Work

Things To Do

A photo essay on motherhood, time, and care.

Mom and baby’s schedule and goal list.
Mom and baby’s schedule and goal list.
Alex M. Smith

Last week, Better Life Lab highlighted two projects showcasing care work, the work we often take for granted because it is invisible and unpaid. Today, a father focuses on the unpaid care his wife provides their son.

When our son was born, my wife decided to give up most of her paid work as a performer and music educator to focus on his care, and 18 months later, she remains the primary caregiver. Slowly over time, she has begun to take on more work but still greatly considers our son her main focus. This has made me pretty much responsible for all the financial aspects of our family and left her responsible for our son’s day-to-day operations.

Because I was the person photographing, I found it difficult to visually show my role as a father in the pictures, so I focused on documenting the relationship between my wife and son. Through watching my wife in action, I’ve realized that a young child’s caregiver is never really off the clock. Even when the baby is napping, their time is being used to prepare for the next activity. Into the night, the caregiver is tidying up and preparing food for the next day. There is rarely extra time for personal things.

My wife keeps a list of “Things to Do.” It’s a mix of my wife’s and son’s schedules and also a list of things that need to happen to keep the family going. More recently, she’s been adding a few of her personal projects and goals to the list. Even though her time is limited, we hope that those will be getting more attention as time passes and our son grows up.

 Nursing before an afternoon nap.
Nursing before an afternoon nap.
Alex M. Smith
Drying off from an evening bath. One step in the nightly ritual before going to bed.
Drying off from an evening bath. One step in the nightly ritual before going to bed.
Alex M. Smith
Getting grumpy at dinnertime.
Getting grumpy at dinnertime.
Alex M. Smith
Mom and baby separately in thought.
Mom and baby separately in thought.
Alex M. Smith
Baby ignoring Mom doing flashcards.
Baby ignoring Mom doing flashcards.
Alex M. Smith
Mom carrying tired baby to bed.
Mom carrying tired baby to bed.
Alex M. Smith
An ongoing battle: Mom helps baby with mittens.
An ongoing battle: Mom helps baby with mittens.
Alex M. Smith
Dramatic playtime.
Dramatic playtime.
Alex M. Smith