“Emotional Labor” Community Conversation Continues…
Cheers, dear readers,
Hello wonderful community! I received some great feedback from last week’s post “Are you doing more than your fair share of “Emotional Labor”. I wanted to take a moment again to thank you for your comments, engaging in the conversation, and sharing your thoughts. This community is for you, not for us here at Conceive Hospital and Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs. So it is wonderful to know that our contributions here are having an impact.
The above post created a stir in the Global Sisterhood community that I am a part of, thus the conversation has continued worldwide. Lori from Ontario, Canada wrote the following piece as a follow up entitled “Emotional Labour and Childless Woman.” She shared that she had an “a-ha” moment after reading my article in that she had never considered relating the “emotional labor” concept with involuntarily childless women having expectations placed on us to consistently support, understand and rally around parenthood. Yet there is a general lack of reciprocity in the other direction from others – including parents – to make any effort to appreciate, understand or express concern for (for example on Mother’s Day) involuntary childlessness and the disease and aftermath of infertility.
To take this one step further, in my own life, not only are my feelings not typically considered when I’m expected to show up at baby showers and children’s birthday parties with gifts, but it goes deeper. To help other’s in my life understand me and who I am today, I first need to work up the courage to begin what will be an uncomfortable conversation for both of us around infertility, it’s aftermath including depression, and how that all has affected me. Once I plop the topic on the table, then I have to expend great effort to painstakingly explain my situation, choosing words to do my best not to offend the person that I am speaking to, letting them know that this is not about them, this is about my life, my feelings, my experiences — in an effort to share why there have been periods of my life where I needed to withdraw to heal and re-group (thus potentially damaging the relationship with the person I am speaking to).
Talk about Emotional Labor! It never ends it seems the more I think about this topic. I don’t always have success in the above conversation. I did recently find this video by therapist and coach Justine Froelker that I think does an excellent job in doing the work of creating empathy and understanding for someone dealing with infertility and what it does to a person. Thank you, Justine for your fine work on the topic.
I want to also share an excerpt from the first article linked above. It is a list that author / blogger Lori created of emotional labor points for childless women after she read this article — a thought-provoking, profound and well-written list.
- If women’s time is considered less valuable than men’s, childless women’s time is devalued even more so. For example, there is an expectation that we will cheerfully pitch in to cover for parenting coworkers who need to stay home with a sick child or leave early to attend their child’s school event. Our own requests for flexibility are often deemed less important or “legitimate”.
- In the same vein, there’s an expectation that childless women will be available to care for aging parents, help them with errands and take them to appointments, more so than our siblings with children (even if they live closer to Mom & Dad than we do).
- Parents assume that, because we don’t have children, we have a lot of discretionary income to spend as we please.
- We are expected to show interest in the children of our siblings, friends and relatives, and to listen attentively and sympathetically to parents’ problems and stories about their children – while our own interests and problems are often dismissed as less worthy of attention or ignored completely.
- We are expected to defer to parents in all matters related to children, even if we have our own knowledge and experiences to guide us and to share (e.g., childless teachers are often told they don’t know anything about children, even though they spend the entire day a room full of them, 9 months a year, year after year).
- Parents expect us to attend gender reveal parties, baby showers, christenings, first communions, confirmations, graduations, weddings and birthday parties to celebrate their children and the milestone events in their lives (oh yeah, and bring gifts!). Yet our own birthdays or other milestones are not always marked or celebrated in the same way.
- If we decline invitations to these events or fail to show sufficient enthusiasm for them, we are expected to provide explanations and/or made to feel like something is wrong with us.
- We are expected to justify our decision to continue living without children, while parents are rarely expected to justify why they decided to have children. Similarly, we are expected to explain why we didn’t pursue this or that path to parenthood (“Have you thought about adoption? Other means?”) – even within the infertility community, where childless living (still) remains an unacceptable outcome for many pursuing treatment or adoption.
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. I wish you the best on your journey.