Emotional labour: What matters most to our students

Emotional Labour

As a mother of adult children, I find with every year they get older, I take on less physical labour and more emotional labour in supporting them through their life. It’s the heart breaks and the support in adult decision making that keeps me in the “mom loop”. There is also supporting my children with money and other resources but that’s a whole other discussion.

Emotional labour is the act of supporting a person who needs to suppress their emotions (Wilkinson, 2018). The term was first used in 1983 by American sociologist Arlie Hochschild.

In 2017, Harper’s Bazaar (Hartley, 2017) used the term in relation to being the manager of a household that remembers all the things that need to be done to keep a household and its occupants functioning. This includes putting stuff back where it is suppose to go and finding stuff that others have misplaced because they did not put it back. It also includes remembering birthdays, kids’ schedules, dietary guidelines for school lunches, school events, family member’s calendars and schedules, food and household item inventory, and organizing laundry and home repairs. So it’s not just about housework, its more work than house work … because housework ends.

My adult children do not live with me but I still take on many of these tasks keeping track of people’s stuff. In my current role of wife, I am the ultimate finder of all things in my house.

Given the above description, it sounds a lot like a teacher’s job too. As teachers, we need to keep track of everything … the location of every form, lunch bag, test, assignment, running shoe, gym bag, and anything else students brings to and from school. As teachers, we are also responsible for supporting students’ emotional needs and behaviours. I’ve personally noticed that my role as a supporter of emotional needs and behaviours has increased significantly. This makes teaching even more challenging.

As a teacher and a mom, I still spend most of my time listening to students and my own children and supporting them in their lives. It’s one of the most important jobs we can do as parents and as professionals. It matters most to our students.

Happy Mother’s Day to All,

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston


Hartley, G. (Sept, 27, 2017). Women aren’t nags,  we’re just fed up: Emotional labor is the unpaid job men still don’t understand. Harper’s Bazaar. Downloaded from https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12063822/emotional-labor-gender-equality/

Wilkinson, S. (December 24, 2018). Why was everyone talking about emotional labour in 2018? BBC. downloaded from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/5ea9f140-f722-4214-bb57-8b84f9418a7e


The Author

Deb Weston

I love teaching. I’ve been teaching over 20 years in Ontario. I’ve taught grades 2 through to grade 8, including split and contained Spec Ed classes. I am an advocate/ally for issues dealing with Special Education. I sit on ETFO's Special Education Standing Committee. I hold a PhD in Education Policy & Leadership. I am learning disabled! I believe that when working collaboratively, teachers are better together. My opinions are my own, usually supported by peer-reviewed literature and law. Follow me on Twitter @DPAWestonPhD

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