Before I read Katie McLaughlin’s essay, “The Invisible Burden That Leaves Moms Drained,” I hadn’t given much thought to kin keeping. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what kin keeping was.
Her essay appeared on my Facebook feed on a day, in which I was sick and sequestered to bed with nothing more to do than read Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, tweet, and scour Facebook for entertainment. As I read McLaughlin’s essay, I had an epiphany: I’m the kin keeper in our family, and this invisible labor leaves me emotionally spent and, frankly, exhausted.
Kin keeping requires tasks that build and foster relationships as well as encourage solidarity not only in your immediate family, but also in your extended family. McLaughlin notes that kin keeping includes what seems to be small or even trivial tasks: remembering birthdays and sending cards or presents; planning and organizing family events, vacations, and parties; picking out and wrapping holiday presents; sending thank you cards; keeping in touch with relatives who live out of town by phone, email, or video-conferencing; organizing the family’s schedule and planning vacations; and remembering who gave your child/children or partner which gift.
What might seem like small task on its own becomes more of a burden as the tasks pile up day in and out.
Kin keeping as (home)work
For example, while researching and writing this essay, I’ve bought a birthday gift for one of my daughter’s classmates; scheduled a play date; stuffed folders in her classroom, which I do every Friday; volunteered to do registration for Grandparents day for two days rather than the one I signed up for because they needed extra volunteers; rescheduled one of my appointments to attend a volunteer luncheon at her elementary school; designed, purchased and mailed invitations to my youngest sister’s bridal shower; organized catering for the shower and the forthcoming wedding; noticed that I still have to find decorations and made a note that I should have called my other sister about this yesterday (argh); drove an hour and 15 minutes see my two week-old nephew and back home; took both kids to Target to pick out Valentine’s Day cards for their classes and scrounged up time to write out the cards for the two-year old. (more…)