Explaining emotional labor

“I had to tell him how much I appreciated the bathroom cleaning, but perhaps he could do it another time (like when our kids were in bed). Then I tried to gingerly explain the concept of emotional labor: that I was the manager of the household, and that being manager was a lot of thankless work. Delegating work to other people, i.e. telling him to do something he should instinctively know to do, is exhausting. I tried to tell him that I noticed the box at least 20 times over the past two days. He had noticed it only when I was heaving it onto the top shelf instead of asking for help. The whole explanation took a lot of restraint.

Walking that fine line to keep the peace and not upset your partner is something women are taught to accept as their duty from an early age. “In general, we gender emotions in our society by continuing to reinforce the false idea that women are always, naturally and biologically able to feel, express, and manage our emotions better than men,” says Dr. Lisa Huebner, a sociologist of gender, who both publishes and teaches on the subject of emotional labor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. “This is not to say that some individuals do not manage emotion better than others as part of their own individual personality, but I would argue that we still have no firm evidence that this ability is biologically determined by sex. At the same time (and I would argue because it is not a natural difference) we find all kinds of ways in society to ensure that girls and women are responsible for emotions and, then, men get a pass.””

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