The Motherhood hosted a live Talk with Real Simple managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop, Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families & Work Institute and Christine Koh of Boston Mamas to talk about Real Simple’s groundbreaking study, “Women & Time: Setting a New Agenda,” based on a survey of 3,200 American women between the ages of 25-54 conducted with the Families and Work Institute.


“The good and the bad news seems to be that when it comes to free time, we’re our own worst enemies,” said Kristin van Ogtrop.


According to the study, at least 50% of women say they don’t have enough free time and  61% feel guilty spending what little time they do have on themselves.


“One of the findings that was surprising from the study was that we do things in our free time (defined as time we spend on ourselves where we can do things we enjoy) that we DON’T enjoy – like laundry, cleaning and decluttering!” said Ellen Galinsky.


“We feel as if we have to finish our chores before we ‘earn’ free time for ourselves … but chores never seem to be finished!” added Ellen.  “I used to wait for others to give me permission for free time and why should they…it is not in their self-interest.”


And here’s the rub.  The survey also found that “women who set aside regular free time are ultimately more satisfied with their lives.”


So what’s an over-worked, time-starved mother to do?


We gathered some of the most trusted voices in the blogosphere to talk with Kristin, Ellen and Christine about the study and share their advice and approaches.  We were blown away by the conversation.  Here are some of the takeaways:


“It’s unusual, if not unheard of, for me to have an entirely clean house, but if I even have ONE tidy room, that seems to allow a good mental space to approach the day,” said Gabrielle Blair, Design Mom.


“I quickly learned that my husband does not clean. DOES. NOT. CLEAN,” said Karen Walrond, Chookooloonks.  “But I’m okay with this, because he’s a helluva cook. So our rule is that he cooks and I clean. I do miss cooking sometimes, but this keeps us saner.


“My husband once said that he would do the dishes for the whole rest of our lives so that I would stop complaining about doing dishes, said Heather, Rookie Moms.  “I took him up on that one.”


“I spoke with an organizational expert at Dad 2.0, and while I always knew about the “everything has a home” thing, HOLY CRAP, when instituted, it is magical, said Kristen Chase, Cool Mom Picks.


For me, Ellen’s article on The Huffington Post was a true a-ha moment – it never occurred to me, a 35 year old woman, honestly, that I didn’t have to be as perfect as possible in every way, and that includes finishing my chores, said Morra Aarons, Women Online.


“I hate our cultural tendency to downplay our own desires or abilities to find free time, all couched in the “OMG I’m so busy I can’t breaaaathe!” narrative which does nothing but make everyone else feel like THEY should be crazy-busy, too,” said Meagan Francis, The Happiest Mom.


“I tell people who visit that they can have a good meal to eat or a clean house to eat it in…but not both,” said The Motherhood member Becki.


I don’t have any help outside of the kids and the man who live here, said Kelly Wickham, Mocha Momma.  “I remind myself that THEY all helped to make this mess, too.”


“The BIGGEST help to me, my life, our family’s life, and my marriage was finding *where* my husband did not have clutter blindness and putting him in charge of that (the kitchen) and where the kids would take responsibility (their rooms) and putting them in charge of that,”  said Julie Pippert, Using My Words.


“I subscribe to the theory of resolving what makes you crazy. I don’t feel OBLIGATED, but a clean kitchen makes me feel more at peace,” said Whitney of Rookie Moms.


“I find that as my life has gotten more complicated and “messy” I have tried to seek order through making everything tidier at home and in my workspace,” said Isabel Kallman, AlphaMom.  “And I have.”


“We’ve got to overcome to-do list tyranny,” said Kristin van Ogtrop.  “There was such a strong correlation in the study between happiness and carving out free time. Put that guilt in a box and close the box.”


“I decided a long time ago that I am NOT in charge of cleaning the refrigerator and my husband (who is a GREAT cook) is,” said Ellen Galinsky.  “I have accepted that I will live with mold on the ‘slow movers in the back of the refrigerator’ and I do. I know that if I ever jumped in, I would “own” the refrigerator again.”


“I tell my husband, I am a stay at home MOM.   Not a stay at home HOUSEKEEPER,” said Brandie. “I do need help. Just like when he goes to work, he isn’t the only person doing his job, he isn’t the only person in the company. He doesn’t have to do it all there. I don’t have to do it all here.”


“I’m a big fan of integrating my kids into things that need to get done… making it fun and also teaching them about basic living,” said Christine of Boston Mamas.


“Is there a biological difference in men and women that makes it easier for men to disconnect in this way?” asked The Motherhood member jbrileyb.  “I used to resent my husband for it, but now I am looking at him like a mentor of sorts.  He just decides he’s going to watch a hockey game, sits down and does it ….  I’m realizing I should be more like Mark, not that he should be more like me.”


“I end up in that shame cycle of: can’t keep up = stress = no desire to do anything, especially cleaning, when I do have free time = more mess = more stress, etc. I try to keep things ‘maintained’ and hope when the kids are older I’ll actually have it super clean,” said Steph of Adventures in Babywearing.


“I am a self described “mostly mom” meaning I am not seeking perfection, said The Motherhood member Deborah.  “I wouldn’t really know where I put it anyway. 😉 The ten minute or 30 minute tidy as a family keeps our family happy and sane.”


“I have done huge purging regularly,” said Julie.   “I’ve gotten more mindful about what I bring in. Also, if I won the lottery that I never play? I might buy out the Container Store.”


“One of the motivation threads for this conversation was one I hosted on The Motherhood the other month,” said Christine.   “I once read in a running magazine that a 10 minute run is better than no run at all. And I have applied that to self care in general. I encourage you to give yourself the permission of 10 minutes a day (if you can do more, great!) to do something that is just for you. This morning I went for a 10 minute run and it did wonders on many levels.”


“I LIKE talking with ‘slackers’ who admit they take ‘my own time,’ said Julie.  “It reinforces this permission I give myself.”


“When something bad happens, you don’t think, gee, I wish I would have dusted more often,” said Brandie. “On some level, some things need to be done. But I don’t need to vacuum every day to have a clean house … find something you enjoy. And do it, if only a few minutes each day. It will be good for you.”


“Remember that YOU DRIVE THE BUS,” said Christine.  “You can choose to fill your life with joy and creativity and happy small moments and you can choose to let go of things that are unnecessary. Really, you can.”


“We need to change the narrative from ‘I’m so busy, sigh’ to ‘I’m filling my life with things I love.'”  Meagan of The Happiest Mom


Click here to read the full transcript of this amazing conversation!




For more advice on delegating work to your kids, The Motherhood is hosting a Talk later this month on winning the chore war and getting kids to help around the house. Join us!