I love Parks and Recreation. The holiday they invented, Treat Yo’Self Day (October 13), is hilariously overstated and yet there is, as always, a grain of truth in their humor. This Valentine’s Day, I am going to do something different. I am going to combine a holiday that frankly depresses me with a holiday I think is hilarious but have never celebrated. My first act of celebration? I’m going to urge myself as well as those I love to treat yo self to some knowledge. Read more
2020 taught us many difficult, gritty lessons, but one that stands out is that women are expected to do too much. It’s destroying our professional lives, our mental health, and our relationships.
With the amount of work on our plates already, resolutions can be tricky. If you are going to channel energy into something this year, why not work toward making your household more equitable? Here are a few tips that we’ve gathered along the way.
- Remember, you’re a team. Instead of attacking each other, attack the issue of all the tasks that need to be done. A data-driven approach to tracking your work can come in handy here. Know your enemy. Psst…it isn’t each other.
- Educate your partner. Part of the burden of domestic chores is that they’re never-ending. Some men weren’t raised to know all of the work that goes into maintaining a household. Let them in on the invisible work, not just the visible stuff. Tend: Task Manager & Journal is a free mobile app with a comprehensive list of care tasks. Couples can use it to track their work and compare notes – not to scold one another, but to get a realistic picture of who is doing what in the family.
- Try to balance the amount of housework and childcare each partner is doing. It’s helpful to have no kids underfoot when making dinner, but it’s a drag when one person always gets to play with the kids, and the other one has to make a meal the kids will probably refuse to eat. Another example is bathtime versus cleaning up after dinner. One task allows for meaningful time with the kids, and the other is time alone angrily scrapping barbecue sauce off the underside of the table. Be thoughtful about trading off on these tasks.
- Examine daily routes (if you still have them outside the home). What businesses do you both pass on the way to work? If one of you passes a supermarket that also happens to be ten minutes from home, can that person do the grocery shopping? Does the other person drive by a gas station? Perhaps they can make sure everyone has gas (that is if you can handle switching cars for one day a week, or however often you need gas). Where are the kids’ schools/daycares, Target or Walmart, dry cleaners? You see the point. Be efficient. Why have someone make a special trip when you’re already passing it twice a day?
- Let them take the credit. Research shows that some men will more readily perform domestic tasks if the tasks are public in nature. They may balk at doing dishes, but they will drop kids off/pick kids up from school or weekend activities. Some men will even willingly take on birthday party duty! It’s not great that society gives men a gold star for being active parents, but we may as well use all of the tools in our toolbox, right?
- Challenge gender stereotypes in your home. Watching the bumbling dad on the Disney Channel isn’t just annoying — it’s perpetuating the helpless dad/maternal gatekeeping binary that ends with mom doing everything and dad doing nothing. Gender roles are deeply entrenched, so if you want to have an equal partnership, you’ve got to work at it and model it for your kids. A great resource for splitting tasks more equitably is Eve Rodsky’s excellent book, Fair Play.
- Enlist the whole family. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again — Family Meeting. Get everyone together with a list of tasks. Assign or negotiate each task and then check in regularly to see how everyone is doing. This includes kids. If you want men who know how to clean a toilet, you will have to raise them. Have snacks. No booze.
- Express your personal preference. Not enough is said about sitting down and deciding who likes to do what. One person might have a secret love of vacuuming while another loves to weed flowerbeds. Conversely, someone might loath folding and putting away laundry. Keep the communication going by checking in regularly. Switch things up every once in a while and trade a dreaded task for something you haven’t done in a bit.
- Ask for what you need. In the Bringing Baby Home Training Course at the Gottman Institute, Julie Gottman says, “Describe what you do need, as opposed to what you don’t need.” This seems simple, but it’s an art. Some women will say, “I don’t need another kid to raise!” or “I need help!” The first statement is stating what you don’t need, and the second statement is too vague. What DO you need from the other person? All trash is regularly removed from the home without step-by-step instruction. All clothing removed from the physical body put into the hamper provided. This tactic might seem ridiculously specific, but for some couples, specificity is necessary and helpful. Be specific, not sarcastic.
- Drop the ball. Last-ditch effort: stop doing the chore you know they will do if it doesn’t get done. You might not like how it gets done, but it will get done. Slowly add chores until it seems equal, or they finally speak up and agree to negotiate. Tiffany Dufu writes about her experience with this technique in her book, Drop the Ball.
2020 was filled with heartache and uncertainty. It was hard for everyone, but it’s really taken a toll on mothers. We’re here to propose some mindfulness for moms in the new year.
Women have been forced out of the workforce at four times the rate of men, with an estimated cost of $64.5 billion a year in lost wages and economic activity. That’s $64.5 billion a year from individual women’s bank accounts, all so that we can do more unpaid work in our homes.
Those are big picture numbers, but we know that real moms in real households across the country are struggling. Whether you’ve always been a stay-at-home mom, you’ve been forced into it, or you’re still working and trying to balance it all – we’re thinking about you.
It’s easy to be compassionate for other moms that we see suffering. It’s much harder to apply compassion to ourselves. It may feel like you’re not accomplishing as much. The truth is that you are doing far more than ever before. The work that you’re doing is so vital. You’re keeping your families safe and cared for during a pandemic. So how can you know how much more you’re doing? Engage in some practical mindfulness by keeping track of your unpaid work.
Tend: Task Manager & Journal is a tracking app for moms that delivers knowledge, confidence, self-worth, and understanding by tracking the invisible labor of motherhood. You already track many of the important things to you; your baby’s milestones, menstrual cycles, and household expenses. Tracking your work can give you the confidence to see that you’re doing a great job. It can also offer insights to help make better decisions about how you spend your time.
This January, instead of setting unrealistic resolutions, we invite moms to recognize just how much they do to care for their families. Use Tend to track your caregiving work and tell us about it. Tag @tendtaskmanagerandjournal across social media and use the #MYWORKHASVALUE hashtag. We want to hear and share your stories. Let’s offer ourselves a little more kindness and mindfulness for moms in the New Year.
Far be it from me to argue with well meaning humans encouraging us to use this time to improve our minds by learning a new language or writing a book. That being said, I think you should watch whatever dumb garbage you want. No need for self-improvement, you’re fine just as you are. I mean, if you want to learn a language or write a book, do that. We’re all here just trying to get through. No judgment. Read more
After reading my post about how any attempt I make to communicate with the universe comes back with a clear, “You heard me the first time, stop screwing around and do your work” a friend of mine sent me this link from Goop. If you don’t know what Goop is here is my feeble effort. It’s a website where you can buy super expensive things I’m pretty sure you either don’t need (jade eggs that for some reason people pop up their privates) or could get a cheaper version somewhere else (like tea or socks). The website is not for me.
So when one of my friends sent me an article about how a deck of tarot cards could help “Guide Daily Decision Making” I had to try it. Except I don’t have a tarot deck. Is tarot capitalized? Let me check. No. And I am not going to buy a deck because I think tarot cards are very important to many people and shouldn’t be bought on a dumb lark and then left in a drawer somewhere. So I broke out the SpongeBob Uno game I’ve been playing with for the past fifteen years. I love SpongeBob, I love Uno, I have played these cards with both of my kids and have had hours of fun with them. They are important to me so it seemed to me they were a good fit.
The universe is nothing if not both understanding and flexible.
Can you use a tin of SpongeBob SquarePants Uno cards in place of a tarot deck to “Guide Your Daily Decision Making” as instructed by the Goop website?
The short answer? No, of course not, that’s stupid.
The long answer? Sort of, and here’s what happened.
First off, the person giving the advice in the article is “an intuitive and shamanic healer” named Colleen McCann. I looked her up, she seems nice. And she gave really good advice about how to use your cards. Here’s the quote that helped me feel like it was okay to use the SpongeBob Uno.
Every tarot deck comes with a guidebook to aid in interpretation. However this practice isn’t about learning a correct meaning to the card or a single way to interpret the message. I ask that you use this moment to flex your own “intuitive muscle” and tap in to how a particular card is applicable to different areas of your life.
Every uno deck comes with a guide to aid in interpreting the cards you are dealt. The kids and I generally ignore the guide and play in whatever fashion feels right at the time. I have a very well developed intuitive muscle when it comes to applying meaning to this particular set of cards.
From there the article gives a thorough and thoughtful primer on what to do with the cards in your hands. She talks about what she does for clients and she also talks about what to do if the deck is new or new to you. But as in all things, she said ultimately I had to decide how to proceed. She said you can choose as many cards as feel right to you so I did that. I was going to choose seven because that is how many cards you deal out in Uno but two cards were stuck together (probably with peanut butter) and I ended up with eight. This made me oddly edgy and I almost put the eighth one back but Colleen McCann’s urging to accept the process as it is rather than trying to impose a lot of hard and fast rules had me keeping all eight cards.
So, I couldn’t figure out how to do this in a way that made sense until it occurred to me I could just flip a card over, see what it looked like and see what came to mind. Here they are, all eight cards and my interpretation of them. At the end I’ll tell you how this changed my life for the better.
SpongeBob in a suit of plate armor wielding a spatula and riding a jellyfish. Armor: rich in Western symbolism of male energy and might and privilege and bloody combat. Fear and triumph. Spatula: cooking but also a versatile tool (bug squashing, scraping yuck up off the floor, threatening siblings with while doing dishes). Jellyfish: squidgy ocean creature, can be dangerous, soft yet powerful. Beautiful, great to watch at the aquarium and bonus they probably don’t mind living in captivity. Also, SpongeBob loves them very much.
Pirate SpongeBob with an eyepatch studying a treasure map. Pirate: Fun in this context but pirates actually dangerous, vicious. Self-starters, entrepreneurs of the sea! Treasure Map: Can be helpful if you understand the mindset of the person who drew it. If they drew it for themselves, it could be like trying to decipher modern poetry where you have to read a 90 page bio of the author to understand seven lines of poetry. Treasure map not a slam-dunk sign of prosperity.
Pilot SpongeBob on an airplane ride that looks like the coin-op ones that used to litter the front of supermarkets. SpongeBob looks stressed out, this flight might be going down. Does this card reverse the two that came before it? I don’t think so, that might only be true if the last two cards were red. So it’s just a general reversal. What is the nature of reversal? Not all are bad. A reversal of fortune could be a good thing if you are having a terrible time of it. Like the treasure map, think through the broader implications of the object.
Green Draw 2
Pirate SpongeBob with Gary the snail on his shoulder. I was going to say the draw 2 card is never good but it can be if you’re stuck with only a couple cards that you can’t seem to get rid of, having a few new cards sometimes feels like it opens up play and gives me a sense of momentum rather than being stuck staring at the same cards turn after turn. Also, SpongeBob has his pet snail and that makes him happy which makes me happy.
Squidward in a goofy hat. He’s sad. Although dressed joyfully, he’s unhappy. Even though he’s a sea creature, he can never get into the swim of things and he misses out on the love and friendship SpongeBob and Patrick offer. Grumpy masculine energy.
Yeah, here’s Sandy the Squirrel! My heart lept when I saw her. Regular sea-space outfit with pirate additions. Sandy is all adventure and love and friendly, open and brave.
Sad Squidward jester. He’s a drag. But what is he teaching us? To join in with life’s joy even when it isn’t exactly what you’d like it to be? Or, maybe it’s time to move? The ocean is vast, Squidward, why are you making yourself and everyone else miserable?
It’s Sandy again. Good ending.
Okay, so my notes then say, “Let’s use these today to guide decisions.”
And so I stacked them up, tucked them in my pocket and went to run my errands.
I have to say that the SpongeBob cards were easy to use. Anytime I was faced with a decision and SpongeBob was the card, I did what I thought was the nice and generous thing. SpongeBob comes off as this total idiot but he is really everything I want to be. He’s hardworking, loves his job and his friends and his life in general. He’s loyal to a fault. He’s a bad driver and sadly so am I.
The Sandy cards urged me to do things in a way I normally wouldn’t and that turned out okay since all I did was park in a different spot when I turned in the library books and I mixed my vodka with cranberry juice rather than fizzy water. Delicious!
The reversal card I used to decide that I wouldn’t call someone back who I really didn’t want to talk to and that eased a good amount of stress. The draw two card I was far too literal with and ate two brownies.
The cards that changed my life were the Squidward cards. Both times I used them I decided to leave people to do things the way they wanted to do them rather than impose my ideas. And it occurred to me after the second time that I, like many white women my age, are in constant danger of becoming Squidwards. I know that I have a strong sense of exactly how I want the world to work and when it doesn’t I get very upset and sometimes very, very angry.
But I don’t want to be a Squidward. Look at how much he misses out on. There’s so much love and friendship and general zaniness on offer and he rejects it.
I put the rest of the cards back in the tin but I kept the Squidward cards in my car as a reminder: Don’t Be A Squidward.
For the past four months, every day has felt the same when in fact they have often been very different. I started staying home because of Covid-19 on Saturday, March 14th. My younger son’s last day of in-person school was Friday, March 13th. For a few weeks, we had no school at all while the school district scrambled to come up with something. Then there was the nightmare of distance learning and now we are in summer. Yes, we never go anywhere but the things we do around here have changed. If I hadn’t kept a to-do list using Tend: Task Manager & Journal, I don’t know that I would have noticed these differences. I’ve reimagined and expanded what my to-do list does because of Tend. Read more
We’ve been relatively quiet about Tend over the last few months. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and our homes. The idea of “time” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Ambiguous stay at home orders combined with re-opening plans keep us wondering what is safe for our families. The mental load of motherhood has become unbearable. Read more
Something about the quarantine life unleashed a darkness in Helene Skantzikas. It insidiously snatched joy and plunged her into the depths of hopelessness. Nothing and everything has changed in her life in the last three months: she lives at home with her mother and her son. Same as before, but everything is different. Read more
My husband and I have been home together with the baby for a little over 2 months. We haven’t gone anywhere with the exception of my husband having gone out a few times to run to the grocery store. Other than that, we have been together 24/7. At first we were stressed out, annoyed with each other at little things, and seemed on edge. I’m sure it was the fear of the unknown and panic of what was to come. It was a ROUGH adjustment. Read more
If you’ve never fallen down a flight of stairs, it’s an experience like no other. Unsettling is too small a word but I’m still all cattywampus so unsettling will have to do. Why am I bringing this up? Well, for one, I fell down a flight of stairs last night so it’s still fresh in my memory and two, it seems the entire nation has fallen down a couple flights of stairs this year alone and I thought I should say something about it. About Covid, I have already said all I think I have to say thus far. About the murder of George Floyd: we’ve known better for a very long time and it seems we are just now about to do a little bit better about it. Read more