Mothers and Mother's Day

With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, it’s time for families to get planning on something that tells mom just how much they love and appreciate her.  There are the traditional gifts of brunch, flowers, jewelry, spa day, and so on, these are one-off things that do signal an appreciation, but don’t acknowledge the many ways in which moms end up doing more than their fair share in houses across the country.

A report on housework and childcare by StatsCan found that women spend over double the amount of time on unpaid childcare in the house, and the number isn’t due to stay-at-home moms either.  Full-time working mothers still spend 49.8 hours a week, on average, on childcare compared to 27.2 hours a week for their male partners who were working full-time.  In fact, even when a woman was the sole income provider in a family (i.e., she's married with kids), she spent 50.8 hours a week on childcare compared to 25.5 hours a week for men in the same position.

Women – and especially mothers – also end up doing more housework than their male counterparts, even when both people are working full-time.  For example, women who were working full time report doing 13.9 hours per week of household chores compared to 8.6 hours by men working full time.  When women were the sole income providers in a relationship, she still reported doing 15.2 hours per week of household chores, slightly more than a man who was not working in a relationship who clocks in at 14.6 hours per week.  That’s right – women who are the sole earners are still doing more housework than their non-working partner.  This has to change.

So folks, with Mother’s Day here, let’s re-evaluate what kind of “gift” we want to give moms.  Let me be clear that I do think the one-off gift of a spa day, a nice brunch, flowers, and so on is important.  Being pampered is something all people enjoy now and again and mom is no different.  What I am going to propose is not leaving it there.  Don’t take mom to brunch and then think you’re off the hook for the next year.

You aren’t.

It’s time that we as individual families took it upon ourselves to change the status quo.  Mothers need to feel empowered to tell their partners and their kids to do more.  Partners and kids need to realize that they probably aren’t pulling their weight and work to change that (and for the families who already have gender equity in household care, kudos to you).   So here are some things to consider when offering up some real change for Mom on Mother’s Day:

  1. Not all things can be divided equally which is why we need to focus on splitting things up equitably. When kids are young, they will often want more mom than dad, especially if they’re breastfeeding.  This means time on childcare is going to be greater for mom, but this doesn’t mean that time on housework has to be greater too.  In fact, this is where dad can pick up a greater share to help support mom in doing what she needs to do: Nourish and nurture a baby.

  2. When offering to help, ask Mom where she feels she needs the help. Often we think we’re helping when we decide to jump in and take over a particular chore, like laundry or the dishes, when that may not be an area Mom feels she’s struggling with.  If you really want to help, ask her what makes her feel the most stressed, then see if you can do something to help alleviate that stress, even if it's not taking it all on, but just easing the burden a bit.

  3. Don’t overcommit. If you’re planning on really helping, be realistic.  There’s nothing more disappointing that getting excited because you think someone is going to come in and make life easier only to have them give up or stop soon, putting the burden back on you, and one of the main reasons people give up is because they overcommit.  You’re not going to end up with gender equity right off the bat, so accept that and pick small areas for change, knowing that once you’re used to this first change, you can always add more in a few months.

Most importantly, remember that this is about Mom.  It’s about doing a little something to make her life easier in the long-run, not just for one day.  After all, doesn’t she deserve it?

By Tracy Cassels

May 02, 2016