In art school, I made a lot of work about domesticity and women’s work. I had no idea what I was talking about at 21, but I looked to my grandmother, mom, and aunties to examine what it meant to be an individual and our lives as caregivers. Even when I could see that they were whole people and artists and friends and writers, somewhere I still thought being a mother and a caregiver was to sacrifice, to mask the parts of yourself that made you an individual. I don’t think that way anymore.
My youngest son turns thirteen tomorrow, my oldest will be 16 in ten days, and Mothers’ Day is Sunday. It’s gotten me thinking about how I exist as a caregiver and how it’s changed since I first became a wife, a mother, and a teacher. I operated from a place that believed self-sacrifice was the ultimate form of love. Now, I think that being a full-fledged human being while existing in your domestic life and caregiving roles is the way to go. We’re all people who are deserving of happiness, leisure, help, kindness, and humanity. There’s no blue ribbon for working yourself thin. There’s no gold sticker for not asking for help when you need it. As the momma of two boys, I’m extra determined to exit them from this household with skills to be caregivers and to take care of their domestic lives.
I now try (totally imperfectly) to share the load with my kids, husband, co-workers, and shop kids. We take care of ourselves as much as possible and offer help when we can. We do for others when they cannot do for themselves. As a teacher, a woman, and a mom, I am doing my best to put down the mental load that others can carry for themselves to pick up a bit more for myself. We do for each other alongside one another.
Being a creative, expressive, and thoughtful individual who regards the people and space around them is at the core of our work here. We all live domestic lives in a community of some kind or another. It can be the most beautiful part of our lives. It’s not the job of women and mothers to make it happen. It’s all of us. Kids included.
Five phrases to share the load:
I love caring for you, but you can do this yourself.
Every person in our house is equally important. We support each other when and however we can.
We all live here and are responsible for caring for our home.
We all clean up our own messes.
I could really use some help with...