When Amanda Ahlenius became a mother to two girls, she realized just how much she had to learn from the other women in her life. Motherhood became more of a collective, communal journey than she ever expected.
“How much could we learn from each other if we all shared the random things that the women in our lives taught us?” Ahlenius asked in what became a viral TikTok.
Garnering over 80,000 likes, the comment section filled with tips from other users.
“Cut both ends of the tomato paste can and push one side all the way through so you don’t have to scrape it out,” one commenter wrote.
“My MIL [mother-in-law] taught me to put three bags in the trash can at once to minimize reloading the bag every time,” another added. “I swear it saved my marriage.”
“My grandma taught me that a dollar bill is six inches,” someone chimed in. “So if I ever need to measure something and don’t have a ruler, I can just use a $1 bill!”
Regardless of how helpful these hints are, domestic labor, homemaking, being a stay-at-home mom — whatever you want to call it — has always been looked down upon.
Regardless of a mother’s career ambitions, if she stays home with her children, if she hires additional caretaking help, or if she seemingly executes it all perfectly on social media, the myth of “having it all” has pervaded our culture — and devalued women’s labor.
Estimates from a 2021 survey from Salary.com calculate that if stay-at-home-moms were paid for their labor in accordance with real-time market prices of all the jobs they do, they’d be making at least $184,820 per year.
Despite that financial sum, women are also often left without resources (ahem, paid parental leave or universal childcare), meaning they have relied on centuries of generational wisdom to best care for their families.
Back to Ahlenius. The mother of two decided to continue sharing nuggets of wisdom from her grandmother — and other grandmothers — on TikTok, chronicling the valuable information to help even more folks navigate the confusing, ego-less terrain of motherhood.
“As a child, my mom, grandmas, aunts, teachers all gave me tidbits of advice I always just brushed off or didn’t pay too much attention to,” she said in a video. “Nowadays, I wish I could go back and really listen to the advice they were trying to give me.”
She alludes to all the knowledge that we never quite document in classroom textbooks: how to make sure your house always feels cozy and smells good, how to really get those stubborn stains out of clothes, and how to manage working while raising a family, among them.
“Then I realized, we all have tidbits of information from our grandmas or other women in our lives,” she continued.
So Ahlenius began crowd-sourcing — this time in a more organized way than the comment section. She opened a Google Form for TikTok viewers to submit tips from their grandmas (or aunts, teachers, neighbors, you name it!), and while the tips became a series of videos on TikTok — they also became a published book: “Grandma Knows Everything.”
She hopes that the book becomes a staple in the lives of women everywhere, encouraging folks to jot down notes in the margins, add their own secrets, and pass it through generations, like those before us have always done.
One TikTok commenter says it best: “I’m a huge proponent of old wives’ tales. The wives would know; they did everything.”
Ahlenius also turned the dialogue into a Facebook group, where others could share their tips and tricks in real time.
There are currently about 1,400 members, sharing their stories, embracing the familial knowledge they may not have ever received, and creating an ongoing network of maternal laborers who don’t take each other for granted.
“As young girls we’re taught to compare and compete,” Ahlenius writes in the group’s description. “It’s not until we’re older and wiser that we realize we have a lot to give each other, starting with the things our grandmas once taught us.”