The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Being a mother — a thankless profession

DTH Photo Illustration. The "second shift" refers to the emotional and physical labor mothers bear after clocking out of their nine-to-five job.

A couple of weeks ago, my parents picked me up to go to my brother’s white coat ceremony. Like the procrastinator I am, I packed the morning of, an hour before I got the "We’re here!" text from my mom. 

I tend to do this often. For some reason, the packing aspect of road trips ranks very low on my list of importance, which usually leads to me forgetting something such as my contacts (which I did forget this trip). However, it seems I can always subconsciously count on my mom to bring whatever I forgot.

This proved to be true once again during this trip. No, she didn't bring me extra contacts, but she did bring all the jewelry I like to wear that’s hers, makeup wipes, face wash and one other item —  and this connected a lot of dots in my head.

Earlier this year in my Sociology 130 class, I learned about the “second shift.” This term refers to the emotional and physical labor mothers bear after clocking out of their nine-to-five job. Most of the time, moms are the ones packing snacks, staying up to make school lunches, packing the family’s bags for a trip and even remembering your friends' names. 

This is not to say dads don't also do these things, but moms usually do most of the heavy lifting. 

On a trip to my brother's apartment almost a year ago, I forgot a toothbrush.  

Of course, I didn't realize my toothbrush was missing from my bag until we got to my brother's place. Ironically, even though he's in dental school, he didn't have any extra toothbrushes lying around. I hesitantly went to tell my mom that I forgot it and she walked into the room with our bags, then walked out with my travel toothbrush. 

Why she decided to bring it was a question I couldn't answer at the time — I thought it might have been a lucky coincidence.  

"I brought you a toothbrush," my mom says as she begins to unpack her bags. "I didn't know if you forgot it again, but it's here if you did."

 I then realized I could finally answer the question I had posed to myself a year ago.

When my mom brought me that toothbrush, I realized that she never gets a break. My mom doesn't have anyone to pack her an extra toothbrush in case she forgets it. But she still does these things and expects nothing in return. She doesn't complain about her hidden responsibility, nor does she question it at any point. She does it all out of love, not realizing that she has been involuntarily hired for this job. 

Needless to say, that trip was rather eye-opening. My dad, brother and I are always making small jokes about how much she packs, not realizing that half of her bag is probably full of things we’ll forget because we’re too busy criticizing her.

So next time you see your mom, give her a big hug and say thank you. The small things they do often go unappreciated due to the second shift being so ingrained in today's society.


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