Episode 36: The Invisible Work of Feeding a Family
We almost titled this "53 Minutes of Meghan Complaining," but agree with writer Cleo Wade: Complaints have no magic. Still, we have a lot to say about the weight that comes with the responsibility of feeding our families—and we have a hunch we're not alone. That's why it feels important to have this conversation. So here it is, but with only the complaints that lead to compassion and helpful ideas. Because the real magic happens when families—kids included!—find some semblance of balance that works for them, whatever that might be.
“Complaints Have No Magic”
While we agree with writer Cleo Wade’s words that “complaints have no magic,” we also believe that it’s important to listen to ourselves. Because, just like the brilliant Cleo Wade also says, “That thing you are not saying is not going anywhere until you let it out.”
We believe that if you can keep from getting pulled into a cycle of negative thinking, complaints can be a powerful tool.
Given the prevalence of women who carry the load of feeding their families (knowing the family schedule and everyone’s preferences in order to meal plan effectively; shopping on budget; unpacking groceries; keeping the kitchen organized; meal prep/cooking or training the kids to know how to help; arguing with picky eaters; etc)—regardless of whether or not they work outside of the home, are primary caregivers, or the top family earner—we decided to take a momentary (mental?) break from the practicalities of cooking for a family to talk about the invisible labor of cooking for a family.
Yes, our conversation starts with a host of complaints (Stacie would dub them frustrations, but she’s a recovering complainer), but don’t worry: we do not get caught in a cycle of negative thoughts. Nor do we carry on about why so many family dynamics are like this and how it feels so terrible for so many women. Many have covered that territory so well already (we love this episode of Dear Sugars).
Rather, we make a small space for our complaints to be aired and then transformed into compassion and action.
Starting with Ourselves
We attempt to stop complaining by starting with ourselves.
What do we want our life to look like?
What do we love to do in the kitchen?
What do we hate doing in the kitchen?
What are we willing—and truly able—to effectively delegate?
What will we always micromanage, and so maybe have to consider keeping on our to-do list?
What other household duties are we taking care of that need to be considered in the conversation about invisible work?
In this episode, we ask ourselves these questions, explore our answers (which are different!), and talk about the practical ways that we can manifest our answers into meaningful action that not only serves the entire family, but helps everyone, not just us, thrive.
As we continue to see less traditional family structures—from same-sex partners to single parents—coupled with a non-traditional workforce, we expect that your answers will be different too. Still, the questions we ask each other and the ideas we brainstorm are flexible enough to hopefully spark helpful ideas in your home as well.
This week, more than every, we want to hear from you! Is your invisible labor a challenge in your home? If so, how does feeding your family fit? How are you addressing it all? What questions are you asking yourself?
Visit Facebook, where you can find us as @didntijustfeedyou. If you’re a listener and know the answer to the secret question, you can also join our Listeners’ Group. Oh whatever: JOIN US. The damn answer is “whiskey".”
In the meantime, some links to things we mention in this week’s episode:
Prep by Katie Sullivan Morford (she’ll be on the show again soon to talk about this fantastically helpful book)
Class Dojo (on which Meghan’s point system is based)
How the Non-Cook Can Help
Whether you end up passing off, dividing, or maintaining your responsibility as the family cook in your family’s master plan for dividing domestic duties more equitably, it’s important to keep in mind how the non-cook can help.
make a meal plan
grocery shop (even if just incidentals
say thank you and compliment dinner
make a drink
set and clear the table
help keep up with what is needed
Follow us on Instagram
Of course, we’ll be continuing the conversation over on Instagram, but no complaining. We promise! Also no cleaned up images that pass off a false life (I mean, did you see what Stacie posted last Saturday?!). We keep it pretty, but also real. So…