Little did my mum know that she had planted the seed to all this over 30 years ago.
In later primary school, I was (finally) allowed to walk home every day. Returning home entailed throwing my bag into the bedroom, and hastily walking (not running!) to the kitchen, seeking a snack. My mum would be there (either at the sink, at the stove, or on the phone) and would ask “What did you do today?”
One day, I turned the tables and asked her the question instead.
Her response had no undertones of anger, and it especially wasn’t delivered with an iota of happiness, “I do the work that nobody sees”, and she would then look at me questioningly. “Oh ok”, was all I could muster because not only was that strange, a grumbling stomach had taken hold of my brain and was now guiding my body to the nutella jar.
The above scenario happened a few more times, and her direct and unassuming manner made me think I not only had the answer, but I knew the answer, so the conversation would end there.
On the day I found myself saying her response at the same time as her (out loud and in the same thick accent), i knew it was time to think about what the hell it meant. Nutella sandwich first though.
The following night it dawned on me and I knew we would never have that conversation again. When I returned home from school, this time I asked, “Which unseen work did you do today mum?”
She responsed differently this time, “Oh you know…” and there was joy in these three words, but it didn’t last, as the news reader approach of delivering facts returned. “I did some vacuuming, I had to clean out the bottom of the fridge. Wash some dishes. Clean out the pantry. I put some clothes in the wash, and now I’m making dinner.”
When I was younger, my mother taught me, the work you do ‘that nobody sees’, is the work that ‘everybody sees’ when you don’t do it.