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.

1 comment:

  1. "TIME" for that the change?!
    You're clever my friend. Clever indeed.