The Invisible Work of Women

The Invisible Work of Women, or, Why Women are So Tired at the End of the Day

I’ve seen lists (haven’t we all?) about the hard work that women, and moms specifically, do on a daily basis. I’ve seen estimated salaries that moms would make if they were only paid for all their hard work. One thing I haven’t seen, however, is a list of all the invisible work of women.

My husband works all day at a job he loves. He leaves at 7 am and gets back home at 6 pm. He has to drive almost an hour to and from work. I am very blessed to be able to stay home with our children as they grow to school age, and even to teach them at home.

I am also very blessed in the fact that my husband totally understands and gets that I’m “working” at home every day. He knows that I grocery shop, clean the bathrooms, teach school and make meals. I have no problems with that. Those jobs are not invisible.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, some of these are an affiliate link, which means that I may get a small referral commission if you decide to purchase anything. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.)

So what is the invisible work of women?

It all takes place in the brain; it’s a mental job, which can lead to mental exhaustion. For example:

  • I remember that we’re almost out of toilet paper.
  • I remember that we need batteries for the remote controls.
  • I research pediatricians.
  • I take the dog to the vet.
  • I remember to give the dog his heart-worm medicine.
  • I remember that garbage comes on Mondays and recycling on Thursdays (and yard trash on Wednesdays).
  • I remember that we have to pay the HOA fee.
  • I remember to buy birthday cards for dozens of extended family members on both sides.
  • I remember that my husband’s office is having a potluck and make something for him to take.
  • I remember that my daughter’s sneakers are wearing out and I get her a new pair.
  • I remember where my husband put his running watch so he wouldn’t lose it.
  • I remember to pay the bills on time.
  • I realize that the middle school retreat ‘early-pay’ option is almost over and I sign my son up.
  • I think about the fact that we have nursery duty in church next week and may need to adjust our schedule.
  • I mentally adjust our schedule.
  • I think about clothes for the kids to wear to their uncle’s wedding.
  • I decide what I need to wear to his wedding; short or long dress, formal or more informal, heels or flats.
  • I remember to buy shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, toothpaste and deodorant before anyone runs out completely (usually!)
  • I realize that my littles are running low on clean clothes and make it a point to wash a load or two.
  • I think to buy my growing children new underwear on a semi-regular basis.
  • I think about planning a vacation for this year, because we haven’t had one in over a year.
  • I rearrange and organize my house mentally, multiple times, until I like what it looks like in my head.
  • I go through menus trying to find meals that my children and husband will enjoy.
  • I remember that we’re almost out of milk, so I better go to the store.

There are so many things going on inside a woman’s head that no-one ever sees, or even hears about. Can a man, a husband or dad, do all of the above? Yes! When there is a single dad, or a single guy without any children, they have to step up to the plate or be left stranded in the bathroom without toilet paper.

When they have a wife, do they? Not usually.

I went out of town a few years ago to visit my grandmother after she had a stroke; I took my littles, who were under a year old at that point, and left my bigs with my husband. Before I left town, I made sure there was enough food in the fridge and freezer, made notes of when things were happening and all-around planned out the three days I was going to be gone. My husband didn’t have to do much thinking, because I’d already done it and left him notes, in list format.

Studies have shown that men do tend to help out with housework and child-rearing much more than generations before us did. However, the invisible THOUGHT LOAD of women is not being alleviated by men at all.

So what can women do?

 

I am not sure there’s anything we can do to stop our brains from thinking things through. After all, someone in the household has to! What we CAN do, however, is make sure that our husband’s know what’s going on in our heads. My husband often hears me start conversations with him with the words, “So I’ve been thinking…” He laughs about it, but also understands that I need to tell him things, even if just to get them out of my head.

We also need to be sure to give our brains a break throughout the day. Maybe once a week, take a power nap. Lay your babies down for a nap and put your feet up. You don’t even have to sleep, but do something relaxing like reading a chapter from a book or watching a tv show you have recorded.

At the end of the day, relax some more. I’m the person who puts comfy clothes (comfy-ER) on soon after dinner. I don’t tend to go out of the house at that point, so I figure why not relax in comfort? I also try not to do any chores or other mentally intensive things after dinner. I just read, watch TV with my husband or do Internet-y things in the evening. This allows my brain to relax and decompress from the day. Does that make me sound lazy?

Whatever. I know that in order for me to relax enough to get a good night’s sleep, I need to decompress in the evening. An overtired or overwhelmed mom and wife isn’t good for much, at least not in the long run!

This past year, for Christmas, my husband bought me gifts that help me relax. First off, he bought me this neck pillow thing. I love it because you can warm it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then lay it across the back of your neck. I was super scepticle at first because, um, what? But then I tried it for the first time on Christmas night. It felt freaking amazing! I think I’ve used it almost every evening since then. You can also stick it in the freezer for a few hours if you prefer chilly; I tried that, but it wasn’t to my liking too much. I might use it that way more in the summertime, however.

The other item he bought me was this foot spa bath from HoMedics.I’ve only used this once so far, but it felt great. I probably won’t end up using it quite as often as the neck pillow, simpy for the fact that it takes a little longer to set up and put away, what with the water and all. And, I’m stuck to the couch with my feet in it. But, it still felt amazing.

Whatever you choose to use to help you relax, go for it. It’s important, as a wife and mother, that you are at your best each day. Self care will go a long way as you take care of the visible and invisible work of women everywhere.

What do you think of this list? Is there anything that you are mentally exhausted of carrying in your house? What else would you add to this list?

3 Comments

  • Rabia @ The Liebers January 5, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    This!! So much this! I just used my lunch break to pay bills, go to the bank, and eat a sandwich. There are times when I spend half my workday scheduling appointments, researching summer camps, etc. All those things that won’t get don’t if I don’t do them. And I’m not mad about doing them, but I worry sometimes what would happen if I weren’t here. Would they get done at all??

    Reply
  • Michele January 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Every word of this is so true! I’ve been thinking the same thing lately and making a mental list of what are my concerns (and how they are making me a little crazy!) love you idea about relaxing some everyday or at least an afternoon a week.

    Reply
  • Shawna November 9, 2017 at 12:10 am

    I love this, it’s so true! Even when my husband was a stay at home dad and I worked full time, I was still the one to remember everything and do all of the invisible work.

    Reply

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