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
This is where we talk about what it means to care for our homes and ourselves and any other humans (and/or animals) lucky enough to share those spaces with us.
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, email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
Attention parents: We are not pregnant. If you are not carrying the baby, you are not pregnant. You can be expectant or expecting but you are not pregnant. If you are sitting there drinking wine and eating bleu cheese and no one is giving you side-eye or a lecture about how you’re a horrible person and will more than likely be a horrible parent, you are not pregnant. If there isn’t another person literally rolling around inside you, hiccuping you awake at 3 in the morning, you are not pregnant. Read more
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
Are you cringing? The word funner tends to send people off the deep end. But the word runner is fine. And yet beautifuller is a big no.
Why? Something about the way two syllable adjectives pattern. I’m not completely sure.
Welcome to English grammar. It’s really confusing here and lots of super smart people disagree about ideas I don’t understand. Noun phrases still make me cry. So why am I talking about grammar? 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
With Older Son’s 25th birthday quickly approaching, it’s time for me to write up a few things I think I know about motherhood.
I have been a mom for a while, longer than some, not as long as others. 25 years so far. I have two children, one is 24 years old and one is 8 years old. There are no two people I love more in this world or beyond. They have been my great adventure and terror and joy and…well, all the things. They have given me dimensions I would not have developed if it were not for them. I think I am a better person because of them. Read more