I read an article recently about “emotional labor.” You know what that is even if you don’t know what that is: the constant conversation going on in your head when someone asks, “What’s for dinner?”
You peek into your mental refrigerator, pit Johnny’s constipation against the fact that Sally will come home starved from basketball practice, your husband has high blood pressure and needs to reduce his salt intake, your mother-in-law has a birthday party at three and after all that cake no one will be hungry, and you only have $50 left in your checking account.
All that, not to mention keeping track of who needs picking up when and who needs what medicine and who has which project and oh- there’s a doll shoe, someone will be looking for that later, all of that thatness, is emotional labor.
I bet most women know exactly what I’m talking about, and are started to get exhausted from this post reminding you of the gazillion little things you need to be doing. (Our bath tile needs a good scrub.)
We are all doing way too much of it, with no remuneration (wouldn’t that be nice?) or so much as a thank you.
It may be more obvious, here, in Japan, where the gender divide is still a chasm and fathers spend all of their waking hours at work. The imbalance between the sexes is so off that you don’t need a scale (which I alone know the location of.)
For anyone who is reading this and thinking, what’s the big deal? I can say with some confidence that you are not pulling your weight in this area, or you would certainly know exactly what the deal is, and that is is enormous.
It’s easy enough to see how this happens: when you are a couple, keeping track of the minutiae of life for two is doable. If you’re like me and have a husband who doesn’t quite grasp which food items go in the fridge, and that the aloe gel is a) not a food item and b) not fridge space worthy, then you take these things on by default. (Yes, the aloe incident actually happened.)
But when you become a three person family, or more, with multiple schools and activities and interests and needs, then this becomes a massive task. And Mom is still doing it all.
What’s the solution? I wish I had a clue. Even when this kind of micromanagement is a career, it’s still female dominated and therefore underpaid if not outright disparaged. I’m thinking of all my secretaries, assistants, and teachers out there, but please feel free to add to this list.
I read this online, and I thought, “There is a term for this. There is a reason I am so constantly exhausted emotionally. I’m not alone. And other people realize that this work has value.” It’s too bad none of those people currently live in my house, but baby steps are better than nothing.
So, to all the other moms out there holding up the sky: what you are feeling is real. It isn’t fair, no, but you aren’t imagining it. I don’t have any answers, but sometimes acknowledging there is a problem is the biggest step.
How do you divide emotional or mental take in your family? And more importantly, how can I get the other three people I live with to start doing more of this for themselves?
This is an original post by World Mom, Melanie Oda in Japan.
Photo credit to cpo57 . This photo has a creative commons attribution license.
Dry season on the island of Bali brings along some really strong winds; the whistling, tree bending kind. It’s still extremely hot, but at least the afternoon winds are refreshing, making it the perfect conditions for kite flying season.
This year I promised the kiddos that I would get them a kite to fly in the park. I found a little shop close to the school that sold some inexpensive kites in the shapes of dragonflies. I bought a red, black and yellow one and took the kiddos to the Lapagnan Puputan Park after class. In fact, the lady that sold me the kite spoke to me in her native Indonesian and said the kite was 15 thousand rupiahs, but I understood 50 thousand. Thankfully, she was kind enough to chase after me with my change when I had already walked away with the kite. Expat life…
The winds were so strong that it really was not that easy. Unfortunately, our string wasn’t a full constant thread but had a knot tying two pieces together. It didn’t take long for it to break with the wind. Big Kiddo decided to run while holding the kite and he had a better time of it. On that note, next is a photo from a much more successful kite flying attempt he had with his father weeks prior by the ocean. Check out his airplane kite!
We love seeing the kites everywhere, out the windows of our house and when we drive somewhere the kiddos always find new ones with beautiful colors and start counting how many owl shaped ones or how many fish ones they see on a trip somewhere.
Kite flying in Bali is not just a pastime for the kids; it is a cultural and religious phenomenon that takes over life itself for the entire dry season.
Between May and September, the sky is spotted with kites, of all sizes and colors; many are as far away as a kilometer it would seem (I’m sure it’s not that far up, but it feels like that).
Everywhere you look there are kids flying small kites, in parks and beaches there are groups of men flying giant kites, on the sidewalks kids making kites out of sticks and plastic bags.
There is no piece of sky untouched by a kite on a string. You may even trip on one if you aren’t paying attention. If the winds are good, the kids will tie their kite to a rock or tree and play ball while it flies.
Why are kites so important in Bali?
Kites are seen as an offering to the gods, a fun way to appease the demons, and good old competition. All with the hopes of having a successful harvest that year.
Apart from the kites for children, there are ceremonial kites that can be so big they need teams of 10 men to fly. They come in different combinations of red, black and white.
Every August, the village of Sanur holds a kite flying competition on the beach. There are three different categories, the classic fish shape kite, kites with a tail that can be as long as a 100 meters, and “new creation” kites which are usually animals or other crazy constructions.
Every team of kite fliers has flyers, flag bearers, and Gamelan musicians to accompany the flying of the kites. The competition consists of points for best launch, height of flight, length of flight and amount of control. Kudos for the kites that don’t fall to the ground!
Made with very thin cloth sewn onto bamboo sticks, the traditional fish-shaped kite is the kind that the kids learn to make at school with pieces of plastic bags. Once the kites are ready to be taken somewhere to fly, be it for the competition or for practice, the flying teams pack up the kites together on a truck, stopping traffic for almost an hour. Whenever we run into one, the kiddos love seeing what kinds of kites are being packed on the truck.
Given my own attempts at kite flying, perhaps next time we’ll just enjoy watching the experts!
This is an original guest post to World Moms Blog by Orana Velarde of Bali, Indonesia. She can be found on her blog, Crazy Little Family Adventure.
Photo credits to the author.
Total Eclipse of My Pregnancy
In India, some say the most awesome time of any woman’s life is when they get pregnant. You have life in your body, share all that you feel and have lots of company. This is also a time when you will have your husband doing everything thing for you, provided you ask for it. However, if you happen to be a woman who has a pseudo ego of being self reliant and who has never asked for many favours in life, this is not a comfortable time. This was me.
Looking back, it was silly not to have taken advantage of the help of my husband and my extended joint family including, my mother in law, co sister, their respective husbands and their daughters, all of whom I still live with. It’s true. We, Indians, live like this with lot of people to give us company all the time. We hate and love them simultaneously.
I wanted to be so self reliant that I never wanted them to cook anything special for me!! Not even once during my all nine months. I made it to term although my whole extended family wanted me to deliver my child as early as possible, probably in the first month!! They were just too excited to welcome a new member in the house and extend the extended family a little more. It had been 18 years since our family had the chance to welcome new cute baby!
However, their enthusiasm was a little too overwhelming, as even my doctors suggested mildly to get a C section done after I crossed 36th month. My family had become restless and could not wait. As a mother I was excited to meet my baby, too, but I wanted my child when the time was right. Not early and not late. And, I adhered to that. I did not succumb to any pressure.
Well, ok, I was strong except for when it came to my aunties…
During my pregnancy, thrice I received calls from my frantic, superstitious aunties who in their whole life had never ever called me before. They began to instruct me to observe precautions embedded in our ancient culture and told me not do certain things. It was clear that if their precautions weren’t heeded following and during a solar or lunar eclipse, my child and I would be harmed. There was no scientific proof, of course! Here are some of the things they demanded of me during an eclipse:
Do not cross your feet
Sit in one position
Do not use scissors, knife or blade
Do not stitch
Do not drink water
Do not let any rays fall on you
Sit in only one room, close the door
Do not watch television
In short, it was total eclipse of my pregnancy!! Every year, lunar or solar eclipses do happen. But if you are pregnant, they say it can harm you more than the normal people. I never quite understood whether pregnant women carry any special energy around them. Or do eclipses have special power to judge human beings? Oh she is pregnant I will harm her; oh she is women I will harm her less and this is unborn child I can harm even more.
Only Indian pregnant women will get affected by eclipses and no one else on this planet. I did bow down to the pressure. I did stay home and did exactly what was told to me, though with no personal faith but to please everyone around me. Oh, I did not want anything to go wrong with my unborn baby!
The pregnant women are strictly advised not to venture out during eclipse. It is still believed by lot of people in India that if you do anything prescribed above, your baby might become handicapped or disabled and the probability of miscarriage is increased. If you stitch cloth your child may have cleft lip. It is funny and there is no scientific explanation to all these. And there is no proven fact that it can actually cause harm. However, looking at a solar eclipse with naked eyes can harm your eyes irrespective of you being pregnant or not pregnant.
For millions of years humans have given birth and been pregnant along with other species during the time when there happened to be an eclipse. It is improbable that an eclipse can cause a direct negative impact by singling out pregnant women. There are many children who are born with a disability and cleft lip in-spite of following all of the “rules”. So, since there is no scientific explanation and eclipses do not have special power to differentiate, between whether you are Indian or not, do not get carried away! I complied with these instructions from my superstitious aunties during my pregnancy to keep everyone happy. The best thing to do? Take medical advice and do not panic.
What about you? Did you receive any advice unique to your culture when you were pregnant?
Or, did you find yourself doing something you didn’t believe in while pregnant just to please others? Let’s hear it!
This is a an original guest post to World Moms Blog by Vineeta Jain of Kolkata, India. Vineeta is an award winning media professional specializing in radio. And she did not hold any scissors while pregnant during an eclipse!
On December 9th, 2014, WorldMomsBlog.com, a global community for women that writes from over 20 countries on motherhood, culture, humans rights and social good, will join media influencers and top government officials at The White House in Washington, D.C. The goal of the discussions will be “to increase awareness among young people and encourage their participation in educational, cultural and professional exchanges.”
“I am extremely honored and enthusiastic to be invited into the conversation around millennials and global and cultural exchanges at the home of the President of the United States of America.” — Jennifer Burden, Founder of WorldMomsBlog.com
In 1993 Jennifer won a scholarship from her hometown of Brick Township’s Board of Education to live with a family in Japan for a summer during high school. Her experience through Youth for Understanding was life-changing, and she still remains close friends with the Miyaji family in Japan.
“We’ve attended each other’s weddings, watched our families grow and exchanged support during tragic events of September 11th, 2001 and the tsunami that impacted Japan in 2011. It has been a mind opening experience to have such a connection with a family elsewhere on the globe, similar to the connections we are now making to mothers through World Moms Blog.”, says Burden.
However, Jennifer is just one of the many WorldMoms Blog.com community with a story of an early experience abroad that has made an impact. The invitation to The White House inspired us to ask our globally minded contributors about their early abroad experiences, if any. What we learned may surprise you!…
Our contributor, Ana Gaby from Stumble Abroad, is a Mexico native, who studied abroad in Canada during high school and in France in college. Karyn Van Der Zwet of Kloppenmum in New Zealand worked in London for four years during her 20s. And, Jennifer Iacovelli of Another Jennifer studied abroad in London, England while a junior at Syracuse University in New York, USA.
Dee Harlow, The Wanderlustress has lived all over the world and is now in Lesotho. She told us that during her 20s she was working abroad from the US in Singapore. K10K in Belgium of The Penguin and the Panther volunteered in Rumenia fixing up a local birth clinic and in Morocco helping to install an irrigation system in her early 20s. In fact, her husband proposed to her on that Morocco trip!
Kristyn Zalota of Cleanbirth.org went to Russia on an exchange just after the Soviet Union collapsed. And in college she did a semester in Luxembourg and went back to Russia after graduating and lived with a family. While, Kirsten Doyle of Running For Autism in Canada grew up in South Africa and lived and worked in Israel at age 23. She started on a kibbutz and then worked on farms.
Elizabeth Atalay of Documama spent a summer in Israel at age 17 after high school, a summer in Bolivia as college student at age 19 and backpacked around South America for the summer at age 21 and for 6 months through Africa when she was 24. She also spent four months backpacking around Asia/Pacific at 26 after college pursuing her work as a documentarian!
Jennifer Prestholdt, The Human Rights Warrior, took a semester off from Yale University when she was 20 and enrolled as a Norwegian student at the University of Oslo’s faculty of political science. She also worked at a barnehage (day care center) when in Norway. During law school, she spent two summers living in Geneva and working at the United Nations.
Nicole Morgan of Sisters from Another Mister went to college in South Africa, then spent a year traveling Europe, where she backpacked through Italy, Greece and Turkey. She volunteered for a while with the YWCA, and then spent six months working in a London advertising/graphics company while waitressing at night. Polish Mom Photographer, grew up in Poland and worked as an au pair as part of a cultural exchange program in U.S when she was 26. She also worked as a waitress in London, England for 2 months when she was 21!
Susie Newday of New Day, New Lesson grew up in the US and went on a program to Israel when she was 18. She lived and worked on kibbutz, and now resides in Israel. And, Olga Mecking, The European Mama, grew up in Poland and studied french in Nancy, France for a month. She then went on to study in Germany for a year, went to Canada for 4 months and then moved to Germany. She has now been living in the Netherlands for the past 5 years.
Tina Santiago-Rodriguez, Truly Rich Mom, of the Philippines grew up and studied in Brunei from kindergarten to secondary school, and then went back home to the Philippines to attend college. After graduating, she became a mission volunteer for her Catholic lay community and was assigned to Borneo (East Malaysia and Brunei) and Timor Leste for about 2 years, to do ministry work for youth and kids. She was then assigned to Manila for a year, then to Timor Leste with her parents and fiance for another year, before getting married at 26. She returned to Timor with her husband as newlyweds and stayed for another 4 years or so before returning to the Philippines.
Nicole Melancon, the Thirdeyemom, studied in Paris when she was 21 and worked as a fille au pair (nanny) and French intern the following year. While, Hannah Ashton moved to the US from the UK when she was 17, went to university in the US, but did her junior year back in the UK. She ended up staying in the US for three years after she graduated. And, Erin Threlfall went to Germany to study at a university and then went volunteered at a refugee camp in Ghana, where she stayed for 11 years!
Sophia Neghesti Johnson of Think Say Be from Tanzania volunteered in Santa Cruz, CA at Bosch Baha’i School for a year at 18. She then studied in Los Angeles, CA and Tampa, FL in her mid 20s with a focus on psychology. At 24 she worked as a freelance photographer for celebrity events in Los Angeles, CA, & has continued freelancing in Florida to sponsor girls’ education in Zanzibar at Regeza Mwendo School.
Our contributor, Anne Marie Wraight in Greece, went to Germany on a cultural exchange programme from the UK. Her choir and orchestra played several concerts together with the youth orchestra from Berlin. They also had a musical to perform which was a great hit!!! She was part of a group that stayed with the musicians from the host orchestra so they could practise our foreign language skills. This exchange took place every 2 years. She says it was, “Great on EVERY level of cultural exchange!”As a result of the experience, Anne Marie did her gap year in Berlin, where she volunteered with retired people who lived on their own and had special needs and taught English. She then moved to Greece in her early 20’s and still resides there today!
Jennifer Burden will be bringing these stories of the WorldMomsBlog.com community and more to Washington. The invitation to The White House is a big milestone for World Moms Blog, and we are over the moon about including our community in these top-level discussions of global importance for students and young adults! This honor is a true reflection of the hard work of our entire global editing and contributing staff toward running the site and opening minds to what life is like for mothers all over the world. Congratulations to every single World Mom!!
Did you travel abroad when you were in your teens or 20’s on a trip that has impacted your life? Tell us your story in the comments, and we will take it to Washington!
WorldMomsBlog.com is a community that shares the stories of over 60 contributors from over 20 countries on motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. We have been named a FORBES Woman Best Website for Women, ’12 & ’13; a NY Times Motherlode “must read” and recommended in the “The Times of India”.
Ever feel like you’re walking on cultural egg shells?
Sometimes it can get confusing, trying to navigate waters made murky where cultures collide. Whatever choice you make will seem wrong to someone. Whatever you say will offend someone. No matter how lightly you step, you risk making someone feel walked over.
And that is the situation I find myself in again, as the air turns cooler (finally!) and Japanese schoolchildren begin to practice en masse for their sports festivals.
My brother is getting married, half a world away, at the exact same time my daughter is supposed to perform in her final sports festival at kindergarten.
If you are in North America, or Europe, or very likely anywhere except Japan, your response is probably, “So what?” But if you are a mother of a Japanese child, I’ll give you a moment to remove the hand you’ve placed over your mouth in horror. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let’s continue.
It doesn’t matter much which I choose for us to attend. Half of my children’s relatives will be angry about our choice. How can you miss your sibling’s wedding? How can you deny your aging in-laws their last chance to see a preschool sports festival, where the last-year students are the stars of the show?
“How could you do that to your child? She will miss out.”
Says everyone from every side.
Sometimes being part of a bi-racial, bi-cultural, bilingual family means making the hard calls. What is important in one culture is not in another. What is optional in one culture is imperative in another.
I find myself, again and again and again, struggling to find a balance between traditions and beliefs. I fall off the high-wire more than I care to admit.
But on those occasions when you can do that perfect, tip-toed, pirouette, it is beautiful. It is breathtaking. It is worth it.
This time, though?
I better bring a helmet because I’m bound to fall flat on my face, whatever I choose.
Have you faced difficult decisions because of cultural or religious differences within your family? How do you find a balance between them?
This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy.
Photo credit to FeeBeeDee. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.