Pre-dawn Runs and Other Unseen Labor

I have always enjoyed getting up before dawn, drinking a peaceful cup of coffee, and just collecting my thoughts for the day in that peaceful twilight. I have always enjoyed running in the late afternoon or evening, usually clearing the day’s annoyances from my mind. The two don’t, however, mix well. I have always hated running in the morning. Yet here I am just back from my day’s run.

As I have realized once again, if I want to run I have to go before the rest of the family wakes. The family’s schedule, my share of the family labor, my professional labor, and the Mother’s schedule and preferred exercise routine all conspire against my running later in the day. So, a few weeks back, I had to decide what to sacrifice: running or mornings. For reasons of health and wellbeing, to parent better, and to be a better spouse I gave up mornings. Nobody was consulted. Nobody will even notice (and if they do, they will immediately forget).

This morning, as I tramped down the street, I thought: “How much of parenting is unseen labor?” Not the obvious unseen labor, the hours mothers and fathers spend doing menial and quotidian chores around the house, or the many other tasks that just seem to get done, as if by elves late at night when everybody sleeps (or so it seems to those of us whose shoulders are not burdened by those tasks). I mean the labor that nobody knows about, the labor family wouldn’t know they were missing if it didn’t happen, the labor that improves everybody’s life but is invisible.

What unseen labor have you taken on for the benefit of the self and family?