Hey Moms - How are you doing?
Do you feel like shelter in place is like motherhood on steroids, or is that just me?
While greeting cards lead you to believe that moms are all about wine, pedicures, and endless to-do lists, we all know that mothering is much more an invigorating and exhausting journey as you meet new versions of your children, and then watch them fade away as the next version blossoms. The delicate balance between endless love and discipline, the dance between encouraging risk and ensuring safety, all get turned up to eleven at a time like this.
When the stay at home orders were put in place, many of my friends and colleagues made similar to-do lists for their “spare time”: clean closets, learn Spanish, read a book, write a book, lose weight (hah!), and – of course – bake bread. When I asked the grocery store clerk when they would be restocking yeast, he smirked at me, “We get told to stay home for a few weekends and now everyone knows how to make some bread.”
The reality, however, is a little less glamorous than any of these ideas. A recent Gallup poll indicated that moms – whether they work or not – are still responsible for more of the household chores than their spouses. According to Gallup, “Married working mothers of children younger than 18 often struggle with work-life balance and feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all that they must at work and at home.”
Many moms are currently working all hours of the day and night, “balancing” calm responses to a parade of questions from children, and Zoom requests from friends and colleagues, all while sheltering in the middle of never-ending household chores. Trying to describe “work” and “life” as two things that can easily be separated or balanced for any working parent in modern times is absurd, and has become all the more unrealistic during a pandemic. When your work life and your personal life blur together in your home, it can feel as if you’re not handling either particularly well despite spending most parts of your waking hours devoted to others.
While this pandemic is still hard for me to fathom as our reality, I have to believe that this is a unique opportunity to learn about ourselves and the meaning of our own lives by figuring out what we liked about “normal” life, and what we quite frankly haven’t missed. I do believe that we will find a way to elevate our relationships, as we realize what we treasure about in-person interactions. More urgently, I see this as a time that all of us – but especially women – can actively shape what we want our lives to look like when we are back to “normal.” Do you miss being in an office and desperately want to return to a work location distinct from your home? Or do you realize that you have missed out on some opportunities to nest, and that you enjoy providing safety and well-being to your family by physically being home and cooking comfort food? We as women may have more home duties on our plate, but we as people should always be on the lookout for what brings us satisfaction, and a feeling of being a whole, happy, healthy person.
I have lived through enough crises as a financial advisor by now to know that a pandemic would give me less free time, not more, so my pandemic to-do list was a little more forgiving than most: exercise as many days as possible, take care of my clients and team, maintain some level of economic activity in our home (i.e. shop online), read voraciously, and write only when inspired. There is no balance in that list. In “financial planner speak,” my asset allocation is overweight in my job and underweight in my family. I talked to my family about this at the onset of this new life and told them that I needed support and would be time-deprived for the foreseeable future. I also told them what I needed at home – some grace, an abundance of spontaneous time together, and a touch of cleanliness. What I received in return is a husband who is shopping for groceries and cooking meals, kids who are cleaning the house, lots of long walks, and some mad badminton skills.
So go ahead, moms. You bake that bread. Or don’t. Take the best parts of your “new normal” and make them part of your forever. Leave behind what you don’t need as we move forward.
And know that I am rooting (extra) for you on Mother’s Day.
Debra Brennan Tagg is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional and the creator of the DBT360 Financial Plan, a proprietary program that helps her clients prioritize their goals, leverage their resources, and address their risks. She is the president of BFS Advisory Group and teaches the public and the financial services industry about the importance of values-based financial planning and investor education.