Emotional Labor

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Posted: October 1, 2017 by meghan

Before I became a mother, mental and emotional workload was something that never occurred to me. I worked a 40 hour week job, cooked dinner nightly, kept the house clean, washed mine and my husband’s clothes. My husband and I would go on our weekly grocery trip shopping spree even though I made out the grocery list and planned our meals. I never felt overwhelmed and I never saw myself becoming overwhelmed. My husband has always been very supportive around the house so when I found out I was pregnant I felt confident that I could handle everything. I felt so confident in my capabilities of handling emotional labor that my husband and I decided that I would be a stay at home mother. I knew that when people would ask how I handled it all, I would be able to say “Because I’m a mother” with a smile on my face.

Derek and Meghan
Simpler times with the hubby.

Emotional labor is defined as the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing loved one’s emotions, their happiness, and living up to social demands. It’s called emotional labor because you are essentially draining yourself of all emotions. Emotional labor is different for all mothers. For some mothers, emotional labor is remembering doctor’s appointments, managing relationships to simply just keeping your shit together.

It was as if the switch of a light had been flipped. I noticed a huge difference in workload once I found out I was pregnant. It was my job to know exactly what our baby needed upon arrival. It was my job to read the baby books and to make all of the doctor’s appointments. It was my job to write personal, heartfelt thank you notes and send them in a timely manner. It was my job to nest and to exude happiness and glow when really I was just exhausted. I knew my husband would be incredibly supportive upon the arrival of our little girl. I knew he would help change diapers. I knew Derek would help me with household chores. I knew he would go get me a glass of water while I nursed, but I also knew the reality of my new situation- everything would be on me.

I remember laying in my hospital bed after being in labor for 25 plus hours and feeling exhausted in every kind of way. When the nurses would come in my room to discuss anything pertaining to the baby, they would only address me even though my husband was sitting right next to me. I remember thinking, “he needs to know this too.”

First night with Emilia.
First night with Emilia.

My level of emotional labor deepened as soon as I came home from the hospital with my Emilia. I was already in a such a fragile place of mind being a first time mom who was trying to breastfeed, handling severe exhaustion, and just simply trying to figure out this thing called motherhood which none of the baby books prepared  me for. I, all of sudden had to balance motherhood, exhaustion, raging hormones, a completely different lifestyle, while being told I was having constant company. I was supposed to swallow my tears and put a smile on my face as I worried about having too much company and my baby getting sick. It was awful.

Emotionally exhausted mommy.
Mommy trying to hide her emotional labor.

As Emilia grew older, my emotional labor grew at an unbelievable pace. To this day, I am still trying to adjust and find my way into motherhood, but I must admit I get lost by everyone’s opinions. I am very thankful that people are so supportive in my motherhood journey, but at the same time I know what’s best for my little girl. Everyone’s own thoughts about how I should care for my daughter is emotionally too much for me. My husband,who is a big help around the house, says that I am not patient with him. However when I have a list of 50 things that I need to get done in 2 hours and I see that he has taken the garbage out of the kitchen trash can and placed it in front of the trash can versus taking it outside to the main trash I am immediately annoyed. I now have to worry about the dogs getting in the trash, the trash smelling up the house, the cats knocking it over and much more. Him simply not completely one task has now added to my worry and essentially my emotional labor. I have to listen to him about talk about how upset he is that his fantasy football team is not performing the way he would like for them too and inside I am enraged. I am thankful that he has a hobby that he loves so much, but really, a football team is upsetting him? I have a close friend who is angry at me because I can’t spend any time with her even though I barely have time to shower daily. I would give anything to have time to worry about football or having dinner with a friend and jealousy creeps up in me even though obsessing over my daughter is truly what makes me happy.

God did not make us perfect, but He did make us to be superheroes.

Mothers need to give themselves a break. God did not make us perfect, but He did make us to be superheroes. It’s ok to miss a doctor’s appointment because we are too busy helping your child with his school’s science project. It’s ok to tell your best friend that you are too busy to go to dinner because you would rather be holding your baby girl. It’s ok to pop a pizza in the oven so you can spend a few extra minutes playing with your children or perhaps time with yourself. It’s ok to let some things ‘slip’ so you can spend time doing the fun things with your children.

The unsettling fact of emotional labor is that often times it goes unrecognized in mothers, however when fathers experience emotional labor they often get praised for it. What couples should be practicing is equality in their relationship. In marriages, emotional labor tends to fall completely on one spouse (typically the mother) which unlike a normal 9 to 5 job, emotional labor is 24/7. A husband should offer support, don’t get mad if and when his wife is having a break down and he has no idea why, offer to watch the kids and let his wife go to a movie. Equality starts in the home. If you want your children to think men and women are equal sexes then you and your spouse need to be examples of just that.

Emilia Claire
The amazing reason for emotional labor.

I am so thankful for my husband. He is wonderful to me and even more wonderful to our daughter. Is our marriage perfect? No, but we are happy and in love. Do we practice equality in our relationship? No, but  I do believe we try. Does he often times misunderstand me? YES! We don’t have marriage/parenting down perfectly, but we try and often times it’s alot of work. We do try, though.

I often times will sit outside on my patio early in the mornings before my daughter wakes up. I take the monitor with me and a cup of coffee. I sometimes cry or I might give myself a pat on the back for being proud of myself, but I always make sure to talk God. I ask Him to remind me that I can get thru and be fine. He at least knows what I’m going thru. After talking to God, I call my own mother as if nothing was bothering me and start my day being the super hero that I am. Because I am a mother.

XOXO,

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14 Comments

  • Paige October 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    So sweet, there is nothing quite like it is there ❤️ Love the photos to!

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Thank you so much Paige!

      Reply
  • Christy October 2, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Great post! I can totally relate!!! I feel like I am carrying ALL the emotional labor daily, as most mothers do. We truly are supermoms!! Keep patting yourself on the back and know you have a whole tribe of moms supporting you.

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Thank you Christy for reading. I think often times a mother feels alone, but all mothers at some point can relate to each other.

      Reply
  • LaToya October 9, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I agree emotional labor is different for every woman. I tried to stay on top of everything when I was pregnant but that just made me overwhelmed with everything. Great post!

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Latoya! I became very overwhelmed with reading books when I was pregnant. In the end, I don’t think it helped me any. I think you just have to rise to the occasion. Nothing can prepare you for motherhood. Thank you so much for reading.

      Reply
  • Stacy October 9, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I’m a mother of six. It is so difficult sometimes to explain my emotional responsibilities to my family are what can often either drain me or empower me. You did a lovely job of describing the task.

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      Wow! Much respect to you. I can’t imagine being a mother of six. I would to have that many children, but it just seems so overwhelming. Again, much respect to you. Thank you so much for your sweet words and thank you for reading.

      Reply
  • Shelley burton October 9, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I absolutely love thus .Meghan.you’ve always been a very caring an loving person for as long as i have known you. I even look up to you on so many different levels. You are amazing!!! Never forget that. I wish I could be more like you so calm an yet so together. Whatever your doing is just right for you an your family. It doesn’t matter that it’s not right or not for someone else.. cuz there not you. Love you girl keep up the hard work you will over come this hump in the road oon your journey to God’s WILL. It does get easier..i promise

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you Shelley! You have no idea how much your comment means to me. Just because I appear calm and together doesn’t mean I am. 🙂 Inside I am screaming. Love you. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Thank you so much for reading.

      Reply
  • Kermilia October 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I LOVED reading this post!! Motherhood can be so overwhelming and I can totally relate to how you felt. Like you said God didn’t make us to be perfect, but he definitely equipped us with everything we needed. We were made for this.

    Reply
    • meghan October 9, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! It is amazing how mothers just naturally ‘get it.’ Mothers are just so resilient.

      Reply
  • Christine Salty Mama October 10, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Yes to all of this! I often will say I’m tired and my husband will say, I’ll keep an eye on the kids – go take a nap. And I try to explain that it’s not the kind of tired a nap will solve…with three kids four and under, it’s SO much more than sleepy!

    Reply
    • meghan October 18, 2017 at 5:49 am

      Hi Christine! I totally understand. My husband says the same thing. I know he is trying to be helpful, but like you said…a nap, although a nap is really nice to have, you can’t take a nap from emotional labor. There are some days I wish so badly that there was a mental and emotional on/off switch. Wow…3 kinds under 4. Kudos to you. Hang in there mama!

      Thank you so much for reading. I hope you come back again to visit.

      Reply

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