On Wednesday, Better Life Lab highlighted a new video from New America’s Global Gender Parity Initiative that used humor to bring attention to all the unpaid labor people, especially women, perform without pay or even recognition. Today, we share a photo essay highlighting the unpaid labor of one mother living in Bangkok.
I became a parent two and a half years ago. While photographing what that meant, I realized that it had become second nature to mentally micromanage every minute of our day as a family. When will we feed our son, Rocco? Will the nap times work out today? When can kids try chilies? Who’s that man who sits at the park playground feeding pigeons every day but who doesn’t have a kid? Will our son grow up and have confidence issues because I snapped this morning? The list goes on.
And here I was, documenting a life that I have been living, but except for the odd reflection, hand, or leg here and there, I am not in any of the photos.
Thisis quite fitting for what I do. At the end of the day, people don’t see the skeletal structure of your day as a mother, just the exterior finished product, a person who sits and socializes with them, one hand trying to eat and the other trying to keep her child’s lunch from flying to the other table.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to capture a photograph of my son napping in the stroller in a café, a cup of coffee in front of me, a book, and my leg. I tried to capture how I really felt at that moment, but I couldn’t do it. It didn’t do justice to what was actually involved in the napping process. It would have made it look like my work as a mother is somewhere between mundane and blissful. In fact it’s a lot of white noise and stroller movement. That’s usually key to my son’s sleep. And the book? I received the book as a Christmas present and have been halfway through it for the past two weeks. That’s because every time Rocco moves, I have to move the stroller too.
Cattleya Jaruthavee is a British-Thai photographer who documents sociological aspects of society, whether it is through exploring herself as the subject or others. Jaruthavee graduated with a B.S. in sociology from the University of Bristol and an M.A. in photojournalism from Westminster University, and is currently based in Bangkok.