Teaching emotional labor

Oof. Anand got out of the car after we ran a much-needed errand at Old Navy (swimsuit that fit, etc.) and said, ‘This has been a terrible day.’ I had spent quite a bit of energy and time today trying to give him a great no-camp day, and was staring down the barrel of 2-3 hours of additional work this evening before I could go to bed, so I’m afraid I snapped at him.

Then we snapped at each other a few more times — Anand is not one to back down just because a grown-up is annoyed with him — and then I told Kavi to take him upstairs and take care of him until bedtime and put him to bed, because I didn’t trust myself not to start yelling. Then I did some work for half an hour, until I was calmer, and then I went up to try to sort things out, and he was still pretty mad, but we managed to talk through it eventually, and we both ended up crying for a while, while Kavi kept patting us both consolingly, and encouraging us to hug.

It’s all fine — the only thing really wrong is that we were both a bit overtired and cranky after a little more exercise than we’re used to, and Anand happened to poke at a sore spot.

Part two was kind of interesting, though. There may have been some frustrated complaining on my part about how little they help out with work around the house. Kavi responded, with a faint hint of indignation, that they always help when asked, which is pretty true. (But if you have followed various conversations here and elsewhere about emotional labor, domestic labor, project management, etc., you may see where this is going.)

I may have said, forcefully, that they were old enough now to take on household responsibilities even when not asked — that they should be able to just handle the dishes after dinner now as a default, and also taking out the trash, and keeping their clothes put away and their rooms clean. And that they should ALSO look around and see what needs doing, and if they could do it, just do it. And that Daddy and I both worked very very hard, and had very little time for fun, and it’d be nice if we had a little more time for fun, especially in the summer, when Kavi and Anand have 14 unscheduled hours a day.

Kavi then bustled around doing chores for the next half hour, and seems resolved to do more of them, and Anand has forgiven me too, and is even going to try to grumble less at me (grumbling is sort of his natural mode) — so perhaps this was all for the best. It’ll be interesting to see if the newfound chore-doing resolution holds. We should try to reinforce it, gently.

But probably I should’ve talked to them more about all this BEFORE bursting into tears. Mommy is generally fairly patient and very rational and I think that can be a little misleading sometimes; the kids don’t generally know when I’m getting really frayed. Must try to communicate that better, at least.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I happened to watch this earlier today. The first half I basically already knew, and I think Kev and I do okay on, but the second half is mostly about the importance of chores, and why, and the why is interesting and clearly stuck in my head.

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