A Day Without Me

by Kaci White

Tomorrow, March 8. Women’s Strike.

This will be A Day Without A Woman.

I will be joining others refusing to do paid or unpaid labor.

I’ve never participated in a strike before. I’ve never been part of a union or labor group demanding recognition. But I have read history and learned about the sacrifices that people have made standing up for their safety and wellbeing and existence. I have benefitted from strikes. (Did you have a childhood free from forced labor in fields or factories? Then you have benefitted too.) I have also seen strikes happen in real time in the past few months, like the Day Without Immigrants here in the US and the Black Monday women’s strike in Poland. One individual taking a stand on those days wouldn’t have gotten anyone’s attention. But in a group, voices one by one added up to make these events noteworthy — and in the case of the Polish women’s strike, their collective actions got the government to change course.

A Day Without A Woman is a day without me. A day without me packing school lunch, cutting a sandwich into a heart shape if my kid needs a little extra love that day, packing a snack, packing books, making sure the correct clothing and outerwear and shoes are worn, tying shoelaces, making sure teeth and hair are brushed, finding the exact hair accessory my kid wants that day, doodling a lunchbox note, getting my kid to school, being near my phone and available in case the nurse calls, being available if there is a school delay or snow day, being there to pick up my kid exactly on time, putting away her school things, reminding her to hang up her coat, handling the unpredictability of kindergarten emotions and exhaustion after school, going over school papers, keeping track of library books and due dates, feeding her a snack, playing board games or school or a made up pretend game, reading to her, listening to her read to me and encouraging her, figuring out what to have for dinner, making dinner, buying household supplies and food, tidying up, scrubbing sinks and toilets and mystery goo on floors, doing laundry, absorbing the sound of whining and employing various tactical responses to it, knowing what food we have and what needs to be eaten before it spoils, answering kid questions, planning doctor appointments, putting away the trinkets and little bits of trash in the house that no one else acknowledges but me, researching summer camps, supervising playground time, knowing the cafeteria menu, managing family relationships, switching out outgrown clothing and out-of-season clothing, preparing art projects, cleaning up art projects, soothing kid disappointment if a toy or treasure breaks, getting out the rainbow sprinkles and knowing exactly how she likes all her food to be prepared, getting her ready for bed, planning surprises, putting up her latest art on the walls, watching impromptu dance performances, planning birthday fun, making bedtime tea, doing all the voices for characters in Harry Potter, rubbing her back and singing songs and making up songs and chatting as she processes her day. All ordinary everyday things. Things that seem insignificant, perhaps, until you think about what happens if I’m not there doing the work.

Women of color and trans and gender nonconforming people often bear the most caregiving burdens and discrimination. I am striking for them too, because I can.

What will A Day Without YOU look like? What paid and unpaid, seen and unseen labor will have to be forgone, postponed, or performed by someone else? Whatever it is, intentionally refusing to do it brings visibility to your work and focuses attention on policies that must change.

Men: step up. Learn what the women in your home and workplace handle every day. Do those jobs. Change your schedule for them. Be flexible. Have conversations about what needs to change. Give something up. Women do it all the time.

Kaci is a lawyer and parent in Connecticut. She admires defiant women and believes you can be one too.

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5 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Dear Kaci, thank you for writing this and sharing it. It feels really important. Women do and have carried and cared for so much that is unrecognized and unappreciated. A day without me is really similar to a day without you (plus diapers, and nursing, and night wakings, and etc.).

    Thinking about my seen and unseen labor fostered a really good conversation with my partner, where I was able to ask if he knows the things I do every day for our family, and he was able to answer. Thank you, again.

  2. Em says:

    I don’t know how I could do a day without me, in part because the only way for me to do that would be to enlist another woman to do my labor for me (watch my child) which kind of seems to defeat the point. But at very least I could reflect on what a day without me would look like for the people around me if it were legal for me not to meet my child’s needs.

  3. Nathan Whilk says:

    “I started a landslide in my ego . . .”

  4. EFH says:

    I am not sure about A Day without Women campaign. I like the symbolism of it but I am not taking a break from being a wife and a mother today because those are people that I love and love me and participating in their daily lives is what I enjoy. And I am going to my full time job because my company values mothers and breastfeeding and it has allowed me to breastfeed my children for a full year each because they provide lactation rooms in every floor. Hence, I am not taking a break from my job either.

    What I see as more urgent and effective is that we as women need to be kinder to ourselves and each other first because I often see that it is the women who attack each other first before anybody else does. And patriarchy often is expressed through women’s voices too. No matter of the differences, we need to be able to extend love, friendship and courtesy to our fellow women. I would prefer better a #Women’sKindnessDAy type of a campaign.

    But I am happy that women like you have a way of expressing their civic participation today by being absent. It will definitely sent a message. Happy Intl. Women’s Day!

  5. Caroline says:

    Kaci, thanks for this great post. I find this idea compelling — women refusing to do their everyday work in order to bring visibility to policies and practices that need to change. I fully support you and the many other women who are participating in this.

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