Who remembers the kids’ dentist appointments, buys grandma a gift for her birthday, makes food for the class bake sale, and reminds everyone when soccer practice is? These are some of the invisible tasks moms handle everyday and the stress of the added emotional labor is killing us.

Women from all walks of life find the inequality of emotional labor in their relationships frustrating.


“He’s a good guy. He shares in the childcare, but it’s still me who does the scheduling, planning and logistics to make everything work. And if I call him out he says ‘just tell me and i’ll help’, but then he never does and it falls back on my shoulders.” – Kayla C.


Sound familiar?

Even modern dads that chip in and help out with housework and childcare don’t always recognize the amount of behind-the-scenes work a mom does to keep everything on track.

And during the holiday season, this work ramps up even more. Moms are the ones baking Christmas cookies, sending out holiday cards, and putting up the decorations.

Gemma Hartley wrote a viral essay for HuffPost detailing this phenomenon. The post is aptly titled; Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And It’s Killing Us.

You don’t even have to read the essay to get what it’s about.

Which brings us to the real question; now that we’re aware of the problem, what do we do about it?

Read on to learn more about how emotional labor can affect your life and relationships, and how you can unload some of the burden.


What Is Emotional Labor?

Emotional labor is the invisible, unpaid tasks that moms take on to ensure their household runs smoothly.

Women are almost solely responsible for tasks such as:

  • Planning and organizing family celebrations
  • Keeping in touch with relatives
  • Seasonal activities like decorating, sending holiday cards, planning Thanksgiving dinner, etc.
  • Remembering family events and activities like birthdays, back-to-school night, dance recitals, and baseball practice.
  • Planning and managing the kids doctor and other appointments.
  • Planning family vacations.

That’s just to name a few.

In women’s studies they call these tasks “kin keeping” and while some of them might seem small, they’re very important.

These tasks are the “glue” that holds families together.

Imagine what your childhood would have looked like without a Christmas tree, or summer road trips, or easter egg hunts.

But keeping all this stuff going in ADDITION to doing housework, having a job, and raising kids can literally suck the life out of you.

To make matters worse, you probably aren’t getting any kudos or recognition for completing these tasks because your family doesn’t even realize they’re being done!

Related: You’re Killing Me Christmas! Holiday Stress Relief For Moms


emotional labor
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Getting Some Help:

You want help. You need help! But women are often taught not to “nag”, which is code for “don’t keep asking for what you need”.

Is it any wonder that we’re so tired? Or that all this bottled up frustration eventually spills over and we find ourselves losing our sh*t?

No, you’re not “crazy”. That’s the toll unacknowledged emotional labor at home can take over time.

It leaves you physically and mentally drained, and it can place a terrible strain on your relationship with your partner.  

Pent up frustration leads to resentment, which can lead to bitterness.

In other words, if the inequality of emotional labor is not properly addressed, it can be a relationship killer.

So what do we do? How do we reclaim our time and our sanity when these tasks still need to get done?

The first step is to make sure these invisible tasks no longer go unnoticed. And that means, you need to have “the talk” with your partner.


Approaching The Topic:

When talking about emotional labor, one of the things that really makes a mom’s blood boil is when their partner says something like “you should have just asked for help”.

We’ve got news for you guys. Having to ask every time something needs to be done, giving detailed instructions, and then reminding when it isn’t done timely is just MORE emotional labor.

I think we speak for many women when we say part of what we want is a partner who takes initiative to get things done… without having to be asked all the time!

You don’t want to be a micromanager. You want an equal partner, with equal initiative.

Broaching the subject can be tricky though.

We’ve found that some men still respond to criticism in a very old-school way. Meaning they take it as a personal attack on their character.

Instead of hearing “I want you to be an equal partner” they hear “you’re a bad person for not doing this”.  So proceed with caution.

Let your partner know it’s “not a problem with you, it’s a problem with how the household is being managed. We need to find a better way to approach it together”.

Then come up with some ideas of things your partner can take off your plate going forward. Or maybe some things you can just take off the plate all together!

At the very least, you can mention all the little things you’re doing and bring them into the light.

You can also let your partner know that some of the frustration you’re feeling is due to the fact that you get no recognition for doing these tasks. Nobody likes being taken for granted.

Even if your partner can’t step up and do all these tasks, they can at least acknowledge the time and effort you spend doing them!

In addition to having the “talk”, here’s a few more tips for reducing your overall emotional labor load.


6 Tips For Reducing Emotional Labor:


1. Delegate:

Assign certain tasks to your partner or kids to handle on an ongoing basis.


2. Use A Shared Calendar:

Establish a shared family Google calendar that both partners check and update daily.

It can be helpful for your partner to see a visual representation of all the tasks that need to get done. Plus, they’ll be less need to remind them.


3. Outsource:

Take some of the tasks you do and hire someone to do them for you.

Have a housecleaner come once a month to do the bathrooms, hire a taskrabbit to come organize your closet or repair stuff around the house.

Take whatever tasks you can off your plate so you won’t worry about them. This frees up your mind and reduces emotional exhaustion.


4. Question Your Inner Critic:

Next time your inner voice says something “isn’t good enough” consider that the voice may be wrong.

Perfectionism just adds to our overall emotional labor load. Let go a little and be okay with things being just “good enough”.


5. Don’t Micromanage:

Once you assign a task to your partner or kids, resist the urge to step in and say “you’re doing it wrong”.

Maybe they’re not doing it how YOU would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  

There’s more than one way to get stuff done. Let your family figure out their way.


6. Social Media Detox:

Social media can make it seem like other people have it together way more than you do.

Which, in turn, can make you question yourself and start adding more items to your never ending to-do list. Stop!

What you see on social media isn’t an accurate reflection of reality. Remember to take it with a grain of salt.

And if the insta-worthy mommy pics start making you anxious, just ignore them all together.


The big takeaway from all of this is to not let emotional labor remain an invisible burden that damages your well being.

Talk to your partner! Bring these unnoticed tasks into the light and make a plan to deal with them together.

Even if that plan involves hiring help or removing some items from your to-do list altogether…so be it!

Your mental health and the health of your relationship are at stake.

No mom should carry the burden of a family’s emotional labor alone.


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