Last week, my husband popped a question that always leaves me speechless: What do you want for Christmas?
As a working mother of three, plenty of gifts come to mind: a meal delivery service, a smarter phone, melatonin drops. But the gifts that would truly improve my quality of life, and the lives of working mothers everywhere, are less tangible.
If your gift-giving goal is simply to mask any stress, guilt or even inequality in mom’s life, I suggest a strong scented candle. But if you want to gift her with solidarity and support this year, consider these ideas instead.
From Her Partner: Fair Division of Labor
Congratulations! You can offer your other half one of the most meaningful gifts around. A study by the American Center for Progress shows that, even in homes where parents work equal hours, mothers spend more combined time working, doing household labor and caring for children than fathers. Since women also tend to shoulder a household’s mental load, it’s clear that many moms could benefit from an equitable division of household duties.
This may sound daunting, but take heart: Writer Maddie Eisenhart suggests that simple steps like writing down mom’s mental “to-do list” and divvying up the tasks can make a huge difference. (And Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky, will help couples map out strategies for equity at home.)
From the Whole Family: Seasonal Choices
A survey conducted by Slumber Cloud shows that the average person spends 38 hours preparing for the holidays. For that reason, relatives can graciously gift mom a choice in how she participates in the festivities.
If the working mom in your family can’t wait to put up the Christmas tree at 12:01 am the day after Thanksgiving (yes, please!), step aside as she hoists that sucker up. But if she’d rather spend her sacred time off relaxing with her children, not entertaining 30 of her closest relatives, either offer to help a mother out, or chip in for take-out.
From the Kids: Homemade Gifts (That Someone Else Helps Them Make)
Whether it’s a handprint ornament or Popsicle stick picture frame, homemade gifts from the kids are actually pretty amazing. Chances are, those little munchkins are mom’s main motivation for working her butt off in the first place. If you’re a caretaker of children, take time to help them create a present for mom. She’ll love it.
Working mothers are notorious for making the best of the conditions they’re handed, but this season let’s help make those conditions a little more favorable. Whatever gift you choose, make it one that will support a working mom in a meaningful, even transformative way. And if you can throw in a bottle of melatonin drops, all the better.
From an Employer: Workplace Flexibility
Looking to make life easier for a working mom on your payroll? Flexible schedules can relieve major stress in working mothers’ lives while actually increasing workplace productivity.
A study by Airtasker shows that employees who work remotely put in 1.4 more days per month than colleagues in office settings, and are productive for an extra 10 minutes each day. Research by Remote.co also finds that companies with many remote workers also have a higher number of women in positions of power.
With this gift, you’re supporting women both as parents and as workplace leaders.
From Friends: An Escape Plan
Your job is simple and super fun: give your working-mom friend an excuse to go out! Just remember, as much as she may want to socialize, “mom guilt” can be a powerful force.
Often, by the time mom has attended to everyone’s needs, it’s 10 p.m., and she never made it out the door. For that reason, solicit her partner or a friend to occupy the kids while she slips away. Or if she’s downright exhausted, bring the party to her. When you’re drained, a friend showing up with a bottle of wine can feel as luxurious as a night on the town.