When my partner first moved in with me, sharing space with him and my young adult children wasn’t hard to be honest, as they all get along. When he raised the concept of us moving in together I must admit that, while I was looking forward to it, I also knew from experience that cohabitating always involves teething problems. Having been living sans partner for some years, I decided, in the name of adulting, to talk about the things I thought might be potential pot holes. What I really needed was a partner in the true sense of the word. Someone who would equally share the housework, sure, but also the emotional load.
Of course he agreed to all of that willingly, but in truth, I had doubts. Why is it that this issue remains one of gender and that women generally end up shouldering the lion’s share of emotional labour in in this day and age?
Emotional Labour , as a term, was first coined by American sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her book The Managed Heart published in 1983. Arlie described emotional labour as having to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others”. In more recent times the term ’emotional labour’ has been adopted in feminist conversations. In 2017 writer Gemma Hartely wrote a piece for Harper’s Bizarre entitled Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up. This article about her breaking point with carrying the emotional load for her husband and kids subsequently went viral, and for good reason.
Gemma Hartley’s story resonated with women worldwide.
So, what the hell is emotional labour?
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