One of the problems I have anytime people are trying to quantify a mother’s work is that I think it’s basically impossible. (Last Sunday’s NY TImes article on “equal parenting” is sure causing quite a stir among couples I know…)
I am, you might say, officially “off duty” at 10:43 at night – both kids asleep – and yet, if I were a sitter, I’d still be getting paid, and my ear is cocked, my boobs at the ready should they be needed, etc.
That is, I very rarely “get off work.”
Is it possible to walk off the job? To take a break? Without putting the kids in danger? I’m not so sure. There are times when I want to say to my partner, “You know what? The diapers are full, everyone’s hungry and bored, no one wants to sleep, but I really want to go read a book up a tree while drinking colt 45 – see ya!”
But I don’t.
The other problem with the whole “parenting as work thing” is that it’s not always totally pure work – kind of like when you’re in the office and surfing the web. It’s enjoyable loafing that kind of counts as work, because heck, you’re putting in your time at the desk and no doubt, you need to know what’s going on in the world, too, don’t you?
So yeah, I have “playdates” and “coffee” and “pool time,” during which I have a lot of fun with other people and / or my kids, and that is very hard to call work at all, because I’m just living, it’s not “work.”
Which makes me sad, really, because when did “work” become something so forced, formal, external, disconnected? Somewhere as humans moved from being hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists whose work and play blended together, religion and food-gathering part of the same activity, we got more and more removed from how we obtained our food, we ended up typing in cubes…
Being a parent can be work, it can also be pleasure, and trying to account for it, while I get the intention, is trying to take something amazing and amorphous and screw it into a cube that comes from a whole separate kind of ideology. Instead, why don’t we try to make “work” fit into the parenting/domestic/female-type idea of Being? Why don’t we try to integrate what we do with who we are and how we live, as opposed to trying to fit the latter into what we do?
Am I making sense? I feel like it’s “feminist” to quantify “mother” “work” – but I think that’s a very superficial assumption. It’s far more feminist to envision a reversal, an upheaval of the whole stratified, rigidified system of “workers” in our capitalist society.
Revolution, you know, begins at home.