This holiday vacation, I’ve learned with horror what has always been true:
Almost all of my day naturally fills itself with caregiving, homemaking, and parenting work. It’s a real-life phenomenon and also a gendered one. To be a woman with children is to never catch a break.
The primary difference I’m finding between being on holiday vacation and not being on holiday vacation is that I have the time and energy to wash dishes immediately after meals, rather than seeing them pile up into frightening stacks in the sink and aggressively forming nation-states on the counter. I’m able to review my mail in a timely fashion, and twice I have even made the bed. The other most notable differences are that I’m blowdrying my hair after washing it rather than pulling it back and rushing to work most mornings, and most nights I watch a movie or television before bed, for which I rarely have energy (or time) after a work day.
Estimating conservatively, I have done at least 20 loads of laundry in the last week and a half. I continue to shuttle my daughter to school, activities, playdates. I remind her (gently, with acceleration) to clean her room, jumping in to help when the floor in fact becomes a fire hazard.
There are no novel sentiments or revelations here, but I must state that ‘women’s work’ is work — unpaid, under-appreciated, and rarely acknowledged. This work takes a boatload of time. It can fill the entire day. Granted there are incredible benefits and joys to parenting, and my holiday vacation has included those times, too. But still, the reality is that maintaining a home for growing children is work. I think the only thing that has changed in this regard since the 1970s is that to admit out loud the volume of homemaking in our lives means that a woman might be chased and chided for not creating a better ‘work-life balance,’ managing her time more effectively, or seeking and allowing for an egalitarian partnership, psht.
But these are not egalitarian times. Not at all.