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Kin keeping? Excuse me while I scream into a pillow

Kin keeping? Excuse me while I scream into a pillow


by Dominique McMullan
18th Jan 2023

Kin keeping is the new trendy word (actually coined in the 80s) for the ‘invisible load’ or the ‘mental load’ of ALL THE WORK that mothers (and it IS usually mothers) do in the home. How many ways do we need to name it before something actually changes?

I am so, so tired of being tired. I am sick to death of feeling like a moany old whinge bag. I need a break and can’t seem to get one. I have cold sores that just won’t go away and massive bags under my eyes that actually shock me when I see my reflection. I have grey hairs sprouting from everywhere. I have a cough I can’t get rid of. I have a perpetual headache. I live in jumpers and leggings. I have aged 10 years in the last 6 months.

I need to sleep and drink water and walk in nature and eat well for two weeks. For at least two weeks. But I can’t. Because I have a job and two small kids, so there is NO TIME for any of that. And no options for it in the future.

I get woken at 6am (latest), usually by blood curdling screams. I have probably been up a few times during the night. Sleep is broken. I go to bed too late, usually after a few glasses of wine, BECAUSE I NEED THEM. During the evening my hair gets pulled. I am covered in bruises and snot. I get kicked in the boob and try and stop myself screaming “F*****CK” at the top of my lungs. The food I have lovingly prepared (Ella sachet in the microwave) gets thrown back at me. Work calls on the mobile, but there is nowhere in the house that is quiet from the screams as one tries to take a lego block off another. I get a laundry load on using only one hand while two children hang off me. I order a food shop in between playing “volcano”, and try to mentally plan the meals for the week. Oven chips again.

But do you know what? I am sick of explaining my day, and trying to get people who don’t understand to UNDERSTAND. And now KIN KEEPING? Would you please p**s right off?

Kin keeper is a term coined originally in the 80s. IN THE 80s. It describes the invisible load that women take on when running a household. It is remembering relatives’ birthdays, knowing where the soy sauce is and when it’s running low, knowing the youngest will need shoes in the next month, trying to make sure everyone is taking their supplements and is up-to-date with vaccinations. It is the behind-the-scenes maintenance that only gets noticed when it doesn’t get done. It is a joke about dad being ‘just as surprised as the kids’ when the presents are opened on Christmas morning. It is referring to dads as ‘great babysitters’ when mums go out and they stay-at-home.

Here is the truth. Kin keeping while trying to hold down a job is pushing modern mothers to the brink. It leaves no time for us. No time for a hobby. No time for a bathroom break if I am honest. What we are being asked to achieve on a daily basis is IMPOSSIBLE. And it is not just the fault of fathers, they are simply a product of the way society is set up. For example, have you noticed the way the creche automatically calls the mother when the child is sick?

We are at least a decade now into a world where in the west, and certainly in Ireland and the UK, MOST MOTHERS WORK. They have to. This is not new.

So how many times, and in how many ways can we say this? We can’t do EVERYTHING. We need help. Enough of the kin keeping and more solutions please. Open the lines of communication in your home. Ask for help. Campaign for affordable childcare, shout about school hours that suit working parents, beg for policies that educate young people about running a house and a life. And fit that in between all the kin keeping and the full time job.

Gotta go, I have thank you cards to write.