—Wendy, 56, Retired, Tacoma, WA.
“Very rarely will he see what needs to be done”
Cognitive labor is not often explicitly discussed in the home and the division of labor is not usually intentionally divided amongst couples.
—Carolyn, 37, Stay-at-Home Mom, Pacifica, CA.
I asked the question: What comes to mind when you envision cognitive labor?
“It feels like infinite boxes of varying size, needing to fit in a truck with limited space.”
“It’s like peeling all the layers back
of an onion.”
“It’s like a bunch of bubbles above your head constantly growing, then popping, then growing again when you remember.”
Put the leftovers away.
—Nancy, 39, Design Consultant, Seattle, WA.
It’s much easier to quantify physical labor versus cognitive labor, making it difficult to pinpoint and define the nature of the work.
—Nancy, 39, Design Consultant, Seattle, WA.
“I felt like my brain was constantly full....trying to figure [how to be a mom] for the first time all of these invisible sort of silent responsibilities that I was kind of doing behind the scenes—he didn't he didn't realize that, and so what it actually culminated in was a bunch of arguments.
The topic of cognitve labor can be difficult to deal with a partner and changing the home dynamic can be challenging and met with resistance.
The mochi place is least busy on Thursday mornings.
The act of noticing and acknowledgment accounts for alot, even if the division of labor is unbalanced. People often want to be seen and feel appreciated.
—Beth, 44, Accountant, Pacifica, CA.
“I remember saying that my time felt less valuable than his time...he talked to a sister about [my frustrations], and she pointed out that he wouldn't be able to live the life that he wants to live if I didn't do all of that stuff. And so he's been more sensitive to it since then.”
Tell the sitter there’s a camera in the baby room.
I conducted 13 formal interviews (and had many informal conversations) and below are overarching themes that emerged.

Do we have cherry tomatoes for
the salsa tonight?
Mother’s Day is coming up. I need to order flowers so they arrive in time.
—Billie, 28, Stay-at-Home Parent + Gig Worker, Chattanooga, TN.
“I think a lot of the problem with cognitive labor is you don't always write things down. Sometimes you just keep it in your head. And it's just always there.”
—Amanda, 23, Product Designer, Federal Way, WA.
Tickets are cheapest on Tuesdays so let’s book then.
Move the car in two hours!
“Like heavy weights settling on shoulders.”

with cognitive labor

Lived experiences