Dr. Helen

Men: Welcome to 'Emotional Labor'

Do you ever get tired of women constantly talking about how men don’t do any of the heavy “emotional” lifting? Maybe at work, you hear that men are getting off light as women do everything to make others comfortable. This is pretty much bullshit but women are being fed such a bill of goods that they believe it hook, line and sinker. Here is an example of an entitled wife who thinks her husband is supposed to do more than his share of parenting and read her mind too:

I complained to my husband about taking our son to the dentist and fluffed it. This hadn’t been a particularly traumatic trip. In fact, it was routine at worst. My three-year-old bounced up onto the chair and bared his teeth like a lion. He jumped at the opportunity to wear protective glasses, pronounced them ‘cool’ and sat (mostly) still throughout the check-up.

But the complaint I made at home wasn’t about the dentist, or even that I had been the one to take my son to the dentist. It was more nuanced. I was frustrated at being the one responsible for remembering to go in the first place. I was frustrated that while my partner and I are equal on the doing of parenting and household administration and upkeep, I seem to be mostly responsible for its management.

My husband was understandably confused. He generally shoulders more of the parenting burden, so protested that he’d be happy to take Rafi to the dentist next time. “It’s not about that,” I responded while explaining the hassle of finding a suitable time, of calling when the clinic doesn’t take online appointments. Next, he offered to make the appointment next time around. “It’s not about the making of the appointment”, I huffed. “Well, what is it about?” came his now rather grumpy reply….

Writer Leah Fessler says women find it difficult to communicate, particularly with male partners, about emotional labour because it’s generally unseen. Emotional labour is conducted not in the physical world but in the psychological realm. It’s happening in women’s heads and yes, men rarely notice it. “Getting most men to understand and genuinely appreciate emotional labour is often a Sisyphean task, precisely because to them—much like microaggressions to white people—this work is invisible,” Fessler writes. “If you don’t do it, or feel pressured to do it, why should you care?”

Women think everything they do is “special.” Everything men do is expected and if they don’t do everything just like women plus shoulder their share of the “man duties” they are seen as slackers and worse. Next time you take out the garbage, mow the lawn, go check the safety of the house or bring home more of the paycheck, complain to her about your frustration.

Then when she responds she will do it (if only), state that it’s more nuanced than than that or better yet, say “great” and let her. See how she responds to such “invisible” hostility. For that is what this really is; it is a hostile act towards men because only what women do and feel matters. Everything else is irrelevant.