A Note from the Editor
By Jordan Sapir
When we discussed the topic of “Women’s Work” in our Über Moms Board meeting, I was elated. The wheels started turning, with postmodern feminist antidotes and slogans dancing in my head. I was ready to sit down at my freshly Maria Kondoed desk and begin my ode to women. “Dearest Über Moms, we’ve been robbed…”
Whilst dusting off last years blue jeans, in order to invoke my modern day Rosy, (as one clearly can not declare their disdain for injustice in sweatpants), I had a flashback. A week prior, I was leaving a meeting with fellow Über Mom and friend Laura, and as I was leaving I mentioned that she could discuss it with her accountant.
“He will be able to answer that question.”
“She,” Laura corrected.
Busted! I should have had my F-license revoked. I am no longer a card carrying, soap-box prophet. Did I just subconsciously stereotype a male’s role in society? Why does an accountant have to be male? Teachers are clearly female, along with pharmacists, nurses, pastry chefs, pianists, violinists, manicurists, florists, babysitters and various other suitably feminine employment opportunities.
An everyday scene in our home is me, mom (Über Mom!), lecturing my family about non-gender bias phrases, correcting and forbidding the use of gender specific tasks or chores. Complaining and moaning about kindergarten drop-off and the blatant sexism displayed by parents of “boys will be boys” boys.
It all got me thinking. Women’s work isn’t always defined by stereotypical biases and gender role assignments.
Women’s work, as I see it, is defined by what you allow it to be.
I spent a week in my own home analyzing what I thought to be gender specific work. My findings are surprising. If mom empties the trash, puts it beside the door and it remains there until mom takes it out, that’s women’s work. If I wake up early to train at 5am, prepare snacks, make breakfast, set out clothes, braid hair and drop off kids, and my partner awakens to have a shower, put on an Italian suit and deem it un-child-friendly, that’s women’s work. If I get a call in the middle of a meeting that there is a lice outbreak, and our children have to be picked up from school, if I schedule a week of play dates and activities, if I continue to work from home, cook, clean, run errands, make appointments, train for an Ironman, run a non-profit, meal plan, make sure those meals are healthy, pencil in birthdays, buy gifts, cards, supplies, remember the last time the kids’ sheets were changed, separate, wash, fold, fix appliances, cut the crusts off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, make sure no peanuts are brought to school because they aren’t allowed, remember a friend’s child’s birthday and favorite TV show character, then that’s all women’s work, because it’s work, and someone has to do it, and I’m the one who’s done it. It’s “work that won’t get done unless mom does it,” work.
In a Harvard study published in March 2017, the headline read: “Gender matters: heart disease risk in women.”
It went on, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women — and one of the most preventable. Research is giving us insights into how we can control our risk.”
Well that’s easy: less work, more pay and more shared responsibilities. In my house, Harvard, we have great intentions, but the truth of the patriarchal hypocrisy is that I damaged every single body part birthing a watermelon through a grape hole. Then I was expected to snap back, bounce back and boomerang my life, body and thoughts back to what they used to be, feel the way I used to feel, speak the way I used to speak, and smile all the while. And I had to do it all while being sexy (but not speak about your sex life), but do talk in bed, loud and dynamically, like a cat in heat (not like a hyena, they aren’t sexy). By the way, never speak about your relationship to others, unless you get a divorce; then you can speak about it, unless you get two. Now, that sounded a tad bit jaded. It shouldn’t; it should sound pleasant and positive. Positivity is really trending and I wouldn’t want to say something taboo. What I mean is, that’s work as well, when you’re constantly striving for perfection. Add that to my list of women’s work. Being happy, when you’re not; having to appear energetic, young, thin, intelligent, yet not intimidating, sporty, yet dainty; don’t forget put-together, confident, but again, not intimidating; loud, but not direct, and of course sensible; emotionless, and, of course, doing it all effortlessly.
What else do we have? I seem to have circled around. How do I define women’s work? Women’s work is the work that no one sees. It’s not the emotional workload above; it’s the invisible labor that is killing us. It is years of oppression that leads to depression. It’s not as grandiose as my picket sign (in bright red lipstick): “The Motherhood Penalty is Unjust.” It’s less blatant. Women’s work is discreet, it’s in the medicine cabinet, on dusted shelves, the creases of ironed shirts, plaited hair, and in lunch boxes at school drop offs. It’s hidden in suppressed emotions and discrimination.
Ask my daughters, who are three and five, what women’s work is. “We’re going on a field trip today. You won’t pick us up from kindergarten. We’ll be at a different place and then all the mommies have to come and pick the kids up.” Dads don’t do drop offs or pickups or tidy ups or early wake ups. That is women’s work.
Women’s work is as grand as building Ikea furniture at 3am and as invisible as signing permission slips and changing wardrobes between seasons. Women’s work is unpaid, unnoticed, underappreciated, yet somehow judged on performance by our own peers and ourselves.
I didn’t mention crying in the bathroom so that we can be taken seriously. Normalized stress–that’s my job. Having to define my role in life with an acronym or intertwine it with CEO or Boss to glamorize it. Hashtag it with a feminine twist: #bossbiatch. Modernized devaluation of my skills.
All this work is exhausting, yet necessary. It has to be done. No one has to receive credit, as long as the person doing it is a woman. It’s our job not to expect acclaim for tasks that are delegated to, well, women.
Women’s work is not only dealing with late night wet sheet changes and early morning drop offs before the office. Using nap times to run empires and work 100% to produce 25% productivity. It’s also dealing with a phenomenon that men completely avoid. The vindictive and volatility of other women. Over-educated and undersocialized women, who believe that we are each other’s enemies. We have been desensitized to witch hangings and prudity in the town square; we are using every opportunity to chastise fellow comrades for “mom fails.”
“Look at how Barbara showed up to drop off.”
“Can you believe Susan’s husband works all those late hours? But then, she made her own bed…”
“I wouldn’t join Cassandra’s community; she couldn’t run a flea market.”
Busied with trite gossip. Riddled with loss of identity and trivial acts of importance. We’re our own worst enemy.
Women’s work, right, is having to live as though life were an episode of “The Days of Our Lives,” and not a game of Monopoly.
Jordan Sapir, mother of two glitter-laden girls, 2 and 5, studied Journalism and International Political Science in NYC, a place she once called home. She can slaughter five languages fluently. She has worked in a newsroom or two, walked a catwalk or three, and is all for an impromptu adventure. Having traded in her Prada for pretzels, the founder of Über Moms lives in Munich, where she is a stay at home mom and studying to become a certified nutritionist. She is a mommy on a mission and wants to help fellow mothers raise healthy happy families, and beat a PR here and there.