Time passed differently in 2020. March was 9 years long. April lasted 32 minutes and the rest of the year started and stopped in ways I don’t think any of us will ever truly understand. There was a general call to let yourself off the hook, don’t focus too much on productivity, just try and keep yourself and the people in your house fed and somewhat clean. To say everything changed would not be an exaggeration.
Since time passed differently, it follows that we spent our time differently. Supermarket, Target, post office. Lunch with friends, museums, kids’ birthday parties. For me and many millions of other moms, these outings either ceased altogether or became so stressful we wished we didn’t have to go at all (except for Target, if I am being honest). We learned and we adapted and we used up the last of the quinoa we bought in 2018.
But what about the time we spent inside our homes? From front door to back, inside and out, our homes took on roles we never thought they would have to. School. Office. Movie theatre. Restaurant. Playground. I spent more hours in the carport behind my apartment building, watching my son and the neighbor kids play, then I will ever want to admit. The truth was, if someone asked me at the end of each day how I had spent my time, I would have been at a loss to tell them. Everyone was fed and in bed, I had obviously done something to make all that happen. But I couldn’t have said what.
I was so turned around by the opening notes of the pandemic, I completely forgot I am co-founder of a company that built a free app, Tend: Task Manager & Journal, that moms use to track the invisible labor they perform everyday to keep their families functioning. I could keep track of my day and figure out what in the hell I was doing. Maybe it would help clear the fog.
I wasn’t the only one keeping track of their time. Moms logged thousands of hours on Tend. I had not been alone in my need to know where my time was going.
And so, here at the beginning of 2021 and thanks to the data collected over the past 12 months, we have a treasure trove of information regarding how moms spent thousands of their precious hours in 2020. Some of the data surprised us and like all good data, it led to some really interesting questions.
I wasn’t surprised by this one. I spent mid-March to the last second of 2020 with my son. I love my son. I seriously wondered if it was legal to get him his own apartment. He’s eight. Discipline means many different things to different moms. For me it’s standing over whatever he’s broken, waterlogged, covered in glitter or thrown down the stairs and saying, “There are only two of us here and I didn’t do this. Explain.”
There are literally thousands of books about how to raise kids. In his 1930 book, “Behaviorism,” John B. Watson wrote, “Never, never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.” Could you imagine shaking a toddler’s hand in the morning? Sticky at best. I also think this book was written for very wealthy fathers who employed nannies.
Thankfully Dr. Spock came along right at the beginning of the baby boom, when millions of Americans had babies and had no idea what to do with them now that they weren’t needed to haul in the crops and feed chickens. He advocated that children were deserving of love and respect and, most helpfully to me, he said that parents knew more than they realized.
Trusting yourself wasn’t a popular idea in Western Civilization when it came to parenting because traditionally most parenting was done by women and women were believed to be stupid and needed to be led by a firm, masculine hand. That hand reached down into what at the time was called mothering. Even Spock used the term but later changed it to parenting.
No parenting guide is foolproof, as we all know. What I have found most helpful is talking to other parents. I am looking to hear that I am not alone in my love and frustration, in my fears and self-recrimination. Motherly has an outstanding guide of moms’ groups. Some have moved themselves online for the duration and others are native to the online scene so you can keep these ladies in your life for the long haul.
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling, reach out. Moms are standing by to help. You can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I’ll write back.
We all knew email was a time sink in 2020 but I had no idea it was this bad. Good data generates good questions and we had plenty.
- Was a lot of this emailing related to work because so many people were working from home or, if they were essential workers, they couldn’t go into HR to ask questions so they had to email?
- Was the emailing related to distance learning?
- Was it mostly setting up zoom cocktail parties?
You get the idea. If you spent a lot of your year emailing, let us know. Drop us an email…just kidding. Let us know on social media, we’re on all the major channels @tendtask (there are links at the top and bottom of this page for all our social media). Or you can email us at email@example.com.
The food we choose to feed our loved ones can be a sticky subject. The deeper you wade into those waters, the more internet sharks there are so I am going to be pretty general here.
Kids and adults need to eat and moms are often the ones who have to feed them. From deciding what to eat, buying the ingredients, and then putting the whole thing together, feeding people can be a joy but in 2020 it was more of an endless cycle of shock. “You just ate, how can you be hungry,” was a constant question in my house. Before the pandemic, my son ate 5 of his lunches at school and we ate out more than I realized. I was genuinely shocked at how often I had to prepare food not only for my son but for myself.
Everyone’s experience of feeding their humans in 2020 was different, but I heard from many friends and family that food prep became a huge part of their daily lives. Some people found joy in making lots of things from scratch. Others happily tossed menus at their family and wished them luck. However you reacted, whatever your experience, food prep moved into a much more central position in your life.
I came up with a very basic menu that laid out breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day of the week. Then I made sure I always had that stuff on hand. The menu repeats every week. If I had no idea what to make, I checked the schedule. If I was feeling frisky, I made something that sounded good and didn’t need the menu.
It is a guideline, not a mandate. I have found it very helpful. It is hilariously basic. Tuesday breakfast is toast and fruit. Wednesday lunch is hotdogs. Sunday dinner is whatever you find. Give it a try. If your kids are old enough, ask them to chime in and maybe think about asking them to help. When it was his night to cook, my older son used to put barbecue sauce and lunchmeat in a pan, heat it up and then pile it on toasted hamburger buns. He’d serve it with baby carrots or corn and either applesauce or chopped up apples. We happily ate it once a week for years. See what your kids come up with. They could surprise you or totally gross you out, either way it will be interesting.
The words potty training fill me with dread. As parents, we are not good at everything. I was terrible at potty training. I was inconsistent, obviously frustrated and slapped diapers back on them the second they had an accident.
Again, we were a little surprised at how many hours were spent on potty training but then our kids are older. My neighbor has a three year old and when I told her our findings she was not surprised that potty training was so high up on the list. I had forgotten how all encompassing a task it is. And it’s a task that follows you wherever you go. No one washes their dishes while perusing the aisles at Target but if you are potty training and the trainee is with you…Target is not as much fun.
I won’t offer any advice regarding potty training. I was so bad at it my kids pretty much trained themselves. Here’s an article I found, maybe these tips will be helpful? If you’re struggling with potty training, please know you cannot be doing as poor of a job as I did and my kids are fully potty trained. It will happen.
Now we are on a subject close to my heart. I hate clutter and yet I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I hate cauliflower and I spend absolutely no time thinking about it because I never bring it into my house and my kid never brought any of it home from school. Clutter is like dust. It’s sneaky and I only notice it after it has piled up on all my flat surfaces.
That moms spent a lot of their time battling clutter isn’t a surprise. 2020 turned our homes into multi-functional spaces. I once had to clear a batting helmet, a half finished Diwali art project, a half eaten dog treat and three weeks of unfinished math pages off my desk just so I could have a couple square feet to work in. Normally, that much stuff wouldn’t have been on my desk, it would have been on the kitchen table but that was covered with groceries I hadn’t bothered to put away and a bunch of mail I eventually just threw away without sorting. No one’s sent me a check since 1987 so I wasn’t worried.
I have been chasing clutter all over my house all year. Normally that doesn’t happen. I am annoyingly organized. I am the person who holds up a sheet of paper someone set down 2 minutes ago and demands, “If this is important, it doesn’t belong here. If it isn’t important, put it in the trash.” I regularly organize my closets, my fridge, my car and the little storage locker in my carport. Even my purse is clean and organized.
2020 changed all that. There was simply too much happening in the house for me to keep as tight a rein on everything as I used to. All my carefully cultivated systems were gummed up by distance learning and two people living in a space 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I checked in with mom friends and heard the same story. No one went anywhere so everything stayed home and the piles began to multiply and then grow.
I found a good article about decluttering by Ron Finley and here is my favorite step:
Set up natural declutterers. If you notice a “problem area” where more clutter than average accumulates, think of ways to avoid that buildup in the future. Do you have a bad habit of letting junk mail pile up on the coffee table or kitchen counter? Set up a recycling bin right next to where you look at your mail, so you’ll naturally toss the junk before it has a chance to pile up.
This has helped with keeping paper from piling up. I’ve also placed a laundry basket at the foot of the stairs where I deposit everything that has traveled downstairs that needs to go back up. The less said about my car and purse, the better.
So, that’s it. The top 5 ways moms spent their time in 2020. It’s been an unbelievably tough year and 2021 might not be much of a picnic, either. Reach out. Feeling alone makes everything harder. And if you want, start tracking what you do everyday to keep yourself and those you love going. Tend: Task Manager & Journal is free and it just might help.