Reese Witherspoon made the understatement of the century on Tuesday, when she wrote on Instagram, “Trying to make sense of how to work from home, eat right, not stress, run two businesses, and care for three kids has been a full-time job the last few weeks.”
That seems like six full-time jobs to us. But the actor-producer-lifestyle-entrepreneur recognized that if she is having trouble with our new way of living, so too are all the other parents out there. So, Witherspoon is inviting some experts to share some much-needed advice, beginning with Eve Rodsky, the author of Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live). The book is all about figuring out how to share household tasks with a partner, and it was a Reese’s Book Club pick last October. On Tuesday, Witherspoon interviewed Rodsky on her new IGTV series, Shine on With Reese at Home.
“One woman today said, ‘Can someone explain how to homeschool the kids, take care of all the meals, and also work full time from home without admin support, and still be productive and responsive?’ ” Rodsky said of the questions she’s been receiving since people began social distancing. “I had a woman DM me, ‘How do I get my husband to take the sponge out of the sink?’ From the very mundane to the pretty profound about work-life balance is coming up.”
The coronavirus pandemic has become what Rodsky terms a “Wild Card,” a life-changing event that requires you and your partner to communicate and possibly reset your household rules. (By the way, that’s a metaphor, but Rodsky has also created a Fair Play deck of cards for couples to use when divvying up tasks.)
“I’m asking for a communication shift, especially in a Wild Card,” Rodsky said. “This is the time when emotion is high and cognition is low. We have to prioritize and invest in our relationships the same way we’re investing in toilet paper.”
In an essay last week for Harper’s Bazaar, Rodsky wrote about what she sees happening to women who haven’t had these conversations with their partners: “Women are taking on the conception and planning for everything related to homeschooling, managing and preparing food, snacks and screen time, arranging Skype for socialization, organizing supplies, arranging for physical activity, communicating with teachers,” she wrote.
We’ve all seen this play out on social media this month: Women post their color-coded home-schooling schedules and ask each other for advice on which educational apps to use, and men are largely silent on the subject.
But men are capable of doing their share, Rodsky said, if we communicate in the right way.
“We have to invite men into their full power at home,” she told Witherspoon.
Here’s a quick rundown of some tips she shared in the interview:
1. “No feedback in the moment.” Rather than sniping at each other about something bothering us, we should write it down and discuss it calmly later.
2. “Start with your Why.” That means focusing on the bigger picture values — like making sure your kids are healthy, happy, and educated — before arguing over who’s going to arrange the kids’ Zoom meeting with their class and who’s going to teach math that day.
3. Have a nightly check-in. We discussed this idea back at the beginning of our school-closure adventure, when we realized our spouses and kids would be our new officemates. Rodsky and Witherspoon both said that this is also a good time to determine whether any rules need to be adjusted to make things go more smoothly.
4. Lean on your “spiritual friend.” If you and your partner aren’t on the same page during this difficult time, you might instead need to connect with a “someone who can wake you up or be with you in a time of crisis.”
5. Just do the “dirty dozen.” Rodsky surveyed over 100 men and women about the hardest but most essential things to deal with right now and came up with this list (which is actually a bakers dozen): laundry, groceries, meals, home supplies, emergency planning, tidying up, cleaning, dishes, social media/social interactions with kids, watching kids, homeschool, discipline, and garbage. Discuss how to tackle those 13 things, and leave anything else for a less-stressful time.
Finally, Rodsky shared one more thing lesson we all need to remember to do, whether we’re raising kids or not: “Take time each day to find happiness in those ordinary moments.”
That’s something we don’t mind adding to our to-do list.
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Though this isn’t just your job to figure out, here are 27 ways to keep your kids’ brains busy when school’s out.