Thursday, August 4, 2011

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.


  1. Darn you for making me want some homemade chocolate chip cookies. I think I'll go whip up a batch while pondering the kin who will get to share the results of my work.

  2. I'm doing the same tonight, LBD. I'll think of you, my sweet kin!