If you’re a stay at home parent, you’re in danger of burn-out. I know. This is counter-intuitive because as a society we look at unpaid work or any work done inside the home as leisurely and as time off from real work, that is anything that brings in money.
This was a topic of conversation recently on Dear Sugars with Cheryl Strayed of Wild fame. She was a woman who came to discover herself after releasing herself into the wild in one of the longest walking trails in the world. I haven’t read the book yet (it is on my reading list), my understanding is that she’s had revelations there left to herself in the arms of Mother Nature who isn’t always known for being gentle or loving. More like tough but fair and there to support you with her gifts if you’re in touch with your senses.
Reflecting back on my own childhood with a mother who wasn’t present for mother-daughter bonding, I think it’s a real tragedy that many stay-at-home mums’ time is eaten away by the constant nagging of housework, partners and children. They simply have nothing of their spiritual essence to give to themselves let alone to share with their children.
How do stay-at-home fathers fare?
I think much better. It’s not in the nature of the divine masculine to care, care, care until there’s nothing left. It’s my suspicion that the reason many jobs populated by males pay better is that they think about how much their time is worth whereas many women don’t. One need only look at the pay scales of care and teaching jobs, which are seen as feminine professions, to see that the monetary rewards aren’t there.
If you read Fridays in Avalon regularly, you may have picked up that growing up, my mum wasn’t around much. She was in the markets selling her baked goods instead of baking for us lot. I don’t blame her. Mothering is a thankless job. Us, women, we tend to be like The Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s classic. Take our apples, branches, trunk, and we will be happy that those who took all of that away from us still return and sit on our stump…
Well, we’re not trees, we are human. As is mum. All of this giving made her really short tempered with her family. I mostly remembered the times she was short with me and that made me resent her up until last Friday, which was International Women’s Day of all days. In the past, she certainly wasn’t practicing all this “conscious parenting/being in the present” stuff that I’m consuming in vast doses (thank you, Dr. Shefali and Daily Om…).
My ego made the mistake that mum, the graceful woman in front of me today, is the same one running around like a mad woman, letting her household fall into dysfunction (and no, it wasn’t her sole responsibility to ensure everyone was loved and supported in our family. We also had a dad).
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…
The realisation came out of a photo shoot. I decided a photo shoot with mum and my daughters would be the ticket to bettering our relationship. You see, mum grew up in a household that valued beauty, with a sister who was a model. I thought she’d appreciate getting dolled up and having her photo taken.
I was so right (but not exactly).
I was really impressed that Jen of Vividity Photography knew the worth of her technical skill and creativity. She made it clear that her work has value and a price, as we live in a material world where money is the currency.
I believe this is what we must become comfortable with as women. We must know how much value to put on our time so any work that takes us away from our highest priority – ourselves and family – is properly rewarded.
I don’t know how much money mum made or what her hourly rate came down to as she never properly set herself up as a business. I think she didn’t want to know, as she was certainly getting appreciation from the people she sold her food to. Whereas from us, she wasn’t getting any of that. We simply were not aware that as a person/human-being above all she wanted appreciation.
We took her for granted.
Anyways, I loved the photo session as it gave me and mum the time and space to express our true beauty. Those photos reflected how I’d like to hold mum in my memory forever. Photos, when taken by someone who understands you and are given the right amount of time to develop are a way to earmark pages in the book that is our life. That day Jen came to our place is a day with emotions that I want to keep coming back to.
Men Want to be Taught the Value of Emotional Labour
As I hinted at, men don’t immediately see the value of emotional labour. As I’m not making money, I felt a little guilty for purchasing something for me and I didn’t discuss it with my partner in advance.
When he came home, I told him that I’d purchased the photos. His first reaction was that he did not see how mere photos (ones he could just easily snap on his iPhone) could be worth so much.
He was also upset that he wasn’t in the picture, literally and figuratively as I didn’t involve him in the decision-making process as this was something intensely personal to me.
So he was very upset and I acknowledged his hurt feelings and reached deep within myself to explain to him what the photos meant. They were a celebration of having mum in my life (and how truly lucky I am that she’s still with us in person) but more importantly, I saw the value of the emotional labour, understanding and love that Jen was pouring into her work. She understood and gave us the proper time and space to get in touch with ourselves and that’s what she captured.
Nobody’s Wiser Than Their Mum (Mums Were Here First)
On Friday (International Women’s Day of all days!) I finally had the confrontation with mum about holding onto upset that she wasn’t around when I needed her most. It resulted in a fight and her telling me to stop living in the past – LOL.
She got me good. And then I became aware that I kept seeing the woman I knew and not who is in front of me today.
I felt the knot in my heart come loose and I started to see her for who she is. I felt love for her again. It’s bittersweet but mostly joyful. Tears have been flowing since.
My Money Attitude
I value relationships above all and money is an illusion and as such, I’m no longer blocked when it comes to spending money on things of true value. I know the photos will never bring back that day but whenever I see a woman who’s valued herself and her work enough to pursue further education or has taken a risk by starting her own business, I want to help in some way. The least I can do is listen to her story so I understand how much emotional labour it takes for us women to step outside of the threshold of our homes to do our work.
I honestly, even as a woman, had no appreciation of the emotional labour I do, let alone how much of it other women around me do… In some ways, we’re just as insensitive as men.
Thank you to you ladies who don’t stop and keep doing the work you know to be your true calling. Even if this work is inside of the home for the time-being.
Please make sure you don’t burn out. Protect yourselves by looking after yourselves, breathing, drinking your water, grounding yourselves, feeling the fire in your belly and the love in your hearts.
Over to you…
What has been a realisation you came to on women’s work and why it’s valued less (in terms of money) than the contributions of men?
Do you believe that seeing yourself as a business and setting an hourly rate for yourself may be the solution?