“You put her in the wrong outfit,” I said matter-of-factly as my husband came down the stairs holding our baby girl.
He stared at me with a look of confusion and bewilderment, as if to say, But I didn’t know there was a right one.
“Your mom’s coming over today, remember?” I explain. “So I thought it’d be nice to have her wear something your mom bought her.”
“And my mom didn’t buy her this outfit?”
“Nope. My mom bought her that one.”
“Ok, well I have no idea who bought her which clothes. How do you even remember that sort of thing?”
The short answer? Because I’m a mom.
Today many families that include a mom and a dad are challenging the traditional gendered division of labor—mine included. My household couldn’t function if my husband didn’t handle the dishes and I didn’t keep tabs on the checking account. We’re in this together.
Even so, I—along with most moms everywhere—am still almost entirely responsible for the following tasks:
- Remembering family birthdays and sending birthday cards.
- Planning and organizing family celebrations.
- Sending holiday cards.
- Selecting holiday presents.
- Sending thank you cards.
- Planning family vacations.
- Keeping in touch with out-of-town relatives.
- Remembering to dress the baby in the “right” outfit when her grandma visits.
In the field of women’s studies, these tasks are called “kin keeping,” and they are serious business.
Why? Because even though these obligations seem relatively small and insignificant, they actually play a very important role in keeping families connected and emotionally supported.
Just think about how different your own childhood would have looked without birthday cakes and family beach trips and homemade gifts for Grandma, and you’ll see how valuable these kinds of tasks really are.
Here’s the problem, though: These incredibly important kin-keeping responsibilities are leaving moms emotionally exhausted.
Why? Well, as I mentioned earlier, they almost always fall completely onto the mom’s shoulders. Even in households where there’s a fairly even division of labor, these tasks are overwhelmingly handled by women.
What’s more, kin-keeping responsibilities are mostly invisible. They’ve become such an expected part of family life that they almost always go unnoticed and unacknowledged. (Unless, of course, you don’t do them, in which case you’re likely to draw some negative attention and head shaking.)
Indeed, moms themselves often don’t realize how much time and effort they put into kin keeping. As feminist scholars Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee (2015) explain, “These tasks are time consuming and involve emotional work that is not easily quantified.”
Translation: It’s not easy to measure exactly how much time and effort you’re putting into remembering Aunt Cathy’s birthday or calling your husband’s grandma to thank her for the baby gift or making a last minute trip to buy more paper plates for the family BBQ.
But these invisible tasks are sucking the life out of us.
They’re (one of) the reasons our to-do lists never end, why we can’t turn our brains off at night, why it feels like we’re always forgetting something. These obligations seem to take root in the back of our minds and just sit there, forever, invading our ability to truly relax or take a breath.
Did I remember to buy cousin Emily a wedding present? Who’s bringing the hot dogs for our camping trip? Shoot, it’s been way too long since we called your Aunt Susie!
Geez, I’m feeling exhausted just writing about this stuff!
So what do we do? How do we reclaim our time and our energy in the face of these seemingly endless kin-keeping tasks?
The first step is simple awareness. Start paying attention to how much kin-keeping work you do. I bet you’ll be surprised!
Then go ahead and ask for help completing these tasks—from your partner and from your kids, depending on their ages.
If you get any pushback, remind everyone that while these little things sometimes seem silly and not worth the effort, they’re actually really important to maintaining family solidarity and continuity—and that having them fall entirely to one person is just too draining.
In the end, a more equitable division of labor—kin keeping included—is better for everyone. And the best news? You might finally be able to turn your brain off at night.
133 responses to “The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained”
Don’t forget doctor and dentist appointments. I’m not even sure my husband knows WHO the kids’ doctor and dentist are, much less when the kids need to see them!
“kin-keeping” – fascinating. I hadn’t heard that term before.
It’s a helpful term, for sure! And you’re totally right about doc appointments. Almost always it’s the mom who’s in charge of those.
Bottom line, women do this to themselves. We set the bar too high.
Kin-keeping was fine and good up until the mid 20th century. But when women started working outside the home in support of the war effort they got a taste of what life was like beyond the domestic front. And they wanted more.
And why shouldn’t they have it?
Just realize the world’s axis won’t teeter off course if little Suzie wears mismatched outfits and socks with toe-holes and uneven pigtails with different coloured ties if all was dispatched by a caring loving father trying his very best.
I hear you, Deb, and I do think that women often hold themselves to very, very high standards. However, I think it’s oversimplifying to chalk those standards up completely to personal choice. Women LEARN to hold themselves to impossibly high standards; they don’t make those choices in a vacuum, but rather within a complex cultural structural that values certain choices more than others. The solution, then, must be more complex than “just stop caring so much.” Additionally, kin-keeping goes far beyond mismatched outfits; at its core it’s about the emotional work involved in keeping a family bonded. Such work cannot just be ignored completely without detrimental effects.
Oh dear God – thank you!!!! Yes, I’m the one and it IS exhausting! Great post!!!!
It really helps to give it a name and realize how much effort you’re putting into it!
Yes, this is so true. My husband is amazing in many ways but when it comes down to these tasks you list it is all me. From Christmas cards to Birthday presents to getting the kids to their appts. It can be draining! On the other side of it…if I don’t do it, it won’t get done right! 😉
Kin keeping is a helpful concept. I stopped doing this at work, the relational work (social organizing, bringing in treats for birthdays, etc) because I needed to let stuff go and I did not love that is work was expected of females in the work force. Can’t do the same in the family realm!
I am writing as a 66 year-old wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, aunt, and grandmother. This post is true for EVERY female head of household–no matter her age, until the really elderly years (when the women would probably like to trade backwards!). No matter the age and assistance coming from the offspring and then compounded by the past and the youngest generation’s needs, truly we are living with these expectations–whether from others or those we impose upon ourselves. I know this is why I really do not get into the Christmas spirit as I should. I definitely plan to think on this during one of my late night toss-n-turn sessions.
Thank you for the reminder that this is true for MANY women at all stages and phases of life!
Oh this is SO interesting! I do probably do most of the kin keeping in our family. I force my husband to think of wedding presents for his friends. Haha He has resorted to giving everyone a first anniversary present instead. It takes him a year to think of something!
I found this to be an insightful article. Thank you for the perspective and ideas on how to better balance the Kin-Keeping role in our family. I’ve scheduled to share this post on my FaceBook page. Thanks so much.
Glad you found it interesting, and thank you so much for sharing!
I try so hard to keep things organized. I write it in a planner. But then later I’m not sure if it was the ePlanner or the paper one…
I lost the Christmas spirit a log time ago, when I realized it was all me. Along with that came the realization there would be no holidays at all in our family if I didn’t do it. And then the complaints that I spend all the money was the last straw of holiday happiness for me and I became a sort-of grinch. I did what was required, but all the fun was out of it. Great. Last year I was unexpectedly in the hospital for Christmas and, though all the food was purchased and practically ready to go, as I suspected, it just didn’t happen at our house….and my kids are adults! The excuse was that they didn’t want me to “miss it.” But, because I didn’t do it later, when I came home, it never happened.
From one male’s perspective, I would pre-emptively engage in these kin-keeping efforts more, and perhaps even equally, if I wasn’t micro-managed by my wife at every turn. For example, I’m a big Christmas decoration guy – as in gaudy, and loud, with multi-colored, blinking lights, kitschy figurines, etc., ad nauseum. My wife, on the other hand, has European tastes that are in stark contrast to my approach. She’s also a perfectionist and will often not act because of perfectionism paralysis. One Christmas, we had almost zero decorations because I wanted to follow her lead. The decorations that year also fell far short of her expectations. We both lost out. The following year, I told her to stick her perfectionism in her pipe and smoke it, and proceeded to buy and decorate as I wanted to. She complained, whined, and criticized almost every move of this pre-emptive effort, but in the end appreciated the festive outcome – good taste be damned. I also have my own approach to holiday gift giving that rubs her the wrong way, but I do it anyway because to wait for full input from her micro-managed approach would mean sending perfect Christmas cards and gifts around Easter time. Having said all that, my appreciation for my wife’s approach to kin-keeping, perfectionism, micro-managing, and general culture-upkeep of our extended family and friends know no bounds. She’s awesome beyond words! But I will not allow myself to be smothered by it, and I bet most of my testosterone compatriots feel exactly the same way. Back off on the micro-managing, and let your husbands blossom in their own way of kin-keeping. You will be amazed at what we’re capable of, and your marriages will better for it – as will your nerves. One additional, and very important nuance: My wife sometimes bewails our lack of doing kin-keeping things together. “Use the Force Lucy, let go Lucy…Lucy trust me” . . . and join me, from time to time, in my chaotic, non-optimized, imperfect, messy approach to kin-keeping, and I will join yours from time to time.
Yiu nailed it Andrews!
Such truth!! I’ve given up on most of these activities because they are so draining and yet I see so little ROI on them. For example, it took me weeks to write and send out thank you cards after my baby shower (which I didn’t get out until after the baby was born, thus I had extra stress) and I decided that was enough. I didn’t send any for his first birthday. What’s the point, people get it, read it, toss it. Let’s just reciprocate with attending each other’s kid birthdays and leave it at that. I spent so much time sending holiday cards out this year, but we only received a fraction. Is it worth sending them out? I’m not sure.
I think about this often. I sometimes wonder if it is because the kin keepers set ourselves up for this very early in relationships. Spouses forget birthdays, anniversaries, doctor’s appointments, school functions, etc, and we are there to save their butts so they learn that they don’t have to do it. No more butt saving!
Why does everything women do have to couched in terms of being a mother? I do all of the tasks mentioned, except in my case instead of the clothes the baby is wearing it is making sure to use the platter my mother in law gave me. Families with out children are just as much of a family.
I certainly agree! I focused on moms because this is a parenting website and a large majority of the regular audience is made up of moms, but I believe you’re right that this applies far beyond that. I definitely don’t believe that families without children are in any way lesser or diminished, and I don’t believe the post implies that. I simply had a specific audience in mind when I wrote it. Thank you for your comment!
It’s so important to remember these little (BIG) things because it’s what keeps the family together.
I’ve always skipped on the “thank you” notes and go for thank you texts instead. It opens up the conversation between me and someone from my husband’s side that I wouldn’t normally talk to.
And yes, all these wonderful things are definitely taking a toll on moms.
I call B.S. as a stay at home mother of 5 I CHOOSE. l couldn’t care less about what grandparent bought what outfit. Facebook is how I keep up with far flung family and if Aunt Suzy wants to talk she too can pick up the phone. Stop making your life difficult and playing the martyr mom role.
I totally agree
Oh so glad to see someone else with this mindset! From the very beginning of this article my mindset was, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” I totally understand if it’s something a person wants to do and enjoys, but when these meaningless things become a chore and extra stressor…pfft, no thanks.
I’ve got two kids, a full time job, am in school full time, and a relationship to maintain. There’s no time left in all that to worry about putting my kids in a certain outfit just because their grandma bought it.
Again, not bashing anyone who gets joy out of these things – by all means if so! – but to let it become an extra burden in an already overburdened day? Maybe time to rethink priorities!
I’m grateful that my husband handles many of these things! He keeps a list of gifts, makes sure thank yous are written & mailed, keeps the address book up to date, remembers birthdays and even to buy cards in advance. He even sends postcards to family members when we’re away on trips! I guess I should thank him for being awesome 🙂
While I don’t agree with the finger-pointing attitude that seems to characterize many of the comments disagreeing with this post, I do agree with the underlying idea of the dissenters: that much of what’s listed here is wholly unnecessary. If a person is the sort who values sending out thank you cards or Christmas cards (or whatever), that’s a choice she makes, and there’s no point in going around feeling imposed upon because she chose it. I’m nearly 50 with three grown kids and a lot of great “kinships” in my life that have spanned decades.
Don’t believe I’ve ever sent out a thank you card in my life (and am ever-so-slightly annoyed when I get them and have to either feel a little bad about tossing them straight in the trash or pile them up in my house somewhere). Send out Christmas cards once every five years or so when the whim strikes. I remember birthdays because I have a very number-friendly mind, but that doesn’t mean I regularly acknowledge them. And, life goes on quite well.
Yes, there are people who get upset if you don’t stand on ceremony that was instilled in them at some point in their lives and they’re the type of people who think their way is the only way. For me, that’s a great screening tool. If someone I’ve driven to doctor appointments, tended children for on short notice, encouraged through tough times, loaned money, etc. regularly over the years feels I don’t appreciate her or questions our relationship because I haven’t sent a Christmas card, that tells me our values and priorities aren’t compatible at all.
My husband is really cool about it. He doesn’t expect me to do anything, I myself don’t desire to do. It makes my life much easier. We regularly miss things like his mom’s birthday or holiday cards deadline (I didn’t even main this year’s cards yet), but I’m proud to say that we are relatively stress-free people!
Sounds like it works well for your family!
This is the unwritten chore for all women, it’s has nothing to do with being a mom. Other than the fact with children, there may be more tasks to remember.
Beautifully written response Andrew S. I am putting this up on my counseling site and will be guiding people to your reply.
I have to agree with Alicia on this one. If I have friends or family who are working parents with kids, I never expect them to get me a card or even remember my birthday, nor do I take offense to them forgetting. Connectedness shouldn’t be about how much you kill yourself to acknowledge everyone else. It should be about picking up the phone to talk and/or helping each other when you need it. I’m sorry but if you worry this much about negative attention and head-shaking when you don’t throw another party for a child, or because you forgot to put her in the right outfit, then you need to do some soul-searching because those things actually don’t matter that much. And I really wish that writing thank-you cards wasn’t a thing. I bought you a gift because you are my friend and I wanted to do something nice, not because I wanted acknowledgement. Geez…
Why does everyone worry what everyone thinks if they get a card or not. Where is the appreciation for sending a card if you stress out about it? One of the other main stresses is thinking you have to stretch yourselves out. Simplify and live a life with less worry.
Why don’t we push back on these expectations a bit (or a LOT perhaps)? Why are we aiming for perfect? Aren’t there less stressful ways we can connect with loved ones that don’t involve the burden and anxiety? Maybe we can just go ahead and lower that bar by being a bit more real and understanding when someone stops sending hand-crafted cards or doesn’t have baby in the “right outfit”?? Why do we need to appear to be on top of it ALL? I understand that connections take intention and most importantly, time. But I’m learning to give myself some serious leeway, and I really try to check my expectations for others too. Stop sweating the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff, right?).
if i didnt have to work 2 jobs to make ends meet, maybe i could take on some of that responsibility. Then instead if watching oprah re-runs and facebooking all day, she can take all three vehicles in for oil changes, pick up dog and cat poop, change the air filter in the furnace, paint the house, do the taxes, mow the lawn, shovel the snow, did i mention oil changes? yes ladies, cars need oil changes! also when you are out getting your mocha latte at starbucks, please stop and fill up the gas tank! or is that a man’s job? Just sayin yall!
Ick. Get a. Grip Jason. If this is the dynamic in your family then it doesn’t sound like this article even applies to you. There seems to be an unbalanced division of labour in your home. Sorry but your comment just seemed a little too pointed with regard to this article.
Another man here. I agree with AndrewS’s post.
A few years ago I told my husband he was in charge of getting gifts for all his family members’ birthdays, Christmas, mother’s/father’s day etc. Well his family members havent gotten a present in years. I’m sure they blame me for their lack of presents but I don’t care because I’m much happier and less stressed as a result. If my husband doesn’t think it’s worth the effort why should I?
I was recently introduced to this gem, though it calls it “emotional labor.” Though long, I think it deserves at least a skim by every woman in a relationship, mom or no. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view?pref=2&pli=1
Andrew, I appreciate that you feel micromanaged, but the reality is that no one blames the man if the kids’ outfits are mismatched, thank-you cards are late, or (his) Aunt Betty doesn’t have a gift at Christmas. Of course I don’t know your situation, but based on the small amount of information I know, I’d bet your wife is too afraid of judgment to let it go, even if she’d like to.
Let me start by saying the world is nicer and more pleasant because women do nice and pleasant things men wouldn’t bother to do. Absolutely.
But let me ask how many of these chores are women feeling the pressure to meet the absurdly high standards put upon them by other women. If your sister’s toddler’ outfit doesn’t match, will your husband notice or just you? Has your husband ever commented that he didn’t receive a thank you card for a gift he sent to his family? Has he ever complained that a gift wasn’t received on time, or didn’t appear at all? Have you?
I just want to suggest that too often women are feeling an artificial pressure to meet the artificial standards of other women. Sometimes these standards seem, to the outside observer, to be so high that they must actually be intended to make others fail. What with that?
So please, at a minimum, don’t be the one to put this pressure on the your friends and the women in your family.
Why do women feel the need to validated for everything they do? Gosh we could make dozens of list of things we are under appreciated for too but honestly, enough is enough.
My wife is much better at remembering things like this, but she also channels it into her family and I am on top of mine. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I do great…but top assume it’s only women and that they should get some special title and recognition is beyond me. Andrews post was much better weirded than mine but I just see these things on Facebook day after day and I just don’t understand the mind of women. I guess if nothing else it shows us married men that you can’t be too appreciative when it comes to your wife.
Never mind all that other stuff…other women’s husbands do the dishes?!?
Every night in my house!
I agree completely with your article, and find it interesting that this is such a widespread trend at least in our culture. It would be good to know if it is descended from a wider European phenomenon, or pan-cultural?
I would like to point out that men in our society have similar “hidden” responsibilities that weigh on them as well. These are just my personal observations, but I think they are widely shared. I would put into this category being in charge of keeping up the yard and any outside needs, as well as maintenance inside the house – being the handyman to fix any issues. I acknowledge that not all men do either or both of these, but many do, and there always seems to be something needing to be done that is on our minds.
I have a different answer (as widowed dad) after acknowledging the obvious, that there is not one answer: Simplify first. Redivide the labor as needed. The starting point for most households is two incomes to support a lot of activity and a lot of things. When you take on all of that and layer on multiplying layers of kin keeping–it is too much. And you don’t even mention one layer of kin keeping that also usually goes to the woman: caregiving. Caring for an elder, child or ____________ is kin keeping on steroids–multiplied. But it almost always become part of life at some point.
Then there is another form of extended kin keeping which extends that care of the social network outside the boundaries of immediate family.
I live in neighborhood where 70% of children are being raised by mom. And mom is at work struggling to make ends meet. Any present and available adult can be consumed by the great vacuum of parenting presence.
A third point is that families are not in physical proximity to their closest extended family. Kin keeping needs to be shared, not just with husband-wife, by all the kin. When we are close we can share. When not, kin-keeping becomes another “ball in the air” to juggle long-distance.
Simplify yourself out of debt to free up income; simplify expectations for income and how much stuff you have and how big a house you need to house the stuff. Cut back on the combined amount of work-outside-home and together prioritize who is on your kin-keeping list. Then don’t be afraid to divide up work–even if it looks like traditional roles.
Post pregnancy my wife became very ill, battled for life for 4 years and died. I became caregiver to her and three pre-schoolers; kin keeper; and everything else. My wife was a super-achiever–and crisis forced all kinds of issues around life priorities. Clarity about what matters is far more important than worrying too much about how to juggle more balls–and exactly who is juggling which balls.
I love the guys comments, proof that we’re only reading this because our wives posted it on our Facebook page or shoved their cellphone in our face and told us to READ. Women have these responsibilities because (typically) they’re mind naturally thinks of these things. Men’s do not. You think of tribe maintenance, we think of cave maintenance and safety.
And I’ve never read an article or blog by a man complaining about how his wife never thinks of the amount of tire tread life left, oil changes, insurance cards, emergency bag with water, wool blanket, MRE’s, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, flashlight, tire repair kit, first aid kit, or the septic tank needing pumped out or how many years are left on the shingles or paint or if the expansion tank on the water heater needs bled down or the sediment in the water heater needs flushed out or the bearings on the hot water circulating pump needing oiled, chimney fires, a/c filter, thermostat setting, turning OFF the lights in every single room, putting in a new garbage disposal, washer, dryer, rotating tires, cutting the grass, weed whacking, carrying and moving the new sleeper/recliner sectional, cleaning out the sink trap or putting in a new faucet or wall sconces, or SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED OF THE KIDS TOYS/ PLAYSETS/ TRAMPOLINES/ POWERWHEELS, not to mention constantly thinking of our bills, credit score, APR’s of mortgages and vehicles, Income Taxes (joint), teaching our boys to stand up to bullies, teaching our daughter self defense, teaching all of them how to ride a bike, how to ice skate or ski, teaching them archery, marksmanship, canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, hunting, getting stuff down from the attic, shopping for life insurance (both of us, not just hers ;), sewing patches on work clothes, repairing kids clothes, hemming wife’s dress, sewing on buttons, ironing when needed, shining dress shoes (his & hers) repairing soles, fixing zippers, fixing toys!, fixing everything!, oh and the “wait till dad gets home” enforcer, worrying about if the stickers in the minivan give away too much information to a wanna be criminal/ copycat jihadist, worrying about who my kids are friends with or what they’re “learning” at school, worrying about every single stranger who even looks at my daughter, always looking to see where the closest emergency exit is every one we walk into a store or restaurant, worrying about my wife driving my whole world in one car alone on the parkway on her way home from her mothers and if I’ve “trained/ prepared” her for every possible emergency. This is where being a Marine Conbat Vet kicks in. But I love doing all that stuff. I love my role as the husband, father, provider, protector and guardian. I’m great at some of these and suck at my fair share of the others, and wish I didn’t have to do some of them, but I thank God for all these blessings most call responsibilities. Some people complain about getting old, they should be so lucky, many are denied the privilege.
One of the things I valued in my husband when we were dating was his attention to things like remembering to send birthday cards and thank you notes.
I do still keep the mental track of who bought which outfit, but I A) communicate verbally in advance which outfits for special occasions should be worn and B) often pull them out or at least put them front & center in the closet.
I do keep track of doctors and classes, and household things like balanced meals, but I am a SAHM and feel those are my basic job requirements.
And I definitely understand and try to be mindful of the earlier point about micromanagement, and recognize I need to communicate & delegate, compromise, and let some stuff go, because at the end of the day a happy functioning family is the most important, not perfection.
And hey, this year no holiday cards went out… the world, amazingly did not implode.
I’m a stay at home dad who is responsible for a lot of this stuff. But my wife does a lot, too. The things she does are things I honestly don’t really care about. You can call it kin keeping orr whatever, and claim it’s important, but we’d get along fine without the hand made birthday tag for the three year old’s friend’s birthday present. She does those things because she values them. I buy the presents for the birthday parties, but she wraps them, because we have different (often complimentary) priorities.
If you like to do that stuff, great, but seriously, what are the ramifications of forgetting to put your kid on the right outfit for the in-laws? Unless your in-laws are jerks, not important. Being a thoughtful person is an admirable trait and one that I love in my wife, but when it becomes pathologically burdensome it’s time to step back. Do what makes you happy, don’t expect others to do it for you.
Single moms with a full time job and a small business & a 3 year old who just doesn’t sleep….I need an assistant, an on-call occasional man of the house, etc. *sigh. Life goes on. My daughter doesn’t even notice that my fans are dusty. But others will judge cause my house isn’t glistening….as for me, I’d rather go to the gym for my own sanity.
I agree with the male reply. I let my husband see the lack of what his mother mostly did; it is not my strength to kin-keep as she does. Guess what? He stepped up. Does he do it the same way? No. But when asked I tell people I let him father and I do the mothering. Our children will decide for themselves what fits their future desires to kin-keep based on our and other family examples. Roles are changing with the world. In the end how healthy is your partnership? Work on your relationships rather than external expectations. Hasn’t that always been the complain about traditions, that they lost their relational purpose when they were micro-managed?
reading this article reminded me that I still have to get my cousin a wedding gift (she got married in August) … sigh …
I didn’t think about this much until reading this but I love doing these things, I wouldnt want it any other way and I know that if I asked my husband to help with the birthday or something else he would do it in a heart beat but also he is in the military so the everyday stuff is no fun so doing the fun stuff like planning the birthday or making invitations is the fun part of being a mom, I went to my twins 6 month appointment recently and when I told my husband they were fussy because they got their shots he told me you should have waited until I got home in 4 weeks so I could have helped “he is so sweet!” but they needed it because they were already 3 weeks past because we went to my families for Christmas during the time they needed to go to the appointment.
The day to day stuff I have to do without him is what is hard, so I am just so great full for the time I get with him when he is home! Also if you feel like you are micro managing, stop it, I have realized I have done this and have stopped and let my husband do things when he has wanted to.
Without asking my husband he will get my daughter bathed and dressed without feeling like he is doing it wrong, thank your spouse when he does things to help.
I think it’s more than just kin keeping, but being the keeper of ALL the details in general that is a burden on women that men just don’t understand. For example, my husband helps with chores around the house, taking my son to karate, etc; but, he’s not the one to remember to buy laundry soap at the store, what day is pizza day at school, where my son left his hat, doctor’s appointments, birthdays, details about my son’s classmates and their parents, making sure that my son wears sneakers on gym day, etc. It’s a never ending list of details that need to be remembered, it’s exhausting. Men just don’t feel the same need to keep the details of life in order.
So very true….and try being a divorced mom with two kids where the kids are almost completely your responsibility….birthday parties, dentist/doctor appointments, school meetings, plus everything else that needs to get done every single day…..with no help….it’s no wonder I often fall asleep on the couch watching tv with the kids after dinner!
But did the mom say which one to dress the child in? Our husbands cannot read our minds. It is very disrespectful to question our husbands when they’re doing something FOR US. Who cares which outfit she has on? Hubby relieved some of the burden by dressing the child. I’m sure the grandmother isn’t thinking about which outfit she has on.
I can relate to this article. Many of the men’s comments are listing the things they do as well. Things like maintenance of the car and property, and money management. Some have mentioned that they wouldn’t do the job the same way as their wives and feel that their wives are perfectionists.
In my household I did the kin keeping mentioned in the article as well as all of the things the men are chiming in about. My father-in-law would ask me about the maintenance of the car because he knew my husband would have no idea. Also when my husbands mother passed away I was the one who traveled to another state to clear out the family home of 40+ years and get it ready for sale. Moving my brother-in-law out of the house and across the country at the same time. With my 3year old in tow. I arranged his parents funerals as well. I’ve applied for all the public assistance programs needed for his brother and found him an apartment. I take care of my 84 year old grandmother too. I also own and work my own (out of the home) business. My husband would do the dishes and take the garbage out and back from the curb. Sometimes he’d vacuum. There was one year that I worked three jobs while he stayed home, unemployed. At any time in our relationship when he was unemployed I also made his resume and searched for and applied to the jobs for him. He would show up for the interviews. I did this and more things I haven’t mentioned all with my child in tow. If I asked him to do anything id have to nag him because he wasn’t doing it, or do it over again because he didn’t do it well, or even good enough. He’d do things wrong. It only made more work for me to get him to do things. By the time I spent my energy nagging and fixing it was easier to do it myself. I am so thankful for this article because it’s clarified what I was feeling. I’d iften tell my husband that I was tired because I was doing everything. Then he’d start listing things in his defense and id list things in mine, but kin keeping tasks were never on those lists. We’ve been together for sixteen years. Two weeks ago I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. I’ve felt some uncertainty about whether I was making the right decision but this article has helped me see that my relationship was not one of partnership or equality. Not the relationship that I want to have. Thank you for posting this article.
Just as Debra Raver, I too have lost the Christmas spirit and find myself seeing it (as well as birthdays, etc.) just one more chore instead of an event/season to enjoy. I am 61 and caring for an ailing husband. I take care of EVERYTHING, including him. I stay exhausted and always praying for God to help me get through each day. Advice to those who have husbands that do not help out: change it now. I never asked a thing of my husband since he was the “breadwinner”….big mistake. The balancing scales have never been even, as his day ended at 5 but mine never ended until I fell in the bed at night around 11 pm, worn to the bone. Now, no kids at home, but nothing has changed.
I almost cried reading this. It rings so true in my household. My husband splits childcare, working outside the home, and chores pretty equally. But kin keeping is all on my shoulders.
This is such an amazing article. I very rarely read an article that pins the nail on the head such as this!!! Thanks for giving a term to what this is. All too often my husband and I argue that I do more stuff, and even though it might be even in household work, this is probably the stuff that pushes my overwhelming day over the edge. So true!
I am not bashing the gentlemen on here when I say this, just looking at it from a wife’s perspective. Yes, a thousand thank yous for all of the things you do to keep our world running smoothly. Changing air filters, getting new tires put on, mowing the yard, etc. are all tasks that I dread. But it isn’t like I am looking forward to sweeping or folding fitted sheets. Because I am not. But, both my husband and I do these necessary tasks to keep our family running. I notice that many of the tasks the gentlemen mentioned were “internal” tasks. Things that only your immediate family sees and benefits from. Kin keeping (and I love that term) seems to be an “external” task–one that the extended family sees and benefits from. Parents, Grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings, cousins, you name it, these are the folks who benefit from kin keeping.
Is this antiquated? Probably yes. Are the gentlemen and others who have posted, correct in saying women do this to other women? 100%. So why do we still do it? Several reasons:
We do it out of respect for the women of our family and community that have gone before us and sent us a Christmas card with their little kids, family pet or family photo on it. Those who made candy and chose our family (along with 20 other families, but still) to share it with.
We do it out of compassion for our elderly relatives and neighbors whose peers are all slipping away. What a burden to outlive our family and friends it must be. The things you once talked about with the people who were once there are no longer available conversation topics.
We do it for our children and other kids too. Our kids may not know it now, but every single time a relative has the opportunity to interact with them, it makes a memory. One that can be talked about and shared for the rest of each participants life. And as far as making memories goes, having the ability to ensure kids in our community/ family have good memories of special occasions, like getting a favorite toy or a new pair of shoes sticks out to them. Memories.
And if none of these things were your motivation to keep the kin, then just staying out of the drama “those 2 aunts” keep stirred up, or preventing your MIL from asking why your daughter isn’t dressed in the outfit she bought (neither of which will be directed in your husband’s direction or within his earshot) will be the things that prevent you from remembering to send a “Thinking of You” card to Aunt Sally for the passing of her 4th husband, 3 years ago. Which you will be judged for (by “those 2 aunts”) not doing.
Kin Keeping is largely matriarchal–thus women are in charge. I am just going to say it-The older women in the family by and large, not ALWAYS, are the ones usually causing this. So husbands, AND wives if you don’t want to participate in this, and believe it is stupid to care about what other people think, then talk to the ladies in your family. You know the one that birthed you, the ones that raised you, the one that made your wedding decorations, the ones that never let you forget any of this, take it up with them would be my parting advice. That & $42 will get you a cup of coffee!
I am one of those – do everything for others. I respect and find it necessary to kin-keep. It’s NOT what many of the comments here imply though – it’s NOT because I care completely what others think. It is because I actually care to help make others feel good! That is not a bad thing and, although stressful, I feel it can help on other sides of relationships. It is a huge cause to my lack of sleep but there is a greater positive affect. I think naturally woman want to TAKE CARE of others (men do too but it “looks different generally) Why are we getting “BLAMED” for actually out what is natural for us? What would be helpful is not to THINK woman are necessarily micro-managing but rather pressuring themselves to be good caregivers…not, again, because we have to be validated but because it is a natural instinct for most. A specific example for me and my largest “burden” – teacher gifts. I understand that stressing yourself out for gifts may not make sense to many but it DOES show others that you care enough about their time – the time teachers take to care, mold, protect and work for half the salary they deserve or dressing your child in that special outfit because IT DOES show you care that the gift-giver took the time to go out and get it! These seemingly minor, excessive or unnecessary things actually have an impact. These comments cause the very burden the article talks about! Stop blaming “MOMs” (or woman) – “They DO NOT need to be validated any more than men!” There are just generally more relationship pressures on them than the general male/female expectations. THAT is a fact! And, as far as MILs – Unfortunately, MILs (for me and for many of my friends – if not all – and I have a lot of friends), are our biggest burden!! The challenge is that you just can’t let it go because it can damage the marital relationship… after all, this is your husband/wife’s Mom and, whether she’s right or wrong, whether you can choose to see her or not see her – she effects your immediate family. My husband actually defends me against his Mom because she actually is nasty and I have done nothing but EVERY holiday dinner, re-arranging schedules to accommodate HER, etc. etc. but it impacts him. I CHOOSE because making people happy, makes me happy. I want to NATURALLY care and “protect” – I don’t want top see him hurting. Woman just can’t get away from who they naturally are and, I am SURE you wouldn’t want them to. SO, can’t woman 9if it is them as the non-kin-keeper or Men just step in – even if some of us SEEM to be micro-managing and say… I don’t want to do it my way because you, as a woman have a need in this instance to do it your way… I care – HOW can I help do it the way you need. THAT is the LARGEST in a kin-keeper I can imagine! Oh, and I don’t send holiday cards but I will work with my kids and stay up until 2am to make handmade gifts for the family. After all, there are priorities! 🙂 P.S. It was the MIL comment that TRULY triggers my argument FOR kin-keeping! However, I have decided it is more healthy for my family to sever MY relationship but I continue to work my A$$ of to foster my children’s relationship with her. Sometimes it is what it is.
Great article focusing on the difficulties of maintaining schedules, tasks and more. I would like to add, however, with roles changing as they have over the recent years, more men are taking on these tasks and succeeding with flying colors. I am, of course, biased in my statement. I am single dad, raising my children alone (absent mother), and do absolutely everything you’ve covered plus took a work from home position to be more present. In addition, both my children are on extensive IEPS adding to the list of appointments. None of it is easy, but to write an article so gender focused just set custodial dads back 20 years. I will never take away from moms who are the strength and organizer of a family; it would be nice to possibly see a follow up article on men who tackle these roles as well.
I always keep the stack of the previous years cards that I receive (and put them with my box of Christmas cards) and the next year only send cards to the people that bothered to send me one.
I am still trying to get out wedding thank-yous (party was September 2014), and this years’ holiday cards (obviously now nearly a month late) before I gave to send out birth announcements (sometime in early March).
My ask from my husband, get the address from his mother that we need (his side of the family). He has HER write them out for him.
’nuff said on how that division of labor works out.
Interesting article, as a working mom of 3 grade school kids I am still in charge of all of these everyday things, and in response to AndrewS, my own husband announced just days after we were married, in answer to another friend asking what the best part of marriage was, “I never have to remember another birthday again!” Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband, we do not have a traditional marriage in many ways, I do the yard work and appliance fixing, things I enjoy, and we would never, ever, have Thanksgiving or Xmas dinner, or food made on a stove, without my husbands amazing skills in the kitchen, a chore I despise, but the kin keeping has always been on my shoulders, I would be more than happy to pass many of those kin things to my husband, he doesn’t want them.
I don’t have kids and I’m not married. But my mum died when I was 18 and left me with my 13 year old brother and a dad that had to grieve in his own way (essentially forgetting about my brother). So I did all of this for about 6 years, keeping up with EVERYTHING (surely also my form of grief). But I got burnt out! I see both sides now and am working myself back towards a balance. Now there are some people I want to send thank you’s to and some that I don’t anymore, and I ask for help if I need it. Do what works for you! The most important thing is that you genuinely want to give energy to it because it matters and makes you more happy and complete.
I call balls to this! Are we just looking for another reason to make ourselves feel better? There are tons of tasks that *most* men do that we do not appreciate either and that get taken for granted. It could be shoveling the snow, bringing the car in for oil changes (or even performing them themselves), cutting grass, taking garbage out, plumbing fixes, carpentry fixes, dishes, finances, fixing the washing machine or dishwasher, pulling the hair out of the drain, cleaning the magots out of the garbage can, ….or whatever else your partner does to hold the house together. I am certain that the majority of husbands do not just sit on their asses all day doing absolutely nothing. What do we call the work they do that doesn’t get accounted for.
Why can’t we just realize that we all play our part in our family. If we are unhappy about the division of labour or as you call kin keeping activities, then either change your perspective or find another partner. Why do we need to much validation for every. single. task. we perform.
Top: Stop doing half of this stuff. Stop sending all the damn cards. Stop feeling the need to send everybody presents. A phone call, a group holiday email, often is enough. Keep in touch and say “happy birthday” on social media. Create a “family” group on Facebook. Stop making love so hard.
Because you feel that getting the child dressed is a woman’s job?
Don’t forget organizing what the kids will do for the summer if there are two parents working full time. It takes so many hours to plan which camps they will be at which weeks. Also it typically falls on the mothers to find daycare when children are sick or for days off during the school year.
Absolutely agree with this article. My husband, while really good with labor division and parenting, doesn’t even know his parent’s birthdays. All that fell to me. Cards, gifts, planning, weekend family outings, all on me. Not to mention making all appointments, hair cuts, dental, vision, well checks, doctor, and our son has special needs. I did all the reading and researching doctors, finding online support groups, and keeping all our family abreast of what was going on. As far as the outfit on the baby, I would lay out what I wanted him dressed in if it was specific. But yes, there is so much that’s “unwritten responsibility” that no one ever thinks of as responsibility because I make it happen without even talking about it. Because I have to. Because it won’t happen if I don’t do it. We couldn’t afford to send out Christmas cards this past year and I was delighted. Generally I love to send a photo card, but then there’s all the gift planning and wrapping and other holiday chores.
Very femist and one sided article.
Wow-I am loving these guys responses. We all have responsibilities that fall on us and if it becomes overwhelming-just reach out and ask for help of your SO.
Yea that is a surprise, my husband feels that he works outside of the home and pays our bills, so all of these things mentioned in this article, along with all of the household day to day chores, fall solely on my shoulders.
I wonder if letting go of some obligations would help. Here are 2 articles about “Should” statements:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201409/how-distorted-thinking-increases-stress-and-anxiety (see #8)
Kin-Keeping at the workplace would be a fascinating study.
Yes, yes, yes and yes again! I was just thinking about this recently, as I was so angry at my husband because I feel like I have to do EVERYTHING. It’s because of all of these tasks! Love it. Sharing!
Katie, I had no idea there was a word for this! In terms of gender roles, my family is pretty traditional, even though I’d be happy with more of a 50/50 split. These tasks do exhaust me and I seriously worry about what would happen if I weren’t around. My husband would have no idea on how to take care of some many things!!
@triciathegoodmama Wedding gifts should actually be the easiest to buy since most people register for gifts they would like to receive for their wedding!
I just started my parenting journey and while the whole ‘right outfit’ thing is real in my family; the rest not so much. Ever since my wife and I got married I’ve been the one responsible for remembering birthdays and sending birthday cards, planning vacations and many others and I expect that to continue. It seems we divide the work more along the lines of our skills/interests and the ways our minds work. We have a lot in common, but a lot of fundamental differences, too. She’s the creative one; I’m the pragmatic one. She often deals with the clothes, decorations and big picture nature of larger things like vacations. I’m the one that deals with managing money, remembering dates/times, scheduling appointments and for the vacations actually pricing and booking it as well as planning it on a more day-by-day basis.
I think the answer is that the point is that Mom is the one who has to remember it in the first place. Wether that burden comes before or afterwards is immaterial.
But I would say that having dads or kids step up for these tasks will include tolerating some mistakes. Having to remember all these things is bad; so is always having your performance of things like getting your kids dressed subject to review.
I do some of these things with the people whom I want to be connected. That isn’t everybody I’m related to by biology or marriage though. I don’t do obligatory junk unless it is absolutely required for placating people who could make my life difficult. Otherwise, only kin-keep with those you truly want to keep.
If kin-keeping things are exhausting or annoying, take a step back to evaluate what you’re doing and for what reasons.
Only do the things you care about, for those you care about, and let the rest go. As far as getting help from others, remember that individual people have different ideas about what is important and it may not align with your ideas.
This is how my husband and I split household stuff. The person who cares the most about the result, or who is the most capable, is the person who does the task. If no one cares, it doesn’t happen.
For example, I like sending Christmas cards so I do it for both sides of our family. If I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t happen at all because my husband genuinely doesn’t care. That is okay, because I’m happy to do it. If the time comes where I feel like it is a chore rather than a pleasure, I won’t do it either.
The baby outfit scenario wouldn’t have happened at all. Neither I nor my husband would care. With a few unique exceptions, I couldn’t tell you who bought what for my babies. My MIL has a sketchy memory so she would be unlikely to notice one way or the other if it was an outfit she bought.
I too call B.S. In this age of social media, the fine art of letter- and thank-you-note writing is a forgotten relic of a less electronic age. Assuming that anyone feels obligated to do all of this extra work over and above one’s spouse is a huge leap in logic, and honestly this feels very 1960s with its gender role assignments. No need to claim psychic exhaustion for something you do not need to do in the first place.
Wa Wa. You should all be thank full your spouses do the dishes or anything else. I raised four sons basically on my own. All in their 20’s now. My husband and I both worked. Him full time, 40 hours a week. Me part time, usually two or three jobs around the kids. We couldn’t afford and didn’t want to use day care. Then I started my own in home business. My husband did nothing. No laundry, no shopping, no caregiving. No bills, no nothing. Needless to say we divorced. I raised my sons to be partners in their relationships. Do I expect Christmas cards? No, the time spent being a family with the family they make is reward enough for me. My only wish is that and my children are in a well rounded happy marriage with no divorce and children that are being raised by two participating parents. BBQ’s are nice, but seeing my childrens children happy and unstressed is way more important.
I did some shopping for a niece’s birthday today and as fun as it was, it took up a big part of my day. Thank you for recognizing kin-keeping. I do pretty much all of this for my family. I don’t think my husband even realizes all that it entails.
This is crap… Half the stuff is unnecessary burden you place on yourselves… The other half is life, get over it… Women today make so many excuses for what my Grandmother just dealt with… Most women over 60 would agree with me. Women are losing their domesticity – that’s why men have to work full time and then come home and make dinner
As a single mother, with almost no extended family to bother with… my heart bleeds for you. It is a luxury and a privilege to have time for kin-keeping not to mention having kin to keep. Get over yourself and be grateful that your kid has clothes to wear; who cares which mom gave them to her. You need some serious perspective. You have no idea what exhaustion is.
For the most part I stopped keeping track of those things for my husband’s family. He can be held accountable for this stuff too. If someone doesn’t like it frankly I don’t care. Life is too short for all that nonsense. And just because I don’t have a penis doesn’t mean I have to do it all!
These “how tough my life is” articles never cease to amaze me. Try doing all you do AND all the stuff your husband does, and you will have a glimpse into the life of a single mother. Everything falls on our shoulders, yet we do not write these types of articles. Maybe it is because we are too busy taking care of the kids, the house, the bills, and the kin to write an article.
I’ve struggled with this aspect of it (kin-keeping with the inlaws) because I know that, for example, if his mother doesn’t receive a birthday card or a mother’s day card, it’s ME she’ll blame and resent! So, in a way, us women keep each other enslaved to this. Let’s remember this when our sons are all grown (of if yours already are!) … hold THEM responsible when they don’t tend to the relationship.
All of these “chores” are self-imposed. It’s a choice. Learn to delegate and give up some of the control. If someone doesn’t care about sending a thank you card or a Christmas card, they shouldn’t feel guilty for not bending over backwards adhering to some outdated etiquette B.S.
And, like someone mentioned, a lot of the reason men don’t pitch in for these chores is because they either haven’t been asked to, or when they have tried to help, the woman has been too micro-manage-y. I’m willing to bet that most husbands would like to help, but just want their wives to tell them what or how.
I’m pretty happy with our division of labor. While I do all the gifts at Christmas (which can be exhausting), he does all the decorating (getting the tree, lights on the house, etc). I keep track of birthday presents and doctors appointments, but he takes my car in for oil changes and takes the kids out for hikes. Kin-keeping (love that there’s a name for it!) is hard word for sure … but it’s not resented if one’s partner carries other loads well. Having said that, I’d love to stop having to “kin-keep” with the in-laws. That does feel very burdensome and less out of my control HOW because it’s not my family culture, so I end up having to engage in rituals and tasks that I don’t understand or like (and resent).
[…] post was called The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained. In the piece, McLaughlin argued that jobs such as sending birthday cards, thank you cards and […]
A very thought provoking post. I can’t say I agree with every detail, but I think there is some truth in it. In fact I wrote this post on my own blog in response: http://dadbloguk.com/kin-keeping/
[…] other great thing? I don’t have to do anything. As the kin-keepers of the family, it often falls to moms to do all of the little things that build traditions and […]
I generally enjoy doing this admin type kin-keeping. If/when it becomes unenjoyable, I’ll scale back or stop. I love making people’s day, so the acknowledgment is icing on the cake. But if it became an expectation or obligation for me to do it all, that’s a problem.
Here’s a solution: each parent takes care of his/her side of the family. As for the medical appointments and other, anybody can get used to being on top of things. Share the load.
File this one under “first-world problems.”
Genealogy record-keeping, that giant oak with millions of roots, each with a name, dates, relatives, geographic locations….exhausting to keep track of yet endlessly fascinating. Kin-keeping of one form. I LOVE this article! Thank-you for validating me and every other woman I know!
[…] saw this article and had to share. It’s makes so much sense and explains a lot of my daily to-do’s […]
[…] the subject of families this article was an interesting one about how women mainly pick up the legwork around keeping the family ties […]
[…] you heard of kin-keeping? I hadn’t, but this post on the invisible burden that leaves Mum’s drained had me nodding the whole way through. It’s a mummy must […]
Exactly!! My husband says, “Don’t get upset when you want me to take over a task to take the stress off you, then stress because I’m not doing it like you!” Spot on, brother!!
Wow, as an expecting father for the 4th time, i signed up to hopefully stay current and learn new parenting skills in an arena that is altruistically gender neutral. This article paints a picture that is offensive and gender biased. The martyred mom who holds everything together and the bordering on enept dolt of a husband father rhetoric.
Its stale, cliche, stereotypical, and gender bigoted. Reverse sexism. Although it is true that most of the kin keeping is executed by women, many other facets are executed by fathers and are also crucial to family life. Relegating men to dishwasher and trashmen is demeaning and unfair.Besides if grandma doesn’t see timmy in her gifted polo shirt and jeans the world wont end. You try not taking out the trash for a few weeks. See how that works out.
I help with homework, cook, clean, shop, instruct and take out the trash. I walk the dog, feed him, pick up kids from school, choose outfits for kids to wear and organize family night and other outings. Many men i know do as well. That is when they arent picking their nose aimlessly.
[…] been thinking a lot the last couple of months about this concept of “kin keeping“– the stuff that we do as caregivers that’s impossible to quantify and monetize. […]
Sheesh. When I read things like this, it makes me really, really, REALLY thankful for my husband. We both work full time, he outside the home, me at home with my own business, but I’m home more so I can takes breaks when I need to, to clean, cook dinner… and it also allows me the flexibility to take the kids to and from school, help out with homework, etc. On the weekends when he is home, he takes care of yard work, does his own laundry, does things around the house that I wasn’t able to complete during the week. We both help each other out. If something needs to get done we do it together. I can see he appreciates when I clean the bathroom, and he tells me – and I appreciate when he cleans the kitchen and I make sure to tell him.
About 8 months ago I was very sick and unable to do a lot of things. He took 2 weeks off of work to take care of me. He took me to doctor’s appointments (2+ per day), took care of the house, the kids – everything. Now, we have had some rocky times during our marriage (10 years this July) but let me tell you – going through this only solidified more my desire to be with him for the rest of my life – seeing how he reacted during this situation. I didn’t do one load of laundry for 6+ months. He handled the cleaning, the kids, some of the cooking (we ordered out a lot! And had food delivered to take some of the burden off him). Maybe when you go through things like this you appreciate each other more? I don’t know.
So what if he put the ‘wrong’ outfit on the baby? Who says it’s wrong? That’s an opinion. I wonder if we were kinder to each other and let some things go that don’t really matter in the long run, how many more marriages would last longer than a few years. Sometimes it’s better to let things go and live in peace, than to live in chaos and fighting and nitpicking.
I’m a carer for my adult disabled daughter (24/7), as well as mum to my girls 26, 24, 21, 11 with a 3 yo granddaughter. My in laws are 91 and 78, with serious health issues, living close by. My own family live 100’s of miles away and have a history of making mountians out of molehills. So I have let things slide with my family. My sisters (both younger) contact me occasionaly, my brother’s wife (whom I never met) keeps up to date on the surface stuff, on Facebook. My TWO mothers & step-father have both independantly decided that I am better off with the other one and therefore left me too it. They have never even met each other, nor asked me. Resulting in neither of them speaking to me in YEARS. I have found kin keeping upwards in my family as well as down the generations too difficult, so now have no relationship with any parents on my side.
What bothers me about articles like this is it constantly makes the assumption that like most family sitcoms, the woman is the warrior queen who has all the answers and solves the problem, and the Dads are all dopey side stories there to lift heavy things, sports, and to set mom up for another win.
I work at home, so I raised our daughters until kindergarten. I do creative work, so I always did the holiday cards, yet, in 13 years we’ve never actually sent one out, because we’ve always been those people that didn’t like having our refrigerator taken over by other peoples pictures. I shop with the girls all the time and love it. And my girls dress themselves now and the idea of putting them in an outfit they don’t want for someone elses enjoyment seems mildly self serving. Take a picture of the kid in the outfit and Email it, or put it in a frame. Then file it under “done”.
Now my wife, is an attending physician, she works way more then she would like to, but we’re a team. That’s what most relationships should be. Teamwork. Not everyone does the same tasks well, and that is what you learn while you’re dating, or getting to know each other.
So why are there so many articles about women with lazy, inattentive, unappreciative, non engaging, forgetful, selfish partners? I mean sure you are always learning new things but it gets super hard to figure out if women want equality, superiority, or just want to be know as the stronger sex. I get it. My wife is a warrior. I adore her. She is an amazing mother, wife, friend, and doctor.
I sent her this article, and her response to me was “This article doesn’t really apply to us. If anything you do more than half of this which is all the more reason to appreciate you. Love you.”
Maybe a solution is stop making the men in your life feel inadequate for not doing the things you expect them to do, especially if they don’t know about it, or would just make it more work for you, and then decide if that is even worth it.
I’m Jewish, my wife is Peurto Rican, you know who gets more excited about Christmas in our house? ME. I live for Target’s Cristmasland. I can’t wait to buy the tree. I make pics in Photoshop of Santa sneaking presents under our tree. Our kids have figured the Santa thing out now so that may be a thing of the past. But here’s the thing, I L O V E doing that stuff. I do 90% of the shopping for our kids. Sometimes my wife doesn’t know what’s in some of the gifts until they open them. And that’s OK, she hates shopping (except online). Find the things your partner likes to do, and is good at doing. Not every person is awesome at communication, it takes work, so work at it.
Think of it from from their perspective. How would you feel if you read an article by someones husband pointing out faults of their wife and failed expectations and the stress it causes wrapped in a hip term? Gender norms and roles are so last generation. If you want to be the stay at home mom, awesome. If your husband is the stay at home dad, great. Work together, and work to understand each other. And then work to let the other stuff go.
[…] of her husband’s extended family, for instance, but many wives have taken on this task. This invisible burden even has a name–“kin keeping”–and it’s one of the reasons some women […]
I read this with utter bewilderment. There are endless articles like this on how much all us men lean on women and none that counter, mainly because men just don’t care enough to bring these things up.
What do we call all the little (well actually back-breaking) things that are just expected of men? Mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, disposing of pests, fixing anything that’s broken (because being a man makes you a tradie apparently), washing the cars, carrying anything that weighs over 5kg up the stairs, etc, etc. Chores I guess.
So if I remember my mother in-laws birthday and send her a card you”ll take out the trash 3-5 times a week and put it on the curb? Awesome, where do I sign?! Google and Facebook will do 99% of all that while I sleep.
This is one of those things where I think we just have to accept how things are. I’ll think you find that women tend to do this because they’re evolved to care about these sorts of things. Men aren’t, we’re more concerned about tribalism, gathering, etc. Ultimately, if you don’t like doing it then don’t, your partner isn’t going to care. If he does tell him to start doing it. Problem solved.
Another guy’s perspective: the things on this list I care about, I do. The ones I don’t care about AND my wife does care about, she does. For example: planning family vacations — that’s me. Planning birthday celebrations for our son — her. But there’s more to each of these. The family vacation will be paid for using my cards, I’ll eventually hit the “buy” button. So I do the leg work, we discuss, I buy. On the birthday: I don’t know all the parents and kids who are in our son’s class (ie, the ones who will come to his bday party). I don’t have their emails or phone numbers, she does. So she handles that.
In terms of xmas and bday cards: I don’t care, never have, never will. I pick up a phone or send an email…..or do nothing. If she wants to do these things, she can. If it’s important to her AND she needs help on these things, then I’m happy to help out….but she’ll need to balance that against other priorities I have (I do the household bills, including insurance, mortgage, etc…) Thankfully, she has a very limited interest in such things.
We don’t send thank you cards, we each choose the presents we want to get for others, we each keep in touch with out-of-town and in-town relatives separately (ie, she reaches out to my sister, sometimes they make plans — other times I make the plans).
I assume that in families where the woman stays at home to raise the kids during the day, and these sorts of things matter more, these responsibilities will fall disproportionately to her — as most likely do the lion’s share of household tasks. So, I clearly can see this happening.
But this is not a straightforward situation, especially since a lot of these “kin keeping” activities are simply absent from relationships altogether.
As a dad who handles this kind of stuff, I agree it can be draining, and I disagree that is only a mom thing.
For my own mental health I’ve gotten better at choosing my battles and also handing battles off to my wife. She’s not very accustomed to managing those things but I’m trying to hold her to a higher standard than I used to.
[…] Solche Fragen entlarven weiterhin ungleiche Aufgabenverteilungen – auch im Bereich ‘emotionaler Arbeiten’, die die Qualität zwischenmenschlicher Beziehungen steigern. Also z.B. sich an Geburtstage erinnern und rechtzeitig Karten schreiben, Verwandte regelmäßig anrufen, den verlangten Kuchen für die Hochzeit mitbringen, etc. Katie Mc Laughlin hat ebenfalls beobachtet, dass in vielen Paaren heute zwar tatsächlich viele Aufgaben auf den ersten Blick glich verteilt scheinen, aber eben nur auf den ersten Blick – diese Tätigkeiten scheinen unsichtbar. Entsprechend nennt sie diese Dinge “The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained“. […]
What I read here was mainly that there were a lack of healthlying boundaries being set up. This is from a full time single dad.
YES! Somehow it is a relief putting a name to this. I could relate to everything in this post. I don’t know if this qualifies as “kin keeping”, but I have realized how much time I put into taking, organizing, and sharing photos and videos to keep faraway family up to date on our daughter and to preserve memories to look back on.
That absolutely qualifies as kin keeping! And I agree that it takes a lot of time and effort. I’m glad you’ve found some solace in having a name for these sorts of responsibilities.
[…] from the Harvard Business Review about the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership, and THIS is amazing “The Invisible Burden that Leaves Moms Drained” … This really resonated and I’m totally inspired to read more from the researchers […]
[…] I read Katie McLaughlin’s essay, “The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained,” I hadn’t given much thought to kin keeping. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what kin […]
[…] Read more about Keeping Kin and Emotional Labour here. […]
[…] This is often invisible work, but it deserves to be a separate line-item in the imaginary time budget of our lives, but because it tends to morph itself into the general busy-ness of family life (pack the swimming bag, unload the dishwasher, soak the collars) even those of us who facilitate the lion’s share of the kin-keeping underestimate the demand it places on our resources: time, energy, funds. […]
You know, part of it is still a generational thing. My MIL is very traditional and was an actual 50s wife. Although she had her occasional job to help when needed, she ran the household. My FIL brought home the money. She was in charge of everything family and child related. She said that was her contribution to the household and was fine with it.
That said, she has seen over the years how her son’s have had that expectation of their wives. Each of us have career goals, have had higher education, and work hard outside of the home.
She and her husband admonish my husband for leaving everything on my shoulders. It has taken quite a while, but I realized that I could do things my way and be beyond stressed, or let others help and be okay if it is not done to my standards or with my methods. I have been pleasantly surprised how not everything needs my hand.
This world and the roles of partnership have and are continuing to change. We need to as a society get with the program. If expectations are changing, then roles need to change as well. And we need to train our young ones how to fill those roles. Boys play with dolls? If you want them to help out their wife, then heck yes. Girls change a tire or fix a leaky faucet? Training is required.
We live in a society where they want to have their cake and eat it too. Men should help with kids, cook, organize social calendars, but no no do NOT give your son play food or a doll to play with. Give a girl a toy hammer? Parish the thought!
[…] article on Kin Keeping that theoscarcat was talking about (the article talks about Mum’s but as the comments point […]
[…] The Invisible Burden that Leaves Moms Drained […]
[…] is everything that goes into keeping a home, getting people fed, health/medical maintenance, and kin-keeping. Those things are like, the plate the cake sits on, and it’s there whether you eat the damn […]
What I started doing is asking my husband ones in two months to come up with a family activity for a weekend. I have to put it on our mutual iCal and set up several reminders. It took me a while to settle with the idea that he would never plan things the way I do, but I let this thought go and am just enjoying the ride without my 2c into every single step he makes in planning and executing his plans. I got to know my husband from a whole new perspective.
[…] do check out this fantastic post from Katie at Pick Any Two which has some really useful thoughts on how we can all stop feeling less […]
As far as “kin keeping”, for the most part I do this stuff for my own family and my husband can choose to do it for his own family. If he doesn’t, that’s between him and his family. I refuse to put that burden on myself. I used to try to plan things and keep track of all of this but they are not planners and I was at my absolute wits end trying to beg, cajole, force, pester them to do anything family related. They are ALL last minute people and I absolutely loathe last minute when it comes to things like vacation, Thanksgiving, or Christmas or even birthdays. So I don’t plan anything and if they wait too late to plan it and we have already made plans we don’t attend their event. We don’t send cards to anyone. No man or woman should be responsible for making sure their spouse does things with the spouses family. If the spouse wants to kin keep they need to do that themselves.
[…] probably (statistically) also the primary care giver, the primary household manager, the primary kin keeper, the school volunteer, the taxi service, the carer of aging […]
A few years into my marriage my mother-in-law called my husband and i over to have a chat and proceeded to tell us how disappointed she was with her Mother’s day. We had taken her out for dinner a few days after Mother’s Day (something my husband had planned and arranged). My own mother lived out of town and I took care of organizing something for her. It seemed only natural to me that my mother in law was my husbands responsibility. It was then that I realized that was not the case (why else would I have been called over too). i have hated Mother’s day ever since. Forget celebrating me as a Mother, it is all about the grandmas! Generally speaking, life is so much more stressful and busy for a working woman with kids than a man. I do housework every night till bed time just so I can have “weekends off”,which means arrange a planned outing for the family because I want them to have wonderful childhood memories like i do.
[…] as author and women’s studies instructor Katie McLaughlin pointed out, providing a label also legitimizes the often incredible amount of work associated with “kin […]
I found this post as the result of a google search of “emotionally exhausted mothers.” As a first time, work from home, mom of the most precious 10 month old that i love with every fiber of my being, I constantly feel like i am losing my mind and am having trouble communicating to my husband WHY i feel this way. “Kin-keeping” is exactly the term i have been trying to pin point. We had an extremely busy weekend attending a birthday party for a 3 year old, dinner with friends (who dont have kids), church, and a sunday school event. I wake up today to an email for another birthday party and realize my father-in-law’s birthday is TOMORROW. My husband has no suggestions. THIS. IS. WHY. I’M. TIRED. Thank you, so, so much for putting this completely mentally exhausting, never ending, insomnia-inducing task into words.
It is as much his responsibility as it is mine. I only take care of the relationships with my side of the family. He is responsible about his side. In the beginning, I was better at it so he liked it and started “imitating” it. Works well.