Leverage Mother's Day for a Valuable Gift (That Costs Nothing)

Filed under: Opinions

Right about now your husband and children may be waking up to the fact that Sunday is Mother's Day, and they're kicking themselves because they've (once again) waited to think about how to make the day special for you.

Across the country, family members are frantically phoning restaurants, learning that reservations are unavailable. Some secretly feel relieved since Mother's Day menus can be pricey and crabby kids in an overcrowded restaurant doesn't sound like much fun anyway. But what to do for you instead is still a dilemma.

Many dads are scouring the Internet for flower coupons -- their usual standby. But even then they know flowers aren't the best option. In the past they've ordered bouquets last minute and noticed that obvious last-minute gifts don't do much to make you feel appreciated.

May I offer some advice? Ask your family for a gift that's longer lasting than lunch or flowers -- one that will be very valuable to you and won't cost them a dime. Request the gift of their time, attention, and cooperation. This may sound crass, but it's true: You've got a lot of leverage on Mother's Day. Really ... how can they deny your request on your special day!

Close your eyes and envision: It's Sunday afternoon. Everyone has enjoyed a good meal, the kitchen is sparkling (work with me here), and your family is gathered around the table giving you their full attention. Amazingly, your toddler isn't cranky and even those family members who usually spike your blood pressure (we're not naming names) listen without rolling their eyes as you explain how you'd like to work together to launch some household routines that will decrease your workload, create a fairer division of labor, and reduce household stress.

Now open your eyes and follow these six steps to make this a reality (well, except for the cranky toddler, but we can even work around that).

Adjust your attitude beforehand, as necessary. This confab is not about complaining or blaming. No one will jump at the chance to work as a team if you're negative -- "I'm sick of living in a pigpen," or critical -- "I'm tired of being everyone's personal maid!" Guilt is a poor motivator.

Cast vision and highlight benefits. Explain that your desire to work more as a team isn't just about you, but will improve everyone's life. Give examples:
"If the house is cleaner, you can have friends over."
"If we all pitch in, it will get done sooner and we'll have more time for fun."
"Mom will be in a better mood." (This has great value.)
"Honey, if you and the kids pick up the day's clutter before bed, I'll have more energy for you afterward."

Get input and listen. Ask each family member what would make home a good place to be. Although today is your day, if you want things to be different tomorrow, the next day, and the next, you need to foster team spirit -- which means empowering your team by letting everyone have a say.

Start small and build. Don't go overboard assigning chores lest your kids envision their futures as Cinderella --scrubbing floors and missing balls, with birds and mice their only friends. You might discuss who could take over responsibility for a few chores next week, then agree to meet again to discuss and divvy up chores when school's out. Before Sunday, download a copy of "Who's Responsible for What?" so you'll have a list of household tasks to work from. Believe me, this will be an eye-opener for your husband and kids as to all you do to keep things humming.

Don't give up. If your husband's buy-in to the teamwork idea fades when your day of honor is over, consider possible reasons why he's hesitant to get on board. If your children won't cooperate, don't be afraid to trade permission and privilege for cooperation.

Set the tone for success. Your positive expectations and praise when a job is completed set the stage for higher performance and team commitment. Thank your husband and children for every task they do, even if it's something you expect of them. Gratitude fuels good will, which fuels more gratitude -- truly a gift that keeps on giving.

What do you want for Mother's Day?

Kathy Peel is the author of 20 books, CEO of Family Manager Coaching, and a popular speaker at women's events.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.