Who Cares? : On Nags, Martyrs, the Women Who Give Up, and the Men Who Don’t Get It

“Then I came into the living room at the moment we had to leave and realized that my six-year-old had been wrong. His homework hadn’t been done or checked. His lunch hadn’t been packed. He didn’t have a snack or fresh water. He didn’t have an electronic device to bring to school for their special day. Now not only was I suffering the guilt of not getting him ready, but he would have to suffer the consequences of no one helping him. He would have to stay in at recess to complete his homework. He wouldn’t get the thirty minutes of electronic time his friends would have. I was able to grab an orange and throw it in his backpack for a snack, but it was too late for the rest of it. Even though my husband had been the one on duty for the morning, I was the one left with the guilt of taking my son to school ill prepared.”

—Gemma Hartley, “Who Cares? : On Nags, Martyrs, the Women Who Give Up, and the Men Who Don’t Get It.” Longreads.com. November 2018.

I do most of the traditional gender role jobs of a woman. I cook, clean, wash dishes, do the laundry, buy groceries, etc.

One difference that I notice is that I don’t care how something gets done. If the goal is to make sure everyone eats, then a weekly soup or take out food are perfectly acceptable options.

But, I’ve known women that add further requirements. The food needs to be fresh. It needs to be healthy. They don’t believe in eating leftovers. A lot of these requirements are good ideas, in the main, but need to be thought of as guidelines rather than an absolute rule. Men do this as well, but it is more common among women. I think a lot of it is about control.

Take the example above, I think the child not being prepared and having these imagined negative outcomes might be a catalyst for the child taking more responsibility for themselves. Maybe next time they’ll remind the parent or remember to bring the electronic device themselves. You learn responsibility by having it and coming up short. This is true for children, husbands and wives. If someone can get to 80% of how you would do it over time, why would you want to continue doing it yourself?

You wouldn’t unless you just want to exert control. In which case, you’re not performing emotional labor. You’re merely someone who isn’t a good delegator.

Sure, there are men, likely a majority, that do a bad job of housework to get out of it. But, it’s like managing colleagues, bosses, and subordinates in the work place. You train, eliminate unnecessary requirements, and fire the ones that can’t get the work done. It’s why we need to live with someone before taking on a long-term commitment.

Men need to do more “emotional labor.” Most need to do more around the house. But, on the other side, if you were to hire someone, you would do so knowing that it isn’t going to get done exactly your way, if for no other reason because it’ll take more time and cost more. Same is true for partners, except instead of currency you pay in caring. Pay less.

One thought on “Who Cares? : On Nags, Martyrs, the Women Who Give Up, and the Men Who Don’t Get It

  1. Beautifully said.
    Have a funny story about experiences in a Turkish bath hammam….hard to find time to write….call to prayer just started 3:45 am. Men chanting, wild dogs howling human and canine howls, strangely beautiful

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