This Mother’s Day, get the gift of more time

clock tucked into a white sheet

By Eve Rodsky

What do you really need this Mother’s Day?

  • Friendship time?
  • Family time?
  • Less family time?
  • Handing off your To-Do list to your partner? (for an hour, the full day, um—forever?)
  • Time and space to actively pursue that ‘thing’ that makes you come alive? (a long, hot shower doesn’t qualify here)?
  • Quiet time to think/grieve/walk/listen to music?

Whatever your answer, I want you to notice the key ingredient in each one: time.

Over the past two weeks I’ve spoken to over 100 women via Zoom, over the phone and through a variety of social media channels, and the Number 1 sentiment expressed by women is: I have less time than ever.

As we continue to shelter-in-place, women report that they’re still doing the majority of unpaid labor in the home while their male counterparts ‘work’ remotely from the other room. The reality of our ‘new normal’ is that we’re more time-taxed than ever—which is precisely why this is the most important time to reclaim time for ourselves. 

I don’t know a mom out there who couldn’t benefit from more time, and especially now when the space-time continuum has collapsed in our laps. I cannot stress this fact enough: All time is created equal. Both you and your partner have only 24 hours in a day and each of those hours hold value.

This Mother’s Day make intentional choices about how you want to spend your valuable and finite time. And if I may offer you a suggestion—clarify for yourself and then clearly communicate your feelings and needs to your partner ahead of time (i.e. before you both wake up Sunday morning to kids demanding breakfast).

If you’re like the majority of women who juggle two-thirds or more of the unpaid work required to run a home and a family and now, adding in homeschooling and routinely disinfecting the entire house, the idea of carving out personal time may sound like a fever dream (even on a national holiday promoted as a “celebration” of you). And you’re right. It will remain a nice-to-have fantasy until you reframe it as a must-have reality… and this requires a conversation between you and your partner.

What you can do today

Take the lead and be a game-changer in your relationship! Clearly communicate your feelings and needs to your partner: I’d like to celebrate Mother’s Day by [fill in the blank]. This is important to me because [fill in the blank].  If your ‘ask’ involves more time for yourself, pre-negotiate a re-deal of the Daily Grindsdishes, laundry, meal prep, cleaning and watching children—some of the most labor-intensive aspects of domestic life. If even only for a few hours, ask your partner to fully own these tasks.

Before I became skilled in effective communication, I may have attempted to set boundaries with my husband by saying something like, It’s Mother’s Day. I’m ‘out.’ I’d then expect him to step forward and assume responsibility of our household by figuring it out himself after which I’d begrudge him for failing to meet my expectations of surprising me with chocolate chip pancakes. Not fair to him, nor effective. By late morning, I’d be the one in the kitchen mixing batter for our family of five. I finally learned that to get what I needed, I had to craft my request with clear intention.

A shift in conversation

Particularly in times of uncertainty like, say, during a global pandemic, how we communicate with our partners can become easily stressed. If we’re not mindful of how and when we speak, our communication style can sabotage our best intentions and propel us further away from what we need. Shift your conversation to collaborative dialogue by integrating these communication ‘keys’:

The four keys to getting what you need

  • Timing (Choose your timing wisely. Checking in at the end of the day is optimal. Turn off your cell phones and focus on each other.)
  • Brevity (Keep it brief and succinct.)
  • Word choice (Choose words your partner can hear and absorb.)
  • Tone (Deliver your words in a calm, kind and neutral tone.)

Intentional communication is the foundation of Fair Play and it will make a significant difference in how your needs are met by your partner this Mother’s Day and every day. It’s an on-going practice that often needs redirection and refinement until you both feel seen, heard.

Now, more than ever, we must play for fairness. Redefine teamwork as the collaborative process that enlists both partners to fully participate in the big and small details of home life. This all-important move will safeguard your relationship, protect your sanity and perhaps most importantly—afford you some much-deserved time off.

Eve Rodsky is the author of The New York Times bestselling book, Fair Play: For When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).

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