A Day Without A Woman: #UnpaidLabor

I wake up. Waking up is not considered labor. It doesn’t count.

But my eyes are rarely open before a child comes into my bedroom asking for something. Usually it’s a smoothie. Is getting out of bed and handing him a smoothie (“I need a straw mommy.”) considered unpaid labor? I say yes.

For argument’s sake, if people get paid to do it, let’s call it labor. Nannies get paid to open smoothies (and find straws) for kids. It’s labor.

So was it also unpaid labor when I drove to BJs, purchased a case of ’em, and lugged them into my home to refrigerate them? Personal shopper. Again, yes.

Then I get the kids dressed. “These don’t fit me mommy.”

“There’s a tag on that one mommy.”

I pack their lunches (or at the very least, remember to put the lunches that Lyndon packed in the car) and I taxi them both to the schools that I found for them. Hopefully I remember the quarters for the bake sale or the napmats that I meant to launder over the weekend. The drive takes about an hour & fifteen in total. More unpaid labor.

At this point it’s only 9:15 am and I can’t imagine how I could avoid doing these thing – in addition to all the other unpaid labor type things I do throughout the day – as much as I would love to.

Because if I didn’t do those things – and there have been days when I haven’t – who would?

Lyndon would. (Note: If I had children with my ex-wife, this question would be much more difficult on a Day Without Women. Who would pick up the childcare slack?)

But I do have a man in my house – which means that if I don’t do this unpaid labor on A Day Without A WomanA Day Without A Woman – he will.


He’d be late to work because of the morning activities, and then he’d leave work early (very early – their school day is only approx 6 hrs long, so with the driving he’d have about a 5 hour work window max) to pick them up. I’d get a day off. Sounds amazing.

(Wait, why am I not doing this?)

I guess I’m passing on it because I’d be putting a lot of effort into not living my life while also putting a pretty hefty cost on my partner and on my children.

We’re not wealthy people, but Lyndon does have the kind of job where he wouldn’t get fired if he had to take his kids to and from school on one particular day. It wouldn’t do him any favors though, right? None of us feel any real job security these days, do we?

And missing work means missing opportunities in this dog-eat-dog-or-every-man-for-himself type of capitalist workforce, right? Or missing meetings for collaborative projects, missing time needed to complete tasks that could *cross your fingers* turn into commissions that might help us out of the hole we (all) hover over…

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while Lyndon is not a feminist according to my understanding of feminism, I don’t really want to disrupt his whole thing right now. He’s been working really hard for a really long time. If I chose not to contribute to our household, the person impacted would be him, and I don’t feel like I really want to pile it on him right now.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to use the hashtag #unpaidlabor all day tomorrow. And then I’m going to compile it into a giant list so I can have that information in my toolbox. I hope you will too. Maybe documenting what we do, and how long we do it, will shed some light on the disparity. Maybe you’ll tell your male partners to do it too, and then compare the pictures. Maybe this exercise will start the conversation in a way that allows women to maintain some control of the emotional flare-ups that these kinds of conversations can cause.

Are you in?

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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