Why time is a feminist issue
September 28, 2015 8:32 AM   Subscribe

The time expert looked through the messy time diaries I'd been keeping (one mysteriously went through the dryer) and found 27 hours of what he called leisure, and I called bits and scraps of garbagey time. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. Listening to the radio, exhausted, trying to get out of bed. Getting some exercise. Waiting by the side of the road for a tow truck. (Yes, he said that counted as leisure.) The image that came to mind was this: time confetti.
posted by sciatrix (101 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brigid Schulte on "Fresh Air":
And I think one of the most amazing things is I had taken my daughter to a ballet class, and on the way back the car broke down, and we were waiting for a tow truck on the side of the road to come for two hours. And he highlighted that, and he called that leisure time. And I said you are crazy.

You know, I think of leisure as laying in a hammock on a beach or, you know, reading a book for hours and getting lost in, you know, the time when days feel like it could last 1,000 years or whatever. And none of it, none of my time felt like that. And so I think that was probably one of the biggest revelations, is leisure is really in the eyes of the beholder, and what he considered leisure I considered just bits and scraps of in-between time.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


"What I didn't know at the time was that this is what time is like for most women: fragmented, interrupted by child care and housework. Whatever leisure time they have is often devoted to what others want to do – particularly the kids – and making sure everyone else is happy doing it. Often women are so preoccupied by all the other stuff that needs doing – worrying about the carpool, whether there's anything in the fridge to cook for dinner – that the time itself is what sociologists call "contaminated."

daaaaaaannnggggg....

That is some heavy grade A "preach it" truth right there.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:51 AM on September 28, 2015 [103 favorites]


OK, not sure why my comment was deleted before, but I think the fact that this is centered around mothers is a relevant point.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:53 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I found the part about how women feel like they have to get to the end of a To Do list before they can relax to be interesting. I am like that and (thanks to an MBTI assessment ages ago) I've always attributed it to my personality rather than gender. But it has been a point of contention or at least resentment with the men I've shared my life with, so maybe the gender thing is part of it. For example, my current partner prefers to clean the dinner dishes in the morning when he wakes up; and I have to force myself to ignore it and go watch TV or I'd end up doing all the cooking AND all the dishes. And sometimes I do still do the dishes even though I do all the cooking, or at least rinse things off and stack them neatly. Hell, I'll clean the house if I'm home on a legitimate sick day, because otherwise I feel guilty just laying around doing nothing.

(No kids here, so I can't speak to that.)

I don't quite get what the time expert's point was, other than triggering this article. Was he saying she shouldn't complain, she does have time? That she's not doing a good enough job of structuring her day to better use this time or make it into bigger more usable blocks? That her husband wasn't pulling his weight as evidenced by how scattered her free time was? I am shocked by the waiting for a tow truck example but overall don't understand the conclusion the time expert wanted her to draw.
posted by misskaz at 8:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


My dad had this saying when we were kids: "don't wake the junkyard dog." It was in reference to my mom and her free time. Could have been couched in kinder terms, sure, but damn it sure got the point across. (Mom has a temper so it was actually pretty appropriate.)

Basically: if mom is doing her own thing (or especially if actually sleeping), leave her alone unless you are literally dying and need to go to the emergency room to have a limb reattached. If you bother her during her downtime, prepare to actually get that limb severed for real.

My brother and I learned how to play with each other (or, more often, fight with each other in a way that didn't require parental involvement), play by ourselves, and fix our own snacks when we were hungry. Mom got to read, take naps, and watch MST3K without being too harassed by anyone.

If my dad hadn't taken such an active role in corralling us and taking on (really, more than) half of the household duties, it would have been a very different story.

It really set up my expectations for my own leisure time well. If I'm relaxing, don't fuck with me. I'm also not going to let myself feel guilty about not doing things for others when I'm relaxing. It's why I had zero problem blatantly nursing a sandwich, reading, and ignoring all emails and calls for an hour when I was in a workplace that had a "work through lunch" attitude.
posted by phunniemee at 8:59 AM on September 28, 2015 [62 favorites]


Not exactly the point of the article but maybe interesting if you don't know about it: The BLS does have a time use survey that relies on diaries like the one mentioned in the article. It's at an annual frequency back to 2003.

Labor economists have to think about time use sometimes - it's not my field, but a woman in my cohort is working on it. And it is sort of tricky to think about a stark labor/leisure (or even labor/leisure/"home production") thing for some activities. (Time spent eating - maybe doesn't make sense to think of it as leisure in general. But time spent eating at a 5- star restaurant to celebrate an anniversary? I don't know!)
posted by dismas at 9:00 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, not sure why my comment was deleted before, but I think the fact that this is centered around mothers is a relevant point.

Nothing turns your "free" time to confetti like kids. Nothing.
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


This is a nice 101 piece; I’d like to see the 202 version that fleshes it out.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeaha, I think this happens to both parents when kids show up. My kids are teenagers and I feel like this happens more now for both my wife and I than ever. Ironically once my wife went back to work she has a lot less confetti time since now she just has huge chunks of uninterrupted work.

Also, maybe the time management consultant is just an idiot? Who considers 5-minute breaks to steel yourself for more work to come to be "leisure"?
posted by GuyZero at 9:09 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who considers 5-minute breaks to steel yourself for more work to come to be "leisure"?

Time management consultants.

They don't work for you, after all.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [32 favorites]


Despite not being a parent, I can grok this. I feel like I am not doing my part if I don't at least get some housework or couples-related stuff done during the day, even though I am usually the only one placing that expectation upon myself. I often think I know what free/leisure time is like, but I suspect I really don't.
posted by Kitteh at 9:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't tell my mother, but - you wanna know one of the reasons why I don't have kids?

This.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on September 28, 2015 [81 favorites]


It boils down to how well can you compartmentalize and unplug when the opportunity presents itself. My wife and I understand that when I get home from work it is my turn to handle everything while she watches some Korean dramas or plays Rocket League. This isn't great for my own free time, but she deserves it and anyway I get hours of podcast listening each day while I'm driving all over the place.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Recently my wife illuminated some more of how her mind works differently than mine. I've know that she's a planner and a minor worrier when it comes to deadlines (the worry is usually that something won't get done on time, or that she needs to do something more, until it's actually done), but when she looks at time between now and later, she thinks "how much can I get done in that time?" while I think "I have plenty of time until the next thing." I'm trying to be more like her.

Also, maybe the time management consultant is just an idiot? Who considers 5-minute breaks to steel yourself for more work to come to be "leisure"?

Someone who manages time in increments of minutes, and classifies each minute as one thing or another based on what is being done, instead of looking at how a person feels while they are living those minutes.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


I suspect the consultant would say that those little breaks were just a sign that you needed to be more efficient about how you do things and consolidate that time into bigger blocks. At least, I've read more than a few books which made suggestions on those lines. But I don't know how anybody actually does that successfully. So little of it is under individual control. Even without kids. I took my hour lunch the other day to fit in a doctor's appointment, but he was running late so suddenly that was an hour and a half. Which meant I was at work half an hour later. Which meant I had half an hour less time in the evening to fit everything else in. But all I could do with the intervening time was sit in a waiting room and fiddle with my phone. I don't know how to prevent that. I imagine especially with kids, those moments seriously add up.
posted by Sequence at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am pretty terrible at transitioning between tasks so those moments don't so much add up as I just have given up having hobbies, watching TV or getting very much exercise.
posted by GuyZero at 9:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


while i totally think this happens to both parents - study after study shows that in heterosexual relationships (with or without kids, but certainly worse with kids) women, no matter how much or little they work outside the home, do an outsized portion of the home/kid/relationship work.
posted by nadawi at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


Am I the only one who kind of enjoys sitting in the doctor's waiting room or riding transit, because it means I can sit and read my book and not feel even a little guilty about it?
posted by elizilla at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2015 [64 favorites]


"Managing your time so to be perfectly efficient" is also a task that takes time. Which is why I seldom bother to do it; whatever time I'd save, I've just used up stressing myself out about being perfectly efficient and trying to make random reality conform to my day planner.

People are not machines. Life events do not care about your schedule. Life is much more like surfing a wave (and sometimes nearly drowning), than it is like stamping out widgets at a factory. You are at its mercy at least some of the time.
posted by emjaybee at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2015 [35 favorites]


"Parents live for the tiny vacations from their kids. When you put the kids in the car and you close their door -- that little walk around to your own door? It’s like a Carnival cruise!"

--Louis CK, Chewed Up
posted by Rhaomi at 9:25 AM on September 28, 2015 [71 favorites]


It's interesting, for every white woman who had to wait for a tow truck because her car broke down while she was taking her child to ballet class, there is a black woman somewhere who rides the bus for hours each day so she can work three jobs so she can afford the high-calorie, low-nutrition crap her child needs to eat to survive. But we still hear more about the white woman's problems.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [75 favorites]


"Time Confetti" is a good term for the "thinking about thinking about stuff" we talked about in the emotional labor thread. And it exists even without kids, if you have a partner who can't/won't do thinking.

I can't even keep up with my work timesheets properly, but if I kept a time diary I suspect it would later be presented as evidence in my trial.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:27 AM on September 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is one of those issues that are as much about class and race as about gender.

One of my friends gave a speech the year (almost) all of us turned 30, based on the well-known fact that work is a holiday, and holidays are work.
posted by mumimor at 9:27 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Previously re: the time expert.
posted by sciatrix at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2015


Who considers 5-minute breaks to steel yourself for more work to come to be "leisure"?

If the only boxes you have on your check sheet are different kinds of work and "leisure" then that's how. Slack time should be differentiated on scheduling software, but it usually isn't, or isn't well.

It's a meaningful difference. Travel or outside-of-work-hours prep time or fetching kids or waiting in the doctors' office aren't leisure times, but are often counted as such, like the waiting for a tow-truck example. That's a problem because it undervalues people's real labour and grossly overestimates actual free time. It allows employers to externalize work to employees and their family members without accounting for downloading the costs. This is why teachers unions fight for defined "prep time", for example, even if it's unpaid, truly counting the costs.
posted by bonehead at 9:30 AM on September 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


This

I came to learn that women have never had a history or culture of leisure. (Unless you were a nun, one researcher later told me.) That from the dawn of humanity, high status men, removed from the drudge work of life, have enjoyed long, uninterrupted hours of leisure. And in that time, they created art, philosophy, literature, they made scientific discoveries and sank into what psychologists call the peak human experience of flow.

reminds me of this article, about women writers, output, and needing a Vera (as in Nabokov; as in wife, editor, assistant, and secretary).
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:34 AM on September 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


I want ALL my little minutes back that are taken away from the supposedly truest goal of "maximizing productivity" for some what, little green bills that pay the all the bills? I'll just be out with it here, I wanna do whatever the fuck I want when I wanna do it and I don't wanna have to answer to anyone. I see the world becoming more focused on filing every second with justifiable uses of OUR time (like, we own it, it's OUR TIME). I'm so freaking tired and worn out from EVERY DAMN SECOND having to MEAN something towards whatever we've all conned ourselves into believing is a "good use of time". You know what, fuck that. I wanna sit on the couch and stare at the ceiling and ponder some random ass shit until I forget to care anymore about all the bullcrap that eats away at my mind all damn day long.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:37 AM on September 28, 2015 [23 favorites]




Woolf pointed out that it wasn't just needing a room of one's own, but time of one's own as well. "If a woman wrote, she would have to write in the common sitting-room. And, as Miss Nightingale was so vehemently to complain—”women never have an half hour . . . that they can call their own”— she was always interrupted. Still it would be easier to write prose and fiction there than to write poetry or a play. Less concentration is required. Jane Austen wrote like that to the end of her days. ‘How she was able to effect all this’, her nephew writes in his Memoir, ‘is surprising, for she had no separate study to repair to, and most of the work must have been done in the general sitting-room, subject to all kinds of casual interruptions. She was careful that her occupation should not be suspected by servants or visitors or any persons beyond her own family party.’ Jane Austen hid her manuscripts or covered them with a piece of blotting-paper.

. . . I do not want, and I am sure that you do not want me, to broach that very dismal subject, the future of fiction, so that I will only pause here one moment to draw your attention to the great part which must be played in that future so far as women are concerned by physical conditions. The book has somehow to be adapted to the body, and at a venture one would say that women’s books should be shorter, more concentrated, than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted work. For interruptions there will always be."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:41 AM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


( I'll get back to work now, all my Jira tickets need their time allocated and added for Q3 time reporting and I want to get an exceeds on my review for all my projects so I can have money for christmas presents)
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:42 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I suspect the consultant would say that those little breaks were just a sign that you needed to be more efficient about how you do things and consolidate that time into bigger blocks.

Efficiency is what robs us of free time. When a job like doing the laundry used to take most of a day, it usually didn't take the whole day, yet there wasn't also time that day for another major project like making a trip into town to buy groceries. Obviously people didn't always use the leftover time for leisure, but when tasks take longer, you're more likely to have extra chunks of time that could be used for leisure.

The faster you can do any particular task, the more of those tasks you can cram into your day.
posted by straight at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


bonehead's got it.

The way we report on people's lived reality has enormous influence on public and other policies that affect women's lives. When we do not define women's labour as labour, we create an imbalance that perpetuates inequity and maintains barriers that keep women's lives smaller than their male counterparts.

That's why feminist research is such an intrinsic part of feminist advocacy--because it creates a counternarrative to this kind of research that doesn't take women's lived experience into account.

And yes, class and race definitely create differences too. This classic feminist study on women's domestic labour was groundbreaking in part because it looked at the situation of working class women in a blue collar town:

Meg Luxton: More than a Labour of Love: Three Generations of Women's Work in the Home
What does not disappear and what cannot be contracted is general management, the overall, co-ordinating aspects of domestic labour. Regardless of whether or not she works for wages, how a housewife handles the money that comes into her household determines how she can structure the other components of her work. This is the ultimate expression of household management, the process which integrates all the components of domestic labour into one whole, continuous work process. This general management is the total juggling act and wage work adds yet another pin to be juggled. The success of the juggler depends on her ability to be always in control, to know which pins can fly free and which she must catch. If she loses control, the pins start falling.

These fundamental characteristics of domestic labour generate occupational health and safety hazards. Because their work is fragmented and scattered, housewives must always be doing several things and once and can rarely complete one task before beginning several more. Women talked about how frustrating they found it, never being able to really finish anything. The endless, repetitive character of domestic labour was fatiguing and stressful. In other work situations such conditions would be a cause for concern about the works' health and safety. Hidden in the household behind the myth that what women do is not work, these dangers create additional stress and pose serious physical hazards. (More Than A Labour of Love, p. 195-196)
What follows is a description from an interview with a woman who was "holding her screaming baby while she stirred food cooking on the stove." Her four schoolaged children burst into the house, shouting for her attention. The phone rings; a pot boils over...and her husband, trying to sleep after doing shift work at the mine, calls from the bedroom asking her to keep the children quiet.

She observed:

The worst thing about this job is the working conditions. I always feel fractured because I always have to do several things at once. I feel so frazzled.

Few other jobs require workers to care for young children while simultaneously using sharp knives, handling boiling liquids or poisonous chemicals, or, in fact, concentrating on something else altogether. (p. 196)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:55 AM on September 28, 2015 [43 favorites]


fwiw...the more i've spent with my minfulness practice, the more i realize that "thinking about stuff between tasks" has about zero - more often negative - roi. be here now, yo.

this is true at the same time 'time confetti' is true and 'it's a feminist thing' is true and 'that analyst is clueless' is true. not denying the thesis.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:56 AM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


phunniemee: Mom got to read, take naps, and watch MST3K without being too harassed by anyone.

In other news, I am really old.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2015 [29 favorites]


Waiting by the side of the road for a tow truck. (Yes, he said that counted as leisure.)

I definitely would have given this guy the people's elbow and called it leisure time.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2015 [19 favorites]


Please to be telling me what "the people's elbow" is?
posted by stoneweaver at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


My wife is a stay-at-home mother for our autistic son. She looks at other stay-at-home mothers and says they're frazzled because they don't approach their work as work. No prioritizations, no planning, no review where you ask yourself how could do things better. My wife isn't Wonder Woman, but she has a day-planner.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


The People's Elbow.
posted by Etrigan at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've only been a single dad for about six months or so and the reduction in "free time" or opportunity to socialise has been almost complete. Now, I don't actually want to do those things so the effect on me has been minimal but for single parents (and let's face it, that's usually women) that want to date, party, play rocket league or whatever the frustration must be unbearable.

Emotional hard labour more like.
posted by fullerine at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Warning: Content is highly electrifying

The People's Elbow.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I began to realise that time is power. That time is a feminist issue."

This really speaks to the intersectionality someone touched on above. How stealing time from women, and especially minority women, keeps us from having power. Keeps our voices from being heard. Keeps us feeling drained and without a moment to ourselves.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2015 [44 favorites]


She looks at other stay-at-home mothers and says they're frazzled because they don't approach their work as work. No prioritizations, no planning, no review where you ask yourself how could do things better. My wife isn't Wonder Woman, but she has a day-planner.

The link up there is to an article about a woman who literally keeps multiple day planners and then hired a professional to help her with prioritization and planning and making things better. It didn't help, because having no time to yourself is not made better by being told that occasional 30 second windows of irritation/delay/inconvenience are actually time to yourself.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2015 [24 favorites]


a fiendish thingy: Woolf pointed out that it wasn't just needing a room of one's own, but time of one's own as well.

Definitely. Time is absolutely a feminist issue. As a writer, I've always cherished my leisure time, and this is one reason I never had children. Even so, I'm sometimes amazed at how much effort is required - especially for women - to preserve true leisure time and defend it against intrusions and interruptions, particularly in the USA where the Puritan work ethic continues to maintain such a tenacious chokehold. Leisure is often dismissed as something frivolous, yet I find that it's an essential part of my creative process. I do a lot of "passive" work - reading, pondering, and digesting ideas - before I get to the active stage of typing and revising. If I don't have enough uninterrupted leisure time, I am unable to "go deep," and my writing suffers for it.

Charles Eisenstein calls true leisure "the experience of the abundance of time." I love that so much. "The scarcity of time," he writes, "is one reason we overconsume, attempting to compensate for the loss of this most primal of all wealth. Time is life. To be truly rich is to have sovereignty over our own time."

YES. The experience of the abundance of time. Sovereignty over our own time. That is what I want!

It saddens me that this experience is so rare in the modern world.

There's a book coming out soon called The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future. It features "Less Work, More Time" - a piece that makes a case for basic income as a way to reduce time spent on wage labour and thereby help free up more time. Years ago I wrote a piece called "Is Nothing Sacred? On 'Doing Nothing' and Leisure as Resistance," and with the new insights I've gained from writings like these and the emotional labour thread, I'd love to expand it into a more in-depth piece that links unconditional basic income and reduction in emotional labour as keys to building a culture of leisure for women. Unfortunately, though, it's not going to happen until I somehow manage to free up more time for writing.
posted by velvet winter at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2015 [33 favorites]


Bridget Schulte had an article in the WaPo several years ago on the same topic, down to the tow truck story (and waiting during daughter's ballet class also being considered leisure). It couldn't find the article, but those looking for a deeper dive could check out the book - "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time"

I have two kids 7 & 11, who really turned my time to confetti for years. I used to love getting to the airport early for business travel. Me, a book, and a glass of wine. No kids, no work, no interruptions. I also used to "rest" on weekends - meaning no one is allowed to bother me and Mr. Coffeespoons had to enforce that no matter how fiercely kids insisted that Mom had to get the juice. Now that the kids are older, I fold laundry in the bedroom with the door closed while I catch up on years of pop culture. That concentrated time does wonders for my overall sanity and contentment.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was just about to recommend that book! It's very definitely coming from a heteronormative middle-class perspective, but I still enjoyed it and learned a lot.
posted by aniola at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I have nothing new to add. Take the time you would have spent on my comment, and do something worthwhile.
posted by evilDoug at 10:38 AM on September 28, 2015


Portraying time-management consultants was the reason Wally Cox was born.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


having a child under capitalism ruins three lives. there may be a social order where children are a boon and a joy, but the mandate that we spend the bulk of our waking lives caring for our employers rather than our families makes childrearing a grueling hell.

Not to say, of course, that ending capitalism would end white supremacy or the patriarchy. but it would be nice.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:06 AM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


Who considers 5-minute breaks to steel yourself for more work to come to be "leisure"?

People who don't get those five minutes? Stopping for five minutes to breathe and drink coffee is leisure, something that I wouldn't get if I was, say, harvesting crops or caring for young children.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2015


This thread and the article are very timely, given the release of Laura Vanderkam's I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time and her push to insist that overbooked women are fulfilled women is "how real working mothers do it."

Vanderkam's contention that "Having a full life is not just possible, but doable, as long as you place the tiles right" is one of the tidiest pieces of victim-blaming I've ever seen, and the fact that she willfully focuses on "successful" women -- code for non-working-class, for sure -- is basically the answer to the question, "Why do you think white feminism has an intersectionality problem?"

So I'm glad that Brigid Schulte is continuing to write the narrative from the other perspective. You don't get to "place the tiles right" when your tiles are tiny pieces of confetti.
posted by sobell at 11:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


Time confetti is why I've had to restructure what few hobbies I have left into ones I can spend in chunks of one-to-a-handful of minutes on with the materials I'll always have on hand. (The bulk of those chunks are spent on reading articles and short fanfic on my phone, with tapping out the occasional haiku a distant third.) The hope that I shall, one day, return to one of my preparenthood identities grows thinner.
posted by Quasirandom at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


They knew about this in the old days: "A man works from sun to sun; a woman's work is never done."
posted by Slothrup at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Am I the only one who kind of enjoys sitting in the doctor's waiting room or riding transit, because it means I can sit and read my book and not feel even a little guilty about it?"

And people think I'm early to appointments because I'm respectful of other people's time, sure, but I'm taking back my own too. Meaning, it's one of the few times where I really can feel ok about "wasting" time because it's not riddled with bad feelings and accountability.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Class, gender and ethnicity are frequently clustered in these issues, particularly where they relate to work, ime. Devaluing work, intentionally or not, is a feminist problem, but at the same time overlaps with class and ethnic concerns too.

Walmart, for example, requires a lot of unpaid work from its hourly employees, meetings, prepwork, etc.. All that "counts" though is work on the shop floor. Of the 1.2 million or so people it employs, the vast majority are the hourlies, and roughly 2/3 of those are women. I'd bet most of those are from the lower-earning quintiles, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that those workers also over-represent visible minorities. Walmart's abuse of employees is a worker-rights issue, feminist issue, a social class issue and (quite possibly) racially discriminatory. These things overlap, they're not just one thing or the other.
posted by bonehead at 12:24 PM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


anil dash has just written a great little piece about some of this : Beyond Doing Half the Parenting : Doing my fair share for my son means I have to start carrying my weight in other areas at home.
posted by nadawi at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


[A few comments removed; jumping in with a "no, the real anti-feminist thing is..." sort of thing seems pretty tonedeaf.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:34 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


From Anil Dash's article:

Lately, I’ve begun to match the to-do list that I maintain at work with a mental to-do list at home;

This just goes to show the gender difference in that I bet a lot of my fellow women are joining me in thinking, "you mean you didn't already have a mental (or written) to-do list for home stuff???"

This is not to pick on his article, which I think is good and I'm glad he's made these realizations. Just a thing that jumped out at me.
posted by misskaz at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


"you mean you didn't already have a mental (or written) to-do list for home stuff???"

As a man I ask the same thing. I mean, there have been times when my home to-do list has been shorter but sheesh, how can you not have things to do around the house?
posted by GuyZero at 12:45 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, good point GuyZero. I can't imagine getting home and just... having a blank mind and waiting for things to present themselves (or not) that need to be done.
posted by misskaz at 12:56 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine getting home and just... having a blank mind and waiting for things to present themselves (or not) that need to be done.

Seriously. Off the top of my head I can tell you five things that need to be fixed/completed just in the bathroom.

Mud the drywall around the medicine cabinet, grout the patch of tiles in the floor from where the sink was move, order a new shower curtain, install a new switch plate, put an elbow on the vent so rainwater doesn't drip on the floor. Oh, and touch up the paint and patch the hole where I moved the light fixture. (in case you were curious).
posted by Ham Snadwich at 1:06 PM on September 28, 2015


i don't get the sense that he would get home and just wait for things to present themselves - but that he was putting so much focus into the fatherhood part that he had let the spouse/partner stuff slip some. so in much the way he re-prioritized work when his son came along, now he realizes he needs to consciously re-prioritize both work and parenting to make sure his wife isn't be left to do the emotional labor and labor-labor of being a fully engaged partner. i'm not reading it as saying he didn't have a home to-do list, but that the more efficient clearing of his to-do list at work wasn't being matched at home and now he's trying to balance that more.
posted by nadawi at 1:07 PM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't imagine getting home and just... having a blank mind and waiting for things to present themselves (or not) that need to be done.

Oh, lots of men do that. Then the wife 'presents' things that need to be done. That's how women as 'nag' started.
posted by Windigo at 1:31 PM on September 28, 2015 [38 favorites]


I can't imagine getting home and just... having a blank mind and waiting for things to present themselves (or not) that need to be done.

...This is how I live my life.

The only thing that gives my evenings any structure is my dog and his ridiculous need to be fed and given attention with some modicum of regularity.
posted by phunniemee at 1:35 PM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I will add that it's really pretty nice.

I treat relaxing as an honest to god hobby, though, so making sure I'm actually consistently able to just do nothing has got a pretty high priority.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I can't imagine getting home and just... having a blank mind and waiting for things to present themselves (or not) that need to be done.

...This is how I live my life.

I pretty much live this way too. But I live alone and I don't have kids. Nor do I have a job that invades my home life. Any one of those things changes, and BOOM! Confetti.
posted by JanetLand at 1:47 PM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


I love my family of course but I have very frequent day dreams of coming home and relaxing on the couch. I eventually get to do that around 9:30 or 10pm but I often end up sacrificing sleep to do so.
posted by JenMarie at 1:48 PM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


So one of the things that interests me that this article didn't touch on is the stuff we (women) do that is definitely work but that "looks like" leisure. Or more insiduously, the things that when men do a version of the thing they consider it to be "relaxing" and don't understand why women aren't relaxed by the (apparently identical) task.

In language there are morphemes and phonemes and. Morphemes are the smallest possible unit of meaning. Phonemes are sounds that have meaning. Sometimes two sounds may share a meaning.

I want to build this as a metaphor for activity but I'm at my best friend's place helping with her kids and they're kind of distracting. One has a sneezy nose and the other keeps trying to sneak her bed blanket onto the welcome mat inside the front door. The other adult here is making dinner. I paraphrase her, she says "yes, the to do list. It is never done and until it is done there can be no relaxing."

So. I saw on metafilter a while back a great phrase. Stunt Cooking. So. By and large women are tasked with the day to day sustenance of keeping families fed. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, who likes what, what leftovers are going to go bad, which store has an unbelievably good sale on chicken thighs this week that can pad out the chest freezer, when will the family be hosting out of town guests, when will one of the kids be out for a sleepover. It is generally the man in the family (#notallmen) who just shows up and eats. But it is also generally the man who does the grilling or the turkey frying or the other "stunt cooking." We can talk about how the ancillary tasks around stunt cooking are likely to be divided - shopping, marinade mixing, dish supplying, indoor dish washing, grill cleaning, deck preparing - but there is more variation there. So in any case, the stunt cooker is likely to say "this is so fun! We should have people over to grill every weekend! He is able to count "feeding his family" as a leisure activity. And is baffled that the women in his life (maybe) don't (always) find it relaxing.
He is unlikely to have to think hard about what will become of the leftovers, and unlikely to have to handle the consequences if small children become ill from food contamination as a result of careless food handling (though too be honest, these days a lot of food contamination results from vegetables too). So. Cooking and preparing meals day in and day out is ... work. And women (generally) recognize it as work. And lots of men do too. But there can be sort of a grey area there. Some women do report that their favorite part of the day is meal prep. Keep in mind though, that meal prep in this sense is not generally counting the grocery shopping, the food allergy awareness, the washing of children's hands before and after meals, the vacuuming under the table after junior showers the floor with half chewed taco shells.

And to close, I'll say, time confetti is why I knit socks. I knit socks because they are portable, and they fit in a purse and they keep me from murdering tardy doctors and manspreaders on the A train. Socks give me something to do with my hands when I'm anxious. This turns these moments from utter misery into something that looks like leisure. But are these moments leisure? I'm not 100% sold in either direction. For the generations of women and girls who earned their pin money by knitting ornate socks on much tinier needles than I wield, no. Sock knitting was never leisure. For me, a woman who can go to Target and buy a 6 pack of cotton anklets for <$10, perhaps. Perhaps this is leisure.
posted by bilabial at 1:55 PM on September 28, 2015 [66 favorites]


wow. i'm gonna chew on that comment for a while, bilabial. thank you for making it. i've recently started knitting again while i watch crappy tv because it helps with my anxiety but also because i was getting anxious by "wasting my time" so if i'm knitting i'm still being productive. this is also why i tend to fold laundry or organize mail with tv on in the background - it justifies my "slacking off."
posted by nadawi at 2:10 PM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Another feminist thinker around these issues: Marilyn Waring--previously mentioned in a comment by Miko on women and time.

Who's Counting?: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics [full length NFB documentary, free streaming]
Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth [book]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:11 PM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


So one of the things that interests me that this article didn't touch on is the stuff we (women) do that is definitely work but that "looks like" leisure.

I love the concept of "stunt cooking" (Oh, you mean, "I do all the prep work and clean up and side dishes, and you think you've cooked dinner?") and what also jumped into my head is all the supposedly "pampering" activities women are supposed to engage in so that we stay presentable, which get coded as "luxuries," except they're not luxuries because we get financially dinged for not engaging in them. Like clothes shopping, or hair styling, or make-up applying. I understand that many women (and men) legitimately like doing those things, but it's not automatically "leisure" or "luxury" time.
posted by jaguar at 2:20 PM on September 28, 2015 [30 favorites]


Bilabial, it looks like you've got some notes for Ling 101 embedded in your very excellent comment there. I was really excited to see how phonemes and morphemes related to the thread, and then was sad :(
posted by damayanti at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2015


Morphemes and Phonemes. I'm going to try.

Meaning. Do our actions have meaning? Do others recognize our actions as being imbued with meaning? Do we agree on what those meanings are? Someone has already pointed back to the emotional labor thread.

Phonemes. Is one activity identifiable as different from other activities?

Who decides? Where do we find shifts in meaning? How are these changes enacted? Just as there are regional differences in sound creation there are also regional patterns of behavior. We have ask vs guess culture, where a gesture can make the difference between confirmation and denial. From the outside those gestures may look the same, like in some languages p and b don't sound different, and in other languages aspirating a sound gives it a new meaning. If a man gets a manicure it means something very different than when a woman gets a manicure. Then among women this breaks down along class lines. Poor women who get manicures are seen as frivolous. Well to do women who refuse to get them are considered obdurate or uncaring about their appearance. Hair dying, clothes shopping, where and how often to buy groceries, what to cook. These seemingly tiny things are so laden and rich with meaning.

And then morphemes. Cultural Consonance has a lot to say about stress. I would say that these meanings can be such minefields. The meaning of an activity in the home "I love my family and want them to feel safe" can be entirely turned on it's head outside the home "you cook and clean and you are such a sheep to be a housewife!" Or "you're wasting that Ivy League degree by turning yourself into a baby machine." And the other side of the coin has just as many disparate meanings.

One of the interesting things about time studies is that women don't generally spend less time on housework than we did before the advent of refrigeration, vacuums, home washing machines, etc. Instead the standards constantly rise. The minimum acceptable state of things just bubbles ever upward. The smallest unit of "effort" is growing more granular. Now it's not beating the rugs twice a season, but instead vacuuming at some frequency. Or sweeping every day. With the increased availability of affordable soft goods, these things now much be replaced more frequently. With greater availability of ever more novel food stuffs we must have thrilling foods on the table, rather than just sturdy and tasty fare.

And then we circle back to emotional labor where our failures indicate that we are bad or inadequate mothers. An inability or unwillingness to keep up (or worse if we insist on defending real stretches of leisure time) high standards is tut tutted as "not caring." When we suggest that someone might take care of us for a bit, or just notice all the work that goes into our caretaking, then we are also shushed. "Don't make it so transactional," we are told.

And once we've reached the edge of emotional or physical breakdown, our doctors and husbands tell us "you know, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first. You can't take good care of others if you don't take care of yourself. You should relax."

When? I want to know when I should relax. The subway is a terrible place to relax. So are medical offices. Hungry grasping children who want another story, might stick their snotty fingers into your nose, might fling themselves out of windows or into traffic are also not adept at creating time to relax.
posted by bilabial at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2015 [47 favorites]


It's interesting. I don't have kids and live alone, and I still feel like I fill up all my free time with food prep and cleaning. I can't decide whether I'm just a really slow and inept cook/ grocery shopper/ cleaner, whether everyone else's cleaning standards are just lower than mine, whether other people hire house-cleaners or eat lots of takeout and just don't mention it, or whether everyone I know is also spending a huge chunk of their non-work time folding laundry, making dinner, packing lunch and cleaning the kitchen. This isn't really a feminist issue for me: like I said, there's no one else to do it. It's just a thing that confuses me about life.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:44 PM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


whether everyone else's cleaning standards are just lower than mine

and how!
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's more likely ineptitude and being easily distracted by the internet.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:47 PM on September 28, 2015


If you value your free time, do not have children. Its why people go child free.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:31 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]



I love the concept of "stunt cooking" (Oh, you mean, "I do all the prep work and clean up and side dishes, and you think you've cooked dinner?")


South Park once made a wonderful point about this in the episode "Creme Fraiche," wherein Randy Marsh makes his family a goat cheese and heirloom frittata for breakfast, then swans out the door with, "I'm sorry if there's something wrong with me helping out with the cooking! 'd think you'd be grateful, Sharon! I gotta get to work. I cooked, so you guys clean up."

That aired a few years as I got married and my partner was in the early throes of stunt cooking. I used to walk into the kitchen, look at his mess, say, "Creme fraiche," and walk out again. My husband hated me comparing him to Randy Marsh like that. And me shrugging, "So don't act like him" led to a really productive discussion.
posted by sobell at 3:51 PM on September 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is relevant enough to the topic of the essay to mention in the thread, but one thing I've noticed is that, at least in my experience, people seem to be far more inclined to interrupt a woman when she's doing something. I hate, hate, hate being interrupted in the middle of a task, and yet nearly every place I have worked someone has come up to me and bothered me and expected an immediate response while I was doing a task that required my full concentration (like talking on the phone). And don't get me started about my family, where I am apparently the default attention dispenser. (I'm sorry if this wasn't well fleshed out; I would have thought about this more but I was constantly interrupted all day.)

I remember reading in Women's Work: the First 2,000 Years that the tasks we think of as stereotypically "women's work"- cleaning, cooking, sewing/fabric making - are tasks that are compatible with childcare and interruptible by design.
posted by Lycaste at 3:58 PM on September 28, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's interesting. I don't have kids and live alone, and I still feel like I fill up all my free time with food prep and cleaning. I can't decide whether I'm just a really slow and inept cook/ grocery shopper/ cleaner,

When I eat on my own I do little to no cooking, I'm happy with kalamata olives, hummus, and cheese for dinner, or other random things like an avocado, a banana, and some almonds. I really dislike food planning and prep and I'd say that's one of the things I dislike about parenting, endlessly thinking of fresh and nutritious meals and snacks.
posted by JenMarie at 3:59 PM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember reading in Women's Work: the First 2,000 Years that the tasks we think of as stereotypically "women's work"- cleaning, cooking, sewing/fabric making - are tasks that are compatible with childcare and interruptible by design.
They're also, I think, for the most part things that are never fucking finished. I mean, you clean something, and as soon as it's clean it's going to get dirty again and you'll have to go back and clean it again. You cook, and pretty much as soon as you've finished clearing up and doing the dishes, it's time to start on the next meal. Sewing gets finished, I guess, but mending never does. Childcare, by definition, is never done. You never really get the feeling of accomplishing anything. It's like everything I hated about grad school, except it's your whole life.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:07 PM on September 28, 2015 [25 favorites]


So hard with the never finished. Food acquisition follows this well. In hunter gatherer groups, the women consistently provide more calories than the men. Sure, men go out and make big kills, but those are relatively rare.

Additionally, a hunt has a beginning, a middle and an end. Knowing which nuts/berries/fruits are in season, not picked over by wildlife, etc is an ongoing process that must be attended to daily.

The rituals for hunting (and large fishing expeditions) are more public.

I could go on and on about ritual. Like why don't women count for the minyan in Orthodox Judaism? Oh. Because God hears it prayers more easily. Men need to combine their voices so God can hear them. So in addition to all the stuff that is visible as work, we have to pray all day. And if some horror befalls our family then some communities will remark on a failure of religious rightness. (And I'm not picking on Judaism here, female religious activity is often held to very high standards and intense scrutiny. And I'll say women police this as much as men, just to head off the foreboding feeling I have that someone is about to drop into this conversation and say it. I know this is so often said earnestly, as though if women would just let up on each other, these problems would stop. I've been guilty of that sort of behavior myself.)

It's not even that there are so many things that are never finished, as that nothing is ever finished. Sure, the barn is raised. But getting the word out which weekend it will happen, getting the food together, soothing the ruffled social feathers about whatever perceived slight, feeding everyone, attending to the courtships that might be budding, watching watching, always watching. These are women's tasks.

So rarely do women have the chance to just be in a space without noticing the work that needs to happen.
posted by bilabial at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


I read someone once who measured her time at home after she got to wondering why she never got anything done -- and this was a household with an involved dad and two children who were raised to generally be able to fetch their own snacks, so in theory she should have had some kind of time to be able to feel like she got things done. But it wasn't actually working out that way in practice.

So every time she was interrupted she pressed a stopwatch and wrote down the amount of time since the last interruption.

She averaged two minutes.

Related: I cannot begin to tell you how much I dislike the canard that women are better at multitasking. For a lot of us, I think it's not that we switch gears -- it's that we never get to gear to begin with. That click moment, that focus moment? I can count on one hand how many times I've experienced that so far this year. Otherwise it's just ... transition, transition, transition. Things need doing, things need fixing, smoothing, sorting, cleaning, preparing, all the time. There's no rest moment, no "gear meets gear". It's tumblers all the way down.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:20 PM on September 28, 2015 [29 favorites]


I think it's more likely ineptitude and being easily distracted by the internet.

I don’t quite know if I’d put it that way (he typed while being distracted) - I think that work has a tendency to expand to fill available space.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:25 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I totally notice my male socialized ability to ignore all those "other" details that other women are able to pick up and take care of and get done without needing to talk about it or even needing to have it be noticed. Shit just quietly gets done you know? It's A TON of work that's done like that.

The differences of the types of work performed by different genders is stark. I hate it when I notice my girlfriend seeing the dozens of things that need doing in a day and I'm sitting there in a hardly could notice clueless pose.

For as much as the sex of my body creates an internal burden, I'm sure how I was socialized creates a larger external burden on those close to me that I still don't even see.

Sighs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:26 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've started making Mondays mama's day off. I play games, mostly. My game got cancelled yesterday, so I was gearing up to do some work when a friend texted and I mentioned catching a movie but I was gearing up to work. He thought I meant I had to go to work but I said "no, just doing research" and his immediate response was "work on a day off? fuckno!" so we watched a move together. I felt kinda guilty. Except if I don't do this, have this time off on a regular uninterrupted basis, everything goes south. My brother-in-law has tried guilting me about it but I know my quality of work changes drastically, and my mental health suffers abysmally.

But here's the thing: On those days off I also often do laundry (voicechat rpg, so I can play and hang things out) and washing up, and cook dinner. Send work emails. Yesterday I made a pot of soup and a slice and I did the washing up. It has only been the past few months - since a major ground-shaking argument in June - that my partner has started using his days off and time off to do work like that without being asked, or told, or having them pointed out to him, or him doing it as an apology/favour. I always, always, always did it. He never thought about it until the argument about what help actually looks like. But every single person around us thinks I have more leisure time because I can organise my schedule to pick our kid up from school and do my writing/research at home.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:03 PM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


With greater availability of ever more novel food stuffs we must have thrilling foods on the table, rather than just sturdy and tasty fare.

Boy that hit a nerve. I'm constantly appraising my day, analyzing why more things aren't getting done. I theoretically have all this time so why isn't the fence getting painted? One reason is because I frequently underestimate how much time I spend on meal prep/clean up. It shouldn't take me an hour and a half to make dinner for two people, yet it very often does and a big reason is because I don't start with canned vegetables like my mother did, but with fresh, raw vegetables that need to be peeled and cut. Meat that needs to be seared before being braised. A nice sauce that starts with diced scallions cooked in butter, simmered with wine, then with stock. It is a pleasure to cook and eat good food but it is crazy how much time it takes out of the day.

That is just dinner. There is also lunch to be made and while my husband doesn't eat a traditional breakfast, he does take a snack to work along with his dinner (he works nights.) His snacks are, again, things made from scratch like fried salmon cakes or Italian meatballs in sauce.

I must spend 40% of my time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. I'm always in there, making coffee, making ice tea. Cleaning and filling the dog's water bowl. Wiping down the refrigerator or reorganizing the freezer. Washing the floor, wiping off the ceiling fan. De-cluttering the kitchen table, de-cluttering and washing off the counters. It never stops. I could be in there right now because it has been raining today so the floor is muddy and I know the condiment shelf in the refrigerator should be wiped down.

One memory I have of my mom as a housekeeper is her afternoon TV time. She was on the go from 6:00 until she went to bed but she had her the soap operas. She might do some ironing while watching, but usually she put her feet up and watched TV for an hour or two every afternoon. I say every afternoon but of course she couldn't do that on the weekend or when we kids were home sick or when we had to be taken to the doctor or when it was a holiday or when there were out-of-town guests staying with us or when my dad needed her to run an errand.

Then my parents got divorced and she went back to school to get her nursing license and then a job. As a single mom working a full time job, I'm sure she had no leisure time until my brother and I left home.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:27 PM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


One thing that really gets me is the constant *waiting* to be interrupted. Right now, for example, my daughter is napping. I have about 80 things I could get started on (or I could read Metafilter and eat lunch with both hands, which is what I've chosen to do). I'm afraid to start most of them, though, because I figure I'd get five minutes into it and she'll wake up. At no time am I genuinely relaxing or focused on any work I'm doing because I'm just waiting, constantly listening out of one ear, for my daughter to wake up and need me to immediately drop what I'm doing and go take care of her. It's worst during the day when I'm home alone with her, but even in the evenings, even after she goes to bed, it's basically impossible to completely relax and have complete attention on relaxing because some part of me assumes it's going to end any second now. It's a tension that's really frustrating to carry around.
posted by olinerd at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2015 [25 favorites]


That's called "being on call" in IT speak, olinerd. You are doing very real and very demanding work. At one job I worked at I got paid 600 dollars extra per week of pay when it was my "on-call week" just to make sure I had a pager near me 24/7 and was ready to drop everything and get to business on a moment's notice.

So I think what you do is worth a hell of a lot more than that because babies are way more awesome and deserving of that level of dedication than a damn network switch for a bunch of cash registers.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:23 PM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't quite get what the time expert's point was, other than triggering this article.

The time expert is there to speed up the line. He's not there to help the workers.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:07 PM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think this is a major factor in why mobile games are so popular with women. They're cheaper, don't require dedicated equipment or blocks of time, easily interruptible, and still enjoyable to play in small bursts. And guess what kind of games aren't taken seriously...
posted by thetortoise at 10:24 PM on September 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


One of the things I've noticed in my time as Aren't-I-Just-Super-Awesome-I'm-Doing-This-On-My-Own-You Know-Dad is the massive disparity in the amount of "credit" I'm getting. I had to have words with a family member who opined that I was spoiling my daughter because when she spent a night at her mother's I rearranged her computer room instead of having "me-time". Even her school commented that I spent too much time dropping off things which she had forgotten, not in the context of perhaps she shouldn't be so forgetful but that it was taking up too much of my time. The offers of babysitting never stop; "you know if you need a night out with the lads". These people have met me ffs; why? would becoming primary caregiver include a lobotomy or something.

Another thing I wanted to mention to the men in here. It stings when problems you face are couched in gendered terms which do not include you. I haven't read the emotional labour thread because it would genuinely be hurtful as I did most of the emotional labour even before my ex and I split. The temptation for b-b-ut what about me moments are unbearable. So, feeling this sting, imagine if this was what it was like all the fucking time. Like constantly, daily, hourly. And it wasn't just about situations which were actually fairly gendered (It is primarily women who face these issues). Imagine growing up where all problems were focused on how they affect notyou. I doubt my daughter's school have complained about the loss of free time for the women who I see in the office dropping off pencil cases or violins or wallets or phones or keys, actually it is a lot when you think about it :) Shit, even writing this comment I just assume people want to hear it because 40 years of male socialisation has meant I have no concept of my opinions not being sought.

I know it's patronising, but even the anildash piece up-thread came with a great big dollop of Duh so perhaps we should chill out, take a step back and wait our turn. When the gravest injustices of the patriarchy and white supremacy are solved they'll get to our white dude problems. Shit, by the time they do then ours will be solved by default.

I am awesome though aren't I. Go on, tell me I am :)
posted by fullerine at 12:04 AM on September 29, 2015 [23 favorites]


Thanks for your comment, fullerine.
When my daughter was 3, I left for three months to find a new home and a job in the US. Well, that was the plan. Because everyone was horrified that I'd leave her with her dad for so long, and in the end, I came back several times during the two months I eventually succeeded in being away.

The craziest thing was to see how the teachers at kindergarten treated my ex-husband during those two months with many short visits. It was like he was Superman, but the cutest superman on the globe in dire need of constant attention and extra help.
Late to pick up - oh but of course - he was a man, he must be doing something important (guy never held a full-time job), child had a diaper rash, at 3?????: Well, he's a man, can't be expected to know how a child works. Child was sad and lonely: that is definitely the mother's fault and responsibility.

Eventually I brought her over to the US, where no one seemed to think I needed special attention as a single parent. Contrariwise: I worked a day a week in the kindergarten to pay the bill. On top of my other job.
It's telling that when I decided to move back here, so she could maintain contact with her dad, she didn't really find it necessary. (We did anyway - I grew up with a mother who was beset with fantasies about her biological father, and I didn't want to see that repeat itself).

I'm not at all criticizing fathers in general, just wondering about the attitude of the kindergarten, who would have treated a mother who arrived late and had a sad child with problems quite differently.
posted by mumimor at 3:11 AM on September 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Late to the discussion, but just had to comment...

EmpressCallipygos: Don't tell my mother, but - you wanna know one of the reasons why I don't have kids?

This.


By the time I read this post, which was pretty early on in the thread, I'd already sent the article link to my mother in an email with the subject line "This is why I don't have kids".
posted by ladybird at 4:06 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


E. Whitehall said: "I read someone once who measured her time at home after she got to wondering why she never got anything done -- and this was a household with an involved dad and two children who were raised to generally be able to fetch their own snacks, so in theory she should have had some kind of time to be able to feel like she got things done. But it wasn't actually working out that way in practice. "

I did something similar, using an online time tracker, this summer when trying to demonstrate why I didn't pick up contracts in the summer, when I'm responsible for overseeing the pack of feral tweens and teens who stalk my pool and refrigerator.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:01 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the truest thing I have ever read in my life. I am a stay-at-home-mom of two young children (8 and 4), and I sing with the local symphony orchestra chorale and with another elite choir. I also have recently taken stock of my physical and mental health and concluded that I need to get a lot more exercise and eat a lot better. As a result, this is what my days look like:

7:15: Get out of bed, perform morning ablutions
7:30-8:30: Wake children, debate endlessly about what they want to eat for breakfast (no you cannot have marshmallows with milk on top), prepare them breakfast, harangue them to finish their breakfasts, find them clothes, harangue them to put on their clothes, brush their hair, make sure homework is completed, make sure everything that needs to be signed or viewed or packed is signed or viewed or packed -- oh, and dress and feed myself, also
8:30-9:20: Walk my older child to school, hissing at the younger child all the way about how he needs to keep up and yes I'm sorry we lost our bus service this year but isn't it INVIGORATING to begin every morning with a 3/4 mile walk straight up a hill, I'm sure this will continue to be just as fun once winter sets in and it begins pissing with rain (time includes return trip)
9:20-9:30: Arrive back home, shove younger child directly into car, grab purse and keys and granola bar, go to the gym
9:30-11:00: workout time. BLISS. Gym includes child care. Someone else can answer 4 year old's endless piping questions. Rolling my IT band is so much easier when I don't have to explain to my child how one frames a basement at the same time.
11:00-11:30: Arrive back home. Make sure child pees, finishes eating granola bar. Take world's fastest shower, pray child has not somehow gotten filthy. Dress. Bring child out to the bus stop (younger child has some motor disabilities so he is in state-sponsored preschool, which still includes the bus). Put child on bus.
11:30-2:05: NO CHILDREN!!! This is my time!! . . . to eat lunch, grocery shop, learn my music, do the laundry, clean the house, do the meal planning, write the emails, plan what this week's Family Active Time is going to be, pick up husband's incredibly expensive refrigeration-required medication from the specialty pharmacy, and maybe even read a book or screw around on Metafilter for a bit.
2:15: Younger child gets off bus, is exhausted from the 1.5 mile round trip walk plus the 90 minutes in the child care plus school. Make him lunch, let him veg in front of the TV (with added bonus endless piping questions), because. . .
3:15-4:00: Walk back up to the elementary school to retrieve older child. Endure redoubled complaining from younger child. Once again, time includes return trip.
4:00 - 6:00: prepare snack for older child. Hiss at older child until she completes homework. Pry younger child off of older child, because younger child has been cruelly deprived of his older sister's company since nine o'clock this morning and now wishes to hug her with his whole body without cease. Hiss at younger child that people have the right to their own personal space and that you cannot hug someone who doesn't want to be hugged, because if the other person doesn't want the hug, then it's not a hug, it's an attack. Prepare dinner for the family. Feed myself.
6:00 PM: Leave for rehearsal. I get home at half past 10 PM. The 45-minute commute in rush hour traffic is close to Nirvana.

The kicker, of course, is that this represents a life of almost unimaginable grace and opportunity for me, and that one of the reasons I am so busy is because I have set my own needs for exercise and artistic discipline at a high priority -- a fact which I am frequently reminded of, believe you me. But regardless, the next time someone says "Oh, you're a stay-at-home-mom? Now that school has started, you must have so much time!" I will not be responsible for my actions.
posted by KathrynT at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


They're also, I think, for the most part things that are never fucking finished. I mean, you clean something, and as soon as it's clean it's going to get dirty again and you'll have to go back and clean it again.

Ha, this reminds me of when my husband was helping around the house one day and said, "Oh so we just need to fold and put away one more basket of laundry and then were done." And I maniacally shrieked, "Done? Done??? It's NEVER dooooooooooone!!!"
posted by JenMarie at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The 45-minute commute in rush hour traffic is close to Nirvana.

I can so relate to this, KathrynT. I stayed at home with my son for over two years, and many mornings we drove my husband in to work. He always appreciated it and felt bad we were going out of our way, but I was like, "are you kidding? I get to sit back and sip my coffee and relax, this is so great!"
posted by JenMarie at 11:56 AM on September 30, 2015


I have the Dore painting of Don Quixote framed and hung over the laundry separation baskets. It's been there for three years. Recently I broke my ankle and tore some ligaments, and Husband has been doing laundry. He walked into my office and was all "Oh. My. God. I just now figured out why you hung that in the laundry." I laughed.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:33 PM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Skipping to the bottom of this thread without reading the whole thing (yet) to say thank you, sciatrix, for this link. For me, it is one of those things that articulates something I've always known and experienced but have never actually been able to shine a spotlight on in my own life. (Sorry for the convoluted sentence.)

I was camping recently with a lot of friends; we were hanging out in and around a river, talking and reading novels and so on, and I kept jumping up to clean up breakfast dishes, refill lamp oil, husk corn, chop veggies for dinner, hang up towels and the kids' wet swimming suits, wrap a present for a kid having a birthday at the time, tidy up the tent and make sure the flashlights were accessible once it got dark, retrieve flipflops from wherever the kids had left them all over the campground, and on and on. I mentioned at the time (to the folks who were hanging out relaxing) that I had a problem relaxing when there was a "to do" list running in my head, and that was all it was. I attributed all this to my neuroses and really didn't think of it as a gendered thing (though I was conscious that a lot of it was "emotional labor").

Stunt cooking also is a GREAT term! My husband is a better and more interested cook than I am (I really don't like cooking); but he's also the one with the greater earning potential right now, and I'm a SAHM, so I end up doing the cooking--except for the fun stuff like occasional feasts with neighbors. And when those happen, I do all the hospitality stuff while he is lauded as a "gourmet chef" (arrgh!). And it's not even that I want to have anything to do with the cooking or the credit for those events! It's just that they do NOT represent everyday life. And men who participate in them get outsized credit because that participation is (still! in 2015!) unexpected. And generally, the planning and shopping and cleaning and prep and setup goes pretty much unnoticed, even though it can take days of forethought, compared to the couple hours of actual cooking.

Hmmm didn't mean to turn this into a rant. I'm going to post this and then go back to reading the whole thread, later tonight when my confetti time allows. Thanks again, sciatrix, and to everyone who has commented.
posted by torticat at 2:01 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was born in the 60s, when breastfeeding was not really the fashion. Despite this, my SAHM asked her OB/GYN about the option. He gave her whatever reasons he had why she shouldn't breastfeed, and then added, "Besides, if you breastfeed you'll never have time to relax." (Where "relax" may also be a code word for "enjoy a cocktail.")
posted by Room 641-A at 6:10 AM on October 2, 2015


"Previously in history, mothers had the help of nearby family, but as families have dispersed, the expectation of women to do all the work has remained. Except now we have to do it without family, without extra help and while working. To this, I say, bullshit."
posted by jillithd at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2015


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