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Do You Take On Too Much Emotional Labour?

2 MIN READ • 28th April 2019

Sandwich ingredients thoughtlessly left out on the worktop, forgotten family birthdays, the last few scraps of toilet roll clung desperately to the cardboard tube – all problems that may arise without the work you do to keep family life ticking away smoothly, right?

Does it ever feel exhausting to have to mention these problems to your partner? Do you often suppress frustrations as you silently pack away the ham and cheese in the fridge, for fear of ‘nagging’?

It’s all about picking your battles, isn’t it?

Well, you’ve fallen victim to the clenching grasp of emotional labour.

Women everywhere are faced with “but you didn’t ask me to?” When they suggest that their partner has fallen short of taking on their share of necessary tasks.

Many of us are desperately hoping for some sort of intuition to manifest itself and not to be swamped by a merciless wave of life admin which needs completing to keep the family afloat.

Remembering what your kids might like for their birthdays, keeping a mental calendar of events you’re both attending and being the one to let people down when one of you can’t.

Having to delegate bag packing and lunch boxing duties to ensure they get done, or in fear of moaning merely taking them on yourself – this sort of unpaid work is rarely recognised or praised, yet it can be more pressing than a full-time job.

The term emotional labour is also used to explain the pressure of faking wild happiness when taking on tasks, in fear of being labelled rude.

“How often do we smile at work or in a social situation when really we’re feeling miserable?” Asks mindfulness teacher Liz Dawes ( “We can appear confident when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Regularly faking our true emotions to meet others’ anticipated behavioural standards is stressful and exhausting.”

The best solution is to set yourself boundaries and explain to those expecting so much of you that what you’re doing is work, and it deserves due credit to put on a brave face as much as it does to carry out the physical tasks in hand.

Hopefully, a greater understanding of this problem may lead to a greater will from the regular suspects to share the load and replace the toilet roll without being asked.

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