When I think back to the feedback I’ve received from managers and mentors, there are a few things that I’ve consistently heard over the years.
Perhaps one of the most common for me is my need to delegate more.
So many times I’ve been told that I need to let others help me. Or that I have to find ways to leverage the experts around me to get the job done. Yet, I’ve always struggled with actually doing it.
It’s not that I go about my day saying, “I’m not going to ask for help today.” The option just doesn’t cross my mind. I just roll up my sleeves and get to work.
And, that’s the case at work as it is at home.
In truth, my work ethic served me well in the early years. At work, managers took notice of my efforts, new opportunities came my way and I started to get promoted. At home, stuff always got done.
But, there comes a point when not asking for help holds us back. Life becomes more difficult and more stressful than it needs to be. And, things become less enjoyable and harder than they have to be.
That is what was happening a couple of years ago. Our girls were getting older and their needs were getting more complex and time consuming. Frank’s career kept growing and my business was really starting to take off.
All good things.
Yet, they were happening all at the same time. And, we struggled to keep up.
Then, one day Bella suffered a fall on the playground that required a visit to the hospital. We’ve faced other emergencies before, but with everything else going on, it was just too much. The balls we were precariously juggling tumbled around us.
As I laid in bed that night, I admitted we needed help.
It’s never easy to admit you need help. Nor is it easy to deal with the the guilt I feel when I ask for help, but there have been a few strategies that have helped make delegating tasks more effective for us.
Identify your needs
Sometimes help can be a hindrance. So it’s critical to first understand what help means for you and your situation. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know what that meant. To get inspiration, I spoke with other working moms to see what they outsourced, who they depended on for help and how it all worked for them.
From here I made a list of tasks that can be shared with others in my “village.” Once you have a clear idea of where you need help, you can then find the right person to support you.
Don’t look for your clone
Last year, we brought on our very first sitter that was neither Frank or I or one of our family members. Yes, both our girls went through daycare, but having someone new come into our home to care for our girls was way out of my comfort zone. She was sweet, intelligent and had really strong recommendations backing her up. Rachel also had blue and purple streaked hair, mismatched socks and a deep purple stain on her lips.
She was the complete opposite of Frank and I, or so we’ve been repeatedly told by everyone who knows us. As unnerving as it was at first, Rachel created a new dynamic in our family. She brought a different and completely valid perspective that was really helpful to our girls and to us, too.
Focus on teaching, not doing
Like every mama I know, I do too much for my girls – many things they could do easily if I offered them a little bit of guidance.
The beds are a good example. After years of making my girls’ beds in the morning, I finally admitted it wasn’t time well spent. So, I dedicated time to teach them how they could make their own beds. They were learning something new and felt like big girls. And, I released myself from one chore around the house. Sure, there are days the bed doesn’t look much better than when it was slept in, but if they put in a good effort, this teacher (and mama) isn’t going to hold it against them.
Set clear expectations and priorities
I have pretty high standards for most things. And, because of that, I have the disillusioned belief I’m the only one who can do things right. But, if I’m being honest, the times I’m unhappy about how someone has done something it’s not because he or she wasn’t capable. It was because I wasn’t clear on my expectations or priorities.
So, even for the most obvious tasks, I make sure to include instructions. If I want something done in a specific order, like homework before playtime, I say so to my sitter as well as to my girls. The same is true if I things need to be done by a certain time or any other requirement there could be.
Give and take feedback
A little gratitude can go a long way. So does feedback. Saying thank you for the help we receive has alleviated some of the guilt I have with asking for help. I also make it a regular practice to give praise when a job is well done. And, when things have fallen short or they’ve gone awry, I take some time to consider the situation. I’m not perfect, so I can’t expect anyone else to be, either. Yet, I also try to offer constructive feedback that can help make things better the next time around.
I also make sure to ask for feedback. I still have on my delegating training wheels, so I’m fully aware that I may not be doing or saying the right things all the time. I want to know if I’ve provided enough or too much information. I also want to know if they have any ideas or suggestions to make things more efficient or easier for everyone involved.
Assess and reassess
Our needs, like our families, will grow and change over time. When things seem to be out of balance again, reconsider where you really need help. From there you can begin once again to consider who is the right person to best provide you the support you need.
Delegating at home, especially as it relates to our kids, isn’t always easy. But with a little practice and some good strategies, it can get easier and we can make balancing work and life that much easier.
Do you have any tips to help other moms delegate more? Let us know in the comments below.