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.