‘I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes – and six months later you have to start all over again.’ -Joan Rivers
The Second Shift is the hidden shift of housework and childcare primarily carried out by women on top of their paid employment. It is physical, mental and emotional labour which demands effort, skill and time but is unpaid, unaccounted for, unequally distributed and largely unrecognised.
This experience of performing two work shifts daily, one during their ‘leisure’ hours, is that of the majority of working women. It also implies a hierarchy: that some people's time matters more than others. Hidden in plain sight and veiled by familiarity and insignificance, the second shift is largely absent from photographs of home and family. Clare Gallagher’s work is an attempt to recognise the complexity and value of this invisible work. It is a call for resistance to the patriarchal and aesthetic systems which ignore it.
“I am a lecturer, artist, researcher and mother of two teenaged sons. I started researching home in the late 2000s, as the exhaustion and delirium of mothering babies and toddlers gave way to bewilderment and frustration at the gendering of my time and opportunities in ways I had not been prepared for. In my mixed-gender state school, girls went on to study engineering, medicine and law in the same proportions as the boys did. Thinking the feminist battle had been won in the 1970s, we set out with expectations of equality. Where did all the promises of parity go? Of shared parenting? If we had still managed to retain the belief in gender equality in the workforce, parenthood rapidly revealed it to be an illusion.”
Clare Gallagher (s. 1978) is a Northern Irish artist whose work focuses on the ordinary, everyday practices of life at home. Gallagher also teaches on the BA and MFA programmes at the Belfast School of Art.