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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.