I remember the day that I realized the importance of getting help. It was at a birthday party for a little boy who was friends with my son, Parker. The kids spent an hour playing on bouncy castles before settling in for cake and presents. I stood among the other parents and struck up a conversation with a very nice mother. When I mentioned my schedule for the weeks ahead, she blurted out, “I just don’t know how you do it.” How cliché. This comment is so common in working mom circles they even made a movie about it!
I have three young children all with after school commitments happening in different places often at the same time. I travel several nights a month for my job, which has its own set of responsibilities. And, I have a super-hyper puppy that destroys everything from my kids’ favorite toys to my most expensive heels. I'll admit, from the outside, my life looks really crazy!
But, the truth is, I don’t do it all.
Instead of struggling to balance everything, I’ve learned to ask for help wherever I can. Instead of exhausting myself with the extra stress of household tasks, I utilize the services and support of people that are fully equipped to help me. I hire a handyman service to finish quick repairs at home and ask our nanny to pick up ingredients for dinner on her way to our house. I know it can sound very “diva-like” but it is actually just being resourceful. Why is it so hard for mothers to turn duties over to others? Is it that we feel guilty or inadequate? Do we feel weak if we ask for help? Are we too proud? Are we afraid of relinquishing control? Are we scared of being judged? Or maybe we think asking for help is admitting defeat.
There are many underlying reasons why working mothers struggle with asking for help, but it’s a necessary part of being a successful working mom. The unfortunate truth is that trying to do too much means that the quality of everything we do is reduced. Sooner or later, we break down and realize that all we are doing is not allowing enough time for what matters most—our family.
"I don't have anyone to help me!" "Someone else just wouldn't do it right." “It's easier to just do it myself." “I can’t afford to outsource anything."
Sound familiar? We’ve all felt this way and said these things, but here’s the reality: you are not new to outsourcing. Whether you realize it or not, you already delegate tasks on a regular basis. As a working mother, we effectively assign the care and education of our children to others when they go to school or spend time in child care and we balance errands and chores with our spouses. By further maximizing my support network, I make my life a lot easier. If the business world outsources to be more efficient, working mothers can (and should) do the same!
1. Make a list of tasks you can delegate: To begin thinking about which household tasks you can delegate to others, ask yourself the following: which tasks do I find enjoyable and which are time-consuming and exhausting? We are always more productive when we focus on the things we really want to do.
When I went through this exercise, my focus was on outsourcing any task that took me away from what was important to me: career-building or family time. I found that the biggest time commitments outside of what I valued as important were domestic responsibilities—cleaning, cooking, and regular errands like dry cleaning, groceries, and driving kids to their weekly activities (and we have a lot). Obviously, we all need to take on some domestic responsibilities to ensure that our household runs smoothly. But by honestly asking yourself how you can be more efficient and by utilizing the support networks and services around you—you will be able to run your home without running yourself into the ground.
2. Find a good fit: It goes without saying that all tasks cannot be done well by everyone. My housecleaner would be terrible at doing our taxes and even worse at mowing our lawn. The trick is to play toward everyone’s strengths before you assign any work to others.
3. Execute: Let me now demonstrate how I execute this model in our home. Getting myself and three kids ready for work and school on time each day is a major feat that is not easily accomplished in my house (or any other for that matter). For most dual-working families, this is the single most stressful time of the morning and evening. Something that has worked well for us is asking a local teenager or our extended family members to help with the child care drop-off or pickup. If you can find someone who just wants to earn a bit of income (as you would pay by the job or by the hour), you can financially help another person by providing work and help yourself by reducing stress. I’m able to zip out the door on some mornings and leave my helper to get the kids off to school or child care. For a few extra dollars a day, it is worth its weight in gold!
You get where I am headed with this. Try to keep outsourcing on your mind as you go about your day. Think about what you are doing that could be done by someone else—a family member, a hired helper, or a service. Anything that frees up your time and allows you to focus on your family or your career is a good investment. We have such precious little time, so do your best to make it count!