There is never enough time. Never enough. There are dishes, and laundry, and school picture day, and the birthday party of the week, and soccer games, and gymnastics, and the never-ending list of other things that must be done. Must be organized. Must have been done yesterday. (Surprise!) The challenge is that this is usually the job of one specific person in a family. And that specific person is usually mom.
There’s been a lot of discussions lately about the emotional labor involved in running a family. And frankly, it’s about time. It’s a job this has been underappreciated and undervalued in every sense of the word. It’s taken for granted. It’s expected. Mom will remember the endless list of all the things. Special dress days at school. Who needs new shoes. Who outgrew last season’s swimsuit. When prescriptions need to be refilled. Who might actually die if peas end up on their dinner plate? The list is infinite. And it is so. stinking. exhausting.
And just to clarify, many of us are fortunate to have fully involved, fully invested partners and co-parents. This is certainly no dig at them! This is a simple truth that in families there is a default person who knows and balances all of the daily “things!” And it often goes unnoticed. But if you’re the keeper of the things in your house, you need help! We all do.
Full disclosure: I am married to an excellent father. He’s a champion fort builder and wrestler extraordinaire. He reads books and he gets our guys ready for school every morning. He wholly encourages our little guys to experience the full range of human emotions, always offering hugs and snuggles when there’s been a hard day, or you know when our favorite show has been removed from Netflix. (2019 kids, amirite?!) Despite his excellence at the daddy role, if his literal life depended on it, he could not tell you their shoe sizes, or which one has what dress up day when, or who needs new pants (because highwater pants are not a trend that is coming back!). This is 100% not because our kids aren’t important to him. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s because in our family, as in many others, we all know that *I* do know, and I’ll just take care of it. Without being asked. Without being reminded. Because that’s what family managers and emotional laborers do.
The problem with that is that is doesn’t do anyone any favors. I’m often exhausted (and frustrated!) at having to remember all the things. There’s just no way one person can do it. But to change it, to improve it, we have to recognize it first. And talk about it. And to practice making changes. The good news is that when we do this, we model for our kids that everyone in the family should share in these responsibilities. And it serves as a reminder of just how important this work is, and helps us to appreciate all of those unseen, very necessary tasks that make a family run.
So if you’re a family manager, here’s your charge: make a plan to hand off some of those “rememberings.” Who can be responsible for school obligations? Sports schedules? Social calendars? What part can the kids play?
And if you’re the partner of a family manager, give them a big thank you – flowers, candy, a massage, a night out, whatever is their cup of tea. And most importantly give them your commitment on how you’ll help.