22 Feb Invisible Labour
Domestic labour is hard work. It’s undervalued, it’s unpaid, and it’s absolutely essential to the proper functioning of our society. It’s becoming more difficult, too. Most families have dual career parents, with both partners working 8+ hour days, commuting back and forth. Daycares take on some of the burden, watching young children while their parents are away, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. The house needs to be cleaned, groceries need to be bought, supper needs to be cooked, and that’s just for the couple. Raising a child is on a whole other level, from the amount of time you have to commit to helping with homework, to planning extracurricular activities, to helping the kids cope with emotional troubles; the work that goes into parenting is far too extensive to list here.
There is, then, at least two shifts a day: one dedicated to career work, the other dedicated to domestic work, the activities that must be completed to live in a happy household. There’s also a hidden third shift every day; the organizational shift, where the weeks and months ahead are meticulously planned out. From parent-teacher conferences to school trips, doing the taxes to going to the doctor, appointments need to be made, time needs to be put aside, and planning needs to be done. This work in particular is undervalued, because it is, in a sense, invisible. Unlike cleaning the house or cooking supper, there is little tangible evidence of a schedule well-made; that is, until the work isn’t done, and the household begins to fall apart.
Long-term readers of the blog won’t be surprised to learn that domestic labour falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women in dual earner households. This holds true for scheduling, too; women take on a far greater share of the mental load of the household. The statistics are, frankly, unnerving; women do, on average, more than 3 times as much household, with this statistic holding true even if the woman is the top-earner in the household, or is a top executive. To the women who feel they are overburdened, I urge you to remember that invisible work is work too; if you’re the one doing the vast majority of the scheduling, it’s completely within reason to ask your partner to take on some of the burden with you.
One of the main problems with domestic labour is how undervalued it is, in part because many folks don’t fully understand the amount of effort and time it takes to run a household. Consider, for a moment, how valuable the work is. Without proper education, nutrition and emotional support, without a tidy, stable household, without domestic labour, we end up with humans with stunted growth. When members of an organization are so exhausted from domestic labour they can’t focus at work, they are less productive. Companies seeking success should endeavour to provide support for dual income households. To inspire change, a woman in business speaker can address these issues, which disproportionately affect women.