kinkeeping: the activities a person uses to foster and maintain connections with and among many family members: visiting, emails, phone calls, sending gifts and cards, planning reunions, and mediating family disputes.
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But researchers exploring family affiliations point out that a so-called “matrilineal advantage” does exist. That is, daughters generally have closer ties to their own parents than to their in-laws, which leads to warmer relationships between their children and the maternal grandparents.
“The mother-daughter dyads engage in more frequent phone contact, more emotional support and advice — more than mothers do with sons or fathers with daughters,” said Karen Fingerman, who teaches human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, Austin, and has published studies on this topic.
One possible explanation is that women still shoulder more of what researchers call “kinkeeping” — arranging for calls and visits, sharing family news, planning holiday gatherings.
“Women are more active in maintaining those relationships,” said Jan Mutchler, a sociologist and gerontologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “When you have mothers and daughters, then you have two women working on it.”
Today many families that include a mom and a dad are challenging the traditional gendered division of labor—mine included. My household couldn’t function if my husband didn’t handle the dishes and I didn’t keep tabs on the checking account. We’re in this together.
Even so, I—along with most moms everywhere—am still almost entirely responsible for the following tasks:
• Remembering family birthdays and sending birthday cards.
• Planning and organizing family celebrations.
• Sending holiday cards.
• Selecting holiday presents.
• Sending thank you cards.
• Planning family vacations.
• Keeping in touch with out-of-town relatives.
• Remembering to dress the baby in the “right” outfit when her grandma visits.
In the field of women’s studies, these tasks are called “kin keeping,” and they are serious business.
Why? Because even though these obligations seem relatively small and insignificant, they actually play a very important role in keeping families connected and emotionally supported.
This book shows how the emphasis on nuclear family—with its exclusion of the extended family—is narrow, even deleterious, and misses much of family life. It misses numerous kinkeeping activities that many Americans undertake to maintain connections with their relatives: Phone calls, emails, visits, holiday cards and gifts, organization of family gatherings, mediation of family conflicts.
See book at: Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel, “Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Lives: The Power of Race, Class, and Gender,” Routledge, 2012, p. 3 [ISBN: 978-0-415-80841-5 (pbk) ISBN: 978-0-203-14197-7 (ebk)]
Kinkeeping, conisting of efforts expended on behalf of keeping family members in touch with one another, is an important but infrequently researched aspect of the familial division of labor.