Turns out gluing a family together is yet another responsibility of women
Every squad has a designated “mom” of the group. They’re the ones who usually ask questions that others overlook. They’re expected to have all the answers, too. She’s that friend who keeps the group chat alive and organizes the meet-ups. They send a list of reminders before the day starts and a long heartfelt message once the day ends. But it’s time to backtrack a bit to see why that friend is referred to as the “mom.”
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Kinkeeping is a term used to describe the unspoken responsibility of keeping a group, usually a family, together. It recently rose to the surface because of a TikTok by 19-year-old @molly_west, who’s taking classes in Gender Studies. She emphasizes, “Kinkeeping is the root of stress in most women’s lives and, because they don’t know the name for it, they’re often called irrational.”
@molly_west My mom’s life changed when I taught her about this. #feminist #feminism #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #genderrole #genderexpression #education #kinkeeping ♬ original sound – molly_west
The term has actually been around for decades. Kinkeeping was first studied in 1996, but nothing much has changed since then—women still take on the load most of the time, especially at home. A possible reason behind this cycle is that past kinkeepers have aged, so they have passed this unspoken responsibility on to younger females, which causes harm that tends to go unnoticed.
For instance, time commitment and emotional demand are two heavy attachments to being a kinkeeper. They have to make space on their plate and put everyone first—and this isn’t necessarily by choice, since the role is quietly assumed.
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One of the ways I, as the youngest daughter, personally experience this is by being deemed “the responsible one” in my family. This means I’m expected to answer their phone calls regardless of the time. Usually, these calls revolve around family gatherings (which have already been discussed in the group chat most of the time).
The expectations from kinkeepers, no matter how high or low, add unnecessary pressure on the individual to constantly be available and updated, even when they lack the energy or capacity to do so. The harm gets even worse when conflict arises within the family. People may easily forget that, as part of the family, the problems affect kinkeepers, too. Despite this, we still expect them to control the mood and glue everyone together.
There are no days off or paid leaves from kinkeeping. From birthdays and holidays to Throwback Thursdays and Flashback Fridays, they are running the operations. What we sometimes see as unnecessary messages in family group chats, like our own embarrassing childhood pictures, are actually efforts to keep us connected.
@molly_west Replying to @_leah26 part 2, sorry it took so long to get to #feminist #feminism #genderstudies #genderexpression #genderroles #kinkeeping #women #motherhood #parenting ♬ original sound – molly_west
Women undeniably tend to be more nurturing than men, but there are male kinkeepers, too. The thing is, there’s a huge difference in how they take on the task. Men can’t help but anticipate applause as they announce a list of the (bare minimum) things they do for the family. In Molly’s TikTok post, she shares, “[Men] love to show off, and women just wouldn’t do that because they’re so fixated on the fact that it has to be hidden.”
The fact of the matter is kinkeeping has to exist—our connectedness as groups or families contributes to societal harmony. There will always be a kinkeeper, but we can do something to lighten the load.
For the kinkeepers: take credit where credit is due. It’s much easier said than done, but start talking about this unpaid labor by communicating it to those around you. Call out weaponized incompetence—no more accepting every “You should do it because I don’t know how to” or “You’re the one who always does it anyway.”
For the non-kinkeepers: grow consciousness of the baggage you pass onto others. You have the capacity to update yourself and reach out to your family. You can only develop confidence in performing certain tasks if you keep doing them. Be open to learning! Not only does this broaden your knowledge, but it also takes some weight off others’ shoulders.
Next time you catch your grandmothers, aunts, moms or “mom friends” asking one too many questions or contacting you frequently, take a deep breath, answer them with the same patience they give you and show them some love. Remember the term and engrave it in your mind: kinkeeping.
Words Kyla Villena
Art Macky Arquilla