The Mental Toll of Invisible Labor

By Marisa Cohen
August 04, 2022

Jane Rivkin has always felt like she has two full-time jobs—though she only gets paid or acknowledged for one. “When I came to America in the 1990s with my family, I was the only one who spoke English,” the Ukraine-born software developer says. In addition to her schoolwork, Rivkin recalls, “I had to do everything for my parents: make appointments, talk to the doctor, arrange their social schedule.”

When she started a family of her own, this “invisible work” only increased. “It’s exhausting and never-ending,” Rivkin says of handling the logistics and emotional support for her husband and two children.

Whether you’re the person who lies awake mentally making out the grocery list, the office staffer who orders the cupcakes whenever there’s a birthday, or the friend whom everyone counts on to make the dinner reservations, you’re toiling at what researchers have long recognized as “invisible labor.”