Saturday, October 29, 2011


It seems like guilt is the name of this game called motherhood. Read this article and you'll see some statistics to support this claim.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Are all of you obsessed with Pinterest yet? I definitely am. It's changed my life. Facebook can't hold a candle to pinterest, in my opinion.

I was pinning along, and stumbled across this website, which offers tips to help moms take photos of themselves with their kids. Some of them are great tips. Some of them go beyond my very, very amateur photography knowledge. But either way, the tips are based on the idea that women don't like having their picture taken. True? Probably, yes. The author recommends putting on makeup and picking up the house to overcome self-consciousness. But that's only half the problem, as I've mentioned previously. The other half is that many dads are not taking part in capturing and documenting family memories. Many of them don't pick up the flippin camera.

She suggests using a tripod, pre-focusing, and using a remote control to take the shots.

Is this empowering or degrading?

If you're doing this, snaps to you for managing to get in some photos. I know how hard it is! But am I missing something? The photos accompanying the post are only of children with their mothers. Not the whole family. It doesn't take a self-timer, peeps. If you're married or partnered, tell your significant other to PICK UP THE CAMERA. Because it's just a little sad for me to envision you setting the tripod and aperture (whatever that is?) in order to get a photo of yourself when you take so many photos of your partner with your children. In fact, it's painful.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

And We Have Initiation!

OMG. It happened. The kiddo did something funny last night (said "sweet" after being proud of peeing on the potty) and the hubs looked at me and said, "I HAVE to write that one down."

I'm so excited! To play off of Neil Armstrong's famous post-walking-on-the-moon quote, this is one small step for men, one giant leap for humankind. It's also one small step for my hubby, one giant leap for our family. I'm so thankful to not be doing all the family documentation alone. I have to admit, I had to remind him to write the memory down, but he gladly asked, "where's the memory card system?"

He's such a good daddy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dust in the Wind

Yesterday, we were on our way back home from a day at my husband's parents' house. We were doing our typical debrief session (do you do that on your way home, too?) and I told my hubby that I observed how his mom is always looking for something to do in order to maintain their home. She rarely sits down to watch television or surf the net. Here what our debrief looked sounded like:

A: Your mom mentioned that she vacuumed and dusted before she came to our house on Tuesday, just because she had a few extra minutes. I wish we were more like that.

B: Yeah, me too.

A: She's so lucky she didn't grow up in the internet generation. She doesn't know all the things she's missing online.

B: That's true [laughter]. I wish we did more of that kind of cleaning on a regular basis, too. We never dust and we rarely vacuum. I've never dusted since moving in to our house.

A: I dust all the time.

B: Oh, you do?

A: Yes.

B: I was wondering why it wasn't more dusty. Thanks for doing that!

We both laughed. At least he's grateful, right?

Friday, September 9, 2011

That's Not a Scrapbook...

We hosted breakfast for some friends the other day, one of them is a freelance writer. She also took this photo of me and my cutie. Since I have few photos of the two of us, I'm trying not to focus on the fact that it may or may not appear that I have a double chin. I don't care, of course, because she captured one of my little dude's sweetest expressions. Pure joy.

We were discussing the topics about which we write. I told the group about the scrapbook Brent and I are making together. He looked at me as if to say, "we are?" But the words he actually uttered, cluelessly, were, "For Thomas?"

Later that day, I said "Why did you act like you didn't know what I was talking about when I said we're making a scrapbook together?" He still didn't know what I was talking about. When I said, "we've been writing down memories and finding photos, remember?" He said, "Oh, that? Oh, I wouldn't call that a scrapbook." I asked, "what would you call it then?" He replied, "it's a memory card system."

Leave it to my hubby to make it sound technological.


More updates soon on how we're ROCKING our memory card system. Ha!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Power of Motherhood

A friend of mine from high school's mom was famous for her cookies. A Julia Child devotee, she had perfected her cookie baking method timed down not to the minutes they should be baked, but to the seconds. Not surprisingly, their home was a major hub because her kids were super cool and because she made delicious cookies every time people gathered. Can any CHS grads guess this family? The truth is, kids are attracted to hang out in a home that is welcoming, accommodating, and has cool stuff.

This mother made her home a place of comfort and enjoyment for her children and their friends. I'd say my mom successfully did this, too. And I think I've succeeded in doing this for my friends when they are over. It feels good. And once people start praising you for the food you've made, it feels even better.

The role of family nurturer allows women a source of power in their lives. What would our roles and lives look like if all that power was relinquished? The family/home is the one place in which society bestows mothers with a substantial amount of dominance over men. We turn to moms to learn how to to get a stain out of the carpet, how to decorate and organize a home, and how to hold and burp a baby. Remember the lack of leisure time discussed in an earlier post? Including men in more kin work would allow women to indulge in a few more margaritas and pedicures. But would it allow them to still feel powerful in their roles in their relationships, families, and society at large? What is this power worth?

Developmental psychologist, Diane Ehrensaft, advocates for “shared parenting” which involves both parents serving the purpose of what most people think of when they hear the word “mommy,” in terms of comfort and support. According to Ehrensaft, releasing this power in shared parenting can be difficult for mothers. Although doing so would provide mothers with some freedom and then men can enjoy a new connection with their child, it is easier said than done.

If your kids' daddy fulfilled many kin work roles, what would that do to your place in the family? What if he planned your kids' birthday parties? Came up with a theme, created, stuffed, addressed, and sent the invitations, bought and wrapped the presents, made or acquired the cake and food, decorated, wrote all thank you notes (or successfully made the kid do so) with you only having a peripheral role?

I predict two scenarios could ensue:

1. You could LOVE the fact that you had a very small role (like most husbands probably do. Wait. They're too oblivious to know to appreciate it).


2. You could resent the fact that it wasn't done your way. The decorations weren't quite right. The invitations weren't pretty and elaborate enough. The thank you notes didn't sound sincere. You get the gist.

That's because kin work is absolutely, 100%, without a doubt attached to our identities as women and/or mothers. I do feel, however, that the resentment would eventually decrease if all families operated with more male involvement in kin work.

When practicing shared parenting, mothers are then introduced to guilt for not acting as a “real” or potentially “bad” mother. If, for instance, you thought you'd love to have your husband plan and execute the entire birthday party in the scenario above, you might be perceived as an unmotherly mother. Would you mind?

What do you all think? Are you willing to give up some power in order to gain leisure time?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Late Birthday Cards

Welcome ICLWers! I'm thrilled to have you perusing my blog. If you have any questions, please let me know. Also, a good place to start is with this post, which answers some questions about me and why I write this blog. Another important post defines kin work, which is the topic frequently revisited. My hubby and I are also challenging ourselves to a kin work project, in which we'll attempt to do as much kin work together as possible. Follow me and comment away!

Two of my brothers have birthdays in the first week of July. Like a good sister, did I send them each a card? Yes.

Were they on time?



I sent them on Saturday. I told one brother on the phone, "Hey, I'm embarrassed to say that you'll be getting your birthday card in the mail this week." He laughs and says, "I haven't thought about my birthday in a long time." Almost two months, to be precise. WHY can't I get it together? There's always something that gets in my way of conducting kin work in the way most women are able. Like....

1. No stamps. And I hate going to the post office. HATE. I was excited to move adjacent to a university because the post office is right next door. This helps me out quite a bit, actually. I'm rarely out of stamps for more than a few days now. Plus, when I do make it over to the post office, I hoard stamps like a chipmunk preparing for winter.

2. No cards. Sometimes I make my own cards. Sometimes I buy cards but then forget where they are. Sometimes I can't decide whether I should buy or make a card for that particular occasion or for that particular person. Or sometimes, I've had to write so many thank you cards to one person that I'm actually repeating the card. You shouldn't repeat cards, right? Those packs of 12 can be bad. Especially when you have some mighty generous folks in your life.

3. Decluttering. In this case, I was tidying before a 4th of July gathering and put the cards in a drawer. They were already stamped and everything! Of course, no one would probably believe me, would they? I swear they were. Note to self: Reclutter after parties. Recluttering sounds fun.

4. Procrastinating. I think I'll do it tomorrow. I think then I'll be more inspired to write a perfect message. Tomorrow turns into next week, which turns into next month, which turns into the month after that.

Bad, bad kin worker. Guilty as charged.

I didn't tell my other brother that his card was on the way. But I did receive a text that said, "Thanks for the great bday card!" I wrote back saying, "Sorry it's so late. Love you!"

He loves me, too, despite my poor kin work skills. I think they've all lowered their expectations of me. Appropriately.

And the hubs still has no clue that a) it was my brothers' birthdays, b) we were going to send cards, and c) the cards were almost two months late.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pick up the Camera, Point, Shoot!

The above photo is one of my favorite pictures. It was taken with an iPhone camera on Halloween last year. He was 9 months old then.

I was paging through my camera the other day, noticing a few things.

1. We haven't taken very many pictures this summer. Bad parents!

2. The pictures we DO have are not of me. None. There's not a single photo of me on our camera from this summer. And I was with him every. single. day.

3. There are lots of cute pictures of Thomas and my hubby.

These realizations made me so very sad. Allow me to elaborate.

1. I just found an amazing blogger who posts adorable photos of her family. They're capturing the every day moments that are so fleeting. The ones we'll wish back in years to come. But we won't remember to wish them back because we'll have no record of them! I love my life right now. I love my little dude right now. I don't want to forget anything. So we must take more photos!

2. Okay, so it's not like I want to have my picture taken. Know what I mean? I don't want to flip through photo after photo of me on the camera or in a photo book. But I know how much I cherish the photos of me and my parents from growing up. Me with my mom. Me with my dad. Me with my brothers. All of us together. I love all of them. As of right now, there are probably 10 to 1 photos of my hubby with our kiddo to me with our kiddo.

3. For some reason, I'm always the photographer. My husband did an enormous amount of research on the camera we bought to document our kiddo's life. He loves David Pogue. And David Pogue recommended our camera. However, my hubby has never once initiated taking a photo. EVER. He's embarrassed to do it. This pre-dates having a kid. When we were on vacation in Italy, he was embarrassed when I'd take pictures of the food we were enjoying. Now, however, he is so thankful that we have those photos.

Why is it that women can see the future? I somehow knew we'd appreciate the photos, even though I looked like a tourist when taking them (Hey, we WERE tourists. Who cares?!). I somehow know we'll regret not taking more photos of our daily life.

But why do I feel weird asking him to take a photo of me and Thomas? It just feels wrong. Is that weird? I've captured so many adorable, precious moments between the two of them because I take the initiative to pick up the camera and shoot! It ruins the moment to say, "pick up the camera, Hunny! We're doing something really cute right now, don't you think???" Then I might as well say, "Can you get me from the other angle? It's my good side." It just feels wrong to ask someone to take a candid picture of you.

Before you start thinking my hubby is a jerk (he's not!), in case you didn't know, this is actually quite common. But that doesn't make it right. I have talked to many moms who say that they are always the photographers in their families. Several moms admitted that at their kids' professional photo shoots, they have to ask the photographer if they can jump in a photo at the end of the session, because those would be the only pictures they have with their kids at that age. I'm not alone. But again, that doesn't make it right.

Hunny, are you reading?! Pick up the camera!

Other moms, have you noticed this problem? Some dads get really into photography, which is awesome. I'm just looking for a little more balance.

More About Me

My friend, Laura Beth, pointed me to this article. I'll never look like June Cleaver, but I definitely do many of the traditionally feminine chores in my house. Like this author, I actually don't mind doing most of the laundry, cooking, and cleaning. I also do watering and some weeding, though my hubby does things like edging (well, he's done this once. Yesterday, in fact) and mowing (I'm allergic to grass!). I'll willingly admit that sometimes I actually enjoy gender roles, like when it's snowed 20 inches and it's -20 below here in Minnesota. Then I really love gender roles. And yes, I do feel guilty about liking it sometimes.

So, I'm actually okay with the chores I do (for the most part). My husband shares them with me as equally as possible for someone in residency.

It's the kin work that puts me over the edge! Which makes sense, I suppose, because it's women's third shift.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taking Down the Christmas Tree

Welcome ICLWers! I'm thrilled to have you perusing my blog. If you have any questions, please let me know. Also, a good place to start is with this post, which answers some questions about me and why I write this blog. Another important post defines kin work, which is the topic frequently revisited. My hubby and I are also challenging ourselves to a kin work project, in which we'll attempt to do as much kin work together as possible. Follow me and comment away!

Ellen and her family have a long-standing tradition of cutting their own Christmas tree at a farm. This particular year, she and Ed were faced with the difficult decision to continue the tradition or not.

She finds the ritual of putting the tree up and taking it down to be painful. Ellen states, “It’s hard to get the tree down. I’m always by myself. I decided not to do it this year.”

She admits, “It’s me who puts it up and it’s me who takes it down. I cry, cry, cry.”

Has anyone else's mom admitted these types of feelings?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Men Have Spoken

And I'm looking for more voices. A couple of daddys replied to me on google+ that their form of kin work is blogging and posting Facebook photos of and updates about their children for their networks. They likened this to their form of scrapbooking. I'm asking for more information!

I ask you, dear readers, what are other forms of kin work done by dads? What did your dads do? What do you notice your husbands doing? What do you want your husbands to do?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures in Co-Kin Work: August 60th Scrapbooking

We sat down last night to document some life together. Yes, I did say, "Come on, Hunny. Let's document some life together."

He was on Twitter. Then I heard, "No way. Rachel's first CD was Free Willy Soundtrack, too?!" I'll never let him live that down. Ten bucks to the person who can guess his second CD. Check back for the answer.

At this point, he wasn't documenting life. Although he was keeping me entertained. And he made me a malt. Does that count as being an active participant in kin work?

Jury? Still out. Help me decide.

I ask him, "What stories are you going to write?"

He wonders, "Did you steal mine already?"

I had already written two stories down. I reply, "What are yours?"

"All the things we've talked about tonight," he says.

I had.

What? I have to make it even EASIER for him by making sure he has stories to write?

Okay. I looked through some of my iPhone photos to jog some memories for him. I came across one particular photo I thought he might enjoy writing about. He brightened up and was excited to write the memory down.

"Oh, $hit."


"I put August 60th instead of 6th." That cool date stamper failed him.

We're learning how to do it, though. I'm wondering if we should schedule a weekly scrapbooking date? Maybe then we'd become more efficient?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the News

How cool is this? My co-author, Carol, and I were interviewed about the TIME article "Chore Wars!"

Watch the video here

Jason DeRusha is so nice and funny in person, no surprise. I don't have the courage to watch it yet. I'm too fearful that there was, somehow, a large piece of food in my teeth. Ha! I'll garner the courage soon, I hope.

Monday, August 8, 2011

From "We" to "You"

One of my participants said:

“He thinks they [women] deserve whatever they have to do [at Christmas] because they’re the ones that make it that way.”

However, she goes on to say:

"And then you’ll start having to send Christmas cards that he thinks you should send. It always comes to the woman . . . he’ll say, “oh, we only need to send this amount of Christmas cards this year” and before you know it, he’ll be like, “did you send so and so a card?” If someone dies he’ll be like, “did we send a sympathy card?” “We” means “did ‘you’ do it?”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All Joy and No Fun

Just wanted to share an interesting parenting article today. It was written awhile ago, but I found it so fascinating, I had to share it here. Future parents, it's a must read. Current parents, you, too. Enjoy!

Come back and let me know what you think.

But What If I Really Love It?

An excellent question was posed by one of my dearest friends, Raychl, in the comments of a previous post. She so smartly asked:

What if you LOVE doing all the craziness of Christmas? Is that still kin work? What qualifies it as work?

Yes, many women enjoy baking cookies, shopping, making and/or writing Christmas cards, cooking, and decorating. These are common stereotypical roles women play in our culture, and they are all related to kin work.

In many cases, women don't love the process (work) involved, they love the OUTCOME.

1. They feel satisfied when with the product turns out just the way they wanted it to.
2. They want to make others happy. It's inherently tied to the way they feel loved.
3. It's attached to their identity and they feel unable (or unwilling? unmotivated? uninterested?) to deviate. Because a) who would pick up the slack? and b) what would others think?

For instance, I absolutely LOVE baking and cooking. I like seeing a new recipe and the excitement of trying it.

But when you break it down, separating the kin from the work, baking is the act of putting ingredients in a bowl, mixing it, and putting it in the oven. Pretty simple. There's not much to enjoy about it, but it's work nonetheless. When you add the kin back in, it becomes what people think of as fun. Now, when I make one batch of cookies, it's not too laborious or time-consuming. But around the holidays, my mom spends days in the kitchen making two different types of bread and many batches of half a dozen types of our favorite cookies for Christmas. I know her back hurts, her feet swell, and she's exhausted at the end. It's a labor of love. She only loves doing it because she knows we'll love it. And even though she loves it, it's still work.

My biggest concerns about kin work are:

1. the backstage part. If the rest of the family was aware of how much kin work is involved in each gathering, maybe they'd contribute to helping a bit?

2. The way it keeps mothers in a role that is very difficult to change. Older moms might want more help, but they are too proud to ask for help or do not want to disappoint their children. It'd kind of be like telling your children Santa isn't real all over again. Santa is real. He's your mom.

3. Kin work includes so many different types of skills. It seems unlikely that moms love all aspects of kin work, yet they feel stuck in the role. For instance, I absolutely DESPISE shopping and brainstorming gifts. I'm bad at it. I hate the pressure. WIll they like it? Will it fit them? Do they already have it? Some people love this process, but perhaps they don't like the cooking and baking part. Yet, I'm still primarily in charge of gifts. And even when we try to split up the responsibilities, I'm still the one asking, "Did you go get your dad's gift?" And when his dad doesn't get a gift on Christmas, it still feels like it's my fault.

And yes, that did happen this year, much to my dismay.

There's nothing wrong with loving it. At all. It doesn't represent weakness or pettiness. I know I get giddy when I hear Christmas music and think about making cookies. But it is still work, even when it's joyful.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TIME Magazine Article "Chore Wars:" Part II

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Discussing more of what was missing from the Time Magazine article "Chore Wars."


...but margaritas don't necessarily equal leisure. But then again, neither does family time. Nor the time leading up to it. Especially for women.

Most families don't realize how labor-intensive kin work is because most of the work is done backstage. Sociologist Irving Goffman claimed that all of life is a performance. The notion of finding one's authentic self, then, is a farce, because our "selves" are dependent upon the context. Though it may seem that the family is the one place we can be our true selves, it's really just another stage in which we fulfill a prescribed role. Especially for mothers.

Moms are downplaying the work part of kin work because they want rituals and events to be special for the rest of the family. That's the role they've been expected to carry on. It's likely the only way they know how to be a mom.

An excerpt from my dissertation highlights the backstageness of motherhood during holiday rituals. Margie and her family have a tradition of dropping off cans of cashews to 250+ friends and family each Christmas.

The preparation for this ritual is incredibly detailed. Their list of recipients is organized according to proximity in relation to the route they take to deliver all the cashews and includes an approximate timeframe of how long it takes to go to each. They have their system of how to assemble the cans of nuts down to a set system as well. Margie explains, “So then you fill up the silver bags and they fit perfect in here and then we’ll throw a little ribbon around them. In the past we’ve even attached photos of the kids, instead of mailing out photos.” Of this ritual, Margie says, “the kids look forward to it. And we all do it together.

Yes, they all do it together during the delivery. It's one of their most treasured rituals each year.

The process goes like this, “The two of us in the front seat, I’ll be the one telling Tony, even though he practically knows it by heart, telling him where to go next, and then I’ll write the label. And then the kids, in the back, are putting the cans into the bags and tying ribbon and making sure the label goes onto it. They take turns getting out of the car, depending on where we are. And then certain houses, we all get out of the car and visit for 5-10 minutes.” The delivery process alone takes seven hours, which they sometimes split up into two different days.

But what about everything else that happens beforehand?

Margie looks for cashews all year long to get a good deal, “the goal is $2.50 per can…they usually go up to $5.00. I’ll drive around collecting them from store to store.” Because of their cost, I asked Margie if they would ever choose a different type of nut. She replied, “No. It has to be cashews [whispered with importance]. He’s a traditionalist. It’s sentimental all the way. We can vary on what the brand is.” This creates more work for Margie as she clips coupons and goes from store to store searching for the best price of cashews in the name of keeping the ritual the same.

There are so many more backstage stories I could share, and perhaps will eventually. But for now, this post is getting too long for my taste, so I'll wrap it up.

Kin work is missing from the TIME magazine article. Kin work is missing from most gender equality conversations. It's TIME for that to change.

Monday, August 1, 2011

TIME Magazine Article "Chore Wars:" Part I

My friend and fellow blogger, Emily, pointed me to an article in Time Magazine, written by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. Of course, I had to go pick it up!

The article states, "Men are now pulling their weight--at work and at home. So why do women still think they're slacking off?" Specifically, Konigsberg uncovers that women and men's work days are almost exactly the same: 8 hr 11 min for men, 8 hr 3 min for women.

Men are more involved in the 2nd shift of cleaning, laundry, cooking, and more. However, nowhere in the article was the 3rd shift of planning, preparing, and conducting traditions and making family time meaningful mentioned.

Konigsberg surmises, "The gender inequity that persists, then, is in access to high-quality leisure time, which, for whatever reasons, men seem able to claim--and protect from contamination--than women."

Well, kin work is among the elusive "reasons" for this imbalance in leisure time.

As mentioned in my first post, our culture does not think of kin work as work. Does this mean it can't be fun? No. It just means it's not leisurely. It's not like getting a pedicure or sipping margaritas. Combined the two, you say? That was my first thought, too. And that's just the idea most women have had, according to the article. In 1998, mothers reported that 50% of their leisure time was combined with child-care activities. Adding a margarita or pedicure to the mix might make the 2nd and 3rd shifts more leisurely, but...

Check in for Part II tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scrapbooking Daddy

As my idol scrapbooker, Nicole, wrote, "documenting life is just as important as taking the time to enjoy life as it comes too...and sometimes that means cutting out the time to get it all down on paper." She's right, I think. What about you? Kin work is necessary in order for relationships, and in this case, memories of those relationships, to be preserved.

Does anyone know a scrapbooking daddy? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Oh wait, I do. Well, I do NOW. We've just gotten started on our book. I don't want to be the only family documenter because these are not only my stories to tell.

My mom was always the scrapbooker in our family. In fact, the very thought of my dad sitting down to "scrapbook" is hilarious. Don't get me wrong, he's the sweetest teddy bear of a dad. He did give me a taste of what it might have been like if he did scrapbook. He wrote in the front cover of a couple of books he gave me. He'd describe what the context was, why he wanted to give it to me, and so on. Cuteness. I think it'd be cool to have even more written memories of me from my dad. Because everyone loves hearing (or reading) stories about when they were kids. Don't they? No?

Great. I'm the only narcissist.

Oh, well.

So the other night, as mentioned previously, we sat down to watch a show and each wrote down a memory.

So, doing our scrapbook is something we both have to grit our teeth and force ourselves to do. It's not something we look forward to doing. Does everyone feel that way? Although I'm hoping that changes once we get rolling. Actually, in full disclosure, I was the instigator (anyone surprised?). I had to bring everything downstairs and say, "okay, we need to work on our book now." He didn't argue, although it was clear that after working an 11 hour shift at the hospital, he wasn't exactly thrilled about our next task. However, my argument is always this: I worked 11 hours, too, taking care of the kiddo. Those of you who are childless, carry on with your judgment until you have a kid of your own. THEY ARE EXHAUSTING. It's extremely fulfilling, but oh-so-grueling, too. Some days more than others.

I think we both will agree, the coolest part of the kit is that it comes with a date stamper. I've always wanted one of these, for no reason in particular, other than its awesomeness.

Our son has started singing a Raffi song called "bath time." And Brent said, "did you already write about him singing that song?" I said, "nope." And he said, "I call writing that one!" As if it were a contest of who would write the best memories down. And he wrote that story and we were done for the night. Baby steps, people. I'll take it.

Now we need to become more regular about it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sharing Kin Work Project: Scrapbooking

I am not, nor have I ever been, a master scrapbooker. You know the type? They have an embellishment for everything! A former co-worker of mine, for example, makes the most lovely layouts. I've been following her blog for a long time, far before I became a mother, and I always wondered if I would ever be able to document my kid's life with such attentiveness. Turns out, I can't.

From following Nicole's blog, I also learned about Project Life.

And this kit is what we're trying to use to document our son's life. We got our kit in February, and still have yet to print a picture to put in it. Actually, we haven't printed a single picture of our son yet. He's almost 18 months old. Now you know who you're dealing with, right?

I liked this system because you can journal on little cards and take them with you anywhere. So, the other night we sat in front of the tv and jotted down a memory or two while watching an episode of True Blood (have you seen that show, btw? It's crazy). Then we can pick photos to go along with the memories later. Or vice versa.

So how's it working out for us? That's for tomorrow's post!

Sharing the Third Shift

This is us. My little family. And I reign as its kin work rebel. We've been bringing disappointment to our families since we started dating in 2001! Hoping to receive a birthday card from us? It'll be in your mailbox 14+ business days after you really wanted it. So late that you'll be embarrassed for us that we even sent it. We wanted to send it on time, but forgot. It's not you, family. It's us. Or, more accurately, it's me. It's been me.

This is how it usually works, people. A heterosexual couple gets married. Woman takes on the responsibility of organizing, negotiating, planning, and preparing all familyness. Man never has to think about it. Kids grow up observing traditional roles. Yada, yada, yada.

Not I, said the fly. Managing relationships is not only women's work. And I refuse to do it all myself. Therefore, I present you with our newest project: Sharing the Third Shift. We're going to try to do as much kin work as possible together.

Rules will be established.
Rules will be likely be broken.
Fights will probably be had.
But learning will ensue for all.

Why would a person suck at sending cards and stuff? Why is she not maternal enough to just do it, for crying out loud? "It's not that hard," you might be saying.

Things my seemingly anti-kin work attitude is NOT:

1. An expression of my hatred towards my family. Or people in general. Or holidays.

I actually love my family and my husband's family a whole lot! If you've met me you know I l o v e people. I just want my son growing up in an environment in which his mom AND dad can be seen as both reasonable and rational (traditionally paternal) as well as nurturing and family-oriented (traditionally maternal). And I want to live in a world where dads are equally as engaged in what's cooking (both literally and figuratively) for family gatherings. Before, during, and after they occur. I want men to understand how laborious this process is, and why it might contribute to women's subordination in our society.

Just to remind you, I LOVE holidays! Why else would I want to improve them? I just don't like the inequality they represent, particularly in the preparation.

2. Indicative of laziness

I'm not doing this because I'm lazy and want someone else to do it for me. (Forgetful? Yes. And that absolutely contributes to my struggles as a kin worker, btw.) From my point of view, the lazy thing to do would be to continue the cycle. It'd be much easier. I'd tell my husband who, what, where, when, how, and why, but then change would never occur. Yawn. That's lazy.

Also, in all honesty, multi-tasking has never been my cup of tea. Do you see the problem? Kin work=multi-tasking. And because I'm a woman, I'm supposed to be good at that. Ha.

We're determined to conduct kin work as a couple. And I'll be documenting some of it on this very blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I was reading my friend, Emily's, blog and was so relieved. Emily and I both have sons who are only nine days apart in age, so I can relate to her wholeheartedly on many levels. We're living parallel lives from different parts of the country!

Check out Emily's blog:

In the linked post, Emily describes how the transition to full-time, at home motherhood was challenging. I can definitely relate. Being an almost-stay-at-home mom (I teach part-time), at first, everything seemed so much harder. Everything. From showering to brushing my teeth to eating to cleaning to everything under the sun. And it's true, all of these things are harder having a little one around. Things have gotten much easier. Partially because of his age, I think. But I have started seeing this difficulty more as an honor. I'm fortunate to be a mother, I love being a mother, and I love, love, love my son. Yes, he makes things harder. But he also makes many things more fun and more fulfilling. Take the good with the hard, right?

What does this all mean for kin work and the third shift? To be determined.

P.S. Emily, how are you getting all your chores done in 15 minutes? Can you teach me?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Comparing Quotes Part 2

Thanks to Meredith and Maura for their guesses! I'll now reveal the actual years in which these statements were made.

1. It is women who sigh [at the approach of Christmas]; so far as men are concerned, Christmas is safe enough with them; they don’t sigh because they dread the weeks before the 25th of December. Nor do the young people of our sex groan over the approach of the “merry” day; to them the seven weeks mean only the pleasant hurry of anticipation. It is feminine middle age that sighs when it sees November slip into December . . . Does this seem an exaggeration? Ask a dozen women, whose ages range anywhere between thirty and sixty…How many of them can truly say they never lie awake at night and think about Christmas?

2. The stressful part around this is all this sort of thoughtful preparation that goes into it, and I am a lone ranger for us representing our own family. What’s going to be the most thoughtful, homemade, self-created, artistic gift this year? And he [her husband] doesn’t know about it until someone opens it that day. He’ll say, “who is that from?” “You!” and I’ve taken on that role but it’s still stressful. Like gifts for his co-workers. For his boss? It’ll get down to it and he’ll be like… “ohhh…I really should do something.” He doesn’t really think or know that he wants to get them something. And I’ll be like, “um…here. I’ve been making these for months.”

Nearly 100 years span these two quotes, yet their sentiments remain the same. What do you make of this?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Comparing Quotes Part 1

Alright, readers. Let's play a game. Guess the year in which these statements were made. Hint: They're from different years. Very different. Come on, y'all. Leave a comment with your guesses! I won't bite.

1. It is women who sigh [at the approach of Christmas]; so far as men are concerned, Christmas is safe enough with them; they don’t sigh because they dread the weeks before the 25th of December. Nor do the young people of our sex groan over the approach of the “merry” day; to them the seven weeks mean only the pleasant hurry of anticipation. It is feminine middle age that sighs when it sees November slip into December . . . Does this seem an exaggeration? Ask a dozen women, whose ages range anywhere between thirty and sixty…How many of them can truly say they never lie awake at night and think about Christmas?

2. The stressful part around this is all this sort of thoughtful preparation that goes into it, and I am a lone ranger for us representing our own family. What’s going to be the most thoughtful, homemade, self-created, artistic gift this year? And he [her husband] doesn’t know about it until someone opens it that day. He’ll say, “who is that from?” “You!” and I’ve taken on that role but it’s still stressful. Like gifts for his co-workers. For his boss? It’ll get down to it and he’ll be like… “ohhh…I really should do something.” He doesn’t really think or know that he wants to get them something. And I’ll be like, “um…here. I’ve been making these for months.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Importance of Family Rituals

Fact: Rituals are valuable for families.

What's that you say? You want a list of their benefits? I thought you'd never ask.

Rituals serve to:

1. Create and maintain intergenerational bonds (Schvaneveldt & Lee, 1983)
2. Pass on family attitudes, values, and beliefs (Braithwaite, Baxter, & Harper, 1998)
3. Prevent families from negative addictions such alcoholism (Wolin, Bennett, Noonan, & Teitelbaum, 1980)
4. Offer members a feeling of belongingness (Wolin et al., 1980)
5. Provide a means for maintaining family contact (Meredith, 1985)
6. Promote physical health, especially in children (Compan et al., 2002; Kiser, Bennett, Heston, & Paavola, 2005)
7. Combat the stress-induced side-effects of asthma in children (Markson & Fiese, 2000)
8. Encourage children to form positive relationships as adults (Homer, Freeman, Zabriskie, & Eggett, 2007)

Family members also tend to enjoy hanging out together during rituals. They laugh, create memories, and relive the past while also securing a future together. But the problem both researchers and our culture have is that we've focused primarily on the OUTCOMES of family rituals. In doing so, the preparation and thought that goes into them before, during, and after is seemingly invisible and silent.

Research has shown that women are more likely than men to see themselves carrying family-of-origin rituals into their own future families (shocking, I know!). The strongest indicator of whether or not an individual would carry a family ritual into their future families was how much their same-sex parent had taken responsibility for initiating rituals (Friedman & Weissbrod, 2004). Dads, are you reading? Your boys don't see you doing much kin work and therefore don't recognize it as something they should do.

The family is the first group a child is a part of, and is where they learn the majority of their lessons about how to conduct social life. When families teach their members that women should be responsible for ritual and domestic kin work, where will anyone learn otherwise? And when?

The ritual cycle of inequity begins and continues in the family. You know what that means, right?

It's the only place where change might occur, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Christmas in July? Why?

Just for fun, let me take a stab at some FAQs before they even have a chance at becoming FAQs. We shall see how good I am at reading minds and telling the future.

1. Why would you waste your time writing about this? And who died and made you the Christmas Queen?

I am honored that you think of me as the Christmas Queen, but I assure you, I am not. I have my Ph.D. in communication. I have conducted many interviews and read countless articles about this issue. I absolutely adore teaching undergrads and writing scholarly articles, both of which typically go along with the degree. But I have always been passionate about extending what we teach and learn about in the classroom to people who might not otherwise connect with such material. Blogging seems like the perfect solution.

2. How did you come up with this idea?

One mother I interviewed said, “We [mothers] rack our brains all year to make it special.” Another said, “I just always want to make it so special so that they will always want to come home. I may not tell them [her family] that, but I definitely have that on my mind.” I heard that statement over and over and over again in my interviews. Mothers feel the need to make things special for their families so they will WANT TO COME HOME. This indicates that mothers do not feel worthy enough that their children will simply want to spend time with them. They feel that they need to do this in order to gain time with and affection from their families. Therefore, mothers are in the business of "specialness" and creating memories for their families. Why, though, do our moms feel it is their responsibility to CREATE positive memories for their children? Exactly the question I seek to answer on this blog.

3. Why are you picking on the most wonderful time of the year? It's just trying to be joyful.

Because it is the most idealized time of the year. And, essentially, it's like every day kin work, but magnified. It's magnified because the whole family holds the expectation that it will be the best day of their year. I also started to see the women around me struggle to get everything done. They were excited to see their families, but anxious about getting there. I realized there is a real need to understand the pressures of motherhood, particularly as it relates to kin work. I'm trying to make the holiday more joyful for moms, too.

4. Why do you hate Christmas?

I don't hate Christmas! I love it! It is out of sheer love for the holiday that I am choosing to write this blog. Fine, I occasionally say "bah humbug." But only when I feel the stress myself. How often is that? I won't reveal.

5. Isn't this a privileged problem? I think I saw a joke about this on "Things White People Like."

Yes and no. Are starving families worried about Christmas pressures? Nah, probably not. But that doesn't mean this isn't an issue worth exploring. In 2008, 81% of Americans identified themselves as Christians, and 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas (Gallup, 2008). In 2009, the census bureau revealed 307,006,550 people living in the United States. And do you know any one of those people who do not belong to a family? Me either. Additionally, women's roles in kin work haunts women from all classes (di Leonardo, 1987).

6. Can't you just be happy with all the progress women have made?

Women's roles in kin work bleeds into so many other issues. On a broad level, it reveals how we as a culture still treat and view women. Yes, women can now VOTE, work outside the home, play sports, and the list goes on! Huge progress has clearly been made. I celebrate these accomplishments every day. I am thankful for the many women who fought for all those rights. This blog is not meant to communicate that women still have nothing, can do nothing, and are nothing according to society. I simply hope to shed light on issues that have not yet been explored. Many things have changed, but in the realm of kin work, it's mostly remained the same.

Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Third Shift

Christmas is hard work. I mean, eating all that delicious food is a big job. And all that merriment? It can really tire a person out.

Linda, a mother I interviewed, claims, “To me, Christmas is a bother;” unabashedly honest, she explains further, “But when it gets to be Halloween, I start thinking about it. And I dread it every year.”

Christmas is hard work. For women.

It won't shock most moms when they hear that women work in and out of the home an average of fifteen hours more than men each week. To put that in perspective, that's an extra month of 24 hour days a year, folks. Back in the 1980s, researcher Arlie Hochschild named all the extra work moms do on top of their regular work day the "Second Shift." It's the laundry, making dinner, organizing the kids' lunches, cleaning, and oh-so-much more. This is not to say men are completely unengaged with the daily chores involved in running a home, however. In fact, compared to generations gone by, men are much more involved in all these processes than they were.

Yes, the second shift still sucks. But I think we have missed a major piece in the discussion of gender and families. Ladies and gents, I present you with...


The third shift is comprised of what researchers call kin work. Kin work includes all tasks involved in maintaining relationships. It's the work related to forming and sustaining family rituals, such as Christmas or 4th of July celebrations. It's the correspondence such as phone calls, invitations, and thank you cards. It's documenting the moments by taking photos and scrapbooking. It's not only purchasing gifts for family members, but also brainstorming the perfect idea and then finding the right price. It's pretty much the who, what, when, where, how, and why of family connections and gatherings, both small and large. It's also the details of "Be sure you use dairy free butter in the pie crust because of cousin Laura's allergy." It's remembering birthdays and other days of significance for family and friends and then sending a card from the "whole family," even though George has no clue it's his nephew's birthday.

In its current form, kin work is quite dangerous because it is conducted so mindlessly. It is so engrained in our culture that women are hardly aware that they're doing it. Two large issues are presented with women's roles in kin work:

1. Our culture doesn't perceive kin work as work.

Women are still paid less than men, which can be attributed to several reasons, kin work being one of them. Part of the problem is that sending cards and gifts, talking to (or negotiating with) family members, and planning meals appears to be fun. And because family functions are (usually/hopefully) fun, why wouldn't all the planning be enjoyable as well? Or at least more fun than scrubbing the floors and toilets. Is it? Most people probably think so. I know I do. But it's still a form of work. It requires mental capacity and time that, if shared with men, might allow women to get ahead in their jobs (if they so desire). Or at least might narrow the "leisure gap" between men and women, in which men are proven to have much more relaxation time on weekends and after paid labor than women do.

2. Men don't do it. Because they don't know they don't do it. Because women don't know they're doing it.

Even more than household chores, kin work is done primarily by women. Unlike vacuuming and dusting, kin work is almost impossible to hire someone to do, because it involves a relational intelligence, history, and investment. This is also why it is so difficult to involve men in kin work. But it's also why it's so important. In order for any change to occur, men will need to get involved! And women will have to stand a bit of chaos for awhile, while disrupting the already well-oiled machine that is kin work.

It's not just about Christmas. Kin work happens every day of every year, and women don't love all aspects of it. This blog will explore kin work through sharing women's stories and connecting them to scholarship. Join me!