When it comes to kin keeping, who does the emotional labor of keeping relationships with extended family close?
The work of emotional labor can contribute to women’s mental load. You know, that feeling that we’re carrying all the details of the household in our heads, and if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. It can be exhausting. One of our contributors, Lisa, provided these observations:
Like eating healthy and exercising, there are things that may not matter a lot when not done short term but over the long term have consequences. Kin keeping is one of those.
What Is Kin Keeping?
- Making sure the grandparents or extended family get pictures, updates, or thanks for gifts.
- Making plans for remembering birthdays and holidays of friends and family. (Christmas cards with a current picture are often part of this goal.)
- Making arrangements for social connections for the couple and kids (a big part of extracurricular is social connection).
This stuff is the glue of relationships. If you don’t continue to do **reasonable** efforts to maintain and grow relationships you avoid the problem of over-scheduling but create a new problem of less connection with strong relationships which is, studies confirm, is the MOST important thing for happiness.
(And not doing some of this can cause hurt among family, particularly older family members who may not be as technologically savvy).
It’s important to not see this invisible work, so often exclusively done by women, as unimportant or women just having too high standards because of Instagram. Of course HOW it is done is the appropriate discussion.
Who remembers, plans and buys the cards and presents for the in-laws? Plans and organizes Christmas, Easter. Thanksgiving, 25th Anniversary, Mother’s/Fathers Day, Baby/Wedding celebrations etc. That’s the kind of thing that needs to be rebalanced. It’s so often the women who have to either do this stuff or continually remind/manage for EVERYONE not just her side of the family.
The work of kin keeping is like eating your vegetables. Sure, it’s easier and more fun to eat take out pizza every night but over time you will be unhealthy.
And to the goal of men seeing what’s in it for them to change, many men say they don’t have any friends outside their wife. This is part of why suicide rates for men are much higher than for women.
Rebalancing models the importance and work of “kinkeeping” for boys and men so they have the skill and habit of maintaining strong connections through an accumulation of these small things that connect people.
Connection is so important for good physical and mental health.
There is a decades long study of college men that showed that relationships really are the key.
This is not only about helping women live better lives, but men too. Kin keeping matters.
Studies Consistently Show That People Need Both “Strong Bonds” and “Weak Bonds.”
We need the strong bonds of relationships with family and friends and that’s why it’s important to do the work of staying connected with those closest to us. And then we also need to so-called weak bonds of small social interactions – saying “thank you” to the bus driver, small talk at the water cooler at work, and so on. The data is in and it’s clear: loneliness kills.
This article appeared here.