out there but even he has difficulty understanding the concept of emotional labor. Especially since he feels like he’s pulling his weight. Which to be fair he absolutely does. Not to mention the stress of being the main breadwinner of our family. But I’d venture to say that 99 percent of husbands or partners out there don’t shoulder the emotional labor because that’s a “woman’s job” and it is part of the engendered mindset. As I said, I cannot really imagine a time where this won’t be the case, so in the meantime, having designated days to really shut off is crucial.