By: Ali Hieber
As a working parent, I feel a sense of a relief when the school year ends for my children. I welcome pausing from my role supporting academic responsibility and independence while secretly monitoring every deadline to keep them on track. This year, with the added stresses of online and hybrid learning, I believe I heard a collective sigh from all working parents, but especially among women as summer break is a vacation from what grew to be a second job in many households.
In April, Jessica Gross from the New York Times published an interview with Allison Damingera, Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University who broke down the mental load of household labor to four parts: anticipate, identify, decide and monitor. Her definition of household labor included parenting. At first scan, I thought this was yet another article reporting that women on average contributed more the household work, were more involved in teaching children at home and had greater job insecurity during the pandemic. Rather, I found new clarity in the definition of family and household work. It is not just executing a task list.
- refinance mortgage
- get the oil changed
- scheduled doctor’s appointments
- do the grocery shopping
This new division of labor recognizes the time and in my case, the constant preoccupation anticipating and identifying what comes next keeping the home running smoothly. During the pandemic, it also included tracking school assignments and there it was in black and white…..monitoring. Yes, I have spent 9 months monitoring. Messages from teachers on Canvas, weekly newsletters from the superintendent, hunting for misplaced chargers and earphones that work and the big question in life. Is the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough for my zoom staff meeting when three others in the household are in a virtual class?
Our world is starting to return to what was normal. This August, my son will actually attend college classes on campus and my daughter will attend high school in person. The Academic year 2020-21 is over. In addition to the relief, I am also thankful. Everyone pulled together. My husband remembered geometry or at least googled it enough to assist with homework, school sports returned just in time for a short track season and my two older college age children reconnected as adults as they studied from home. This year, I truly saw my children learning and with that comes pride and appreciation. Have a great summer.