2020 has been a year like no other, so our holiday season will be like no other. The Mothers in our lives have had an especially challenging year. They've taken on the role of home educator, on top of caregiver and household manager. They may be juggling those duties with a full-time job, or they may have lost their job or quit their job because the demands of doing it all are impossible.
And yes, this year has been hard on men too. Many husbands and Fathers are juggling responsibilities and supporting their families. But research has shown that Mothers are three times as likely as Dads to shoulder most of the housework and caregiving, according to McKinsey's and LeanIn's Women in the Workplace report. This has been my experience. Not only that, "Women, in particular, have been negatively impacted. Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security." I am one of those women. The US Labor Department reported that 865,000 women left the workplace in September alone. That is nearly four times the number of men. And one if four women are contemplating doing the same.
Along with the day to day to-lists for work and family, we have also endured the cycle of grief repeatedly, sometimes almost daily. We grieved the end of our way of life this year and shifted into a new normal. We mourned the loss of an ideal education for our children as we pivoted to online learning. We mourned the loss of our sense of control over our families' safety, education, and well-being. We mourned our loss of security as we witness the demise of our economy and democracy. We mourned the loss of our champion, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We wept after witnessing the horrific murder of George Floyd and too many others. We grieve every time our justice system fails to prosecute these injustices. And many of us have grieved for the loss of our jobs, or worst of all, a loved one.
This holiday season, we are all experiencing grief in many forms. You may not be able to see everyone you want. You may not be in a position to deliver as many presents as you have in the past. But you can give the Mothers in your life want they really want this year. What they really need. They need time to heal, process, and recharge. They need appreciation for all they have shouldered and accomplished. They need relief in any form from the stress of it all. And they need a deep connection and camaraderie.
Here are my recommendations on how to give her what she really wants this year.
The Gift of Appreciation
Mothers need to feel seen and appreciated for all they do. Write her a letter and let her know that you see and recognize all that she does. Be specific. It's the little things that make a big difference in our daily lives, so make sure she knows you notice. Thank her for keeping your world turning in some semblance of an orderly fashion. Talk about all the ways she supports your family. Acknowledge her work achievements and homemaker skills. Have the kids write a letter too.
The Gift of Time
Mothers need time to heal, process, and recharge. This means they need a significant amount of time alone. They need to use their alone time to rest and reflect. However, they choose too. They need it to be uninterrupted, which means no calling or texting every few hours with questions. They need it to be guilt-free, which means no latent resentment or reward for giving it to them. So this holiday season, skip the obligatory pajamas and mani-pedi gift certificate and give her a whole weekend off. That' right. Two full days of uninterrupted Mom time. Give her a great book and journal to take with her. I recommend Becoming by Michelle Obama and the companion journal: Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice. Occupy and care for the kids, so she can have a real break. Most importantly, do not leave the house a disaster for her to clean up when she gets back. This is essential to helping her heal and recharge. I recommend doing this at least four times a year, so go on Canva and make her a gift certificate for the time she desperately needs this year.
The Gift of Connection
Get to know each other again. This year has changed everything, including us. We are not the same people we were in January 2020. Chances are, our goals have changed, our needs have changed, and possibly, even our values have changed. Set aside time alone with her, without distraction. Put all phones and devices away. Do something fun together. Ask her questions. Find out how's she changed this year and share your journey. Create a list of shared goals for 2021. Make her feel like you're a team.
The Gift of Relief
We all want to feel relief this year, and that is a hard gift to give. Especially amid a pandemic. Here's how you can give her some relief. Show up for her. Follow through on the things you say you'll do. Whether it's arriving on time, fixing the leaky faucet, taking care of the kids. Whatever it is. Being dependable is the number one way you can give her a sense of relief during these uncertain times. Knowing she can depend on you to be there for her means it's not all on her shoulders. While she's managing the homeschooling, the shopping, the meals, the kids, the Christmas shopping, and her career, she knows that if she drops a ball, you will pick it up for her. Because she needs to drop a ball.