It’s 8:18 on a Wednesday night and I’ve just made the pizza in the park a success, complete with barefoot stream walking and heart-rock finding and splashing with the dog; cleaned up the toothpaste and cornstarch slime; organized tomorrow’s school work; cleaned and sealed the granite counter tops; watered the plants; and vacuumed up deflated ORBEEZ and animal hair and the remnants of homemade whipped cream.
Today I also had a supportive strategy session with my team, a candid chat with my boss, and fortified a girlfriend on the brink. I cut roses (my own) for the bathrooms, found the best bargain outdoor rug, coordinated summer ‘camps’ and secured a part-time seasonal nanny, to minimize the amount of whining and pounding and notes under my makeshift office door (you bet I lock it). The kids are six and eight; I said sunscreen to the nanny and moved on. Always hustling.
It’s a busy place inside my head, too.
I think about department head dynamics, and face mask sizes, and if it’s really wise in the long run not to correct phonetic spelling. I think about screen time and social time, interrupted, and whether my kids are spoiled, and happy, and do enough chores.
Some days I think I do more in 16 hours than most people do in a fortnight. No wonder I want that glass of wine at night. Sue me.
My point is that this is the new women’s work. This is not about COVID-19 directly, but it plays a part. Just read one of the fifty articles about the disproportionate burden of housework, childcare, and emotional labor on women. The data doesn’t lie, folks. And I know I’m one of the luckiest ones.
But I gotta say, men — and children, if we’re casting the widest net — do better. Be nicer. Be more gracious. Be more thankful, out loud. And every once in a while, surprise me.
At home: Don’t say, ‘Good work,’ or ‘Thanks, babe,’ or ‘Mmmnnnn, looks good to me.’ Or, ‘Did we get eggs?’ or ‘We need a CostCo run.’ DO NOT SAY THAT SH*T TO ME.
At work: Don’t say, ‘Well, we don’t have to decide that today,’ when I’ve decided on something. Don’t say, ‘Well, we should really loop so-and-so in…’ when I’ve come to YOU and it’s a courtesy and nothing more. Don’t say some version of ‘We’re already doing that / done that / we’ve got it covered.’ I would NOT be bringing it up if I thought you had it covered. Duh.
And, kids: I love you so much. I’m proud of you. You’re magical and light up my world. But by God, you need to get a clue. Newsflash: You’ve never really had a bad day in your life, at least by global standards and probably even by zip code standards. You have more stuff and more love and more opportunity than any kid could ever need.
You have full tummies and nature shows and access to the pantry and Lucky Charms on the weekends. We validate your feelings and help you clean up your rooms and tell you stories and let you keep your baby teeth until they slip out of your gaping mouth. You have it so good. SO good! And still you whine and cry because I can’t do the exact thing you want me to do when you want me to do it. And I hold strong and don’t do it and then you say, ‘You used to be the fun parent!’
You know what I say? I say, ‘I used to go to work.’
And now everything is work.
Each day, everyone needs something. Every counter needs to be cleaned and every email needs to be read and every colleague needs to be satisfied and every small soul needs shepherding to adulthood. Some days I feel like my head is going to explode. Or that I’m going to grab my phone and airpods, a Mango La Croix, a bottle of Grey Poupon, a handful of Hi-Chew’s, and my dog, and just walk out the front door. So long, suckers with an f.
But I don’t. And I won’t. Because I’m a warrior and that’s not what I do. I bring the scraps to the compost heap, I pat my dog, I kiss my kids, I snuggle my man, I read my book, and I go to bed. And then I wake up and do it all again. I know I’m not alone.
The Beth List — Things to say (or not say) to a warrior
- Don’t say anything, just help.
- Don’t say anything, just listen.
- Say: I don’t know how you do it all; I am in awe.
- Say: One day it won’t be so hard.
- Say: I see you. You’re a warrior, and I thank you.