The gendered assumption is that “men are problem solvers because women are too emotional,” she explains, “but who really solves most of the world’s problems at home and in the office? I think I know the answer.
I received a necklace for Mother’s Day while my husband cleaned the bathrooms, letting me take care of our children while the rest of the house fell into utter helplessness.
In his mind, he was doing what I wanted most: giving me sparkling bathrooms without having to do it myself. That’s why he was frustrated when I passed ungrateful not looking at his job because I was tidying up his shoes, shirt and socks that had been left on the floor.
I stumbled over the gift box that he had pulled out of a high shelf two days earlier and which had been in the middle of our closet. To put it back, I had to take a kitchen chair and slip it into our closet to put it back in its place.
Women are not grumpy, they just do not support the emotional charge anymore:
It was obvious that the box was on the way, that it needed to be tidy. It would have been easy for him to simply take it and put it away, but instead he had ignored it voluntarily for two days. It was up to me to tell him that he had to put something away.
“That’s the goal,” I say, now in tears, “I do not want to have to ask. “
I had to tell him how much I enjoyed cleaning the bathrooms, but maybe he could do it again (like when our kids were in bed). Then I tried to explain carefully the concept of emotional work: that I managed the house, and that it was a thankless job. Delegating work to other people, that is, telling him to do something he should instinctively know how to do, is exhausting. I tried to tell him that I noticed the box at least 20 times in the last two days.
“In general, we have gendered emotions in our society by continuing to reinforce the misconception that women are always, naturally and biologically capable of feeling, expressing and managing their emotions better than men,” says Dr. Lisa Huebner. , who publishes and teaches about emotional work at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. “This does not mean that some people do not manage emotions better than others as part of their individual personality, but I would say that we still have no concrete proof that this ability is biologically determined by gender. “
My husband is a good man. I could tell he was trying to understand what I meant. But he did not do it. He said he would try to do more housework to help me. He repeated that I just had to ask him for help, but that’s where the problem lies. I do not want to micromanage household chores. I want a partner who can take initiatives.
However, it is not as easy as telling him. My husband, despite his good nature and admirable intentions, always reacts to criticism in a very patriarchal way. By forcing him to see the emotional work for the job, he feels like it’s a personal attack on his character.
Carrying the weight of all this emotional work in a household is frustrating. This is the word I hear most often when I talk to friends. It’s frustrating to have all these responsibilities, that nobody recognizes the work you do, and that there is no way to change that without a major confrontation.
“What bothers me most is that any conversation around emotional work is perceived as a complaint,” says Kelly Burch, an independent journalist who works primarily at home. “My partner feels angry and defensive because I always emphasize what he does not do. I understand why it’s frustrating from his point of view, but I have not found another way to make him aware of all the emotional and mental energy I spend on running the house.
Even having a conversation about the imbalance of emotional work becomes emotional work. Usually, I let slip, reminding myself that I am lucky to have a partner who willingly complies with the tasks I decide to assign him. I know that compared to many women, including family members and friends, I’m lucky. My husband does a lot. He does the dishes every night generally. He often makes a dinner. He takes care of sleeping children when I work. If I ask him to do extra chores, he will do it without complaint.
When I brush my daughter’s hair and braid them carefully around the scalp, I do what is expected of me. When my husband brushes his hair before bed, he needs us to notice his efforts and congratulate him, saying out loud to me and her that it took him 15 minutes. There are many small examples where the work that I normally do must be recognized once transferred to my husband.
My son will brag about his bedroom and everything he did, my daughter will quietly put her clothes in the basket and get dressed every day without being asked. We are already following in our footsteps, we lead them towards the same imbalance.
“Children learn their communication and gender roles (children can recognize” appropriate “behavior at the age of three) through different people and institutions, but their parents are the ones with whom they interact the most. So if we want to change the expectations of emotional work for the next generation, we have to start at home. Children who see parents sharing emotional work will be more likely to be children who expect work to be shared in their own lives.
I know it will not be easy for one of us to tackle the emotional division of labor, and I never expect it to be completely fair. I am more skilled at emotional work as a whole because I have had all my life to practice. But if we’re lucky, he still has a lot of work to do to refine his emotional skills and change the course of our children’s future. Our sons can still learn to carry their own weight. Our daughter can learn not to wear others.